Category Archives: family

Eva Maria Stahler’s Widow’s Pension: The Battle Continues

IMPORTANT NOTE

Although this story about Adam Stahler and his widow continued to be fascinating, I now believe I was barking up the wrong tree branch, and they are not actually related to me.  I explain elsewhere how that happened.

BEWARE if you are researching the family of Joseph Kaser. There apparently were two Elizabeth Stahlers from Berks County, and the one I have been researching, whose parents were Adam Stahler and Eva Maria Henrich, is not the one who married Joseph Kaser. 

I have left this post for those people who might be researching the Stahler-Henrich lines.

The Soldier and The Widow

Adam Stahler, my 4th great-grandfather, a German immigrant, fought in the American Revolution–not just once but several times–not just as a humble private as many of my New England ancestors, but as a Captain.  However, when his widow, Eva Maria tried to collect her widow’s pension, she faced a legal ordeal. The battle for the pension lasted longer than the war had taken to fight.

During her lifetime, although the court paid her the minimal widow’s pension, she was unable to get the increased amount due the widows of officers. You can see how I discovered the widow’s pension here, and read about what the first part of the legal battle entailed here.

The Soldier’s Son and the Second Hearing

Ten years after her death, and twenty years after the first hearing, the story resumes when her son, Christian, goes back to court to argue that, as the song goes, “they done her wrong.”

By this time, 1852, Christian is in his seventies, and only one other child of Eva and Adam Stahler still lives–Eva’s namesake Eva Marie Stahler (Neur), who is now married and living in Ohio.

Christian had hired an attorney who came loaded with proof of Adam Stahler’s length of service and the fact that he was indeed a Captain, served the appropriate length of time and his family should collect a higher pension.

Apparently, the court found several holes in Eva Maria’s case, and one of them had to do with spelling.

In a letter that seems extremely sad in retrospect, Christian Stahler explains that neither he nor his mother knew of concrete proof of his father’s service (beyond the testimony of fellow veterans) at the time of the first appeal.  In fact, they had asked at the pension office at Pennsylvania capital city Harrisburg and been told there was nothing. Had they found any records they would have presented them.  However, the new attorney (presumably he gets credit) discovered pay records, enrollment records, and more official records that are testimony to the service of Captain Adam Stahler/Stohler.

…That the person she other employed to assist her with her application had a great deal of trouble with it. Spent some weeks riding the country to obtain the testimony necessary to support it. That had he known that the offices at Harrisburg could have shone any light upon the services of the said Adam Stahler he would have applied there and presented with what testimony he acquired from _____ ______ the testimony in that office, but there was nothing to inform him that there was testimony there.

Because of Adam’s rank, Eva would have been eligible to receive $280 a month instead of $120 for her widow’s pension.

Can’t you just feel the frustration that then 84-year old Eva must have felt in back in1832, along with all Adam’s fellow veterans who had testified?

In an earlier article about this pension, I focused on a letter that reported that the writer of the letter had studied the Revolutionary War rolls looking for Adam Stahler, Stohler, or Stoller and had proven that regardless of how it was spelled, there was only one Adam Stahler.  Apparently, during the first appeal, evidence presented did not convince the commissioner of pensions as to Adam’s service.  Part of the problem of course, involved the free-wheeling spelling of the 18th century.

In June 1852, the new lawyer in the case, J. E. Buchanan, says

The proof herewith submitted will show that he was called ‘Staller.’ In the copy of the record which shows that he was at time of the battle of Brandywine until at Chester Aug. 18th 1777 he is called ‘Staller’ and in one of the affidavits he is called by that name. He is called Stahler in the retinue of the 3rd battalion of militia officers dated May 21 1777. But in the Retinue on the same sheet he is called ‘Stahler’ which reconciles the apparent difficulty of the name. The names are the same in sound however.

And it appears that the bureaucrats just weren’t paying attention in the 1852  widow’s pension hearing.  A full year later, Mr. Buchanan (Esq.) writes again, introducing the testimony mentioned above from the man who analyzed the rolls.

 I forward to you additional testimony in the case of Eve Maria Stahler of Pennsylvania making application for an increase of her pension under the act of July 4 1836. In your letter of April 5th inst. I am requested to furnish in the form of an affidavit the opinion of some old respectable inhabitant of Northampton County Pennsylvania that there was but one officer of the name of Adam Stahler vs Stohler in the militia of that County who rendered services during the Revolutionary War.

I just don’t see how he could have explained it more clearly. And he chose, he said to forward testimony from the Secretary of the office where the records are kept as a better source of information, than the requested old soldier’s testimony.  And he repeats once again that although the names Stahler and Stohler and Stoller are spelled differently, they sound the same.

Surely after such a frustrating widow’s pension case, Christian Stahler’s attorney must have stalked off to the nearest tavern, muttering about the blockheads who could not understand that a name might be spent several ways but still apply to the same person.

Did they win the case? One piece of paper that might contain the answers, has faded beyond recognition and the columns of numbers do not make sense to me. So I have not been able to figure out yet who won the case. UPDATE: Another accounting is clearer and shows that Christian and his sister, the only surviving children were awarded the amount that their mother should have received. THEY WON!

But this story proves that genealogists are not the only ones who have a problem when surnames are misspelled.

Notes on Research

U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900, index found at Ancestry.com and 84-page file read and copied from “Application of Eva Maria Stahler, widow of Captain Adam Stahler,”  www.fold3.com/image/18467518?terms=adam%20stahler&xi
d=1945 
 Accessed at the Family Search Center, Tucson NW

Wrong Spelling Costs Eve Stahler Widows Pension

IMPORTANT NOTE

Although this story about Adam Stahler and his widows pension continue to be fascinating, I now believe I was barking up the wrong tree branch, and they are not actually related to me.  I explain elsewhere how that happened.

BEWARE if you are researching the family of Joseph Kaser. There apparently were two Elizabeth Stahlers from Berks County, and the one I have been researching, whose parents were Adam Stahler and Eva Maria Henrich, is not the one who married Joseph Kaser. 

I have left this post for those people who might be researching the Stahler-Henrich lines.

————-

For a couple of weeks now, I have been sporadically attacking a file of 79 pages of legal papers regarding widows pension benefits.  Many of them are illegible, either because age has faded them or because the person who wrote testimony or documents needed one of those penmanship instructors I talked about recently.

Adam Stahler Pension

Page 47 widow’s Revolutionary war pension legal file

And that is far from the worst of the bunch.

Although at least half of the pages still wait for discovery, my magnifying glass and I have figured out enough to fill you in on most of Eva Maria Stahler and her children’s battle to get what the government owed them. The first half of the file has to do with Eva Maria Stahler applying for an increase in her widows pension when she was 83 years old.

The rest of the file is about the attempts after her death to get the pension increased.  Christian Stahler and his sister Eva Maria (the 2nd) were the only remaining children by the 1850s when they brought the case up again. Eva Maria had married and moved to Ohio.

Along the way, I am also piecing together the details of Adam Stahler’s military history, which I will relate in the future, but I am impressed by the number of notable battles he took part in.  For instance, the battle of Brandywine, in which ill-clothed colonial soldiers lost to the British, and the battle of Germantown, another losing battle, but one that turned the ragtag militias into a more disciplined army.  I will return to Adam’s Revolutionary War experiences at a later date. Now back to Eva and her battles with bureaucracy.

As I mentioned earlier when talking about Adam Stahler’s pension, the laws governing pensions for Revolutionary War veterans changed frequently. Early payments were only for the injured, and later for those in need. When Adam Stahler died in April 1804, widows and children of Militia member were not eligible for full pensions. In 1832 an act provided for a widows pension. However, on July 4, 1836, legislation passed that would allow the widows and children of Pennsylvania militiamen like Adam to collect higher payments for officers and their widows.

The records show that Eva Maria Stahler had a Certificate of Pension issued on 27 July 1833 and the pension payment were made retroactive to 4 March 1831. Her payments, which continued until her death, are detailed on this report. The image cuts off the September 1831 payment, but the form does not show a March 1831 payment as promised in the legal decision.

Widow's Pension Payments

Eva Maria Stahler, Pennsylvania Accounting for widow’s pension payments.

So if she was getting a widow’s pension from the time she was 83, why all the legal action? It is complicated by all those different rules in the various Revollutionary War pension acts passed by Congress.  It was not uncommon for widows or children to reapply when a more favorable act passed.

In March 1834, Eva Maria petitioned the state legislature of Pennsylvania. Because that document is very difficult to read, I am still not sure whether that is because Pennsylvania had a separate pension system for their state’s militia, or some other reason.

At any rate, the scene moves to the Office of Pensioner in January 1835 where a note on the cover page of her file notes, “no proof of poverty” indicating the law in force at that time would only give pensions to the needy. She was there to convince the Commissioner of Pensions that she was entitled to the higher amount granted to officers.

In August 1836, one month after the passage of the more generous act of 1836, she testified as to her marriage date (15 March 1768) and that she has remained a widow since her husband’s death.  Both of these are requirements to receive a pension.  She also introduced several friends and neighbors (old veterans) who testified as to her husband’s service in the Revolution.  The acts governing widows pensions generally require proof of the length of service, and whether the veteran was a commissioned officer or enlistee. Eva is depending on the testimony of these old veterans who served with her husband.

Veteran's testimony

Part of page 43 in legal file, the testimony of old soldier and neighbor, George Lonenberger

This is part of a page of the testimony of George Lonenberger, who was a neighbor of the Stahlers.  It reads, in part:

“I was personally acquainted with the late Captain Adam Stahler of Northampton. I saw,was in company with and had conversation with the said Captain Stahler a few days after the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777 and said Captain Adam Stahler had the command of a company of militia fom Northampton County, Pennsylvania and the same Capt. Stahler and his company were active ________ in the Battle of Brandwine on the Pennsylvania Line and in the service of the United States.”

But then the unfortunate part–the old soldier, aged 81, truthfully reports:

“I am unable to say at what time the said Captain Adam Stahler entered the service or at what time he left the Service, but I am positive he was in the service.”

So despite the closing statement, “The said Captain Adam Stahler was thought of as brave and active man and a very respectable man,” Lonenberger is not able to present proof of length of service. We find that sentence about not knowing when he entered or when he left repeated by other old soldiers who testify.

We know that Eva, and probably some of her friends, were giving testimony in German, because a translators version of her name and birth date and their marriage date is entered into testimony. However, the Justice of the Peace, or whoever took the testimony, entered the transcript of the testimony in English.  We can assume that these old farmers did not speak in legalese–“the aforesaid Captain Adam Stahler” over and over again, so some liberty was taken with their testimony.

Eva Marie continued to receive the low payment of $120 per month for her widows pension. She had not been able to prove conclusively that Adam was a Captain, or the exact length of his service in the militia. She could not plead penury and he was not injured in the war. Testimony continued to be gathered until at least 1836, and Eva was not getting any younger.

In 1842, Eva died at the age of 92, having received a widows pension payments at the low end of the scale for about ten years.

Next up,  Part Two, Christian Takes Up the Fight.

Notes on Research

U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900, index found at Ancestry.com and 84-page file read and copied from “Application of Eva Maria Stahler, widow of Captain Adam Stahler,”  www.fold3.com/image/18467518?terms=adam%20stahler&xi
d=1945 
 Accessed at the Family Search Center, Tucson NW

Where’s The Will? A Probate Records Search

IMPORTANT NOTE

I have decided that Adam Stahler is probably NOT an ancestor of mine (explanation elsewhere), so I am no longer trying to find his will.  I have left this post here because a) it has links to wills of some of my actual ancestors and b) the path I took searching for answers might be of interest to other researchers.

———————————————-

This week’s challenge for the 52 Ancestors project, “Where There’s a Will“, sounds familiar–drawing us into the fascinating world of probate records. However, at the moment I have to turn that around to “Where’s The Will?” because I am stymied in finding the will of Adam Stahler.

I have enjoyed getting acquainted with ancestors and their families through their probate records in the past. My great-great-grandmother’s first husband died young without a will, but the inventory of goods plainly told me that he was a merchant.   In researching my husband’s ancestors, I found wills for three successive generations in the Manbeck family. From those, and their attached inventories, I learned names of children, what a great-great-great-great grandmother had in her kitchen, what you need to grow flax, and how long it took for German immigrants to switch to the English langauge.

Abraham Brink Will

Abraham Brink the elder Will.

You can read about those ancestors and what I learned from probate records here:

But those were easy.  All those wills and associated papers from probate records were found on line. Hard to read the hand writing sometimes–but at any rate there they were.  And the recorder had kindly written an English transcription of the wills in German, so I didn’t even need a translator.

Asahel Platt Inventory

One of several pages of inventory of belongings of Asahel Platt.

And then there was Adam Stahler.  Ancestry.com coughs up an index entry from the probate records of Northampton County, Pennsylvania (his residence), for Stahler, Adam with John Stahler as administrator, filed in 1804. The index even presents a file number #2284.

Usually, when Ancestry does not give me anything but the index information, I can find the actual document at Family Search.org. Not this time.  I will spare you the gory details, but after two days of eye strain, I still did not have Adam Stahler’s will.

Next step, ask on Facebook at “Genealogy? Just Ask”.

Next step, check Family Search. Someone on the FB group had directed me on how to search more effectively on Family Search.  I  also read a very comprehensive guide to Family Search searching written by Cathy Meder-Dempsey.  Maybe I’m just a bad student, but that didn’t get me what I was looking for either.

Two possibilities, the will never was photographed by Family Search AND/OR it has not been digitized OR the second possibility–it no longer exists. That is just too sad to contemplate, so I am delaying accepting defeat.

Next step, contact the Probate office in Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

So today I sent off an e-mail.  Fingers crossed. And of course I will keep you posted.

Meanwhile,  you can keep yourself amused by looking at the variety of wills I DID find.