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« Second Marriage of George W Shire? | Main | In a Nutshell »

August 26, 2007

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Dan Shire

Since submitting this post back in August I have been trying to dig up Samuel's story. I was able to confirm that Samuel did marry one Myrtle Harper (nee Blalock) and she did give birth to a son, Roy Kindred Shire. They were divorced and Myrtle later remarried.

But, the story doesn't end there. Recently I received a document from one of my uncles that was put together by a cousin Lowell W. Shire back in 1988. It contains some fascinating information about Samuel's life. I am transcribing it here to create a complete record of Samuel's life.

Samuel Shire

As transcribed by Dan Shire (November 2007) from writings of Lowell W. Shire (January 1988)

Summary of information contained in about 500 pages of affidavits, correspondence, records, decisions, etc. in the Civil War Pension Records from the Veterans Administration files covering the period from 1861 to 1945.

Samuel Shire was born Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, May 7 1839 – parents Jacob and Catherine Boyer Shire. Samuel lived with his parents until his marriage. He married Martha Jane Sprague, 18 Dec 1859 in Crawford County, Illinois. One son was born to Samuel and Martha Jane. – William Henry Shire – born Nov 14, 1860. Died May 1, 1869. Buried in Crawford County, Illinois – probably Martin Twp.

Samuel enlisted in the Army – Co G, 64th IL Infantry, Dec 9, 1861 – Discharged Oct 15, 1865. Spent much of his service time in hospitals with illnesses. Was captured by Confederates and held prisoner about a month but was paroled because of illness and released to go home where he remained on leave for some time.

Samuel maintained throughout his life that he had numerous ailments that were acquired while in service or were due to service connected conditions. Chronic Diarrhea, Kidney Disease, Rectal Disease – Piles, Hydrocele – Left Testicle, Weak Back, Lumbago, Rheumatism, among other things.

He resided in Crawford County for a time after his discharge in 1865. Apparently in early 1870s or late 1860s, Samuel and Martha moved to Beloit, Mitchell County, Kansas where he engaged in farming. They resided in this area apparently until about 1890s. In 1901 they were living at Allen, Lyon County, Kansas and in 1907 they resided near Bushong, Lyon County, Kansas (near Emporia).

In 1909, they were living at Cement, Caddo County, Oklahoma. His wife of over 50 years, Martha Jane died at Cement Aug 10, 1910 and is buried there.

Her brother W.S. Sprague resided at Beloit at the time Samuel lived at Beloit and later, W.S. Sprague age 81 and Martha’s sister, Ellen Sprague Allison age 69, both resided in Wichita when Samuel moved to Wichita about 1911.

In the 1870s Samuel started applying for Disability Pensions. He continually filed applications along with affidavits of friends and neighbors as well as affidavits signed by James and Elizabeth Groves (his sister) and Jacob L Shire (nephew) who in 1890 was living in Beloit working for Samuel. All affidavits attested to the fact that Samuel was in ill health, was weak, had a bad back, Diarrhea, etc.

The War Dept. had doctors examine him for all the alleged ailments. Each time, the doctors stated they found no disability due to any of the causes. Samuel never gave up. He kept at his appeals until finally in late 1890s he was granted a $6.00 per month pension. He kept appealing for increases. In 1900s t was increased to $30 per month. He continued to appeal for increases. His eyesight was failing. In 1926, a year before his death, his pension was $90.

After the death of his wife, Martha, he moved to Wichita, Kansas and on May 16, 1912, was living at 1904 S. Santa Fe in Wichita.

On Sept 8, 1912, Samuel, age 73, married a Myrtle Blaylock Harper, age 36, widow of another Civil War veteran, with 3 sons living with her. She was illiterate and as it turned out, was a woman of ill-repute. The marriage was a disaster for Samuel. They did not get along. On at least five occasions she left taking with her some of Samuel’s property, leaving Samuel without care. She started numerous efforts to get half of his pension which at the time was only $30.00. Would have left him with only $15.00 per month.

It then became a battle of affidavits as to who deserted who, character, who was abusing who, etc. Samuel’s friends stated under oath that she was mean to Samuel, beat him with broom handles and other objects, blacked his eyes with her fists, and on at least one occasion, locked him in a room and left the house with the key. They also stated she (Myrtle) was a whore, street walker, not a faithful and dutiful wife. She entertained men in rooming houses as well as at her mother’s home.

She filed affidavits that he was abusive to her, would not provide food for her, that he called her all kinds of names and that she was a respectable woman. One of the affidavits was from her mother. She was unsuccessful in getting half of his pension. She accused him of wife desertion when she was the one that moved out. On one occasion, she caused him to be arrested and jailed on charge of wife desertion and non support. The charges were dismissed. He was 77 at the time.

His eyesight was failing more – cataracts – and was becoming more dependent on help. He got an increase to $60.00 per month in his pension.

In April 1919 she entered the hospital for allegedly an operation for an abdominal tumor. The doctors stated they had given her ether in preparation for surgery. One of the doctors performed an examination and discovered she was about to give birth to a child. On April 12, 1919, Myrtle gave birth to a son. She maintained Samuel was the father. The birth certificate sates Father – Samuel Shires – age 80. Mother – Myrtle Harper Shires – age 43.

Child – Roy Kindred Shires, later known as LeRoy K. Shires.
Samuel denied parentage and had several doctors who attested that he was incapable of fathering a child because of his condition and genital injury in the Civil War. She had been seen numerous times with other men going into rooming houses. She deserted Samuel for the last time in July 1919. The thing that led to her leaving this time – was that her 21 year old son was bringing women into Samuel’s home, taking them into a bedroom and locking the door. Samuel finally ordered him to leave saying he was not going to bring women there for immoral purposes. Myrtle said that if her son had to leave she was going too. Samuel told her she could go. She filed for separate maintenance and support. Later, in 1923 a divorce was granted. Samuel was then 84 and blind. He had nothing left except his pension. She had cleaned him out. A neighbor took him in and took care of him for the rest of his life. When he died in 1927, age 88, Bronchial Pneumonia and Influenza – he had less than $200 left. No other property except a few clothes. The lady who cared for him used the money to pay doctor, hospital and medicine, and had $95 left to pay on funeral bill. There was a balance of $100 on funeral bill. She appealed to the V.A. for help on the funeral bill but was rejected. Apparently the balance of the bill remained unpaid as Mrs. J.T. Foster, the lady who cared for him, received a statement from the funeral home in 1937, ten years later. Downing Mortuary of Wichita handled the arrangements.

Samuel Shire died in near poverty, without any family support, in Wichita Hospital, March 6, 1927. Listed residence at time of death 1942 South Santa Fe, Wichita which was the residence of Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Foster who cared for him during his final years. He was buried in the Old Soldiers Circle in Maple Grove Cemetery, Wichita.

Samuel was 5 ft. 5 inches in height and never weighed over 140-145 lbs. His pension was increased to $90 per month in 1926. Other service records listed him as 5 ft. 7 inches. Anyway he was not a tall man. In fact most of the Shire men were apparently short.

Samuel’s sister, Elizabeth Groves, had possession of the Family Bible of Jacob and Catherine Shire. Probably some of her descendents retained possession for some time.

James M. Groves, husband of Elizabeth Groves, operated the Cottage Hotel in Oblong, Illinois in 1893. Rooms rented for $1.50 per night. Two sheets of hotel stationary are among the VA Pension File with a statement written by James Groves on them. There is also a statement notarized by Edward T. Shire as a Notary Public.

Itemized funeral expense:
- Casket $102.00
- Outside Case $12.00
- Embalming $25.00
- Burial Robe $12.00
- Hearse Service $10.00
- 2 Automobiles $14.00
- Minister and singers $10.00
- Cemetery Expense $10.00
- Total $195.00
- Paid $95.00
- Balance $100.00
4/22/27

Funeral held on March 8, 1927 and interment in Maple Grove Cemetery.

The son, said to have been Samuels by Myrtle Harper, was mentally and physically retarded. A guardian was appointed for him. The guardian applied for a pension for LeRoy as a dependent of a Civil War Veteran. After much negotiation with the Veterans Administration, a dependent’s pension was awarded on the basis that LeRoy K. Shires was helpless and a moron and would never be able to live independently. A lawyer in Wichita was appointed guardian to receive and control the expenditure of the pension funds while LeRoy continued to live with his mother and step brothers.

In 1944 however, LeRoy was drafted into the Army – age 24. His pension was stopped. After 6 months he was discharged as “inept and mentally deficient”. He then went to Chicago where he lived with a woman from Wichita and worked in a Defense plant for a while helping to build airplane engines for B-29s. This job lasted a short time. He then went to Fort Scott, Kansas where he worked for a Rock Crusher or Concrete plant.

After further testing and investigation, the VA ruled that it was apparent that LeRoy was capable of working at some type of gainful employment although it might be limited. His pension was completely terminated. No information is known as to what ever happened to him after 1945.

Although he was considered to be legally the son of Samuel Shire, Samuel denied such parentage. It is very doubtful that he was the son of Samuel (biological that is).

So ends the saga of the last 60 years of a brother of my great grandfather David B. Shire. My grandfather, E.A.Shire, son of David B. Shire, and nephew of Samue, operated a dairy at Wellington, Kansas (30 miles from Wichita) during the last 7 years of Samuel’s life. Apparently neither of them knew about the other’s location or did not acknowledge each other. My uncle Ivan Shire, son of E.A., told me last August he knew nothing about a Samuel Shire.

It seems sad that Samuel lived his last years in such turbulent conditions and died without family. With all his illness and ailments for so many years, he outlived his brothers and sisters.

I read somewhere that Samuel taught school in Kansas for two years in his early years.

Lowell W. Shire
January 1, 1988

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