Helbling Family, Springsteen Family (Click for Family Tree)
Earlier this week we looked at the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) and how it was a large fraternal organization with political clout. A number of our ancestors were GAR members, such as Abram F. Springsteen and Samuel T. Beerbower. (Both would be some-number-of-great uncles in Anna May (Beerbower) Helbling’s line, the number depending on your generations from Anna May.)
An encampment of the GAR was a great time for camaraderie amongst the old Civil War veterans. It was also an opportunity for a sweet but enterprising “widow lady” searching for a little camaraderie of her own.
A headline of “SAYS SHE’S A WIDOW LADY, And Wants a Husband Who Is In High Social Standing” was found in the Elkhart Daily Review, Elkhart, Indiana on 31 August 1899 on the front page. The committee in charge of the September 1899 GAR encampment in Philadelphia received a letter from a 34-year old woman from Marion, Indiana, asking them to give her letter to a widower “high in social standing.” She states that she will be in attendance at the encampment, “…and it would be so lonely for not to know any one there.”
She was pretty specific in her needs [transcribed as written]:
“I would like a jeantleman 38 or 40. He knead not fear me. I am a dressmaker here.”
“Please let it be some who can show me over the city and enjoy myself.”
“I want to have a husband to take me to Chicago next year.”
This was one serious lady! But smart too- there would be a lot of “jeantleman” at the encampment from all over the country, so it would be a big pond to fish in, as they say. They would be like-minded men, too- Northern sympathies, patriotic, and committed to the work and social aspects of the GAR.
Her letter was taken seriously, as the committee knew there would probably be some widowers at the encampment who would be pleased to find a spouse there too. The GAR was a family-based organization, so grown children would sometimes be there as well as the veterans themselves. This was a good thing for the ‘widow lady,’ since it was 34 years since the close of the Civil War- the vets attending would be at least 50 or more. To find her a 38-40 year old husband, it would have to be the son of a veteran- not even our youngest drummer boy, Abram F. Springsteen, would fit her requirements.
The ‘widow lady’ was in luck. The committee replied to her letter with the address of “the Texas farmer who says he has two sons he wants to marry off here…”
We don’t know what the outcome was, and can’t really research it since we do not have the name of the lady. This was, however, a very determined lady, and people married more for economic reasons back then than for love (“you can learn to love him/her”).
The GAR Encampment Committee was hoping for a public wedding to add to the festivities, and my guess is that it probably happened. I suppose we need to add “matchmaking” to the list of missions of the GAR.
Notes, Sources, and References:
- Military Monday: Abram F. Springsteen and the G.A.R.
- “Says She’s a Widow lady” in the 31 August 1899 Elkhart Daily Review, Elkhart, Indiana, p1, via GenealogyBank.com.
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