I had to do a double take when I saw headlines about a woman believed to be the last surviving Civil War widow passing away.

The Civil War ended in 1865. How is this possible?

The Associated Press reports that 101-year-old Helen Viola Jackson of Marshfield, Missouri married a man named James Bolin in 1936. She was 17, and he was 93.

According to Jackson, she and her husband did not live together and were never intimate. He married her so that she would receive his pension after he died. It was meant to repay her kindness for helping care for him in his old age.

Bolin served on the Union side of the war as part of the 14th Missouri Cavalry. Jackson never told anyone of her wedding to Bolin - not even her own family.

“I had great respect for Mr. Bolin, and I did not want him to be hurt by the scorn of wagging tongues,” she said. She only opened up about the marriage in 2017. Once the Bolin family found out, they tracked her down and gave her a framed picture of her late husband. She did keep a Bible Bolin had given her with written notes that talked of the marriage. That was enough for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War to recognize Jackson’s historic place.

After opening up about the marriage, she had a Facebook page dedicated to her. People would send cards and letters and Jackson would speak to school children about her experiences.

Jackson never remarried and never had children.

As cliched as it may be to say, a story like this really puts things into perspective. The Civil War ended about 155 years ago, but here was a person alive in 2020 with all its chaos and divisiveness who probably heard first-hand accounts of that war from a man who fought in it. How much of that did she remember, and how did it affect the way she saw today's political situation?

What's also interesting is that the last living person to receive a regular Civil War pension was a woman named Irene Triplett, and she passed away in May of 2020 at the age of 90.

According to Wikipedia, Iren's father, Mose Triplett, fought in the Civil War first for the Confederacy, but later for the Union. Mose was 83 when he married Irene's mother, Elida. After Irene's father passed in 1938, Irene was deemed eligible to receive his pension of $73.13 per month due to cognitive impairments.

This just demonstrates that there's so much history living all around us if we just know where to look.

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