January 4, 2015

Hiram Meek - His Pension Record

Hiram Meek was a patriot and soldier who served
twice during the Civil War, once as a Second Lieutenant in Company D, 111th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.  He resigned after several years in January 1864, due to his health.  Then we went back again in March of 1865, first as a recruiter and then as a Captain in Company D of the 195th O.V. I. 

A Civil War soldier or his widow or even a dependent mother or father could apply for a pension.  The pension laws became liberalized over time, so an applicant could keep requesting more money, depending on what claims he made. From Hiram's pension file, obtained from the National Archives, it appeared that his first pension was $3.75 a month, based on his resignation due to poor health in 1864.  He claimed chronic diarrhea or dysentry, which was a very, very common complaint among all the soldiers.

In the Disability Act of 1890, the government granted pensions to any soldier or sailor (Union) who had served 90 days and was now incapacitated for manual labor, to the point where he could not support himself.  If a man could prove this, he would be allowed an extra pension of $6 - $12 a month.  One source noted that pensioners increased from 300,000 in 1885 to over a million by 1893, stressing the government's budget, and allowing fraud to enter the process.  In 1894, it was required that extensive testimony be given from neighbors, employers, or fellow soldiers in proof of a claimant's disability and the fact that it was a result as his service as a soldier. 

Hiram Meek's file is a wealth of affadavits and depositions, hoping to prove that he obtained a hernia/ rupture while serving in Kentucky and because of that, he could not do manual labor.  He began the process as early as 1892, and by December 1895, the government began the process of interviewing people Hiram knew. He had paid a lawyer, F. M. Thompson, to file his claim at a $2.00 cost, and Hiram wanted only Hiram Hootman interviewed because they had served together in the war and had shared a tent.  E. W. Pierce, the Special Examiner from the Pension Office, did not like that idea, however, and proceeded to interview at least ten other acquaintances.

The whole process began with Hiram Meek's deposition to Mr. Pierce on October 24, 1895. Some pages seem to be missing, but to hear his voice tell his own story was wonderful, so I present it here:
"I am 68 years old and my residence and P. O. address is Hicksville, Ohio.  I am the same Hiram Meek who served in Co. F 111th O.V.I. from Aug. '62 to Jan. '64.  I resigned on account of being unable for duty on account of chronic diarrhea for which I am pensioned at $6.00 per mo.  I am also claimant for pension on account of rupture of left side which I incurred late in the fall, Nov. or Dec. '62 when the Co. was at Fort Baker near Bowling Green, Ky. the first winter we were out.

For five years before I went in the service, I lived five miles N.E. of HIcksville, Defiance Co., O. on a farm.  I was 37 years old when I went in the service. I had lived in that neighborhood seven or eight years.  Before that I was a single man knocking around from place to place- was four years in California.  Made my home at East Palestine, Columbiana Co., O. just before coming here.  I do not remember that I ever had an accident happen to me before the service.  I was never injured about the groin or the lower part of the abdomen in any way.  I never had anything like a rupture before I went in the service.  I did not know what a rupture was.  Had never seen one before the service.

Prior -Frederick...no, Joseph Miller knew me well before I went in the service. The men who knew me most intimately are dead.  Philip Miller lived a half mile from me and I changed works with him a good deal.  He is dead.  John Lawson was another near neighbor. He is dead.  Amos Forlow is living and he knew me well and lived less than a half a mile from me. Also John L. Ginter, Chesaning, Saginaw Co., Mich. and William Crow, 6 1/2 miles N.E. here. These are all I can think of who knew me intimately before I went in the service.
Robert Chaiss, Unity, Columbiana Co., Ohio, knew me well while I lived there - worked for him some.  I can not remember anyone else there except an Aunt Agnes Meek, East Palestine, Columbiana Co., Ohio and Samuel Eaton of some place, a cousin.

In service-
The regiment spent the first winter we were out at Bowling Green, Ky.  Our Co. was detached and located at Fort Baker two or three miles from town.  My rupture, left side, came on me in the following manner.  I had a bad cold and cough and I was taking a sweat to break it up, had gone to bed and was covered up as closely as I could.  Thereafter I had gone to sleep, a citizen came into the fort and reported some spies in his neighborhood about seven miles from the fort.  The noise he made with the men talking waked me up.  I was sweating freely.  The Capt. was away from the Co.  The First Lieut. said he couldn't go and I felt it was my duty and raised up in bed and said, "I'll go."  So I dressed myself as warmly as I could and with a detail of eight men and a Sergt. went out with the citizen as a guide and captured the spies and brought them back to camp.  We left the fort about midnight and got back about daylight.  It was a cold night and snow on the ground - one of the coldish nights I experienced in Kentucky.

As a result of the experience, I took more cold and I had a terrible cough.  It seemed as if I would cough my lungs out.  It lasted about a week.  I got very sore across the lower part of my abdomen and a lump as large as a hickory nut with the shuck off came where this rupture is now.  I didn't know what it was until Hiram Hootman of my Co. saw me dressing one morning and called my attention to it, and told me it was a rupture.  It was on the left side exactly where it is now.   The other Lieut. Callender, is dead.  I do not know that any one but Hiram Hootman saw this rupture in service.  It did not bother me so much after my cough got better.  I could not wear my sword belt around me without being in misery and I only wore my sword belt after that when it was absolutely necessary on dress parade or something of that kind.  This fact would be known to most anyone in the Co.  I did not wear a truss in service.  
I do not remember as First Lieut. John W. Cleland.  That must be a mistake. Johnson O. Took was made a 2nd Lieut. after I left the Co.  The Ex'r made a mistaking in calling for list of comrades in this case - giving date of discharge as Dec. 18, '65 from F 111th OVI when correct date is Jan. 16, '64.  Dec.'65 was date of discharge from second service and no list of comrades from second service is with the case.

I bunked with Capt. John E. Hill and Lieut. Callender. Callender is dead.  Hill was state treasurer of Nebraska, P. O. Omaha, I think.  He was a defaulter, I think, in that office, and I understand his testimony in that office is not accepted by the Department.  Serts. Beebe and Sweet might know something about it though I did not complain of it much.  See Jonas Miller, Hicksville, O., Hiram Rice, Farmer, O. & E. E. Hall, Hicksville, O.

After resigning from Co. F. 111 OVI I came back to my farm here in Defiance Co., O. and worked on the farm, where I was able to work until I went out in Co. D. 195th OVI in Mch. '65.  I had partially recovered my health and thought I could stand it again.  My rupture did not get any worse and did not give me any pain unless I lifted.  I did not wear a truss - did not consult a doctor about it - did not show it to anyone that I remember.  My wife is not living.  The hardest service I had in the 195 OVI was the marching.  I was Capt. of the Co. and being Capt. had opportunities to take good care of myself and did.  I did not know a man in the Co. until I made their acquaintance officially.  The men who slept in my tent were 2nd Lieut. H. H. Peppard, W. Unity, Williams Co., O. and First Lieut. H. B. Taylor who was in Toledo, O. the last I heard of him.  They would be the only ones in the Co. who would know anything about it and I do not know whether they would or not.  I do not remember whether I called their attention to my rupture or not.  It kept about the same size during my service in the 195th OVI.

After I came home from my service in 195th Regt. the next spring, I went to Dr. Kinmont of this place and he told me by all means to get a truss and put it on which I did and I haven't been a day without a truss since there.  I have heard the above read over and my answers are correctly recorded."  Hiram Meek"

Advertisement found that shows the truss that might have been used by Hiram

So Mr. Pierce, the government examiner, began his work interviewing witnesses and taking their depositions.  Between December 9 and December 13, 1895, he took the statements of H. H. Peppard, Alice Fritz, Samuel K. Fritz, Hiram F. Rice, Wm. H. Crow, Amos Forlow, Edwin E. Hale, C. R. Curtiss and Hiram C. Hootman.  He also spoke to Christopher Mierly, John Sleesman, F. H. Horton, Enoch Randall, Emanuel Byers and Wm. Roan, but decided that they had no knowledge to add to the case. In addition, he had testimony and a complete health history of Hiram from Dr. Rakestraw and Dr. Kinmont from Hicksville.  Mr. Pierce also noted that Hiram was a man of excellent reputation and he was "universally well spoken of in the community."  

Hiram Hootman's testimony was positive for Hiram Meek

Pierce rated the witnesses from Excellent to Not Good.  A few soldiers remembered that it hurt Hiram to wear his sword belt so he carried it over his shoulders and that he had complained of a rupture.  Some of the neighbors testified that they knew he couldn't work for long periods at a time or that he often put his hands in his pants to push down on his abdomen. Others knew nothing of a rupture. One set of neighbors seemed biased against Hiram, so they were rated as poor witnesses. 
Pierce put all these together and submitted them to the Commissioner of Pensions. The request was put under investigation

At one point during this process, Hiram went out to Wayne, Nebraska, to stay with his daughter Ella Meek Pile.  While there, he was granted $20 a month, total disability, under the Act of February 6, 1907, due to his old age.  He did not reap this for long, however, as he died in 1909.

Last pension given to Hiram Meek.  His daughter, Ella Pile was his witness in Nebraska.

Often a pension record provides so much information beyond the military.  In this record, Hiram reported the names of all his children (of which Fred is not one) and their dates of birth.  A marriage record was included and names of his neighbors and where they lived in relation to him.  His complete health history was there, along with a description of him at 6', 185 lbs.  A pension record for your ancestor can be well worth obtaining, not just for the story it may tell, but for the additional genealogical information that may reside there.


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