Monday, May 9, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - Catherine Porter pension application

Amanuensis Monday - An Amanuensis is a person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. Amanuensis Monday is a daily blogging theme which encourages the family historian to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some we never met - others we see a time in their life before we knew them.

Today I an transcribing a page from the pension files I received for my 2nd Great Grandmother's application based upon her son, William H. H. Davis' service in the Civil War.

"State of Ohio, Knox County, ss;

     Before me the undersigned authority in and for the county aforesaid personally came John Hunter of lawful age who being sworn according to law upon his oath says that he has been acquainted with Mrs. Catherine Porter and family for seventeen years last past; that William Porter the husband of the said Catherine Porter died in the Spring of 1862 near Mount Vernon, Ohio; that at the time of his death the said Porter was a poor man, the entire property belonging to the said Porter consisted of thirty acres of poor land worth not over twenty dollars per acre; that there was no buildings on said premises save an old log cabin; that he did not own at the time of his death either a cow, horse or any other animal, but that his entire property consisted of said thirty acres of land and a few articles of cheap furniture, Affiant says that he is also well acquainted with William H. Davis the son of the said Catherine Porter; that ever since the death of the said William Porter the husband, the support of the said Catherine Porter fell upon her said son William H. Davis and he was her only support from the time of the death of said William Porter until he the said Davis departed this life in the month of February 1865. Affiant says that the said William H. Davis worked the said thirty acres of land during the season of 1863; and that the whole profits of said labor went to the support of his mother the said Catherine Porter and that he worked for other parties and took the proceeds of said labor home to his mother the Catherine Porter, that he bought flour, meat and groceries and took them home to his mother for her to live on; affiant says that after the said Davis entered the service he sent his mother money which money was used by his said mother to live on. Affiant says that it was well known and understood by all the neighbors that the said William H. Davis was the sole and entire support of his mother the said Catherine Porter from the date of the death of William Porter the husband until he the said Davis departed this life in February 1865. Affiant says that he knows the above statements to be true as he lived a near neighbor to the said Catherine Porter and had the means of knowing them, that he was often at the house of the said Catherine Porter and has heard the said Mrs. Porter talk and tell about the said Davis being the support, and has seen the said Davis buy and take home provisions to his mother for her support. He further certifies that he has no interest in the prosecution of this claim direct or indirect and that his Post Office address is Mount Vernon Ohio [signed] John Hunter

Sworn to before me and subscribed in my presence by John Hunter this 12th day of February A. D. 1870, and I further certify that I have no interest in the prosecution of this claim for pension. [signed] Joseph Watson
Notary Public, K. C. O."

The words that stand out to me are the ones describing William Porter as a poor man, owning nothing more than 30 acres of poor land, an old log cabin, and some cheap furniture. William is mentioned in some of the writings on his two step-sons, Hiram and Barney Davis, who were better known as P.T. Barnum's Wild Men of Borneo. He is always referred to as "Mr. Porter" and a man of dire straits in these writings. Even though I know that a lot of people during this age were not wealthy, it still saddens me to think of what life must have been like for William and his family. No wonder they accepted money for Hiram and Barney from Lyman Warner so he could take the boys on the dime museum circuit. It's my feeling that this is how William was able to afford the 30 acres of land mentioned in the pension application. The deed was issued in 1850 and this is the time frame always given for the 'purchase' of the boys.

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