I knew that’s what the R in the top-right corner stood for when I found Captain James Frost’s file in the new Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files database on Ancestry.com. An S meant a petition had been filed by a veteran (a “survivor”); a W indicated a veteran’s widow. An R meant the claim, whoever had made it, got no love.
You can get more background on these records at the new Revolutionary War landing page, but one item in particular makes the Frost file an interesting case study. James, who died in 1815, didn’t file for a pension. Neither did his wife, Isabella Van Dyke, who passed away in 1837. This application was initiated 10 years later, in 1847, by their daughter, Rachel Britt.
Making a Case
The application was made to “obtain the benefit of the 3rd Section of the Act of Congress of the 4th July 1836,” which broadened the availability of widows’ benefits. To receive the money, a widow had to prove her husband’s Revolutionary service, that she married him before the end of the war, and that she had remained unmarried after his death. This is what the bulk of the James Frost file is about. There is no application form, but the file contains depositions from Rachel, a son-in-law, and a neighbor who attempt to prove the required facts by recounting details about James and Isabella’s lives.
Calling All Witnesses
The deponents explain how James and Isabella married about 1769 and came to North Carolina from Pennsylvania around 1775 with two sons: Ezekiel and Jonas. They settled first in either Stokes or Guilford County, relocating to Johnston County in 1795 or ’98 so James, an experienced ironworker, could work “a rich iron mine.”
He was a man of “respectability of character,” fought at Ramsour’s(?) Mill and Guilford Court House, and once, when the men chose their captain by marching across a field and lining up before the candidate they wanted to lead them—like teams picking captains instead of the other way around—the whole company lined up to follow James Frost.
Files can range from one page to a couple of hundred (James’s has 17), but this gives you some idea of what you might uncover in the Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files: names, dates, places, moves, occupations, family members.
In the Frost file, Rachel explains that Isabella never applied for benefits because she didn’t know anything was due her, so Rachel was filing to claim the widow’s benefits her mother had been entitled to under the 1836 law.
I don’t know yet why the claim was rejected (maybe one of you has an idea?). The process went on for 10 years, and I imagine it may have cost more in paperwork than the claim would have paid out. In any case, Rachel got no money, but I say the trail she left behind was worth every penny.
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