Testimony of Hannah Spears
December, 1901

Hannah Spears gave testimony about her marriage to William Spears in order to secure a widow's pension.


(Old No. 3—446.)

Deposition A

Case of Hannah Speers, Wids.,  No.433,979.

On this 17th. day of December, 1901., at Cambridge, county of Guernsey, State of Ohio., before me, E. C. De Putron, a special examiner of the Bureau of Pensions, personally appeared Hannah Speers, (claimant)., who, being by me first duly sworn to answer truly all interrogatories propounded to her during this special examination of aforesaid claim for pension, deposes and says:

I am nearly sixty years old. I have no occupation, but live with my grown children and keep house for them. My P.O. address is No.114 Coshocton Avenue, Cambridge, Ohio. I claim pension under the new law. 

            I am the widow of William Speers, who during the Civil War, served as a private soldier in Co. A., 27th.U.S. Colored Vol. Infantry. I do now know the dates of his enlistment, or discharge, and I have not got his discharge certificate, the same having been lost. Neither do I know how long he served, but my recollection is that he told me he served something over a year during the latter part of the war. He never rendered but the one service. That is, he often told me that he only enlisted the one time. No, he was never in the navy, at least, I never heard him say he was. 

            I was married to said William Speers at Columbus, Franklin Co., Ohio, but I cannot recollect the exact date. He came home from the army in the Fall, and we were married the next Spring, in the second week in April. (1866—Examiner). We were married by some Justice of the Peace, but I do not recollect his name. Mr. Speers came one evening to the house in Columbus were I was employed as a servant and I got ready and went with him to the office of the ‘Squire, who then and there performed the ceremony and pronounced us man and wife. Yes, I suppose Mr. Speers had a license to marry me. I know that when we went to the ‘Squire’s office he showed the ‘Squire a paper and the latter looked it over and said it was all right and proceeded to marry us. I understood that that paper was our marriage license, but I did not examine it, because I cannot read. There were two white men present in the ’Squire’s office when we were married, but they were strangers to me. They were present and saw the ceremony which made us man and wife, but they just happened into the ‘Squires office and I have never seen either of them since. There were no other witnesses present when we were married. I remained with the people for whom I had been working for about a week after we were married, and then Mr. Speers and I went to house-keeping out on Bennett Avenue, Columbus. I can’t tell you just where on Bennett Avenue we lived, but it was away out near the suburbs, and the house had no number. At the time I was married I was working as a domestic for a man named Huff, who was a turn-key at the Ohio Penitentiary, but I cannot recall his first name, and I do not know whether he is living, or dead. I do not recollect the name of the street that Huff lived on, but it was not very far from the Penitentiary. We lived about four months on Bennett Avenue after our marriage, but I cannot recollect the names or any of our old neighbors there. There were no colored people in that neighborhood. During that period the soldier cut cord wood out in the country a part of the time, and then he went to work for Mr. Shoemaker at his brick yards, out there in the same neighborhood. We only remained in Columbus a few months after our marriage, and then moved to West Jefferson, fourteen miles North (?) of Columbus, and lived there for the next five years. During that period my husband leased two different pieces of land and farmed it and also cut timber. While we were there we were known as man and wife by John Fry, Martin Lynch, Mr. Crago, and a colored family named Jones. I think Henry Jones was the mans name and that his wife’s name was Minerva. Messers Fry and Lynch were the men whom my husband leased the land from. I do not know what has become of any of the people I have named. From West Jefferson we came here to Cambridge, and my husband lived here until his death and I have lived her right on up to the present time. The only people who knew us while we lived in Columbus after we were married were Mr. Shoemaker, who had a brick-yard and for whom my husband worked part of the time, and Mrs Mary Blanchard, a colored women, who now lives in Springfield, Ohio, and a Mrs. Emery, a white widow lady who lived near us on Bennet Avenue. I do now recall a colored family named Bennett, who lived on the same street with us, but I do not know were any of the said people are now. I havn’t been back to Columbus since we came to this place. Ever since we came here and up to the time of my husband’s death we were known as man and wife by Mr. Brown [checked] and Mr. Dennis [checked], who have testified for me. I worked for Mr. Brown and so did my husband shortly after we came here, and we also purchased goods from Mr. Dennis, who kept a store, for years immediately following our removal to the city. We were also known as man and wife Amos Kinney [checked], Austin Buford [checked], Sarah Buford [checked], Caroline Ford [checked], who have testified for me, and, in fact, all the older colored and white residents of the city have known me ever since we were married and came here. They all know that William Speers and I lived together as man and wife and were so recognized up to his death. The fact is, I was born here and lived here up about a year before I was married to the soldier. During that year I lived in Columbus, Ohio. I made my home with Mrs. Mary Blanchard, before mentioned, and worked out by the day before I went to work at Mr. Huff’s. 

            I never knew Mr. Speers while he was in the army, nor until about four months before I was married to him. I met him for the first time at the house of said Mrs. Blanchard. All I know about his former history is what he told me. He said he was born in Charlottesville, Albermarle Co., Virginia, and that he came to this state with an uncle, when he was a boy about twelve years old. This uncle’s name was Barnett Speers, but I never have seen him. Neither do I recollect where all my husband lived after he came to this state and prior to his enlistment in the army. I have heard him say that he lived in Springfield before the war, but he was living in Columbus when he enlisted and enlisted there, according to what he told me. The soldier had a step father, who used to live in Springfield, Ohio, years ago, but I do not recollect his name. He also had two cousins, Jimmie Turner and John Kelly, whom I met once. The last I heard from them Turner lived in Washington C.H., Ohio and Kelly lived in Springfield, Ohio. Soldier also had a sister named Ophelia Johnson, who did live in Cincinnati, years ago, but I do not recollect her street and number, and I hav’nt any idea what has become of here either. These are all of soldier’s relatives that I ever knew anything about. Neither do I know any one else who knew soldier in Columbus before I did. 

Q. Were either you, or soldier ever married prior to your marriage to each other?.

A. No sir, I was never married before, and from what he always told me he had never been married before. He always passed as a single man when we were going together prior to our marriage. No, I never took the trouble to inquire into his past history, or his condition prior to our marriage. But I was satisfied that he was a single man, and I have never heard since that he had ever been married except to me. Othias Lett, of Knight P.O., Muskingum Co., Ohio, knew my husband before the war, and I think saw him in the army. I don’t know anyone else who can tell anything about him in those days. I suppose Lett knew my husband in Columbus. I would’nt know where else. 

            From the date of our marriage up to the date of my husband’s death we always lived together as man and wife and were never divorced, nor legally separated. He died in this place on February 13th., 1879, having been drowned in the creek near this house. Several of my witnesses and most all the colored people and lots of the white people in town were at his funeral and can tell you all about his death. 

            I have not remarried, nor lived with any man as his wife since the death of William Speers. During all these years I have lived right here, where I am now and next door, and any of my old neighbors can tell you that. 

            At the date I filed my claim for pension under the new law, I had two children by the soldier who were under the age of sixteen years, viz: – Sarah, born in Cambridge, on March 5th., 1875 and Emma, born in Cambridge, on July 13, 1878. I have no family, or other record of the dates of said children’s births. I merely recall the dates from memory and from the ages of my other children. Neither of said children have ever been baptized, and there is no church record of their births. I do not know whether there is any public record of their birhts, or not. I never went to the Court House to find out. I was attended in confinement at the births of both of said children by Dr. Clarkson Taylor [checked], since deceased. Besides the doctor, there were present at the births of each of said children my sister, Sarah Buford and my sister in law, Caroline Ford, but no others. They both live here. Both of said children were under my care and custody until they reached the age of sixteen years. Emma is now married and Sarah still makes here home with me. 

            The only real estate I have owned, or been interested in since my husband’s death is this little property where I now live, consisting of an acre and a quarter of land improved by a small house containing four rooms. This property was owned by the soldier when he died and still remains in his name. There are five children living, all of whom are entitled to share of the property, which has never been divided, nor sold. My husband left no will, so that under the law I am only entitled to a dower interest in the property amounting to about one third. The whole property is worth not to exceed five hundred dollars. I have no personal property outside of a few household goods of no actual value. Ever since I filed my claim I have supported myself by doing washing, ironing and general house work as long as I was able, but of late I have not been able to work, on account of dropsy, and my children have supported me. No person is legally bound to support me, nor has any one been at any time since the filing of my claim. I have never had any income outside of what I earned myself and what my children have given me. That has been my only means of support, except relief which I have received from Soldier’s Fund. 

            I do not care to be present during this special examination of my claim.

            I have heard this deposition read and my answers have been correctly recorded. 

Hannah her x mark Speers

Sadie Speers
Clark Speers                                                                         


            Sworn to and subscribed before me this 17th. day of December, 1901, and I certify that the contents were fully made known to deponent before signing.

E. C. De Putron
Special Examiner.



(Old No. 3—446.)

Deposition B

Case of Hannah Speers, Wids.,  No. 433,979.

On this 21st. day of December, 1901., at Cambridge, county of Guernsey, State of Ohio., before me, E. C. De Putron, a special examiner of the Bureau of Pensions, personally appeared Hannah Speers, claimant., who, being by me first duly sworn to answer truly all interrogatories propounded to her during this special examination of aforesaid claim for pension, deposes and says:


            My maiden name was Hannah Ford, and as I have before stated, I was never married prior to my marriage to William Speers. I had two illegitimate children prior to my marriage, but I was not married to the father of said children, whose name was Thomas Watkins and has since married and moved away from this neighborhood. 

Q. You have previously testified that your children Sarah and Emma were born respectively March 5, 1875 and July 13, 1878. How are you able to fix those dates, having as you admit, no record of said births?.

A. Well, I remember the day of the month on which each of them was born, but I cannot tell the year. I could only fix the year in which each was born by figuring out the difference in their ages. In that way I figured that Sarah was 26 years old last March and Emma twenty three years old last July. I have no other means of arriving at their ages. 

Q. The public record shows that Sarah was born April 11, 1873, which would make her twenty eight years old last April, how do you account for that?.

A. Well, I can’t account for it. I can’t recollect the year, but I am sure Sarah was born on the fifth of March. Yes, she may be that old, for all I know, but I did not think she was. 

Q. Are you able to offer any better proof of the dates of birth of said children?. 

A. No, I am not. I am sure that Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Buford were both with me when both of said children were born, and their testimony is all that I can furnish. I did suppose that the books of old Dr. Taylor, who attended me at said births would show their exact ages. Those books I was once informed were in the hands of the old doctor’s son, Dr. Walter Taylor, at Kimbolton, Ohio, but if they have been lost, of course there is not use to expect anything from that source. I can offer nothing further. 

            I do not know any man who served in the same company in the army with my husband, William Speers. No sir, I do not know where all he lived before the war, or prior to his enlistment. I understood, however, that he came to Ohio before he enlisted. No sir, I never knew any brother of his named Nelson Speers, and who lived in Washington, C.H., Ohio. I don’t know whether he ever lived at Washington, C.H., or not, and the only relative he has there that I ever knew anything about is Jimmie Turner, whom I mentioned to you the other day. Yes, I do now recall an aunt of his who used to live at Washington, C.H. years ago. Her name was Eliza Speers. She was an old woman then and is probably dead now. 

Q. How do you know that your husband served in Co. A., 27th.U.S. Colored Vol. Infantry?.

A. Why he told me so many a time and I remembered it. No, I never saw his discharge certificate. He told me one time that he gave his discharge certificate to a man named Bell to assist is procuring a pension and that Bell died and his wife moved away, and in the mix up the discharge got lost. No, I have no knowledge that my husband ever actually filed a claim for pension. I think he only went so far as to give Bell his discharge paper, from what he told me. 

            I have heard this deposition read and my answers have been correctly recorded. 

Hannah her x mark Speers

H C Braden
Sadie Speers. 

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 21st. day of December, 1901., and I certify that the contents were fully made known to deponent before signing.

E. C. De Putron
Special Examiner.


Pension Records for William Spears, RG15, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

Note: “[Checked]” refers to check marks drawn above the name on document.