The Last Civil War Widow

HELLO, WORLD! Sorry for the two weeks of silence. I have returned from my wedding and honeymoon and am ready to get back to blogging. In fact, to make up for going AWOL, I'm going to try to double my number of posts over the next couple of weeks.

The last surviving widow of a U.S. Civil War veteran died in 2008.

Her named was Maudie Hopkins and, in 1934, at the ripe old age of 19, she married a man almost 70 years her senior. Her husband, William M. Cantrell, was 86 years old at the time and had fought for the Confederacy in 1863 as a lad of 16.

It was common practice for elderly veterans to marry young distant relatives or friends of the family in order to help support them with their pension from the war. It was such a common practice that in 1937 the state of Arkansas decreed that any further surviving widows of Civil War veterans would no longer be entitled to receive benefits. In 1939, this law was toned down, stating instead that no widows born after 1870 would be entitled to their husbands' pensions.

It is entirely probable that Maudie Hopkins and William M. Cantrell had such an arranged marriage. They were married for about three years before his death. During that time they had no children (though Maudie went on to have three with subsequent husbands) and they kept their marriage a secret, knowing that the age disparity would cause gossip. To me, it doesn't sound like a love match, but what do I know?

While there may be another Civil War widow still living, those looking into census data have not yet turned up anything and no one else has come forward. Until that happens, Maudie Hopkins has the record.

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