Thursday, June 02, 2011

Cecelia Young's quest for a pension, cont'd

So Cecelia Young was deposed February 4, 1904.

She had filed the original pension claim in 1902 but that was rejected on the grounds that Cecelia was married to John Pfingstag - the deposition was to clear the record and establish Cecelia's widowhood.

What did the Special Examiner, George D. Sidman, who conducted the examination think of her deposition?

Well in his letter to the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pensions dated February 29, 1904 he wrote:
After some trouble I was able to locate Pfingstag's former wife and obtain her testimony... I corresponded with the Prothonotary for Berks County with the view to obtaining a copy of the divorce records in the case of Pfingstag vs. Pfingstag but the attached letter shows that the divorce decree was never entered on the record, if it was ever made, which is doubtful. I went to the Court House and personally inspected the record in question and found it shown in the letter referred to. I also went to the City Hall in Reading and examined the marriage records in the Board of Health, covering from 1875 to 1880, with the view to ascertaining if Mary M. Moore had been married prior to 1860, but found no record.

So the Special Examiner supports Cecelia's story, but then he calls her a liar. In her deposition Cecelia claimed that John Pfingstag said his former wife was dead, but the Special Examiner says:
There is no doubt that claimant knew all about Pfingstag's former wife and when they thought the divorce had been obtained they married without verifying the divorce. The story she tells about the Priest parting her and Pfingstag may be true but I doubt it. She admits that his attorney told her she would have to get a divorce from Pfingstag before the claim for pension would be allowed and she had given up all hope of ever getting it.
So it sounds like there had been some moves towards Pfingstag getting a divorce from Mary M. Moore, but it never went through and he and Cecelia married in the belief that Pfingstag was divorced. Which makes Pfingstag not so much a rapscallion as careless about official details. Which would make her much more likely to forgive him and stay with him anyway, in my view.

Then again it's quite possible that Cecelia was deeply Catholic, much like her granddaughter - my grandmother - was, and the shame of this all coming out in front of a priest was too much. The fact that Pfingstag was not a Catholic and (so Cecelia thought) divorced was bad enough. Maybe she told the Priest that she thought Pfingstag's first wife was dead. But who can really say?

Anyway, Sidman comes through for Cecelia in the end. He makes two points - first that he believes Cecelia's marriage to Pfingstag was invalid:
I have no doubt that claimant could get her marriage to Pfingstag set aside if she made application in the regular way, as the record would be sufficient evidence upon which to base an application.

And that she was still legally the widow of William Young:
I have procured and filed herewith a certificate from the Prothonotary for Phila. Co. showing that no divorce was ever granted to the soldier or this claimant. There is no doubt of soldier's identity with claimant's husband, as claimed for.

And finally, he recommends that the initial denial of the pension claim be reconsidered:
I respectfully recommend reference of this case to consideration of the Chief of Board of Review.
And as a result...