Veterans Records

 

  Each of the counties that came from Old~Bedford has a department devoted to assisting veterans in legal matters. That department is usually called the Veterans Affairs department, but it may also be referred to as the Veterans Administration department. Either title gives the department the initial letters by which it is most commonly known: the VA.

  The county Veterans Affairs department is governed by rules established by the national Bureau of Veterans Affairs. The county Veterans Affairs department assists veterans of all the wars in which the United States of America has participated to received legal help, pensions, and so forth. Records of such activities are not generally open to the public.

  For genealogists and historical researchers, the Veterans Affairs department does maintain certain files which are available for the public to access. The records of veteransí discharges from the service are either maintained by the Veterans Affairs department, or they might be found in the files of the Recorder of Deeds. The earliest discharge records date to the Civil War. The discharge records for the Civil War through and including the First World War normally include the veteranís age at the time of his discharge from the service. Discharge records for wars after World War I will include the veteranís birth date. Records of the burial of veterans within the county are usually maintained by the Veterans Affairs department. The records maintained by the various counties that made up Old~Bedford may vary from one county to another, but usually the information that is maintained has been derived from the information normally included on the veteranís death certificate. It should be noted that the Blair County Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution donated to each of the counties that made up Old~Bedford a copy of the book, Mother Bedford And The American Revolutionary War by Larry D. Smith. Each county, therefore, has comprehensive records of the veterans of the Revolutionary War who were buried within that respective county for their patronsí research.

  The Veterans Affairs department at the county court house is not the only source for veterans records. Pension applications are a very good source of information on veterans. (See the section titled Pension Applications.) The pension applications and awards were sometimes recorded in the Court of Quarter Sessions dockets, so if the Veterans Affairs office at the court house does not have any of these records in their files, check with the Clerk of Courts.

  Class Tax returns provide the names of all able-bodied men who might have served their country during war time. Tax assessors were required to maintain special assessments during times of war or when war was threatened. The first such assessments, taken during the American Revolutionary War, were known as the Class Tax. The male inhabitants who were of legal age and capable of bearing arms were the objects of those special assessments. All of the residents of the various counties were divided up into numbered groups (i.e. classes). The classes were composed of roughly equal division of the inhabitants of each township area; some were large, some were small. The collection of this tax would increase the amount in the young nationís treasury. It would also aid in determining who was loyal to the Patriot Cause, and/or who was against it. This latter point being an assumption that all loyal Patriots would dutifully pay their assigned taxes, whereas Tories and Loyalists would refuse to do so.

  The Class Tax assessments themselves might not serve as proof that the men listed all served in an active manner, but they will show who was residing in the region at the time of the war.

  The Class Tax returns generally listed the "delinquent" residents. In other words, the tax collector would have the listing of his township's residents, which he normally would use (such as the one taken just the previous year), and might only make a new listing of the residents from whom he could not readily collect the tax - the delinquent ones. Many of the returns, though, were complete lists of the township residents. beside whose names the tac collector would put a check mark as they were paid. The amount of tax an individual would be required to pay was based on the valuation of his property. The returns for this Class Tax generally show only the amount of the tax, and not the property valuation; the amounts were given in pounds, shillings and pence.

  One last thing should be mentioned in regard to this Class Tax. The various classes within each township region were expected to supply not only their share of the revenue to finance the war effort, but also recruits for the militia or standing army (the Continental Line). Persons who refused to pay their assessed tax would be fined, and failure to pay that fine could result in a more severe fine or a court action against the individual. The township class in which an individual refused to pay would be expected to compensate for that individual's failure to comply. The form that this compensation took might be either forced payment of that individual's tax from the ranks of the rest of the class, or the recruitment of one of the able-bodied men into the militia or standing army for a period of 18 months. The threat of such action was intended (and often succeeded) as motivation for the residents of the township class to exert peer pressure on each other.

  For Bedford County, returns of the 1782 Class Tax for the following classes are extant and had been previously kept with the tax assessment records in Vault #1 of the Bedford County Court House. After a water pipe burst in the Vault #1, the tax assessment returns were moved to the Pioneer Historical Society of Bedford County. The returns are included for: Bedford Twp: (the central portion of present-day Bedford County) Classes 55 through 61; Brothers Valley Twp: (the eastern portion of present-day Somerset County) Classes 34 through 39; Colerain Twp: (the western portion of present-day Fulton County) Class 48; Cumberland Valley Twp: (the eastern portion of present-day Bedford County) Class 50; Frankstown Twp: (present-day Blair County) Classes 11 through 21; Shirley Twp: (the eastern portion of present-day Huntingdon County) Classes 43 through 49, and 59; Quemahoning Twp: (the most of present-day Cambria County) Classes 40 through 42

  Following the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War, the soldiers who had served in the Continental Line were discharged and the Line itself was dismantled. The militia system, though, was kept in effect because of the ever present threat of Indian attacks and also because of the fact that the British remained in possession of forts along the border between the United States and Canada. British troops continued to garrison the forts on the border, including Fort Detroit, until the outbreak of the War of 1812. In fact, it was Great Britainís belief that she might, eventually, regain control of her previous colonies, that helped to spark the War of 1812, and it was from the border forts that she began the fighting in that conflict.

  During the post-Revolutionary War period of 1783 to 1790, the tax assessment returns provided muster rolls of all able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and fifty-three years by townships and districts.

  A tax assessment return / muster roll was also prepared in 1864 when the end of the American Civil War seemed nowhere in sight. That assessment returned the full name, age, occupation, marital status and prior military experience for men between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five.

  Other types of records available to assist the researcher in regard to veterans include muster rolls from the British Armies of Americans who served during the French and Indian War. Those muster rolls have been transcribed and published in the Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series and Fifth Series. Additional muster rolls were published in the Sixth series for veterans of the Mexican War. Complete records of the soldiers who served in the Civil War can be found in Samuel Batesí five volume series, History Of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-1865.

  The National Archives and also the Records Archives of the Bureau of Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC maintain originals and microfilm copies of various kinds of veterans records. The list below provides the titles of a number of books in which veterans records have been transcribed or explained.

A Ranger On The Frontier ~ Jacob Schmitt, Srís Revolutionary War Service
by Larry D. Smith, 1991

Bedford County Pennsylvania Archives, Volume 1
edited by James B. Whisker, 1985 (available from Closson Press)

Bedford County Pennsylvania Archives, Volume 3
edited by James B. Whisker, 1986 (available from Closson Press)

Bedford County Pennsylvania Archives, Volume 4
edited by James B. Whisker, 1988 (available from Closson Press)

Bedford County Pennsylvania Archives, Volume 7
edited by James B. Whisker, 1994 (available from Closson Press)

Bedford County (Pennsylvania) In The American Revolution
by James B. Whisker, 1985

Civil War Exemptions 1845-1859, 1860-1865
(unpublished, maintained by The Pioneer Historical Society Of Bedford County)

Civil War Remembrance At Grave Of Col. Isaac Rogers
(available from the Huntingdon County Historical Society)

Civil War Sketchbook And Diary (202 Regt., Co. K, P.V.)
(available from the Huntingdon County Historical Society)

Civil War Veterans Reference (Somerset And Cambria)
by Brian J. Ensley, 1998 (available from Closson Press)

Genealogical Abstracts Of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume I: A-E
abstracted by Virgil D. White, 1990 (available at the Blair County Genealogical Society)

Genealogical Abstracts Of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume II: F-M
abstracted by Virgil D. White, 1990 (available at the Blair County Genealogical Society)

Genealogical Abstracts Of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume III: N-Z
abstracted by Virgil D. White, 1990 (available at the Blair County Genealogical Society)

Genealogical Abstracts Of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume IV: Index
abstracted by Virgil D. White, 1990 (available at the Blair County Genealogical Society)

History Of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-1865, Volumes I, II, III, IV
by Samuel P. Bates, 1869 (available at the Pioneer Historical Society Of Bedford County library)

Military Records (Miscellaneous for period of 1848-1874)
(unpublished, maintained by The Pioneer Historical Society Of Bedford County)

Militia Rolls - Bedford County 1789
(unpublished, maintained by The Pioneer Historical Society Of Bedford County)

Militia Rolls - Bedford County 1849-1875
(unpublished, maintained by The Pioneer Historical Society Of Bedford County)

Mother Bedford And The American Revolutionary War
by Larry D. Smith, 1999 (available from Closson Press)

The Papers Of Henry Bouqet, Volumes I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII
by The Pennsylvania Historical And Museum Commission, 1972

Rev. Soldiers, Londonderry And Harrison Twps., Bedford County
by Mae Lybarger, (unpublished, maintained by The Pioneer Historical Society Of Bedford County)

Revolutionary War Veterans Buried In Bedford County
by Winona W. Garbrick, (unpublished, maintained by The Pioneer Historical Society Of Bedford County)

Soldier Dead - List Of Those Buried In The Cemeteries And Graveyards Of Bedford County
by Gazette Publishing Company, 1912

Thompsonís Pennsylvania Rifle Battalion: Keystone Of The United States Army
by Col. William V. Kennedy, 1985

Veterans Of World War I (WPA Project)
(unpublished, maintained by The Pioneer Historical Society Of Bedford County)