Abraham Sorrell, who lost his life from injuries sustained in the Civil War’s Wilderness Battle in May 1864, had married three times. His Civil War pension file offers an incredible portrait of people living in Ferrisburgh in 1850 and beyond.
After having read the testimony left by his first wife, Eliza Sears about their lives together, let’s continue our journey through the eyes of his second wife, Eliza Carpenter. At the time of her testimony, Eliza was living with John Ayers but was apparently not married to him.
I will publish a short biography of each person concerned in the last post of this series. Enjoy!
On this thirtieth day of September, 1881, at Vergennes, County of Addison, State of Vermont, before me, Wm Hutchinson a Special Agent of the Pension Office, personally appeared Eliza Ayers, who, being by me duly sworn according to law, declares that her age is [blank] years, that [s]he resides at Vergennes, County of Addison, State of Vermont, and that she was formerly the wife of Abram Sorrell, late a Priv. in Co. B 5 Vt Vols. and she was married to him in the fall of 1856, and when she so married him, she had no knowledge or intimation that he has been previously married. She had only been acquainted with him a few weeks, and the match was made mostly through a lady friend of affiant, who married a brother of Abram Sorrell—named Michael. The said Abram was living in Ferrisburg at the time of their marriage and affiant went at once there, and lived in the house with said Abram’s father about a year, then moved to Charlotte a few miles North and live there 8 or 9 months—then moved into the edge of Addison where they lived about six months—then she moved back home to Vergennes and broke up house-keeping—and went to working out. Sorrel was so unsteady and moved about so much, that she had to do for herself by this time. What date she so moved back she cannot tell, but is sure she had not been away in all, three years. After this time, when she so began to work out which must have been prior to 1860, said Sorrell rather went his own way too. That is, he used to go away as he pleased—was not gone a month generally at a time—not but a few days—He would say he was going to get work or he was working so and so—but he never was. He would just say that, trying to get affiant to go to house-keeping again with him, but she would not do it as she fared better to shift for herself. Things went on this way some years and when Sorrell joined the army, she had not seen him for a year or more. She had gone to Lowell at work in a factory and had been there nearly a year when he joined the army. During his service he got a furlough and came to Vergennes where affiant then was—and stayed a week—the most of it with affiant and that was the last time she ever saw him.
Some 4 or 5 months after her marriage she first heard that Sorrell had a former wife living—it was while she lived at his father’s—She asked him at once about it:—he said he was married when he was drunk. That he went to a dance one night and waked up the next morning with a woman in his bed and he started off home to get away from her, when they told him he was married. He wouldn’t believe it for a time, but found he had been taken away and married as told. He said he was young too only from 15 to 16, and she was a great deal too old for him. His mother said the Sears woman was old enough to be his great-grandmother He couldn’t bear the sight of one of the Sears family, while affiant knew him. The Sorrels and Sears are both French—He did not live with the Sears woman long but they had one child—a boy named Napoleon, and she thinks that is the only legitimate child the soldier left and it is a picture of Abram. She has heard that the Sears woman was trying to put another one, a girl on him, but says he did not live with her but a few weeks, and that the second child was not Sorrell’s. Affiant has heard Abram’s mother say the same a great many times. The said mother is now dead—but the father is living—somewhere in Shelburne affiant thinks—Other relations of Sorrell live in Ferrisburg and ought to know these facts.
Affiant says she knows that the Sears woman had children by other men before Sorrell died and she thinks too that she was married before the soldier died.
Affiant thinks the facts on these points can be proved by John Martin, Hivonne Perry, Phebe Hurlburt,—Stephen Hazzard—the Dagin family Carlos Martin and Oliver Sorrell.
Affiant dont think the said Sorrell and Eliza Sears were ever divorced. She never heard Sorrell say he wanted a divorce but he always said she couldn’t trouble him, because he never had lived with her.
Affiant here declares, that she has never applied for a pension and has never appeared before Judge Grandy or any other person to make a declaration—and if any papers have been filed, purporting to have been executed by her, they are not genuine. She has been often urged to apply, and lawyer Scott formerly of this place, once offered her twenty dollars, to sign her name to something about a pension but she would never do it—She didn’t want to after she had heard that the other woman had applied.
During the time Sorrell was in service affiant first heard of one Fanny Van Buren[?]—as she was called—that the soldier boys in the army wrote home about, and they used to write home awful letters about her, that she followed their camp, was often found in Sorrell’s ambulances corps wagon and was after him so much that they used to worry affiant about it.
Then when Sorrell came home here on furlough he stayed with affiant the first four nights—Then the next night he went out to his father’s at Ferrisburg and affiant soon found that said Fanny was out there—also that Sorrell sent for her by telegraph to come and meet him there. Sorrell’s sister so told affiant. As soon as affiant learned this, she took a tram and hurried out there, but Fanny had got the news someway ahead, so she was half a mile on her way to the depot when affiant got there. So affiant never met her, but supposes she is the pretended third wife of Sorrell from New Hampshire. Affiant thinks he may have met the said Fanny somewhere before he enlisted on some of his tramps.
She can refer to no parties none living in this town that were neighbors then, who could verify her statements, unless Mrs. Ryan could do so in part.
and she further declares that she has no interest, direct or indirect, in the claim of minors of Abram Sorrell for a pension; and further saith not.
Eliza Ayers (her mark)
Sworn to and subscribed before me this 30 day of September 1881, and I certify that the contents were fully made known to affiant before signing.
♥ A special thanks to Danielle Tourville for the transcription and translation to French of the documents.
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