Helen Viola Jackson, the last known widow of a Civil War soldier, has died at 101.
She died Dec. 16 at Webco Manor Nursing Home in Marshfield, Missouri, where she had been a resident for many years, according to a statement on her Facebook page.
In 1936, when Jackson was 17 years old, she married James Bolin, a 93-year-old widower who served in the 14th Missouri Cavalry during the Civil War.
The war ended in 1865, 156 years ago.
Jackson’s father had volunteered her to stop by Bolin’s house each day to help with chores on her way home from school. Bolin did not want to accept charity and after a period of time, asked her to marry him in order to provide for her future, according to the statement.
“He said that he would leave me his Union pension,” Jackson told the historian Hamilton C. Clark in an interview. “It was during the Depression and times were hard. He said that it might be my only way of leaving the farm.”
They had a small ceremony in front of a few witnesses at Bolin’s home in Niangua, Missouri. Bolin told his wife the marriage would be on her terms, and she continued to live on her family’s farm and retained her surname, the statement said.
Bolin died on June 18, 1939, less than three years after the two wed.
He had recorded the wedding in his personal Bible, which is now part of a rotating exhibit on Jackson that has traveled to several museum locations, according to a post on the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival website.
Jackson never applied for the pension or remarried.
She had been private about her story until 2017, when she shared details while working on the details of her funeral with her minister, according to the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival.
“How do you explain that you have married someone with such a difference in age,” she reportedly said at the 2018 Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival. “I had great respect for Mr. Bolin and I did not want him to be hurt by the scorn of wagging tongues.”
Jackson was a prominent figure in her local community, serving as a charter member of the Elkland Independent Methodist Church and Cherry Blossom Festival Auxiliary, a member of the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, and numerous other groups, according to the Cherry Blossom Festival site.
She was a 2018 honoree on the Missouri Walk of Fame.
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War issued a statement on Jan. 2 ordering 30 days of remembrance.
Before Jackson shared her history, Maudie Hopkins was believed to be the last known surviving widow of a Civil War soldier. She died in 2008. She married Confederate veteran William Cantrell when she was 19 and he was 86.