A Missouri woman believed to the last Civil War widow has died. Helen Viola Jackson died in a nursing home in Marshfield on December 16. She was 101.
Jackson was 17 when she married 93-year-old James Bolin in 1936. Bolin was in declining health. He was a Civil War veteran who fought for the Union in Missouri.
Several Civil War heritage organizations have recognized Jackson's quiet role in history. Her pastor and long-time friend, Nicholas Inman, says it was only in the last few years of her life that she embraced the recognition, which included a spot on the Missouri Walk of Fame and countless cards and letters from well-wishers.
Jackson was one of 10 children, living in in the tiny town of Niangua, near Marshfield. Bolin, a widower who had served as a private in the 14th Missouri Cavalry during the Civil War seven decades earlier, lived nearby.
Jackson's father volunteered his teenage daughter to stop by Bolin's home each day to provide care and help with chores. To pay back her kindness, Bolin offered to marry Jackson, which would allow her to receive his soldier's pension after his death, a compelling offer in the context of the Great Depression.
Throughout their three years of marriage, there was no intimacy and she never lived with him. She never told her parents, her siblings or anyone else about the wedding. She never remarried. After Bolin's death in 1939, she did not seek his pension.