Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Analysis of Confederate Widow's Pension: Mary Jane Riggins Sweat

Back in January, I looked at the Confederate Veteran's pension application for Roland Sweat, the brother of my maternal 3rd great grandfather. This morning, I was spending a little time going back over my sources when I came across the widow's pension application for his widow, Mary Jane Riggins Sweat.

The first page has the front piece of what appears to be a brochure-like package. On it we learn that she was living in Pierce County and the widow of Roland Sweat. Her application was approved on 17 March 1897 and the warrant issued two days later.Also on the first page is a power of attorney. It appears she granted William A Wright (who was also power of attorney for Roland) power to receive her pension and send it to her. The page is signed, but there is also an x indicated as her mark so it appears she wasn't literate.

The second page has the widow's affidavit. In this document, we learn that she is the widow of Roland Sweat, who she married on 14 February 1859 and stayed with until his death on 8 May 1896.

It notes that he was a resident of Pierce County at the time of his death and receiving a pension of $100 for his disability. A description of the disability and its effects follow. It basically reiterates what is on his application-a shot through the left hip and a head wound which caused a disease that grew progressively worse until his death.

The affidavit ends with her statement that she is a resident of Pierce County and has been since 9 March 1857. This is also signed with her mark and her signature. This time, there is another signature next to hers, a JD Summerall, which later pages indicate is the county ordinary.

Pages three and four duplicate the first two pages. Page five has the affidavit of three witnesses, the physician's affidavit and the certificate of the ordinary where the applicant lives. The three witnesses were John Cleland, JA Harper and John Aldridge. The latter two names are familiar as they were witnesses on Roland's application.

They state that they know Mary Jane and knew Roland prior to his death. The writing is difficult to read, but it appears the first two served with Roland during the War. The last guy just certifies that their statements are true.

The physician's affidavit is the statement of two physicians. One, WP Williams, was also on Roland's application. The other is JE Goche(?). They state that they knew Roland and reiterate his death date. Then they talk about his injuries and their effects.

The certificate of the ordinary states that he is familiar with Mary Jane and to his knowledge, she has resided continuously in Georgia since 15 January 1873. He also certifies that the witnesses are truthful men.

Page six is a copy of page five. Page seven appears to be two recertification of her original application. The first is dated 7 January 1898 and the second 9 January 1899.

Page nine has the certification statements for the documents on page eight. Pages eight through fifteen have her recertifications for 1900 through 1907. The warrants were issued on 24 January 1900, 14 Jan 1901.13 February 1902, 2 March 1903, 9 March 1904, 28 February 1905, 26 January 1906 and 31 January 1907 respectively. JD Summerall remains the ordinary and William A Wright holds power of attorney through all the recertifications.

Page sixteen, the final page, is a letter written to Richard Johnson of Atlanta, GA. The letter is written on the letterhead of JD Summerall, Ordinary of Pierce County, and dated 2 February 1897. The letter explains that the application of Mary Jane Sweat, widow of Roland Sweat, is enclosed. It reminds Mr Johnson that Roland had his own pension prior to his death and urges him to consider the widow's pension favorably as she is in very needy circumstances.

  • It is interesting that the date Mary Jane Riggins Sweat gives as the start of her residence in Pierce County does not match the date given by the ordinary JD Summerall as the start of her residence in Georgia. She states that she has been in Pierce County since 9 March 1857. The ordinary says she has been in Georgia since 15 January 1873. It's possible that the ordinary did not meet Mary Jane until that date, thus that was the first of his knowledge of her residence.
  • Richard Johnson also appeared in Roland Sweat's pension package. He was listed as Secretary of Executive Department, and also served as Roland's power of attorney at one point. On Mary Jane's original application, it lists Richard as Secretary of Executive Department. Mary Jane's later pension applications (recertifications) show John W Lindsey, who is noted as Commissioner of Pensions.
  • It is interesting that the widow's pension goes only through 1907. Mary Jane passed away in 1923. I will have to do some digging to see if her pension stopped in 1907 or continued on until the time of her death.


Georgia's Virtual Vault, Confederate pension Applications 1879-1960 [database and images online], Record ID USAMILCONFEDGA_184974-00146. Georgia Archives

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