The Last Civil War Widow Just Died

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Harold Hutchison Contributor
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When Helen Viola Jackson passed away at the age of 101 on December 16, 2020, it marked the closing of one of the Civil War’s last chapters.

Jackson was the widow of veteran James Bolin. When they married in 1936, she was 17 and Bolin, who served as a private with the 14th Missouri Cavalry, was 93, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War reported on their Twitter feed.

Jackson had never spoken about the marriage until 2017, when she began planning for her funeral, a post on her Facebook page said. Bolin met Jackson when she was volunteered by her father to assist the aging Civil War veteran with household chores after they met at church.

Bolin, who didn’t want to be seen as accepting charity, eventually asked Jackson to marry him so that she could receive his pension after his death. However, threats from a step-daughter led Jackson to never apply for the pension.

“I never wanted to share my story with the public,” Jackson said. “I didn’t feel that it was that important and I didn’t want a bunch of gossip about it.”

“All a woman had in 1939 was her reputation,” she explained. “I didn’t want them all to think that I was a young woman who had married an old man to take advantage of him.”