Malissa Mansfield Slicker: Living in an Always Changing World – Part 1

This is part one of a three-part series narrating the life of Malissa Jane Mansfield Slicker. My dad has said on many occasion that Malissa, his great-grandmother, spelled her name with an ‘a’ not an ‘e.’  Some historical documents seem to support his claim, but many other historical documents show it spelled with an ‘e.’ It appears that Malissa, despite completing school through the eighth grade (as reported in the 1940 U.S. Census), may not have been able to write. The 1880 and 1900 U.S. census shows that Malissa was not able to write. When Malissa and John sold properties in 1880, 1895 and 1914, Malissa made ‘her mark’ in place of a signature. 

It’s interesting to note that whoever provided the U.S. census taker with the family information in 1910, 1920, and 1930 reported that Malissa could write. There is a 1937 property deed in which Malissa sold the property in Oklahoma Borough to her daughter, Matilda, and son-in-law, Albert Seighman.  I don’t have a copy of it; and I was unable to get access to it on-line at the time of this writing. I have seen the deed, but can’t recall if this deed shows Melissa’s mark or her handwritten signature. One family document that might shed some light on how Malissa spelled her name is the family Bible. In fact there are two possible Bibles that may help us – the one kept by Malissa and the one kept by her mother. Since it was typical for families to document names and birth and death dates in the family Bible during Malissa’s time, I am assuming she and her mother each kept one. And if they did, I am hoping they still exist, and the present-day owner, should they find this site, is willing to share. Until then, I can only wonder if my dad was correct about the spelling of Malissa’s name. 

Most of the information for this narrative was taken from the widow’s and minor’s Civil War pension file for Malissa, her sister, Matilda, and her mother, Nancy. Malissa, also had a sister, Anna, who must have died at a young age. I’m guessing around two or three. I have not found a death record for Anna or a grave marker. Without further delay, I will begin to tell Malissa’s story as I know it. 

Did March of 1858 come in like a lion and go out like a lamb? That I don’t know. But I can tell you with near certainty that Malissa Jane Mansfield, with the help of  attending physician, Dr. Charles Rudolph, made her grand entrance into the world on the 31st of that month and year.[1] She was the first-born child of John and Nancy Mansfield.

Malissa’s first view of the world outside the safety of her mother’s womb was the interior of the wooden framed house her parents called home.[2] Their home stood in Elizabeth, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.[3] It was here in this small community that rested on the east banks of the Monongahela River that Malissa passed most of her childhood years.

From the safety of her mother’s womb to an always changing world

In the year Malissa was born, the United States was still feeling the effects of the Panic of 1857. Like all major economic slumps, this one was marked by high unemployment and bank and business failures – the railroad industry being the hardest hit.

Every socio-economic group felt the impact. Those who lived in the rural communities felt the recession’s impact through a dramatic decline in grain prices. Investors involved in land speculation programs lost everything. The public, in general, lost confidence in the government’s ability to back its currency. This confidence was further shaken when 30,000 pounds of gold being shipped from the San Francisco mint to banks in the east were lost at sea.

Not all change was filled with doom and gloom like the Panic of 1857. Nine years earlier New York and Pennsylvania passed the Married Women’s Property Act. Other states would soon follow. This Act gave married women the right to buy and hold property in their name. A right that Malissa Jane Mansfield would exercise in her adult life.

Other changes Malissa would witness in her lifetime included automobiles, electricity in the home, refrigerators, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, radios, televisions, ready-made clothes and so much more. More and more women would enter the workforce, and eventually, they would again the right to vote. But these are changes that Malissa would see in her adult life. There was one big change about to take place in Malissa’s childhood. A change brought about by a war that temporarily divided the nation in which she was born.

Malissa Gains Two Sisters

In October 1859, Malissa’s sister, Anna was born.[4] In this same month, the United States saw an increase in tension over the slavery issue as John Brown, an abolitionist, led a raid on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. Three days after the start of his liberation movement, John Brown was captured, tried for treason and murder, and executed in December 1859.

On March 19th, 1861 Dr. Jesse Penny was called to the Mansfield home.[5] With his help, Matilda Belle, joined the family in their wooden framed house in Elizabeth. As celebrations of this new life faded, the family returned to a normal daily routine. John went off to the local coal mine to earn a wage to support his family while Nancy took care of the home and children. John and Nancy and their neighbors and friends were unaware of how soon their normal daily routine was about to change.

Malissa’s Father Marches Off to War

Just a few weeks after Matilda was born, shots were fired at the Federal troops stationed at Fort Sumter catapulting the country into a four-year war. By years end John Mansfield and many other men of Elizabeth bid their families farewell. They set off for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where they were mustered into Company G, 101st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry for the next three years.[6]

Malissa was about three years and eight months old when her father left home for the war. Was this the last time she saw him? Was her father ever granted leave? If so, did he travel back to visit the family? These questions remain unanswered.

At the end of his three-year service, Malissa’s father re-enrolled in Company G, 101st Regiment as a veteran private. He was mustered in at Plymouth, North Carolina on January 1, 1864.[7]

On March 31st, 1864 Malissa turned six. Three weeks later her father’s regiment while fighting alongside other Union regiments lost the Battle of Plymouth. They were captured by Confederate soldiers and taken to the prison war camp, Camp Sumter, in Andersonville, Georgia.

The conditions at Camp Sumpter were deplorable. Many Union soldiers died from poor malnutrition and disease. Malissa’s father was one. Her father, John, is said to have died August 15th of diarrhea and scurvy.[8] Malissa was six years and five months old.

Malissa’s Childhood Years After the War

In the months after the news of John’s death, Malissa’a mother, Nancy, applied for a widow’s pension. On October 25th, 1865, the Pension Office approved Nancy’s application for the allowable monthly amount of eight dollars retroactive to September 8th, 1864 – the date the Department of Interior accepted as John’s death date.[9]

Nancy’s application for a widow’s pension reported only two living children. Apparently in the years after the 1860 U.S. census and before the submission of the widow’s pension application, Malissa’s sister, Anna, passed away.

May 17, 1866 marked another turning point in Malissa’s life. Her mother, Nancy, married Samuel S. Haney. Upon this union, Nancy forfeited her right to the eight dollar a month pension payment. Knowing her children’s rights, she wasted no time filing a claim for Malissa and Matilda. As minor children of John Mansfield, they were entitled, upon approval, to the eight dollar a month pension payment. The claim was approved. An eight dollar a month payment was to begin on May 18th, 1866 with an additional $2 per child to begin on July 25th, 1866.

This ends part one of Malissa’s story. Don’t forget to come back for part two. In the meantime:

Do you have anything to add to Malissa’s childhood story? Do you know anything about her sisters, Anna or Matilda? Did you enjoy the story? Feel free to leave a comment.

Sources:

[1] Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Veterans of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War With Spain, compiled 1861-1934, Fold3.com (http://www.Fold3.com: accessed 15 October 2017) entry for John Mansfield and minor child Melissa Jane Mansfield, page 15 (copy of the written affidavit of Dr. Charles Rudolph).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Veterans of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War With Spain, compiled 1861-1934, Fold3.com (http://www.Fold3.com: accessed 15 October 2017) entry for John Mansfield and minor child Melissa Jane Mansfield, page 19 (copy of the written affidavit of Mary Warren and Hannah Householder, acquaintances of John and Nancy Manfield).

[4] “1860 United States Federal Census,” Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 15, October 2017), entry for Anna Mansfield (age 8/12), Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

[5] Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Veterans of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War With Spain, compiled 1861-1934, Fold3.com (http://www.Fold3.com: accessed 15 October 2017) entry for John Mansfield and minor child Matilda Belle Mansfield, page 18 (copy of a written affidavit of Nancy Mansfield Haney).

[6] Pennsylvania State Archives, “Civil War Veterans’ Card File, 1861-1866.”Archives Record Information Access System (http://digitalarchives.state.pa.us  : accessed 15 October 2017, entry for Mansfield, John, “PVT, [Co.] G, 101 PA US INF,” Elizabeth, Allegheny County.

[7] Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Veterans of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War With Spain, compiled 1861-1934, Fold3.com (http://www.Fold3.com: accessed 15 October 2017) entry for John Mansfield and minor child Melissa Jane Mansfield, page 8.

[8] Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Veterans of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War With Spain, compiled 1861-1934, Fold3.com (http://www.Fold3.com: accessed 15 October 2017) entry for John Mansfield and his widow Nancy Mansfield, page 33.

[9] Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Veterans of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War With Spain, compiled 1861-1934, Fold3.com (http://www.Fold3.com: accessed 15 October 2017) entry for John Mansfield and his widow Nancy Mansfield.

© Robin Slicker, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

2 thoughts on “Malissa Mansfield Slicker: Living in an Always Changing World – Part 1

  1. […] This is part two of a three-part series on the life of Malissa Jane Mansfield. The beginning of part two retells the portion of Malissa’s story when her father goes off to war. In the second paragraph I stated that John boarded a train for Harrisburg. I don’t really know if this is how John traveled to Harrisburg to be mustered into his regiment. He may have gone by foot or horse and wagon. Part two takes Malissa’s story to 1910. In 1910, the family is still living in Conemaugh township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. The three oldest children have married, and Malissa and John have three grandchildren. If you haven’t read part one of Malissa’s story and you would like to do so before reading part two, you may do so here:  https://aslickerfamilyhistory.com/2017/10/15/malissa-mansfield-slicker-her-changing-world-part-1/ […]

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