Monday, March 17, 2014

Matrilineal Monday: Mary Beedle Smiley, The Rest of the Story


By "Meyer" [Public domain], Wikimedia Commons

As mentioned in a previous post, Mary Beedle Smiley had been widowed in 1863 following the death of her husband George W Smiley.  Mary Beedle and George W Smiley had married in 1860, and the newlyweds were recorded in the 1860 census as living in Lafayette, Story County, Iowa; Mary was 17 and George 20 at the time.  This meant that when Mary was widowed in 1863, she was only 20 years old.  Surely, there was a lot of life still ahead for this young widow, but it took some digging to find it.

The writer whose initial contact started my interest in Mary had mentioned that Mary and George W Smiley had a daughter Ida.  Ida Smiley turned out to be a key to locating Mary and finding more about Mary's later life.  Ida Smiley and a sister Sarah Smiley were listed in the 1870 census as living in Woodcock, Crawford County, Pennsylvania.  The two Smiley girls were in the household of Orrin A Cole and a 27 year old Mary A Cole.  Perhaps these were George and Mary's daughters, living with their mother Mary Beedle Smiley who had remarried. 

Crawford County, Pennsylvania, is a long way from Story County, Iowa, but Crawford County was the home of George W Smiley and his parents before George moved to Iowa with some of his siblings in the late 1850s.  Perhaps Mary and her daughters had moved to Pennsylvania to be near George's now widowed mother, Susan Birch Smiley.  There she could have met Orrin A Cole and later married him.  It was a possibility but one that definitely needed research to prove or disprove.

Looking back at my family tree I saw I already had an Orrin A Cole listed.  Orrin, however, was listed with a verified source as being the husband of Anna Smiley who also was the sister of George W Smiley.(1)  It was beginning to look as if widowed Mary Smiley had married her brother-in-law Orrin A Cole.  Several message board posts on GenForum and Ancestry seemed to suggest that had been the case.

It took looking at George W Smiley's pension file on fold3.com to get the whole story.(2)  The 160 page file provided a lot of information about the lives of George, Mary, their daughters Ida and Sarah, and Orrin A Cole.  The second image in this lengthy file let me know I had the right folder.  Then, the reading and note taking began.  


"Civil War Widow's Pension, George W. Smiley"
source: http://www.fold3.com/image/236382773/

Soon after I started reading George Smiley's pension file, I saw that I needed to put dates, events, and locations into a timeline in order for all the information to be clearer.  Information came from many sources: the Civil War pension application records, depositions from Mary and others, marriage records, death records, and various affidavits, all of which provided insight into Mary's life.

To see Mary's story , I had to look first at that of Orrin A Cole.  As I had found previously, Orrin Cole had married Anna Smiley, George W Smiley's sister, in 1861, and the couple lived in Crawford County, Pennsylvania.  Anna died in September 1862 soon after the birth of twin boys.  Following Anna's death, Orrin A Cole continued to live near his family in Crawford County, Pennsylvania.  

At this point, the pension files provided the rest of the story.  In 1864, some months after the death of George W Smiley, Mary Beedle Smiley and her two daughters moved to Crawford, Pennsylvania where she lived with her mother-in-law for about two years.  Later, in 1866, Mary and her daughters returned to Iowa where they lived with Mary's parents.

On 21 Jun 1867, Mary married her widowed brother-in-law Orrin A Cole in Marshal County, Iowa.  Mary and Orrin then moved back to Crawford, Pennsylvania where they lived for the next seven years.  Then, in 1874, Mary, Orrin, and all of their children returned to Story County, Iowa.  The Cole family, except for the few years they lived on a claim in Sheridan, Nebraska, remained in Story, Iowa until they moved to neighboring Boone, Iowa about 1901.  

One interesting fact concerned the relationship between John Cole who was Orrin's father and Mary Smiley's two daughters.  During the period after Mary and Orrin married, John Cole was named guardian of Ida and Sarah Smiley for the purpose of obtaining and administering a veteran's pension for the minor children.  By law, this pension stopped the day of each girl's sixteenth birthday.

Mary, Orrin, and the Smiley girls remained in Iowa for a number of years.  Ida was the first Smiley daughter to marry, marrying Lewis Christian Baldus on 27 Nov 1882 in Story, Iowa.(3)  On 20 Oct 1885, sister Sarah married A A Fruman in Story, Iowa.(4)  

Then Mary's life changed once again on 20 Oct 1911 when her second husband Orrin died following a farm accident.  Soon afterwards Congress approved pensions for remarried widows of Civil War Veterans; that was Mary's status.  Mary first applied for a pension for a remarried widow a few years following the death of Orrin Cole, but this first application was denied.  She eventually filed a second application, this time was several supporting letters from an Iowa Congressman.  This time, 1917, Mary received approval for a remarried widow's pension.

In the end, Mary Beedle Smiley Cole had nine children and helped raise Orrin Cole's twin sons.  She outlived both of her husbands and at least one of her children.  The way she persisted in trying to secure a widow's pension showed her drive and tenacity as she never gave up.  My fold3.com subscription more than paid for itself as it provided me with the chance to learn more about an interesting woman and her life.

(1) "U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900," Database. Ancestry.com. http://www.ancestry.com : 2014.
(2) "Application for Widow's Pension" for Mary A Smiley in file of George W Smiley, Digital Images. Fold3. www.fold3.com : 2014, citing NARA Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Veterans of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War With Spain, compiled 1861-1934.
(3) "Iowa County Marriages, 1838-1934,: Database. FamilySearch.com. http://www.familysearch.com : 2014.
(4) Ibid, "Sarah Smiley".

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