It Took 50 Years and an Act of Congress, But Asenath Got Her Civil War Widow's Pension
Compiled July 2012 by Timothy C. Miller, MD, great-great grandson of Asenath Booher Norman via Thomas Jackson Starcher, Allen Brown Starcher, and Delma Justine Starcher Miller.
Asenath Booher Norman (1841 - 1927), a resident of the environs of Altizer and Daniels Run, Calhoun County, West Virginia, is known to have been awarded a Civil War widow's pension. Her only marriage, September 22, 1860, was to William Zinn Norman, a Union Soldier in the Civil War, a member of Company C, 11th West Virginia Volunteer Infantry.
Most historical records list William Zinn Norman as having deserted at Spencer, Virginia, September 1862. The question has been, "How could Asenath have been awarded a widow's pension if her husband was officially listed as a deserter?"
Asenath Booher Norman. Photo from the family collection of Deborah Hopkins, DVM., Long Island NY. Great-granddaughter of Asenath Booher Norman.
Chapter One"She is verry Neady and deserves her money."
George W. Cain, Wirt County West Virginia
The document which initiated the pension claim, Declaration of Original Pension of a Widow - Child or Children under Sixteen year of age surviving, appears to be a form dated May 16, 1879. On this form, verified by George W. Silcott, clerk of the Calhoun county court, Asenath Norman declares that her husband, William Z. Norman, died in prison December 1862. Her signature and statement is witnessed by Asenath's brother Peter M. Booher, and a William Langfitt of Wirt County. She declares that no prior application has been made.
It is speculated that William Langfitt was Asenath's uncle.
Curious, the date of the initial claim is some 14 years after the end of the Civil War. Pension benefit provision for Civil War veterans was well in place earlier than 1879. Also of note, this document appears to be a form generated from the office of George E. Lemon, attorney, Washington, D.C.
Chen Song, writing in a paper entitled Filing for the Union Army Pension: A Summary from Historical Evidence, specifically mentions attorney Lemon and provides context for the date of the claim as he notes...
The Arrears Act (passed on January 25, 1879) gave a remarkable impetus to the filing of new claims. The total number of original Civil War claims presented in 1877 was 22,169; in 1878, 25904; in 1879, 47,416; in 1880, 138,195. On these new claims, the pension attorneys were legally entitled to collect fees. In 1880, it was estimated by a competent witness that about six-sevenths of the business before the Pension Bureau was in the hands of less than a hundred attorneys. In a statement made by Commissioner Bentley to a committee of the House of Representatives on June 12, 1880, he pointed out that Lemon had an estimate of 30,000 claims; and Fitzgerald, about 25,000. Fewer than ten attorneys represented one-half of all pending claims on the files of the Pension Office. These accumulations of claims made a great and very profitable business to these gentlemen under the present system. The great volume of new business caused the group of Washington pension attorneys to grow prosperous and powerful. By constant advertising and drumming, a few of the most active attorneys succeeded in concentrating in their offices the prosecution of a great majority of outstanding claims.Song goes on to note:
The testimony of George E. Lemon in House Report No. 2683, 48th Cong., 2d Sess. ... Mr. Lemon testified (January 15, 1885) that, including claims that had been rejected, he probably had in his hands 125,000 pension claims. The claims in his office might number even as high as 150,000. Of these 60,000 or 70,000, and perhaps as many as 100,000, were pending claims. He thought that he had more claims in his hands than all the other attorneys of Washington put together. Mr. Lemon had admitted on oath to Congress that he had paid thousands of dollars to attorneys to lobby through a conference committee a bill which increased his fees from $10 to $25, and gave him, it has been estimated, a million and a half of dollars, taking it out of the pensions of the soldiers and their widows.In another paper, CIVIL WAR PENSION ATTORNEYS AND DISABILITY POLITICS, Chen Song and Peter Blank note that...
...The sheer magnitude of the pension scheme, which from 1880 to 1890 accounted for almost half the federal budget...As an aside, this form indicates that Asenath and the late Mr. Norman were the parents of two children, Thomas Norman born December 1861, and William O. Norman, born June 1863. This is known to be in error. Asenath gave birth to five children, but William O. Norman was the only child she ever claimed to have been fathered by William Zinn Norman, at least in later years. See below.
Next is found a copy of a government document dated July 14, 1878 (1879?), a request from the Pension Office, Department of the Interior to the Treasury Department, inquiring as to "...whether back pay and bounty has been paid to the above referred claimant and any testimony showing the dates cause and place of the soldiers death." (Note: One wonders if the date of this document should be 1879 instead of 1878. That would seem to make more sense, as this document seems to be a response to the initial pension claim, initiated May 16, 1879).
Advertisement from the February 1, 1879 issue of The National Tribune, a nationally circulated newspaper, published by attorney George E. Lemon. This newspaper claimed to be "... A Monthly Journal devoted to the interests of the Soldiers and Sailors of the late war, and all Pensioners of the United States." This newspaper became the official house organ of the G.A.R., the Grand Army of the Republic. Perhaps Asenath saw an advertisement such as this.
An archive of this publication can be found on the Library of Congress website at this link.
Adjutant General's Office
Washington, D.C. February 17, 1880
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter in Pension case No. 246130, requesting a "Statement of Service" of William Z. Norman. The following information has been obtained from the files of this Office, and is furnished in reply to your inquiry.
In the case of William Norman there is no original Enlistment or Muster-in Roll showing him to have been enrolled or mustered into the service of the United States as an enlisted man in Company "C" of the 11th Regiment of W. Virginia Infantry Volunteers, on file in this Office up to date.
The Muster - Rolls of Company "C" of that Regiment contain the following evidence of service:
It is stated that he was enrolled January 18 1862 at Spencer Va to serve three years, and was never mustered into the United States Service.
Muster roll of Company for January and February 1862, reports him present. Same to August 3, 1862. Four month muster ending December 31, 1862, deserted.
Muster out roll of Company dated Dec 24, 1864 reports him deserted September 3rd, 1862 at Spencer Va.
Regimental return for September 1862 does not account for this Company, it having been captured by the Enemy September 2, 1862 at Spencer Va.
Prisoner of War Records furnish no information.
No Final Statements or Evid. of Disability on file. Company Books are not on file. The records of this office do not furnish an additional information.
"...I have always considered the desertions (all of them) need explanations. I have found on my own the men sometimes were considered desertions and were indeed captured, went home because they were ill and recovered (returned to regiment), and a whole lot of post surrender patients at Military hospitals who just went home when they heard of surrender, but were not formally discharged, hence deserted. They sometimes had to prove as such..."
George W. Silcott was a notable figure in the history of Calhoun County WV during the Civil War era. Before the war, he had been the Calhoun County clerk and the circuit clerk. He was allied with Peregrine Hays, also a figure of note. Both Silcott and Hays associated themselves with the Confederate side during the war, and in fact were members of the "Moccasin Rangers." As noted in the document, "Some Civil War Soldiers of Calhoun County," from the WVGenWeb site maintainted by Linda Cunningham Fluharty...SILCOTT, George W., Co. A, 3rd Virginia State Line (Moccasin Rangers). Enlisted on 15 Feb. 1862 in Greenbrier Co., Va. Private, Co.G, 19th Virginia Cavalry. Captain Assistant Commissary of Subsistance. Born Fauquier Co., Va., 29 Nov. 1830. Age 29, Clerk of Court, Calhoun Co., W.Va. 1860 Census. Captain of prewar militia. Partner of Peregrine Hays in the mercantile and land business. Helped Peregrine Hays organize the Moccasin Rangers. Became disgusted with the way the company was acting, and returned to Arnoldsburg. Virginia State Line records lists as having deserted in October 1862. Captain Daniel Duskey ordered his arrest as a deserter. U.S. forces arrested him, and he was confined at Camp Chase. Paroled and returned to Calhoun Co., W.Va. Entered Spencer, W.Va. with Peregrine Hays under a flag of truce and secured a cease fire from Col. J. C. Rathbone for 8 days so Downs’ men could visit their homes unmolested. Enlisted Frankfort, Greenbrier Co., W.Va. 12 Mar. 1863 (Bath Co., 1 Mar. 1864). Not stated if present or absent on muster-in-roll dated March 1863, Private. Absent F&S muster roll 1 Sep. 1864 to 31 Oct. 1864, Quartermaster Sergeant on leave; $100. bond due. Acting Assistant Adjutant, Gen. Jackson’s Cavalry Brigade, 30 Apr. 1865. Paroled at Staunton, 1 May 1865, as Captain Assistant Commissary of Subsistance. Description: age 34, 5' 7_", fair complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes, a resident of Calhoun Co., W.Va. Post war roster shows he was commissioned as a Captain by Gov. John Letcher. Post war County Clerk, Calhoun Co., W.Va. Age 50, Clerk of Court, Center District, Calhoun Co., W.Va. 1880 Census. Died 6 May 1903. Buried Bethlehem Cemetery, Calhoun Co., W.Va. C.S.A.
Asenath soon received her reply, via a letter to her dated March 15, 1884:
Wirt Ct West Va
Feb 26, 184
Mr. Wm Dudley
I haf bin requested by Mrs Esenath Norman the Widdow of Wm Norman ho applied for for a pension threw G.E. Lemmons. Neare fore years a go and give him all the prof he said Was Nessary a bout one yeare a go and has Not got any thing yeat he Said She Would draw her money as Soon as her turn Came to draw She has paid him fifteen dollars So I Was informed She has rote to him but cant git now answer. She is verry Neady and deserves her money. please answer this if her Clame is thare or Not.
Post office address
Wirt C.H. West Va
George W. Cain
(stamp of the Pension Office, received Mar 1, 1884)
Department of the Interior
March 15, 1884
The report from the Adjutant General of the Army shows that the soldier above named deserted Sept. 3, 1862, at Spencer, Va. and he is so reported on the muster out roll of his company.
Favorable action cannot be taken in your claim until the charge of desertion against the soldier shall have been removed.
Further correspondence as to the service of the soldier should be addressed to the War Department.
Wm. W. Dudley
Asenah Norman Wirt C.N. Care George W. Cain
Application for removal of charge of desertion and for an honorable discharge in this case has been deniedAsenath's claim for a widow's pension was then again denied by the Pension Office November 19/25 1887, with documentation noting
By R.C. Drum, Adjutant General
"...Rejection on the grounds that charge of desertion stated on the record against the soldier, and an application for removal of said charge and for an honorable discharge, has been denied by A.G...."
I became acquainted with Asenath Norman widow of William Z. Norman when a small boy. first became acquainted with William Z. Norman about the year 1862 in the 11th West Virginia Infantry at Spencer in Roane County W. Va we were both captured by Jenkins Cavalry of Confederates paroled and turned loose a short time after we was paroled by the confederates They retaken me and Started off South with me. Another Squad came too us and had with them William Z. Norman a prisoner and took us together to Browns Gap on the Blue Ridge. William Z. Norman after he refused to take up arms for the Confederates was placed under what they called a rear guard the main squad marched on with me. A Short time after we left; the guard came up to the Company and remarked that William Z. Norman would never be in our company again; that gave me to understand William Z. Norman was killed. I heard more than one fire arm discharged in the direction of the squad close behind us that was the last time that I ever seen or heard of William Z. Norman.This affidavit was taken by Calvin Tyson, Notary Public, Roane County W. Va. This writer has concluded that the name of the person making the affidavit is M.W. Heix.
Signature as recorded by the Notary taking the statement.
Actual signature of the person making the sworn statement above.
...On September 2, at Spencer Court House he surprised and captured Colonel J. C. Rathbone and his entire command, the Eleventh West Virginia Regiment. Jenkins paroled his prisoners and rode on to Ripley. There he found a defenseless paymaster from whom he took funds to the amount of $5,525. Moving on to Ravenswood, he rested his men there, and on the evening of September 4 forded the Ohio and set up the flag of the Confederate government on Ohio soil. On a march of some distance in Ohio, Jenkins took pride in treating the citizens with consideration. He captured Racine and there recrossed the river.Another account of the surrender at Spencer is found on John Dawson's page at this link:
...It was after Jenkins arrived in Glenville when Rathbone heard of his advance. Certainly Jenkins' previous accomplishments from Buckhannon to Glenville had to have been reported, yet nothing was done to confirm or deny this report. Rathbone did not order his pickets to move forward nor did he reinforce them. He did not order a detachment to meet any resistance or to at least confirm the advance of Jenkins into Spencer.
It was approximately 5: PM when the flag of truce entered the camp at Spencer, and Rathbone quickly responded to the imposing surrender by calling his officers into a council. Almost all wanted to fight; yet Rathbone decided to send Major Trimble back to the rebel lines and determine their strength.
Everything Rathbone did after this was an indicator that he would not fight nor retreat. He never saddled his horse, put on his side arms, or ordered anything that would appear a battle would ensue. The surgeons were told not to display the hospital flags and he ordered a company down from a strong defensive position. This was done with the majority of his officers wanting to fight. The men understood these signs as well since many left the camp evading capture.
This action along with his truce with Confederate Ranger Downs inflamed Brigadier General Benjamin Kelley and led to Rathbone's dismissal as Colonel of the regiment.
We have Been Acquainted With Asenath Norman Widow of Wm Z Norman for 26 years. She is a Poor Widow - her Property Consists of one Cow And 5 head of Sheep. The cow is Worth 20 dollars - and her Sheep is Worth about 15 dollars.
Her means of support is By Washing for the Neighbors. Some times she gets 50 cts per day. Some times she makes Soap at 25 cts per day..
In the spring season she shears sheep at 5 cts per head. She Cannot get Work all the time. Her labor only keeps her and she has no other income Except her Dailey Labor.
Submitted for rej Aug 17, 1892 ... Records of War Department show clamt husband a deserter and the A.G. declined to remove the charge holding that the evidence of Mr. Heix does not show such facts to justify reversing record. If soldier died in service as alleged by clamt, she could not be pensioned under act of June 27, 1890. The death of soldier is not established.
[H. R. 16493]
An Act To correct the military record of William Z. Norman.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in the administration of the pension laws William Z. Norman, who was enrolled in the service of the United States on the eighteenth day of January, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, at Spencer, Virginia, and assigned as a private to Company C, Eleventh Regiment Virginia Volunteer Infantry, which regiment afterwards became the Eleventh Regiment West Virginia Volunteer Infantry, shall hereafter be held and considered to have been captured by the enemy and shot and killed on or about the first day of December, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, while in the line of duty: Provided, that no pension shall accrue prior to the passage of this Act.
Approved, June 26, 1912.
April 18, 1911
Mr. Hamilton has introduced a large number of private pension bills in the last week, most of them from Wood county, where the old soldiers have become quite active in presenting their claims for pensions. Mr. Hamilton is a member of the committee on invalid pensions to which most of these bills will be referred and hopes to be able to push many of them through.
May 23, 1911
Congressman Hamilton has introduced a bill to pay the heirs of Moses Cunningham, formerly of Sutton, for property destroyed by Federal troops during he civil war.
June 20, 1911
Congressman Hamilton, since his return from a short visit to his home in Calhoun county, has been actively engaged in preparing the evidence in support of private pension bills he has introduced...
July 11, 1911
Congressman Hamilton has introduced bills to correct the military record of Stephen A. West, of New England, Wood County and of William Cheuvront, of Parkersburg...
December 19, 1911
...Thousands of old soldiers all over the country and many hundreds of them in West Virginia have been trying to have private pension bills passed for their relief. So many thousands of these bills are before the Committee on Invalid Pensions that its work has been clogged, and they cannot receive proper consideration.
Of note, this new form was witnessed by Jacob M. Morgan of Lee district, Calhoun County West Virginia, and also by Gerutia McDonald. Jacob M. Morgan was married to Mary L. Booher, the daughter of Asenath's brother Peter M. Booher, and thus was married to Asenath's niece. Jacob M. Morgan himself was a veteran of the Civil War, being noted on the page Some Civil War Soldiers of Calhoun County, from the documents comprising the pages Calhoun County in the Civil War, linked to the Calhoun County WV GenWeb Site, maintained by Linda Cunningham Fluharty.Undeterred, the Commissioner of Pension submitted to Asenath a request for yet more information, in a letter dated August 13, 1912:
MORGAN, Jacob M., Sergeant, born 20 Feb. 1842, Taylor Co., died 25 Feb. 1920, buried Mt. Zion Cemetery. Enlisted 25 June 1861, Company F, 6th Regt., West Virginia Cavalry. Union.Gerutia McDonald is thought to be Gerutia Chenoweth Reip McDonald, married to James Faris McDonald. James F. McDonald (1832 - 1910) is listed on the above cited page, Some Civil War Solders of Calhoun County:McDONALD, James F., second Lieutenant, born 15 Feb. 1832 or 1835, Harrison Co., died 1 Aug. 1910, buried Barr Cemetery. Company C, 11th Regt., West Virginia. Enlisted 22 Dec. 1861, discharged 11 June 1865. Union.Of note James F. McDonald was a member of the same Company and Regiment as William Zinn Norman.
This document was notarized by T.J. Starcher, son of Asenath Norman.
Madam:A duly notarized statement was then prepared by Asenath on August 19, 1912, whereby the signatories attest that "...she has never remaried sence She married the Within named William Z. Norman and further no that the Said William Z. Norman Was never married Before he maried the Within named Asenath Norman."
The above cited claim for pension requires the testimony of credible witnesses showing whether you have remarried since 1892.
The above statement was signed by J.J. Booher (brother of Asenath), George Gibson, a former Confederate Soldier, and member of the Mocassin Rangers, J.B. Croasmun (to date, no information has been found on this person), and Malissa J. Tanner, the former Malissa Booher Starcher, sister of Asenath. The form was notarized by T.J. Starcher, Asenath's son.One might sense additional bureaucratic snafus in the making, as an internal memo September 5, 1912, from the Chief of the Law Division, Bureau of Pensions, Department of the Interior, notes that Notary T.J. Starcher did not affix his official seal to the document regarding Asenath's marital status.
House of RepresentativesAnd the reply returned three days later, October 15, 1912:
Parkersburg, West Va
Oct. 12, 1912
Honorable J.L. Davenport,
Commissioner of Pensions
Dear Mr. Davenport:-
Will you kindly inform me whether or not Mrs. Asenath Norman, widow of William Z. Norman, of Claria, West Va., is drawing a pension as his widow.
During the last session of Congress, I got a bill through Congress, and signed by the President, correcting Mr. Norman's Military record, and Mrs. Norman applied for a pension. It seems to me, that you later wrote me that the pension was allowed her, but I have a letter from her, stating that she has never heard from you, and that she has never got any money as such widow.
I am sorry that I have not the papers before me to give you the Regiment in which he served, but I trust you can trace the claim from the above information.
Awaiting a prompt response, I am,
Very Truly yours,
Jno M. Hamilton
October 15, 1912Thus, 33 years after her initial application, and almost 50 years after the death of her husband, Asenath Norman was awarded her Civil War Widow's pension.
Hon. John M. Hamilton
House of Representatives.
My dear Mr. Hamilton:
In response to your letter of the 12th instant, received the 14th, stating that Mrs. Asenath Norman, widow of William Z. Norman, Company C, 11th West Virginia Infantry, whose address you give as Claria, West Virginia, had not received her pension, I have the honor to advise you that the certificate No. 748001, allowing $12. per month from June 26, 1912, was mailed September 26th to the U.S. Pension Agent at Washington, D.C., and he reports payment was made on October 11th to Mrs. Norman.
It should be noted that Asenath was the mother of five children:Another application is filed December 31, 1913, much similar to all the prior applications. Only one child is named, Wm. O. Norman. The document was witnessed by Lonnie Powell and M.J. Hall of Arnoldsburg, notarized by E.W. Hall, Arnoldsburg, and filed by W.H. Wood, Claria W. Va.
- Thomas Jackson Starcher, born December 31, 1860, son of Thomas Starcher. The identity of his father is well documented via his marriage certification and other sources. Thomas Starcher, son of Adam Starcher, is known to have been a Confederate partisan, a member of the Mocassin Rangers, and died during the Civil War.
- William Oscar Norman, born June 1, 1863. Son of William Zinn Norman.
- Charles Bell Rogers, born December 31, 1867. Through personal letters passed down through family members and other documents, he is known to be Asenath's son. His death certificate lists his father as Jas M Rogers. No other information about Jas M Rogers is available at this writing.
- Hannibal N. Maffet, born December 17, 1871. His father was Isaac Maffet. Little other informantion on Isaac Maffett is available at this writing.
- Clara Elizabeth Norman, born February 6, 1876. Her death certificate lists her father as William Norman. This is in conflict with all other available evidence. The father of Clara Norman is undetermined.
feb the 7, 1914Also included in the reply is a notarized statement dated February 9, 1914, is which Asenath states "...she never had but one child by William Z. Norman and that he was born on June 1st, 1863, and that he is still living and the record in the family testament shows this to be the date of his birth, whos name is William O. Norman."
Claria Calhoun Co W. Va.
kind friend in ans to your request about the children William Z. Norman and me never had but one child his name is William O norman he was born June the 1 1863 my husband was parolled Sept the 3 at Spencer W. Va and came home on the first of June my baby was born he is a live yet
as for Thomas norman that was some one else riting not mine please send me that letter for i want to see if i can find who rote sutch a lie
yours with respect
Mrs. Asenath Norman
December the 5, 1916Records indicate that her pension was inceased to $20 per month, effective Jan 3. 1917.
Claria Calhoun Co W. VA.
Commissioner of Pensions Washington DC
i wil be 76 years old the 6 of next June. I am a widow pensioner no of my pension is 748001 Please send me my in crease of pension as soon as its turn comes.
Mrs Asenath Norman
yours with respect
Arnoldsburg, W. Va.What is not mentioned in the letter is that her son, William Oliver Norman perished in the fire. A newspaper account of the tragedy, taken from the Calhoun Chronicle, has been transcribed and reproduced on the HurHerald, edited by Bob Weaver.
March 11, 1921
Commissioner of Pensions
On yesterday my House was Destroyed by fire and I lost very thing I had Including the Pension Check you sent me March 4th. Kindly Direct me how to get a Duplicate Check All my Pension papers were burnt
do this at once as I am left with out anything.
Send me the papers necessary to Get the Check Duplicated
Asenath died May 18, 1927, age at age 86. The final two documents in the file include a memo written by her son H.M. Maffett:
Millstone W. Va.The final documents indicate that her pension, which began at $12 per month in 1912, was increased to $20 per month January 3, 1917, $25 per month October 6, 1917, $30 per month May 1, 1920, and $50 per month July 3, 1926.
Additional notes on Asenath Booher Norman available at this link.
Asenath is buried in the Gibson Cemetery, located on Altizer-Adam Road near Arnoldsburg WV, with her parents, Jacob I. Booher (1814-1888) and Nancy N. McCune Booher (1817-1899). Siblings buried there include John J. Booher (1855-1939) and wife Sarah J. Starcher Booher, M.D. (Martha) Booher Corbett (1853-1899), Jemima Booher Smith (1839-1921) and her husband Reason Smith (1822-1899), and sister Malissa Tanner (1844-1924).
Asenath is buried next to her parents, Jacob I. and Nancy N. Booher
Her mother, Nancy N. McCune Booher, was the daughter of Peter McCune, an early Calhoun County Settler. See "McCune and Cogar, Two Revolutionary War Soldiers, Settled In Calhoun." Also see "Excerpts from Recollections of a Lifetime by Col. D.S. Dewees."
The marker for Jacob I. Booher has apparantly gone missing through the years.