A Special Examiner came to Walton, Kentucky in August, 1893 after Cynthia Black disclosed some questionable circumstances surrounding her late husband’s Mexican War pension. The Special Examiner asked a lot of good questions, some with fantastic genealogical value!
Mr. Thomas H. MacBride worked for the U.S. Pension Bureau and was stationed in Cincinnati. His name appeared in the Cincinnati newspaper from time to time, usually in connection with a pension fraud case. Cynthia was actually fortunate her miseries didn’t make headlines in Cincinnati.
As we work our way through the convoluted history of Benjamin Black and Randolph Corbin, it will help to have a map to give us our bearings. All of the action takes place in the northern tip of Kentucky, in the counties of Boone, Kenton and Grant.
The names of the various towns that will come up include: Richwood, Walton, Covington, Union, Williamstown, Petersburg, Florence, and Grant. I’ve pinned all of these onto the Google map shown below for future reference. You can zoom in and out to get a better sense of the place.
So Mr. MacBride arrives, I believe, at Cynthia’s home. The deposition takes place “near Walton” which, as Cynthia states, is where she lives.
I have the transcription of the deposition below, with my comments in italics. I’ve adjusted the formatting a little bit, just to make it more readable. Information in brackets [..] indicates stuff that was hard to read or needs interpretation.
On this 21st day of August, 1893, at near Walton, County of Boone, State of Kentucky, before me, Thomas H. MacBride, a Special Examiner of the Pension Office, personally appeared Cynthia A. Black, who, being by first duly sworn to answer truly all interrogatories propounded to her during this Special Examination of aforesaid pension claim, deposes and says:
I was 57 the 26th of last may past, I live in Kenton Co. 1-1/2 miles East of Walton, Boone Co., Ky which is my post office address.
Benjamin and Cynthia lived pretty much on the Boone/Kenton county line.
I claim pension as the widow of Benjamin F. Black who was a Mexican War soldier whose service I don’t know but whose pension crf [certificate] which I present shows him to have been in Co D 3rd Ky Inf Vols. I don’t know that my husband ever told me he was in the Mexican War, but I know he drew a pension for it.
I was married to my husband Sept. 26, 1889 in Covington, Ky by Judge Shine. He had been married twice before. I never had been married. His first wife was a Mrs. Matthews in Indiana, I don’t know where, maybe in Indianapolis. I believe he said her first name was Louisa. Don’t know when they were married.
All of this marriage information is basically correct, although I don’t believe Benjamin
and Louisa were married in Indianapolis. Shelby County isn’t far from Indianapolis, though.
I don’t know what his second wife’s name was. I understand she lived in Iowa but don’t know where. I have heard him say he lived part of the time in South English, Iowa Co., Iowa and the last years he stayed there I believe he said he lived at North English, Keokuk Co. Iowa, boarded with W.H. Smith a lumber dealer there.
She has the counties backwards. Remember Benjamin’s will? He asked that his trunk be sent to his
son Earney in “Keokuk”, care of W.H. Smith. Now we know who Smith was – Benjamin’s landlord!
Benjamin’s marriage to Sarah must have ended very badly if Cynthia didn’t ever know her name.
I have not and never seen my husband’s discharge certificate from service in the Mexican War. I never heard him say that he had ever served as Randolph B. Corbin, or under any assumed name. My husband has always said he was born May 14, 1823 in Boone Co. Ky near Richwood. I never heard of my husband being called Randolph B. Corbin, never heard him mention any Randolph B. Corbin. I believe he said when he was 19 he went to Indianapolis to his bro-in-law (Harrison Bangess) – don’t know how the name is spelled – understand he is dead and his sister (Catherine Banges nee Black) is also dead. I understand my husband learned the saddlers trade in Indiana with Perry Sherrod[?] or of Indianapolis or some place near there.
This is all pretty interesting! I have confirmed that there was a Catherine Black
married to a Henry Harrison Boggess. Early census records show Henry living in
Shelby County with his wife and children. This is a great clue for following
up and confirming Benjamin’s parents and siblings! His parents were supposedly Samuel
Black and Elinor Howard but I’ve not been able to independently confirm that yet.
Q: You say you never heard of a Randolph B. Corbin (until the pension office wrote about it) – Did you furnish the information as contained in this letter (Ref’d… Widow’s papers)
A: When I signed that, I never knew what the letter contained. Mr. Dyas gave me this letter to sign I think, though I may have signed it in an o [?]
As we will see, Mr. Dyas was her local attorney.
Q: Where is Mr. Dyas?
A: Here in town.
Q: Your late husband’s pension papers say he was born in Madison Co., Ky.
A: Well that may be – but he was raised near Richwood Boone Co., Ky. I know where the old home is now.
Madison County? Family lore has always been that he was born in Boone County.
I will follow up on this – possibly another good clue about his parents.
Richwood, where Cynthia says he was raised, is the next town north of Walton.
Q: Your letter in which you are made to make the statements that Randolph B. Corbin was one person and Benjamin F. Black was another and that you heard that Randolph Corbin died 2 years after the close of the war you say you signed with for Mr. Dyas here or the McCormick’s in Cincinnati?
A: Yes sir, one or the other – come to think it over, I must have signed it in Cincinnati. I never knew a Corbin, or heard of him, or knew or heard that he died 2 years after the close of the Mexican War.
McCormick in Cincinnati was the specialist pension lawyer she hired initially.
Never knew my husband to say he took an assumed name. He was too good a man to go under an assumed name.
Cynthia stands by her man!
Q: Do you know of anybody here or elsewhere who knew of your husband’s service in the war with Mexico?
A: No sir I don’t.
Q: What was your husband’s personal description?
A: Do you mean when he was young?
Q: Did you know him then?
A: Why I had seen him. He was my second cousin. His father and my grandmother was brother and sister.
What!! Oh my gosh, they were cousins! This is a bombshell.
Q: [..] what is your recollection of his description at the time of war with Mexico?
A: Before he got gray, he had sandy hair and sandy whiskers. Couldn’t state as to exact description at time of Mexican War. He had blue eyes […] and one eye partly blue and partly brown. Very heavy eyebrows and light complexion. He was near 6 feet – don’t know exact height – he was well proportioned, good size fine-looking man. Don’t think he was 6 ft. but is tall or taller man [note says 5 ft 10 1/2 – she must have compared to someone present]. This would answer his description at time of death, barring the matter of age and gray hairs with it.
Q: Have you any pictures of your husband
A: No sir.
I understand you and my answers are correctly explained.
Cynthia A. Black
White whiskers? Check.
Heavy eyebrows? Maybe, can’t really tell.
Light complexion? Check.
“Fine-looking man”? I’ll let Cynthia be the judge of that.
Is that some sort of phony war ribbon on his chest?
I can’t put my hands on the original – it might still be in Aunt Jane’s possession or in a photo album at Mom’s house (or maybe I just need to look through my stuff again….). Would love to see if there’s a studio name printed on the back.
(This may be a Frasier relative and not a Black relative. I hope someone can help me on this.)
After getting Cynthia’s statement, Special Examiner MacBride then collects information from three men in the community – a hotel clerk, a lawyer and a retired Army Captain.
The plot thickens, stay tuned!