Helen Viola Jackson, who was believed to be the last living widow of a Civil War veteran, has died. The Missouri native was 101.
Her husband was James Bolin, who served in the 14th Missouri Cavalry and died in 1939. He and Jackson were secretly, but legally, married at his Niangua, Mo., home on September 4, 1936. He was 93-years-old and she was just 17.
News of Jackson's death was shared by the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival last month. The organization in southern Missouri enshrined her in their Missouri Walk of Fame in 2018, recognizing her as the last living Civil War widow.
In the 1930s, Jackson was administering daily care to Bolin, who was a friend of her family's. She would go to him every day after school.
“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," Jackson stated in an oral history recording in 2018.
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 said. "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."
Bolin recorded the wedding in his personal Bible, which Jackson refused to share with others until 2017.
Although the two were married, Jackson explained that the nuptials were on her terms. She still wanted to live on her family farm with her immediate family and she wanted to keep her last name, sharing the information with few individuals outside of those who had served as witnesses.
"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."
Jackson never remarried and died on Dec. 16 at Webco Manor Nursing Home in Marshfield, Missouri, where she had been a resident for many years.