Wednesday, June 19, 2013

She married a dead man

On a visit to Florida a couple years ago we drove out to a desolated part of Taylor County to find the Sandhill Cemetery. A Rowell cousin had given directions and advise on how to avoid the Timber Company chains that blocked the roads. We were looking for the cemetery because my great grandmother Rebecca Hogan Green was buried there in 1916. The last family member to visit it had been my Dad's cousin, Hubert Horne, 15- 20 years ago.   
John H. Sutton Grave

When we finally found the cemetery I noticed the grave of John H. Sutton. I recognized his name but couldn't remember exactly how he was related at the time.

John Henry Sutton was born June 15, 1836 in Stewart County Georgia to Michael and Mary Ezell Sutton. (Mary was the sister of my ggg grandmother Holly Ezell Blanchard) He died on December 24, 1900 in Taylor County Florida.

His father Michael Sutton died in 1850 in Stewart County Georgia so his mother moved the family to Taylor County Florida a few years later with her sister and brother.

John Sutton served in the Civil War as 3rd Sergeant, Company L of the 2nd Florida Infantry. He was wounded in the battle of Gettysburg, taken prisoner and ended up in a Union hospital where his right arm was amputated. He was later exchanged for a Union POW and allowed to return home on a medical leave where he stayed for the rest of the war.

John H Sutton Record
Also in the 2nd Florida Infantry at Gettysburg was the future Florida Governor Francis Fleming. He wrote an account of the battle and said the Florida 2nd replaced the defeated troops of Confederate General Pickett after his charge had been repelled. They attacked the same Union position with better results but still had heavy casualties. Both Sutton and Fleming were wounded in the battle.

After the war John Sutton farmed and also went into politics. He was elected in Taylor County as a State Senator, State Representative, County Sheriff and the County Tax Collector.

When he died in 1900 his widow, Christiana McCauley Sutton filed for a Florida Civil War pension. They had been married in Taylor County on July 14, 1869.

She had records to support her claim and was awarded a pension of $120 per year.

War Dept letter from Parker claim
Christiana Sutton died in September 26, 1920 and was also buried in Sandhill Cemetery although there is no marker for her.

A few years after she died a 2nd woman filed for a Florida Civil War Pension claiming to be the widow of John H. Sutton.

Florida Pension Application A10116 was filed by Mary Parker of Escambia County Florida in 1930 stating she was married to John H. Sutton on December 15, 1904, four years after he died.

Mary Parker Pension Claim
She used his military record for identification and War Department service record.

From the pension papers it looks like she was represented by a lawyer on the claim. There are several typed affidavits from people in Escambia County saying they knew John H. Sutton, that he served as a Sergeant in the 2nd Florida Infantry and that he had been married to Mary Parker in 1904 and died in 1920. Having typed affidavits in these claims is very unusual.

Pensacola is known as a hotbed for Ambulance chasing lawyers today but I didn't know they had them back in 1930. Either somebody got John H. Sutton mixed up with whoever Mary Parker married in 1904 or the whole thing was a fraud. In any event they used the military record of John H. Sutton of Taylor County to support her pension claim.

This was back before the day of indexes and I guess the State employees didn't check the storage cabinets to see if there was another file for John H. Sutton. If they had, they would have found that he died in 1900 and his widow had already been paid a pension.

In any event, Mary Parker's claim as approved by the State of Florida and she collected a $48 annual pension.

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