Civil War Pension Application for Emma Lankford Widow of Silas James Lankford, Smith and Dickson Counties, TN

by deb - October 13th, 2011.
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The depositions continue concerning the widow application of Emma Langford, wife of Union and Confederate Soldier, Silas James Lankford…

8 Feb 1906   Tabitha Lankford:  I am 63 years of age.   My post office is Defeated, Tenn.  I have no occupation.  

James Lankford was my brother.  His name was Silas James Lankford.   He lived at home with his parents till he married.  I lived at home too.

His first marriage was to Nancy Susan McKinnis.  They married in this county, Smith County, Tenn about six or seven years before the Civil War.  I was not at their wedding.  It is my recollection that my said brother showed me his license to marry the said woman, and that it was the first marriage license that I ever saw.

I do not remember who performed the marriage ceremony.

Jim and Susan lived together as husband and wife from the time they married till he joined the army.  He served under Burk Hart (Capt) and that is the only service he rendered so far as I know.

He lived about here only a few months after the war–less than a year, then left Susan and never came back to her anymore.

So far as I have ever heard, Jim and Susan were never divorced.  I think that they were not divorced.   The next wife he had that I ever heard of was Zilph Dunn.  I never saw her and only heard of her.  I do not know where Jim got her.

The next wife he had was Emma Brown whose maiden was Hunt or Hunter and whose first husband–a man named Brown, had been drowned. 

So far as I know Susan lived only in Smith Co. Tenn and near Franklin, KY from the time brother Jim left her till she died.

Burk Hart was Capt in the the Southern Army, and after Jim had served under him he served in the Northern Army and I don’t know what company or regiment he belonged to.    Signed by Tabitha X Lankford and attested to by Rome Dillard and Willie Lankford.

The next deposition was by Julia Ann Chaffin on 8 Feb 1906:  I am 60 years of age.   My post office address is Carthage, Tenn.  I am the wife of Harvey C. Chaffin.   My cousin Susan McKinnis married Jim Lankford.  I was present at the wedding.  Susan had not been married prior to her marriage to Jim Lankford.   I know that to be a fact because we lived in the same neighborhood.  This was signed by Julia Ann X Chaffin and attest to by C.C. Chaffin and Rome Dillard.

The next paper in the file was a letter by the Special Examiner, W.L. Sullivan, to the Clerk and Master of the Chancery Court of Dickson Co., Tenn.   Sullivan asked the Clerk and Master if the records of Dickson Co. Chancery Court showed divorce proceedings between 1864 and 1882 between Silas James Langford and Susan Langford.       The Clerk and Master, W.G. McMillan, answered at the bottom of this page certifying that he could find no record of the case. Feb 12, 1906.

W.L. Sullivan sent a similar letter to the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Dickson Co., Tenn and received a reply from the Clerk, J.J. Taylor, that he could find no reocrd of divorce in his court between Silas James Langford and Susan Langford.

On 19 Feb 1906 W.L. Sullivan , Special Examiner, wrote this report to the Commissioner of Pensions, Washington, D.C.: 

Sir,   I have the honor to return herewith the papers in the above cited claim and to report as follows: 

The claim was referred for special examination on the question of claimant’s legal widowhood.   It came to me for initial examination.

Claimant was given the usual notice of special examination.   She waived her right to be present or represented by an attorney in the examination of her claim.  She waives further notice.   Claimant had been married but once prior to her marriage to the soldier.  Her first husband was Thomas Brown who was drowned April 20, 1877.

The claimant mentions the soldier’s former wife Zilpha Dunn, and offers evidence proving her death prior to the marriage of the soldier to this claimant.  But, she swore falsely in her initial statement, in that she stated hat so far as she had heard her husband, the soldier, had not been married prior to his marriage to Zilpha Dunn.  When as, she later told me, the soldier told her, before they married, that he had married the mother of Marion and that he had deserted the said first wife.

I searched the marriage records of Smith Co., Tenn, but found no record of marriage for the soldier.  There is one of the marriage books missing covering 1854 to 56 inclusion.

Julia Ann Chaffin a cousin of the first wife, Susan McKinnis, testifies that she was present at the marriage of the soldier to said first wife.

It appears that soldier was never divorced from his first wife, Susan.  I searched the divorce records of Smith Co. Ten, and Simpson Co., KY from the early fifties to 1890, and found no record of any divorce proceedings between the soldier and his first wife, Susan.

The statements of the Clerk and Master of the Chancery Court and the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Dickson Co., Tenn show that soldier never instituted any proceedings for divorce from Susan, in the said county of Dickson, state of Tennessee.

I respectfully submit the claim for consideration of the Chief of Board of Review, signed by W.L. Sullivan, Special Examiner.

The reply of the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pensions, Board of Review, Law Division:  The facts are substantially as follows:

The claimant and the soldier were married Dec 15, 1881, as shown by the evidence.   At that time the claimant was free to marry–her only other previous husband, one Brown, having died April 20, 1877.

The soldier had been twice previously married:  His first marriage was to one Nancy Susan McKinnis–sometime between 1853 and 1857.    By her he had four children–three of whom are yet living.  He deserted his first wife about the beginning of the Civil War–going first into the Confederate Army and afterwards into the U.S. service.   He never returned to his first wife.  Shortly after, or just before the close of the war he married one Zilpha Dunn and lived with her until she died January 25, 1881.   His next marriage was to this claimant as before stated.  His first wife did not die until about the latter part of 1887 (Oct or Dec)–six years after his marriage to this claimant.  He lived with the claimant from the date of his marriage to her, in Dec 1881, up to the date of his death–May 17, 1905, a period of more than 23 years–and about 18 years after the death of Susan, his first wife.

The question is did a valid marriage between the claimant and the soldier arise after the death of his first wife, Susan, in Dec 1887? 

In the case of Mary F. Barker, the Dept. appears to have held that the soldier “on account of whose death the appellant claims pension, having had ample opportunity to know, or to ascertain upon slight inquiry that his first wife was living when he married appellant is presumed to have known such fact; and his said marriage to appellant was not valid under Sec 3293 of the code of Tennessee”.

In this case it appears that both the soldier and the claimant probably knew his first wife was living when there were married in Dec 1881.  It is a least shown to be reasonably certain that, if they did not have actual knowledge of the continuance of life of the 1st wife–they could have easily have ascertained the fact upon slight inquiry or investigation.   It does not appear that they, or eitherof them, made any investigation along that line, or that they ever heard of the first wife’s death.   In view of these facts and presumptions could a valid marriage between the claimant and the soldier have arisen after the 1st wife’s death?

Claimant has acted in bad faith from the beginning and has practially admitted that she knew the 1st wife was living when she married the soldier and that she studiously and purposely concealed that fact in presenting the claim.  

Memo:   It has developed in Special Examination that the soldier had a prior Confederated service, but as that fact was not disclosed during his lifetime, and his title to pension was never questioned, and as he did not die until after the passage of “the J….? Resolution”, the widow’s title to the accrued pension if she be the legal widow and to pension in her own right is not affected by the fact of said prior Confederate service.   Feby 27, 1906

The Law Division sent a further memo on March 3, 1906, repeating much of the same info as above with the addition:    The evidence tends strongly and circumstantially to show that claimant and soldier knew that his first wife was living at date of their intermarriage in December 1881.  Moreover, it would appear that fact of the whereabouts and existence of said first wife could readily have been ascertained by the soldier by the exercise of ordinary diligence.   He was guilty of desertion, and no presumption of innocence or good faith on his part can be indulged, it is believed, so as to bring the marriage at bar within the provisions …of the Code of Tennessee.

After due consideration of all the facts presented by the record, I am of the opinion that the marriage between the claimant and soldier in 1881 was, under the circumstances stated and under the laws of the State of Tennessee, illegal and void at date of its consummation for want of capacity on his part to marry, and was not subsequently validated after the legal impediment was removed in the death of Nancy, his first wife, in 1887.   It is accordingly held that claimant can not be considered the legal widow of the soldier.

Thus ends the widow’s application for Emma Lankford/Langford.     She was not granted a pension for Silas James Lankford/Langford’s service in the U.S. during the Civil War.    What happened to her?    Did she live to her death in Dickson Co?   How did she support herself?    All questions for another day’s research.

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3 Responses to Civil War Pension Application for Emma Lankford Widow of Silas James Lankford, Smith and Dickson Counties, TN

  1. Great work Debbie!! Our Silas was a VERY busy man with the ladies!!

  2. Wow! What a character!! I love it…. I guess there is nothing really new in the world. Now I am wondering about her…..

  3. I actually found this more enarnttinieg than James Joyce.

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