Cynthia Black, Benjamin’s third wife, wasn’t a branch on the family tree that I’d paid much attention to before now. I wasn’t aware of much documentation about her, other than my great-grandmother Lola’s handwritten notes.
I’m so glad I have a copy of all of Lola’s handwritten genealogy notes. Not everything is accurate, but I’m so glad she wrote down what she knew. And I like her handwriting.
According to Lola, Benjamin “…was married a third time to Cynthia A. Jones who was born in Kenton County, Kentucky May 26, 1836. Married September 26, 1889. A son Ernest was born.”
This is almost right – as we saw last time, Ernest was actually the son of the second wife, Sarah, and had stayed behind in Iowa with his mother when Benjamin moved back to Kentucky. The marriage date, however, is spot-on and Benjamin’s pension file includes a copy of the certificate! Cynthia would have been required to furnish proof that she really was his widow. (That’s the great thing about pension files, they contain all kind of extra documents!)
Even though Benjamin was Lola’s husband’s relation, Lola kept equally good notes on both hers and Roscoe’s family history. It’s interesting to think about what Lola knew about the Black family when she made her notes in the 1950’s and how she may have gotten the information. She wasn’t provided with many accurate facts about Benjamin’s second marriage, but she had some solid details about his marriage to Cynthia. This kind of suggests some amount of sporadic communication between Benjamin and the children from his first marriage. The details about his marriage to Cynthia, and Lola’s accurate knowledge about his place and date of death suggests that sixty years before Lola made her notes, Cynthia herself had communicated information back to Benjamin’s family. Curiously, it doesn’t seem that any letters or obituaries have survived, which is odd because the Timmons’ and the Frasiers seemed to have saved everything. Perhaps the letters ended up in the hands of one of Ida’s other siblings.
I did a little snooping around the census records to see what the deal was with Cynthia. I believe that “Jones” was indeed her maiden name and that she had lived with her parents (Foster and Mary Ann Jones) for many years, and then with her mother after her father died. As we’ll see in a future post, I think she must have been kind of smitten with handsome old Benjamin. When they married, she was 53 and he was 66. Benjamin had been on his own for at least 10 years and was probably happy to have a woman fuss over him again after all those years.
Cynthia had to fill out quite a bit of paperwork to make her application. The application was made in Hamilton County, Ohio – i.e., Cincinnati. This would have been just across the river from Covington and was likely the nearest regional office for processing this type of paperwork. She engaged the services of A.W. McCormick & Son to help navigate the process. From what I can see of pensions from this era, it seems like there were lots of lawyers and agents for hire who would help you with your pension paperwork. Her application was filed in March, 1892 – about seven months after Benjamin died.
She states in the application that her late husband had served under an alias, that of “Randolph B. Corbin”. Benjamin’s own application had shown the name of “Randle”. So Cynthia knows about the whole alias business, but she has some other source of information about the name. She also states that she had affidavits from Samuel Edward and Henry Dearl sent ahead to the Pension Department immediately after Benjamin’s passing. Those affidavits are not part of the file and later notes in the file say that those affidavits were never been found. Not surprising since they were apparently sent separately and in advance of the application. I don’t think Cynthia intentionally tried to perpetuate Benjamin’s fraud, and none of the documents in the file even hint that Cynthia was complicit in the scam. But Cynthia found out soon enough that something wasn’t right. Four months after she made her application, she sent the following letter to the Commissioner of Pensions:
July 26, 1892
Genl. Green B. Raum
Commissioner of Pensions
My Dear Sir,
I am the widow of Benjamin F. Black who was at the time of his death was [sic] drawing a pension under Certificate No. 10519. The Pension seems to have been granted to Benjamin F. Black alias Randolph B. Corbin of Co. D, 3rd Regiment Kentucky Vols, Mexican War.
Now Randolph B. Corbin died, as I am told, two years after the close of that war and Randolph B. Corbin was one person and Benjamin F. Black was a different person altogether. As I do not wish to do anything wrong in this matter, I wish to ask you whether this Pension was granted to Benjamin F. Black as if he was Randolph B. Corbin, or had been known as Randolph B. Corbin in the Mexican War.
Please let me know at once that I may be advised of my rights.
Cynthia A. Black
Well, plucky Cynthia at least gets points for honesty! As we shall see, there were people in the community who knew and remembered the real Mr. Corbin. I wonder what kind of innocent conversation or chance encounter brought these unsettling facts to Cynthia’s attention, and how many sleepless nights resulted. Another trip across the river to Cincinnati was involved as the letter seems to have been written by her lawyer.
More than a year passes before the next official communication is sent. On August 12, 1893, she is informed that a Special Examiner was scheduled to arrive on August 21, and that he would take testimony from witnesses and collect evidence about the pension claim.
At this point, the Special Examiner had already done some background checking on Benjamin’s initial claim. Next time we’ll look into the application and affidavits that Benjamin had submitted six years prior.