“A Woman of Good Moral Character” John Burns Pension

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

On September 7, 1862, the men of the 86th Illinois marched out of the gates of Camp Lyon, through the streets of Peoria with great fanfare to the train depot. There they joined the 85th and boarded the train for Camp Joe Holt, Jefferson, Indiana. Among the men in the 86th was 20 year old John W. Burns. Described as being 5′ 8″ in height with light complexion, dark hair and hazel eyes, John had volunteered a month earlier with the Union army. He listed his  occupation as a farmer.

Six days before he left, on September 1st, 1862, he married Zelpha L. “Lucy” Roberts in front of Justice of the Peace T. Baldwin in Marshall County, Ill.  According to later statements they had known each other since childhood.

Certificate of Record of Marriage, John W. Burns Civil War Pension File.

Three weeks later, John was a part of Col. Daniel McCook’s Brigade pursuing Confederate soldiers. At the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, the 86th Ill suffered their first casualties.

Over the next two and a half years Private John W. Burns was witness to and a participant in numerous battles, including some of the bloodiest fighting in the Western Theatre including the Battles of Chicakauga, Resaca, Rome, Peach Tree Creek  all in Georgia, and Aversborough, N. Carolina. John was also along with Sherman on his infamous “March to the Sea.”

Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Toward the end of the Civil War, John was injured and sent to a hospital near Camp Butler, Springfield, Ill. PVT John W. Burns was discharged on May 2, 1865 and he returned to his home in Marshall County, Ill. He picked up the pieces of his life with his wife and resumed farming. John and Lucy had one child, Herbert H. Burns, born September 21, 1865.

The Burns family came to Harvey County, Ks in 1877 and settled to farm two miles northwest of Sedgwick, Ks.

There are not many clues as to what kind of person John Burns was prior to volunteering for the Union Army, but his time fighting had an affect on him.  By the mid-1880s, Burns began to have difficulties as a result of injuries received during the war including rheumatism.  He also became violent toward his wife, Lucy.

In 1892-3, he applied for a pension. The list of ailments that John Burns suffered from was included in his file. Sunstroke which happened “on or near Marietta, GA, June of 1864”  and resulted in many problems including derangement, vertigo, disease of brain, heart paralysis. Scurvy and rheumatism in the summer of 1864 also caused problems later in life.

John W. Burns List of Afflictions

In March 1893, he began receiving a pension of $30.00 a month “on account of disease of heart and nervous system, result of severe stroke . . . and rheumatism.” 

“Is not Inclined to Take his Incarceration Easily”

January 1, 1899, Lucy left their home in fear for her life in the middle of the night. The story of the abuse endured by Lucy was chronicled in John W. Burns’ Pension File.  Between the documents in the file and the newspaper, a very grim story emerges of the last years of John’s life.

On April 10, 1902,  Burns was judged to be insane. Since Harvey County did not have a facility that could take proper care of him, John stayed at Axtell Hospital where a male nurse was with him constantly. The Evening Kansan Republican concluded that “Mr. Burns is not inclined to take his incarceration easily and at times makes trouble for the attendants.”

At the end of April, he was transferred to the Asylum in Topeka, where he died a short time later on April 26, 1902. His obituary noted that he was one of the earliest settlers of Harvey County, an “old soldier” and “a well known character . . . however in the last years of his life he was afflicted with poor health and under the strain his mind gave way.” (Evening Kansan Republican,  26 April 1902.)

I am the lawful widow of John W. Burns”

As the widow of John Burn, Lucy Burns was eligible to continue to receive his pension. However, she had to have documented proof that she was “the lawful widow of John W. Burns.”

The pension file of John W. Burns tells the tale of a mentally ill man and the abuse endured by his wife.

Lucy Burns, 55 years old, described the events that led her to separate from her husband in 1899.

“My husband, John W. Burns, commenced to abuse and ill treat me some two or three years ago. . . .One night in December 1896, he walks the floor all night long with a flat iron in his hand and he threatens to kill me. He has not supported me for the past fifteen years . . . the night I finally left him was January 1st, 1899, he pounded me with his fist and he threw me out of the house and then locks the door, so that I could not  get in.” 

Mrs. Burns went to a neighbors and did not go back.

“I am the wife of their only son”

Lucy’s daughter in law supported Lucy. Kate Burns, age 31, noted that she had known John and Lucy Burns for thirteen years. She stated;

John W. Burns has been abusive to his wife during the entire time I have known them.  He often beat and pounded her, she has come to my house at midnight, often earlier to escape a beating. He has not supported her since I have known them.  She made a living by taking in sewing. . . He often swore at his wife and struck her in the face and blackened her eyes.  He would frequently pull hand full of hair out of her head. On a number of occasions, he threatened to kill her. His treatment finally became so bad bad she was compelled to leave him for her own safety. ” 

Initially, he kept possession of the house, but later moved to Newton. After he moved to Newton, Lucy returned to the Sedgwick area to be near her son and daughter-in-law. During the time of separation, and even prior, Lucy Burns had provide for herself working as a seamstress.  Witness statements in the pension file noted that the only thing that her husband had provided for her in thirteen years was a cloak.

Family members from Illinois also sent statements.

Statement from William Roberts.

In all the statements Lucy Burns was described as “a woman of good moral character,” who although living separated from her husband for her safety, was his lawful wife.  She never divorced him, or married another. She was deserving of the widows pension.

Lucy Burns died 14 November 1915 at the age of 72.

Sedgwick Pantagraph, 18 November 1915

The Old Soldier

John Burns was not alone among Civil War veterans from suffering lingering effects of what he saw and did during the war. Witness statements from people that knew him and his wife since childhood do not hint at violent behavior prior to the mid 1880s.  So what caused John Burns to become an abusive husband.

Some Civil War historians have looked into the idea that some of these men may have suffered from what  today is labeled PTSD. In the early 20th century, however, men with suffering from PTSD were diagnosed  with derangement, a feeble mind, insane. How to care for them was a complete unknown other than to send them  to a hospital that could handle the insane.

Burns was  not the only Civil War Veteran to be declared insane. One historian, Eric Dean studied admissions to the Indiana Hospital for the Insane and discovered 291 Civil War veterans were admitted many with violent and erratic behavior or acute panic attacks and  suicidal thoughts. Dean attributed this to the trauma experienced either in battle or in prisons. For many “old soldiers” of the Civil War, it never quite ended. Even though he returned physically, John W. Burns’ emotional injuries took a toll on both himself and his family in later years.

Sources

  • Burns, John W. File. The John C. Johnston Collection of Civil War Pensions, HCHM Archives.
  • Evening Kansan Republican: 24 April 1902, 25 April 1902, 26 April 1902.
  • Sedgwick Pantagraph: 18 November 1915.
  • Information on John W. Burns’ Civil War Record courtesy Baxter B. Fite III on Find A Grave and via e-mail with author.
  • Horwitz, Tony. “Did Civil War Soldiers Have PTSD?” Smithsonian Magazine January 2015.

This blog post is part of a Heritage Grant from Humanities Kansas to digitize the John C. Johnston Civil War Pension Collection. As part of the project HCHM, seeks to tell the stories of these men and their families.

Humanities Kansas is an independent nonprofit spearheading a movement of ideas to
empower the people of Kansas to strengthen their communities and our democracy. Since
1972, our pioneering programming, grants, and partnerships have documented and shared
stories to spark conversations and generate insights. Together with our partners and
supporters, we inspire all Kansans to draw on history, literature, ethics, and culture to enrich their
lives and serve the communities and state we all proudly call home. Visit humanitieskansas.org.

John C. Johnston: Harvey County Founding Father

Our thanks to HCHM volunteer, Damon Penner, for contributing a guest post. Damon is a senior at Wichita State University, and has volunteered at the museum for the past 3 years.  He has also volunteered at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson

John C. Johnston: Harvey County Founding Father

By Damon Penner, HCHM volunteer

Handwriting and Coffee Stained Paperwork

Soldier, teacher, homesteader, and church founder are just a few words that would
describe Mr. John C. Johnston. Johnston, responsible for collecting the Civil War pension
paperwork in the Harvey County Historical Museum’s collection, was a man who made an
impact on the town that became Newton, KS as well as his neighbors. Through archival research,
I have been able to piece together a short biography of the man, whose handwriting and coffee
stained paperwork I have had the honor to assist in preserving for future generations.
Generations which Mr. Johnston never got the opportunity to physically meet.

Swept up in the Wartime Enthusiasm

Johnston, was not a native of Kansas, but an immigrant from the state of Pennsylvania.
Born in Greenville, Pennsylvania (in Indian County) in 1846, Johnston, like many of his fellow
Pennsylvanians, was swept up in the wartime enthusiasm and passions the were brought about
with the American Civil War’s beginning in 1861. Enlisting at a local recruitment office,
Johnston, aged 15, was made a member of Company A of the 61 st Pennsylvania Volunteer
Infantry Regiment (which holds the distinction of losing the most officers of any US Army
regiment during the Civil War). Serving in the famed Army of the Potomac and in many of the
battles in which the army fought such as the Seven Days Battles, Antietam, Fredericksburg,
Chancellorsville (Fredericksburg sector), Gettysburg, and the bloody battles of 1864, Johnston
saw three year’s action, receiving a facial wound from an artillery shell at the Battle of
Spotsylvania Courthouse (the wound left him disfigured and afraid to show the left side of his
face for the rest of his life).

Civilian Life

Returning to civilian life however, proved to be boring. Cold feet eventually brought him to Kansas. Accepting a teaching position in the Greenville, Pennsylvania area and marrying a local woman, Johnston lived the life of a teacher for five years. Seeing that Johnston was bored with teaching, his brothers, William and James, and a cousin convinced him that they should head west to Kansas and establish homesteads, which they had been granted because of their status as Civil War veterans. Reaching Sedgwick County, the four travelers would hire a guide to take them to the Highland township in modern day Harvey County. Against their wishes, however, the land that the guide had taken them to (and they had subsequently claimed) was in Marion County. Although their claims were the only claims in the area, Johnston and his fellow veterans sought to create an entirely new county that would encompass their claims.

A New County

Made possible by some politicking with Wichita and Sedgwick County officials, Harvey
County was established in February 1872. Constituting the Alta, Emma, Garden, Burrton,
Darlington, Halstead, Lake, Lakin, Macon, Newton, Pleasant, Richland, and Sedgwick
townships. Seeing that, although he had made his wish for a new county possible, Johnston had
to conduct a formal annexation of the Walton and Highland townships to the county in 1873.
Needing a county seat for this new county, the cattle town of Newton was chosen as the new seat
for the county. Contrary to popular belief, Johnston and the other founders of Harvey County
chose to name the county not after the founder of the famous Harvey Houses, but rather the
governor of Kansas at the time of the county’s establishment, James M. Harvey.

Serving the Community

Becoming a resident of the recently selected county seat, Johnston, his wife, children, and
the men that traveled to Kansas with him, would leave an impact on their brainchild. One of his
friends would serve as one of the first representatives in the state legislature for Sedgwick
County (although he lived in Harvey County). Another, along with Johnston would serve as
Harvey County’s representatives, while two more would serve as the representatives for Marion
County. Seeking to not only have an impact on the politics of Harvey County, but the religiosity
of the county seat’s populace. Establishing the First Presbyterian Church in Newton, Johnston
would see to it that Newtonians would be able to worship together.

Between all of the activities brought about by his public service, Johnston would help local Civil War veterans and their families to receive the money owed them by the government for their services in the Civil War. Although he was influential in the making of modern Newton, it is this humble act of assisting his former comrades in arms in Harvey County that is the act that I am the most grateful for.

Bibliography

  • Johnston, John C. “Early Days in Kansas” The Newton Journal (Newton, KS), February 29,
    1924.*
  • Johnston, John C. “Reminiscence of Early Kansas Days” The Newton Journal (Newton, KS) July
    15, 1921.*
  • Hawks, Steve A. “61 st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment” The Civil War in the East,
    2020, accessed on June 28, 2020 https://civilwarintheeast.com/us-regiments-
    batteries/pennsylvania/61st-pennsylvania-infantry/.
  • *Note: Both articles are available for viewing through the Harvey County Historical Museum.

Civil War Inventory at HCHM

Additional Stories from the Johnston Civil War Pension Collection

 

Stories Waiting to be Told: HCHM Archives

 

 

Minor Child of George Beard, alias George Winter: Civil War Pensions

A Man Named Winne: from the HCHM Archives

A Man Named Winne: from the HCHM Archives

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

There are thousands of stories waiting to be discovered at the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives. Since we have recently hosted several programs related to the Civil War, I did some exploring in the  John C. Johnston Collection of Civil War Pensions. This collection contains a wealth of information on Civil War veterans and their families that settled in Harvey County. Fox Winne was the name I picked for this blog post.

In late April 1863, 20 year old Fox Winne joined the 11th Kansas Cavalry, Co. G. which was involved in a number of skirmishes on the Kansas/Missouri border.  From August 20-28, the 11th Cavalry was involved in operations against Quantrill during his raid in Kansas under the command of Col Thomas Ewing,Jr.   Co. G also acted as body guard to General Samuel Curtis at Fort Leavenworth, Ks.

foxwinne-2

Henry Barnes, Harry Boothe, Fox Winne, N.D. Horton, members of Co. G, 11th Kansas Volunteer Calvary, 1863. Photo courtesy Kansas Historical Society.

The 11th Kansas Cavalry mustered out of service at Fort Leavenworth, July 17, 1865.  The regiment lost 173 men in roughly 2 years; 63 killed during or as a result of battle, 110 died of disease.

Fox Winne had come to Kansas in 1855 at the age of 12 with his parents Jacob and Magdalena Fox Winne.  The family originally was from Minden, New York and had spent time in Illinois before settling in Riley County near Manhattan, Kansas.  After the Civil War, in 1866, Winne married Mary E. Haulenbeck.  By 1880, Fox and Mary with three children were living in Newton, Kansas.

house-1

Fox & Mary Winne Home, 200 W. Broadway, Newton, Ks, 1886.

Thirty-six year old Winne was listed as ‘a lumber dealer.’  Between 1876 and 1880, Winne established the Newton Lumber Co at 113 E. 6th, Newton.  No doubt he was able to take advantage of the building boom of the mid-1880s.

Newton Lumber Co, 113 E. 6th, Newton, Ks. ca. 1885

Newton Lumber Co, 113 E. 6th, Newton, Ks. ca. 1885.  Owner Fox Winne.

newtonlumber1905

Newton Lumber Co., 113 E.6th, Newton, Ks, 1905.

newtonlumberinterior

Interior, Newton Lumber Co., 113 E 6th, Newton, KS, 1919.

Eventually, a son-in-law, John B. Olinger, joined Winne in the business.

 

newtonlumberfloat

Newton Lumber Parade float, ca. 1921.

The war left it’s mark. Winne experienced health problems throughout his later years, some related to his two years in the cavalry. In the 1890s, he worked with John C. Johnston to apply to the Department of Interior, Bureau of Pensions to file a claim.

pension-2

He received his pension with the diagnosis of “Disease of the Digestive Organs and Piles” and “Chronic Diarrhea.”

pension-3

According to other documents in the file, he “contracted  Chronic Diarrhea and piles which has resulted in fistula disease of rectum” at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, April 1, 1865.   At that time he was treated at the Ft Leavenworth hospital, but apparently continued to experience problems for the rest of his life.

These health difficulties did not stop Winne for seeking business opportunities, both in Newton and in Texas.

In 1894, the state of Texas opened the eastern section of Chambers County for settlement under a homestead grant.

The Santa Fe Railroad saw an opportunity and sent Newton businessman, Fox Winne as an engineer to review the prospects.  In 1895, the town of Winnie, Tx  was surveyed and named in honor of Newton contractor and investor, Fox Winne.

foxwinne-1

Fox Winne, Newton businessman, ca. 1925.

Fox Winne died at the age of 84 on July 20, 1927.  He had been in poor health for two years. He was survived by his wife, Mary, sons John, Elmer and Grant and daughter Maud Winne Olinger.

Note on the name “Winne.” In most of the historical documents, the last name is spelled “Winne,” including  census’, pension records and tombstones.  For some reason, a change occurred with the naming of the town “Winnie” and on the marriage certificate of his daughter, Maude where it is “Winnie.”

 Sources:

  • Winne, Fox File. John C. Johnston Collection of Civil War Pensions, HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks.
  • U.S. Census, 1880
  • City Directories for  Newton, Ks 1885, 1887, 1902, 1905, 1911, 1913, 1917, HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks
  • Voters Registration List 1882-1902, HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks
  • Evening Republican Kansan 20 July 1927, 10 Dec. 1934.
  • http://www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/henry-barnes-henry-boothe-fox-winne-and-nd-horton
  • http://www.pddoc.com/skedaddle/010/0078.htm
  • U.S. Civil War Soldiers Index, 1861-1865.
  • U.S. National Park Service, Battle Unit Details – The Civil War at www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm.
  • Winnie Area Chamber of Commerce – Winnie Early History at winnietexas.com/early-history/
  • County Markers at uncoveredtexas.com/texas-historical-markers-detail.php?city=Winnie&county.