I came across quite a gold mine of information today concerning my great-great-great-grandfather Benjamin Franklin Black. He’s been a bit of an enigma and until recently, I had not known about his military service. I ordered the pension file. It arrived today and…well, WOW.
Let’s review a bit about what we know about Benjamin F. Black as handed down in family lore and from census and other records. He was born in Boone County, Kentucky and was descended from Scotch-Irish ancestors, one or more of whom may have been preachers. For reasons unknown, he ended up in Indiana and there he married Louisa Mathews. Louisa was the daughter of Tunstal Quarles “T.Q.” Mathews, who seems to have been a charismatic individual with abolitionist views and himself a preacher of the word (more about him some other time).
Benjamin and Louisa lived in Shelby County, Indiana and had ten children together. The youngest two were twins who died at birth or shortly after in 1866. Louisa then died 23 days later. Benjamin and his surviving children ended up in North English, Iowa where T.Q. Mathews may have been living. My great-great-grandmother, Ida Louise Black, was the youngest surviving child of Benjamin and Louisa. (Ida married Edward Frasier; they were the parents of Roscoe Frasier, my great-grandfather.)
By 1870, Benjamin had remarried to Sarah Cole, who was a widow with four children. Benjamin and Sarah had another two children together, but eventually they were divorced. During this period, Ida was frequently in the care of her older siblings and also some neighbors by the name of Edwin and Isobel Rosecrans. In 1879, the Rosecrans’ decided to move to Saunders County, Nebraska, and they brought Ida with them. She is listed in the census records as their adopted daughter. She was close to them throughout her life. Isobel’s maiden name was Russell, and Ida and the Frasier family associated with various members of the Russell family who had also moved to Saunders County from Iowa. Years later, Ida’s sister Ruth would marry Mike Ickes, whose first wife was Isobel’s sister. Eventually, most of Ida’s siblings moved to Saunders County too, and some of their children married into the extended Frasier family.
So even though Benjamin seemed to have been a less-than-ideal parent, it seems that his children acquired a network of support through the Ida’s association with the Rosecrans (her adopted parents) and the Frasiers (her husband’s family).
Here is the index card record that I found a few weeks ago for his service in the Mexican-American War. It showed him enlisted with a volunteer regiment out of Kentucky, and a pension application out of Iowa. This just had to be our Benjamin, and it’s what prompted me to send for the file. It turned out to be just about the best $55 I’ve ever spent!
His original pension filing was on May 5, 1887. At this time, he was 64 years old. He cites his birth date and birth place, Louisa Mathews as his first wife and Sarah P. Cole as his second wife (unclear whether they are divorced or if she has died).
In describing his war service in his pension application, he said he enlisted in May, 1846; was honorably discharged at Covington, Kentucky in June 1848; and was at “Vara [sic] Cruz to City of Mexico”.
But here’s where it gets interesting. He said:
I am the identical Benjamin F. Black who served under the name of Randal Corbin as a Orderly Sgt. in the company commanded by Captain James A. Pritchard in the 5th Regiment of Kentucky…
Wait…what? Served under a different name?
If you think that sounds fishy, you’re onto something. Because his pension application turned out to be nothing but a huge pack of lies.
Stay tuned…in future posts we’ll find out about the third wife, the phony affidavits, the co-conspirators, the investigation, the real Randal Corbin, the depositions, and the examiner’s final report. (Refer the links menu at upper right to read other posts in this series.)