Testimony of Peter Churchwell
October 4, 1900

Peter Churchwell gave testimony about his life in order to secure a pension.



Case of Peter Churchwell Ctf., No. 957.639

            On this 4th day of October, 1900, at Washington, State of D.C., before me, A. W. Roome, a special examiner of the Bureau of Pensions, personally appeared Peter Churchwell, who, being by me first duly sworn to answer truly all interrogatories propounded to him during this special examination of aforesaid claim for pension, deposes and says:

            I am about 74 years of age; my post-office address is 1808 24 St. NW. this City Shoemaker. I was born & raised in Albermarle Co. Va near Gordonsville. My father was William & my mother was Dicey Churchwell–dead. I was a slave of Reuben Gorden I was married when a slave to Maria Grey. she died before the war. no children living by this marriage. I also married Julia Weaver a year or so after the war in this City. got a license, & I was married by Rev Sandy Alexander Pastor Little Baptist Church Geotown D.C. she died about ten years ago in this City –no children by her. I have never married since. I have no children now living by any marriage, and there is no woman living that can rightfully claim to be my wife: I got acquainted with Julia Weaver at Fredericksburg Va before the war. she was at that time the wife of Tom Weaver, & she had a son Andrew Weaver whom I knew when a boy, and he enlisted in same company & regemint and at the same time and place. During the war Julia Weavers husband died, and she came to Wash D. C. and After my return from the army, I again met and married her. I came to Washington D.C. in August 1862 and I was a coachman for Mrs Barber. in Geotown D.C. & I worked for her about 2 years. She was the widow of Jms Barber.-dead. I then enlisted in July 1864 at Capt Sheets Office in Co H-23d Reg U.S.C.T. I gave the Officer at that time the name of Peter Churchwell which is my right name and I always answered roll call by that name & was so called by my comrades and I was discharged from the service by that name. They then saw how high I was. I am now 5ft. 3in high-([ok awR?]) I was next examined by the Doctors. I got a uniform. & was sent to Camp Casey Va- & was there about 30 days. My Capt Fessenden Burrell Mitchell Robert Green and Andrew Weaver are the only comrades that I can now remember. After we left Camp Casey Va we took boat for City Point Va. then up James River & marched towards Petersburg Va. -& was at Bermudah Hundred where we had a fight & we next had the fight at Petersburg Va-July 64 and in the charge on the Rebel lines I was captured & put to work burying the dead soldiers on the battle field for 4 days. the prisoners, my self included were then taken under guard to Danville prisin on Roanoke Island. and I was kept there until Major Reuben Gordon, my old Master, heard I was in that prisin, and he came there and claimed me as his slave & he sold me to a Mr. Shedrick Lee, a slave dealer at Richmond Va, and he sold me to Luke Powell a slave dealer who took me to Wilmington N.C. & I was there 8 days. working in a shoe shop of Geo French’s store, & then sold to Patrick Murphy who took me on his farm near Raleigh N.C. and worked at making boots and shoes for him & he sold them. I worked for him 6 months on his place. I ran away from him & came to Wilmington N.C. and I had a little shop of my own & I made boots and shoes there for my own profit. I sold the boots & shoes & kept the money. The Union Troops had by this time captured Wilmington N.C. and I remained in Wilmington N.C. I continued to keep this little shoe shop cor 4th and Chestnut Streets in Wilmington N.C. Simon-Larenton and Henry Dudley both worked with me in the shoe shop for two or three years. I taught them both the trade. Susannah Dean lived with me but I was not married to her. We lived together in the same house where the shoe shop was & we lived together for two or three years, had three children by her, Nancy Ann [and] Hetty Ann, they were the only children born by this Susannah Dean. Yes she called herself Susannah Churchwell and the two girls always went by the name of Churchwell. This woman and my two daughters were alive when I left Wilmington N.C. while she was living with me, we had a fight and she cut me on third finger of my right hand with a knife & I have the scar now. (shown examr.) & my finger is bent. & cannot straighten it out. its all drawn up. I had her arrested by the police. she was taken to Court. & she was fined $5.00 & they made me as her husband-pay the fine. She was living in Wilmington N.C. 3 or 4 years ago. Henry Hare storekeeper Wash Lewis-Shoe Shop. on C. St. near River, Ephriam Bishop bricklayer & Ned Hill-bricklayer, David Statue drove cart & was well off. these men all new me well when I lived in Wilmington N.C. I remained in Wilmington N.C. for 4 or 5 years after the war. I then went to. Gordonsville Va & was there two months with my sister, Keziah Robinson dead and then came to Washington D.C. I then went to live with my father & mother & sister all dead on R St. btwn 18 & 19 & I opened a shoe shop in Georgetown on Water St. btwn High & Congress down on Water, south side, leased this shop in my own name from Sam Smith dead. George Naylor he worked these with me. he now lives near the College, he is now a shoemaker: I had this shop about 2 years before George Naylor came to work with me, he worked with me about 2 or 3 months & then went to work for himself. Where my shoe shop was a Cooper shop now stands. After I came to Wash DC after the war I hunted up Julia Weaver. whom I afterwards married. I found her in this city after I had been here about one year & a half and about 6 or 7 months after I found her we were married and I first met Andrew Weaver. about 1 ½ years after I had returned to this City after the war. I got a license from the City Hall for my marriage to Julia Weaver, and I lived with her until her death & after that I continued to live with her son Andrew Weaver.

Julia Weaver my wife was married first to Tom Weaver before the war. he died. she next married Henry Parker, when both were slaves. Henry Parker died. then when I married her, after the war, she went by the name of Julia Weaver & by that name we were married as our certificate shows In 1892. I applied through Walter Middleton Atty for my back pay. and after some delay. I was paid by the Treasury Dept or War Dept. $134.53 by a check which I got cashed & got the money and I was given this certificate of discharge (shown to Examiner) Burrell Mitchell & Robert Green were both in my company and they both identified me at the War Dept and made affidavits in my claim for pension as to my identity. 

I first made a claim for a pension through Walter Middleton Atty about ten years ago and I have paid him nothing for his services in the prosecution of my claim & I paid my witnesses nothing. I did not serve in the military or in the Naval service of the United States except as stated: I have my pension certificate & my blank voucher at home. Have never borrowed money on my pension certificate & I have never signed nor sworn to my quarterly voucher before the 4th day of the month that it is due.

I was taken prisoner at the battle of Petersburg Va-July 1864 & was a prisoner of war. After I had been sold to Patrick Murphy & went with him to his farm I ran away from him and came to Wilmington N.C. Genl Lee had not surrendered – the war was still going on and when I got to Wilmington N.C. the City was full of Union troops, and the river was full of Union gun boats. The rebel troops were then at Raleigh N.C. and the Union Troops remained at Wilmington N.C. from the time that I got there until the close of the war.

The 26 Reg U.S. Col Troops were encamped on Nigger head road – about the boundry of the City of Wilmington N.C. while I was in that place they were there when I got to the City & they remained there until the close of the war. when I got to Wilmington N.C. I did not report to the Union Forces that I had been a soldier & a prisoner of war. when I made up my mind to apply for a pension I went with a colored man that I was talking to about it, - dont know his name- to Walter Middleton’s Office & I told him my name and my company and my Regiment. & I told him I had been a prisoner and he took my claim & got it through.            I have heard you read to me the foregoing deposition and it is correct. I have thoroughly understood your questions and my answers are correctly recorded.

  Peter his x mark Churchwell

[R. R. McKaben?]
[W.M. Bonnell?]

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 4th day of October, 1900, and I certify that the contents were fully made known to deponent before signing.

A. W. Rome
Special Examiner



Pension Records for Peter Churchwell, RG 15, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.