Last Civil War widow dies (seriously)

| January 8, 2021

Helen Viola Jackson in 2017

Here’s a wild story. The above pictured lady, Helen Jackson, died December 16 at the age of 101. Would you believe that she was a Civil War veteran’s widow? She was. It’s worth noting that more than 155 years have passed since the last shot was fired in the War Between the States, from which point forward nobody could claim Civil War veterancy.

The last Civil War pensioner Irene Triplett (who we talked about in the Weekend Open Thread here [Commissioner Wretched’s weekly post in the comments] and again when she passed away last year in the WOT here [ninja’s comment]). The KoB sent in this hard to believe story.

Helen Viola Jackson’s 1936 marriage to James Bolin was unusual to say the least: He was 93 and in declining health, and she was a 17-year-old schoolgirl.

Bolin was also a Civil War veteran who fought for the Union in the border state of Missouri. Jackson was almost certainly the last remaining widow of a Civil War soldier when she died Dec. 16 at a nursing home in Marshfield, Missouri. She was 101.

Several Civil War heritage organizations have recognized Jackson’s quiet role in history, one that she hid for all but the final three years of her life, said Nicholas Inman, her pastor and longtime friend. Yet in those final years, Inman said, Jackson embraced the recognition that included a spot on the Missouri Walk of Fame and countless cards and letters from well-wishers.

“It was sort of a healing process for Helen: that something she thought would be kind of a scarlet letter would be celebrated in her later years,” Inman said.

Jackson grew up one of 10 children in the tiny southwestern Missouri town of Niangua, near Marshfield. Bolin, a widower who had served as a private in the 14th Missouri Cavalry during the Civil War seven decades earlier, lived nearby.

Jackson’s father volunteered his teenage daughter to stop by Bolin’s home each day to provide care and help with chores. To pay back her kindness, Bolin offered to marry Jackson, which would allow her to receive his soldier’s pension after his death, a compelling offer in the context of the Great Depression.

Jackson agreed in large part because “she felt her daily care was prolonging his life,” Inman said.

They wed on Sept. 4, 1936, at his home. Throughout their three years of marriage there was no intimacy and she never lived with him. She never told her parents, her siblings or anyone else about the wedding. She never remarried, spending decades “harboring this secret that had to be eating her alive,” Inman said.

After Bolin’s death in 1939, she did not seek his pension.

She also realized the stigma and potential scandal of a teenager wedding a man in his 90s, regardless of her reason. In an oral history recording in 2018, Jackson said she never spoke of the wedding to protect Bolin’s reputation as well as her own.

“I had great respect for Mr. Bolin, and I did not want him to be hurt by the scorn of wagging tongues,” she said.

Inman and Jackson were longtime friends. She was a charter member of the Methodist church where he serves as pastor. One day in December 2017, she told Inman about her secret marriage to a much older man. She mentioned in passing that he fought in the Civil War.

“I said, ‘What? Back up about that. What do you mean he was in the Civil War?’” Inman said.

Inman checked into her story and found that everything she told him was “spot on.” Officials at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield sent him copies of Bolin’s service information. She identified where he was buried, in Niangua.

She also kept a Bible that he gave her — in which he wrote about their marriage. Those written words were good enough for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and other heritage organizations to recognize Jackson’s place in history.

After a lifetime of avoiding her past, Jackson embraced it in her final years, Inman said. She spoke to schoolchildren and had a Facebook page dedicated to her. She enjoyed getting cards and letters.

She also found new peace. A stoic nature that kept her from shedding tears at her own siblings’ funerals seemed to evaporate.

After Bolin’s relatives found out about Jackson’s role in his life, they went to the nursing home and presented her with a framed photo of him.

“She broke down and cried,” Inman recalled. “She kept touching the frame and said, ‘This is the only man who ever loved me.’”

Got dusty in here real quick there at the end. Amazing story.

The last confirmed Civil War veteran (from either side) to die was Union Drummer Boy Albert Woolson (1850-1956). The last combat veteran of the war was Union Private James Hard (1843-1953), who had seen action at the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Fredericksburg.

Category: YGBSM!!

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That’s a May-December relationship for the books. Fair winds and following seas, Ms. Jackson.


Boy, no kidding!!

See you in a while, young lady.


Ms. Jackson must have been an amazing person… someone that will be dearly missed.


One of President Tyler’s Grandsons died last year as well. I say “one of” because the other is still alive, even though he was President 179 years ago.

Fun facts on Tyler: Congress attempted to impeach him, his entire cabinet resigned and his own party kicked him out. In 1861 he was elected to the Comgress of the Confederacy. Making him the only president ever accused of inciting rebellion and then participating in one.

So far.

Slow Joe


I wonder what’s your beef with President Trump.

Do you really think he will incite a rebellion?


I wonder what your beef is with King George III?

Prior Service

There’s enough here for a complex word problem. It’s 2021. Prior Service is 53 and last deployed to Iraq in 2010. His wife dies and, after a long mourning process, in his 93rd year he scores a 17 YO bride, dying shortly after. She lives to be 101. What year is it? Bonus: did he die happy?

RGR 4-78



Slow Joe

Well, there is viagra now, so a 93 year old can really score with a 17 year old.

Though you might need to beef up your TSP. “Money is the greatest aphrodisiac”.


Max dose of Sildenafil is 100mg once in 24 hrs.
Current price is less than $2 per 100mg tab.
Just 20mg taken sublingual is effective.
Given a healthy heart and not on Nitrates it would
probably work albeit illegal in most states.

Just five years ago that 100mg tab was $65.
Another Trump achievment?


In theory a 93 year always could get with 17 year old if he could find one willing. While impotency functions differently in men there is no rule that says you ever have to get it at any age.


At least you didn’t bring up “wagging tongues”:-)

chooee lee

Just out of curiosity I wonder how much a civil war pension would have been. On a similar note, my daughter-in-law’s grandmother was the last living pensioner of the Packard Motor Co. I don’t know how much her pension was but it was a full ride, no co-pay no deductible.


Short answer chooee-lee was $30 a month, raised to $74.00, depending on income and whether or not the widow has remarried. It is worth noting, as the article pointed out, she did truly love the man and tried to protect his reputation. And it was not unusual at all for younger women, especially Southern Women to marry much older Vets for the pension AND the fact that the pool of eligible men had been thinned by the war and the lack of hard cash in circulation.

Worth noting too, that the section of the country they were from in Missouri was a true Civil War/Brother against Brother/Neighbor against neighbor. That whole “Border War” and “Bleeding Kansas” where wholesale butchery took place…on BOTH sides. Lawrence Kansas wasn’t the only town despoiled and Senator Jim Lanes Redlegs were as brutal as anything “Bloody Bill” Anderson or Quantrill ever did. Entire towns were uprooted by “Federal Authority” land, property, and lives laid to waste as people were forced to move from some areas within 100 miles of the border. The James and Younger Brothers’ Gangs have their roots in that fracas.

Thought y’all might enjoy reading about this Lady. A little break from today’s political shenanigans and a reminder of how things could become. Anybody want to dispute that the Former PVT Bolin was waiting on his bride when she crossed over The River?

Rest in Peace Miss Helen.


What a grand lady indeed. It is dusty in here this morning.

Mustang Major

One of my historian friends said that it was common for a young woman’s marriage to be a civil war veteran for pension benefits.

All this makes me wonder if I have a young bride in my future interested in a lifetime of Tricare, Commissary, and Exchange privileges.


“All this makes me wonder if I have a young bride in my future interested in a lifetime of Tricare, Commissary, and Exchange privileges”.

Why, you pompous, sexist, patriarchal fool! How dare you imply that any woman would ever do that! How un-woke of you!

Do I really need a SARC tag on this…

Daisy Cutter

It was very common – the ladies sought after Civil War veterans because they had a stable pension. Or perhaps more correctly stated – it was easier to fall in love when there was financial stability present.


Yep, that eu de pension is a sweet, sweet pheromone, detectable to even the most discriminating dependapotomus.


Several years ago I came across an article discussing the Civil War brides and the men they married. To see the last one finally slip the bonds of this Earth is sad – yet another great chapter in our lives closing forever more. Rest in peace, ma’am.

Honor and Courage

That was a great story!

I remember going to Town with my Father in 1957, and it was Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day. Don’t remember which. Any way there were Soldiers from every war wearing Uniforms and three very old Gentleman had Confederate Uniforms on. The Statue is still there in the town center. Soon to be removed I’m sure. Just a memory!