Who knew that a widow of a Civil War veteran was still around 155 years after the war ended? Helen Jackson never talked about her status, because of the enormous age difference. In 1936, she was 17 years old and married Union veteran James Bolin. He was 93 at the time.
Jackson recalled, "Mr. Bolin explained that he did not have any money to pay me for taking care of him. Therefore, he asked for my hand in marriage so that he could leave his pension to me." However, Jackson never applied for the pension and kept the nuptials secret since the time of Bolin's passing in 1939, until Dec. of 2017. They were legally married from 1936-1939.
The only records from the wedding day were safely stored in her possession in the Civil War-era Bible that Bolin had given Jackson, shortly before his passing. Since sharing her story, a witness (Dr. Tommy Macdonnell) has been identified and signed an affidavit at the 2018 Cherry Blossom Festival to the wedding day timeline of events.
During the 2018 festival, Jackson gave an interview to explain her story.
Jackson was wed to Bolin from 1936 until his passing on June 18, 1939. However, she never officially applied for his pension as one of her step-daughters threatened to ruin her reputation.
"All a woman had in 1939 was her reputation," she continued in her oral history interview. "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."
Jackson did not share her story from 1939 until the winter of 2017. She never remarried and no children were born to the union.
Jackson died December 16 at her nursing home in Missouri. She was 101 years old.