The Fascinating Facts, Fiction, and Frustrations of Family History and My Obsessive Desire to Possess Them All.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Case for Revolutionary Fraud

I have written a couple of posts about my 3rd Great Grandfather, John Price.  I have determined by several sources that his parents were Edward Price and Dedemiah Lowry of Johnston County, North Carolina.  I won’t bore you about how I came to this conclusion other than I found evidence in unlikely places.  This story is about a discovery I made while researching Edward’s parentage.

Edward was born about around 1760.  He first married Mary Jones about 1783.  Mary apparently died young as Edward married second Dedemiah Lowry on 17 Feb 1789 in Johnston County.  Edward died in late 1803 or early 1804 leaving a widow and 7 children, including John, the eldest.  Dedemiah was assigned the estate administrator in February 1804.  Edward did not leave a will but there are several other documents that outline guardians and estate settlements.

Edward was a young man during the Revolutionary War era.  Did he serve?  Although no one has claimed a DAR lineage from Edward, the DAR book of North Carolina Revolutionary War Rosters lists an Edward Price in Captain Walton’s unit serving from 1781 to 1 Jul 1782.  Likely this is my Edward as that unit was from the Johnston County area and later years of the war would be more the correct age for Edward. 

Roster of soldiers from North Carolina in the American Revolution : with an appendix containing a collection of miscellaneous records.. unknown: The D.A.R., 1932. page 154, cropped

Then came the strange discovery.  A woman named Lucy claimed a widow’s pension for Edward Price of Johnston County North Carolina.

Revolutionary War pensions began in 1790 but in 1832 Congress passed an expansion to allow for widows and orphans to apply for a pension based on the extent of service of the soldier.  Since this was before photo-id’s and fingerprints, a widow had to make what was called ‘a declaration’ under oath before a magistrate in her home county.  She needed to provide documentation about her marriage to the soldier and witnesses (of upstanding citizenship) to back up her claim.

NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and
Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.
Veteran Edward Price
page 9

Lucy Price submitted such an application in 1843.  She made her declaration before Josiah O. Watson, a Justice of the Peace.  She cannot remember the exact date of her marriage and is unable to provide documentation but states she was married by William Hackney, now dead.  She states Edward died in 1810.  She provides declarations by 3 witnesses:  Jesse Green, 82, who claims to have known Edward in childhood, Thomas Price (her son), and Josiah O. Watson himself who claims to be a neighbor of the Prices, knowing the parties for nearly 60 years.  Lucy is granted a pension of $30/year.

Now my Edward died in 1804, not 1810.  Were there 2 Edward Prices?  Possibly.  However I could not find any estate records for an Edward Price in 1810 nor any marriage records for an Edward Price marrying a woman named Lucy. 

The solution to the mystery is in page 17 of Lucy’s application.  In 1848 Lucy applied for additional benefits now stating her husband’s name is ETHELRED Price.  A different JP signs off on her affidavit. Ok.  I can find an Ethelred Price marrying a Lucey Bryan 7 Feb 1790 by William Hackney.  Ethelred died in 1810 leaving a will naming wife Luesy and children, including Thomas.  That all fits with Lucy’s initial application.

NARA M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.
Veteran Edward Price, page 17, cropped, emphasis added

But I cannot find Ethelred Price listed in the DAR roster book.

So did Lucy collude with 3 others to fraudulently claim a pension?  In 1843 Dedemiah, Edward’s real widow, has since remarried and is now living in Iowa, a long way from Johnston County.  Lucy claims there is no documentation of her marriage but the marriage record exists to this day.  Thomas, Lucy’s son, testified his father’s name was Edward.  According to the 1850 Census, Thomas was born in 1795 making him 15 when his father died.  Old enough to know his father’s correct name was Ethelred.  Jesse Green, in his affidavit, identifies correctly the military service of Edward Price and says he lives near the Price family.  Jesse also married Mary Price 28 Jan 1825.  I’m not sure how Mary fits in to the Price family but that puts Jesse as an in-law. He should know the difference between Edward and Ethelred. 

North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979 ," database with images, FamilySearchMarriage Record for Ethelred Price and Luecy Bryan  7 Feb 1790
So then it falls to Josiah O. Watson, the Justice of the Peace that testified and signed all the declarations.  Josiah Watson certainly knew Dedemiah Lowry married Edward Price because Dedemiah was Josiah’s half-sister!  In fact, Josiah was named guardian of Edward’s children in 1822.  He would have been well acquainted with Edward’s service and that Dedemiah was living far away in Iowa.  He also knew very well that Lucy was never married to Edward.

I’m not a lawyer but I think that is enough circumstantial evidence for a conviction of fraud.