He was born in 1821/22 (3 (39 in 1861), 6 (39 in 1861), 9 (38 in 1860), 11 (35 (sic) in 1850), 12 (59 in 1880)). He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (6, 9, 11 (England), 12).
In 1841, he married Margaret Corney (10).
In 1849, he married Augusta [unknown family name] (10). However, this marriage was invalid, as he was still married to Margaret (10). A relative warned Augusta that he was married, but she ignored the warning (10). He also left her to live with other women, so many times that she couldn't remember all of them (10).
In 1850, he was living in ward 1, Moyamensing, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (11). He was living with Augusta (11). He was a cordwainer (11).
In 1853, his first wife, Margaret, died (10).
In 1860, he was living in the 18th ward, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (9). He was living with Augusta (presumably his wife) and Joseph (presumably their son) (9). He was a wharf builder, and owned $100 in personal property (9).
When he enlisted, he was a shoemaker (6).
When he enlisted, he was 5 feet 8-1/2 inches tall, and had a light complexion, blue eyes, and light hair (6).
He was enlisted before enlisting in the 91st (6).
He enlisted and was mustered into service, at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 23 September 1861 (1, 3, 4, 6). He was enlisted for three years, by Captain Smith (3, 6). He was mustered in as a corporal, in company D (1, 3 (priv), 4 (corp), 19 (pvt)).
He was transferred to company F on 31 October 1861 (2).
He was discharged at Franklin Square Barracks, Washington DC, on 2 April 1862 on surgeon's certificate of disability (1, 4, 5, 6). He was "subject to chronic rheumatism" even before enlisting (5). He was a private, in company F (19).
He did not return to Augusta after his discharge (10).
In 1874, he married Sarah [unknown family name] (10).
In 1880, he was living at 1629 Thompson Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (12). He was living with his wife Sarah (12). He was a shoemaker (12).
In 1882, he was living at 1635 East Thompson, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (13). He was a shoemaker (13).
In 1883, he was living at 1677 East Thompson, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (14). He was a shoemaker (14).
In 1884, he was living at 1629 East Thompson, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (15). He was a shoemaker (15).
He is not listed in the 1885 or 1886 Philadelphia city directories (16, 17).
On 5 June 1886, his widow, Augusta Watkins, applied unsuccessfully from New Jersey for a pension (7, 8). According to Augusta's pension appeal, Sarah received a pension (10).
In 1891, Augusta appealed the rejection of her pension application, but her appeal was denied (10).
1 Bates, Samuel Penniman. History of Pennsylvania volunteers, 1861-5. Harrisburg: B. Singerly, state printer, 1869-71. 5 volumes. 'Ninety-first regiment', volume 3, pages 186-233. (In the roster) (William E Watkins)
2 company D, register of men transferred, entry 18 (William E Watkins)
3 Civil War Veterans' Card File, available at the Pennsylvania State Archives, searched 10 August 2004 (William E Watkins)
4 company F, list of non-commissioned officers (William Watkins)
5 company F, register of men discharged (Wm E Watkins)
6 company F, descriptive roll, #12 (William E Watkins)
7 pension index, by name (William E Watkins)
8 pension index, by regiment, 91st PA Infantry, company F (William E Watkins)
9 1860 US census, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 18th ward, NE division, post office Kensington, microfilm series M653, film 1168, page 173 = 173 handwritten (Wm Wakins [sic])
10 Decisions of the Department of the Interior in appealed pension claims, with an appendix, volume 6. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1893. Pages 63-68
11 1850 US census, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Moyamensing, ward 1, microfilm series M432, film 809, page 192 = 385 handwritten
12 1880 US census, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, supervisor's district 1, enumeration district 524, microfilm series T9, film 1184, page 95 = 13 A handwritten
13 1882 Gopsill's Philadelphia directory, page 1609, from Footnote
14 1883 Gopsill's Philadelphia directory, page 1659, from Footnote
15 1884 Gopsill's Philadelphia directory, page 1647, from Footnote
16 1885 Gopsill's Philadelphia directory, page 1814, from Footnote
17 1886 Gopsill's Philadelphia directory, page 1799, from Footnote
18 Find a grave, memorial 39908567 (accessed 3 December 2010) (William E Watkins) (identity is confirmed by reference to his service on a transcription of the gravestone inscription; however, the inscription refers to company B)
19 index to compiled service records of volunteer Union soldiers who served in organizations from the state of Pennsylvania (William E Watkins)
|Dwellings visited||" [sc. 455]||"|
|Name||William E Watkins||Augusta do|
|Age||35 [sic]||33 [sic]|
|Occupation of males over 15 years||Cordwainer|
|Real estate owned|
|Married within year|
|Attended school within year|
|Over 20 & can't read/write|
|Deaf, dumb, blind, etc.|
|Name||Wm Wakins [sic]||Augusta "||Joseph "|
|Occupation||ditto [sc. Wharf Builder]|
|Value of real estate owned|
|Value of personal estate||100|
|Place of birth||do [sc. Penna]||do||do|
|Married within year|
|Attended school within year|
|Cannot read & write|
|Deaf, dumb, blind, etc.|
|Name||Watkins Wm B||- Sarah J||- Wm B||- Saml P||- Clement H||- Viola||- Aulena||Fills Margaret||Davidson Annie||- Nora|
|Occupation||Notion Dealer||Keeping house||Salesman Notion||Salesman Notion||Domestic Servant||Domestic Servant|
|Real estate value||10,000|
|Personal estate value||10,000|
|Father foreign born|
|Mother foreign born|
|Birth month if born within year|
|Marriage month if married within year|
|Attended school past year||1||1|
|Deaf, dumb, blind, etc.|
|Male US citizen at least 21 years old||1||1|
|Male US citizen at least 21 years old who can't vote ...|
|street name||Thompson Street|
|dwelling visit #|||
|family visit #||101|
|month born if born in year|
|married during year|
|school this year|
|father's birthplace||Penn||" "|
|mother's birthplace||Penn||" "|
A, in the year 1849, was married to W, who, at the time, had a wife, M, living, to whom he was married in 1841 but who died in 1853. Subsequent to the death of M (the first wife) W was married to S with whom he afterwards lived and cohabited until his death twelve years later, and who is now pensioned as his widow.
Held, 1. That A's marriage in 1849 to W was absolutely null and void by reason of the impediment then existing in the survival of the first wife.
2. In the absence of evidence of a marriage between A and W subsequent to the death of M other than cohabitation and repute, such cohabitation and repute must have been uniform and must have continued without interruption after the removal of the impediment.
3. That W's marriage to S after the death of M, and their continuous cohabitation as husband and wife until his death, rebut any presumption of marriage to A subsequent to the death of M that might have arisen.
Herewith are returned the papers which accompanied your letter of the 27th of April, 1891, on the motion of Augusta Watkins, the alleged widow of William E. Watkins, deceased, late of Company F, Ninety-first Pennsylvania Volunteers (Certificate No. 340,425), for a reconsideration of the departmental decision of January 30, 1889, by which the action of your Bureau rejecting her claim was affirmed.
The Department affirmed the rejection of this claim upon the ground that the soldier, at the time of his pretended marriage to appellant, had a former wife living, and that his marriage to appellant was illegal and void from the beginning; also that no act had been done by the soldier which would condone his bigamy or convert the relation with claimant to one of lawful marriage after the death of soldier's first wife, Margaret Corney.
As held in said former decision, "the essential conditions requisite to marriage under the common law are not shown to have existed at any [page 64] time between Augusta and the soldier, i.e. mutuality of desire for lawful marriage and continuity of dwelling or cohabiting together as man and wife," and in this case the intention and desire of the soldier must be determined by his acts--first, entrance upon an unlawful and illicit relation with Augusta under pretense of marriage; second, abandonment of this relation; and third, his subsequent marriage to Sarah in accordance with the statutory law of the place.
In this case the soldier married in 1841 or 1842, and in 1849 married appellant while the former wife was still living. Subsequent to the death of his first wife he married again, and lived with the last wife up to his death. The first marriage is proved beyond question.
The evidence does not show that deceased lived with Augusta from the time of the pretended marriage in 1849 to 1866. She swears three times before a special examiner that the soldier would go off and leave her, living with some other woman, sometimes being absent from one to two years, then would return to her and remain awhile; and, as she says, he left her so many times that she can not remember all of them, and that he never came back to her after his discharge in 1863; that upon being discharged he went to live "with this Kate Fox." So it appears that the soldier, from the time he married the Corney woman in 1841, was a roaming shoemaker and had a wife at every place he stopped. There can be nothing clearer, supported by the testimony of claimant herself, than that their cohabitation was not continuous, but at intervals only.
Now, if this cohabitation since the death of the first wife, in 1853, was the same with Augusta as with the woman or women he lived with when absent from her, this other woman or each of these women would have equally a claim to be his wife, and should several more women file claims as his widow, all showing such marriage and cohabitation for the intervals he was absent from Augusta for from one to two years at a time, what would be their status? How are we to discriminate as to which one became his wife upon the death of the first wife? If, as is unquestionably the fact, he had another woman that he lived with prior to the death of his first wife and who, at the death of such wife, still claimed to be his wife and he to be her husband, which, by operation of law, would be his wife? It is only when all the circumstances favor a valid marriage and a mutual intent and desire for matrimonial relations that marriage will be inferred from the fact of cohabitation and repute; but where this cohabitation is interrupted and not continuous, and where the repute is not uniform but varied, the opposite presumption attaches that the cohabitation is meretricious and not matrimonial. Many things corroborate this in the case under consideration.
The claimant admits that a relative of the soldier cautioned her that he had a wife living, and still she married him. She can not plead innocence now. The evidence as strongly supports the theory that soldier [page 65] and appellant agreed to live together knowing that they had no legal right so to do as it would the other view.
Bishop, in his work on Marriage and Divorce (section 513), says, in speaking of evidence of marriage by cohabitation and repute, "its weight depends on the circumstances of the individual case controlled by matter happening even after the cohabitation ceased; as, by the cessation itself, the contracting of another marriage, and the like,"
The fact that this soldier contracted another marriage, and lived with such matrimonial partner from his discharge to his death, and the fact that during all the time he cohabited with appellant he was at intervals cohabiting with some other woman, are the strongest evidence to rebut a presumption of a bona fide mutual matrimonial relation between claimant and soldier. The last wife was regularly and properly married to him subsequent to the death of his first legal wife and remained with him until his death, nursing him in his last illness, and has been granted a pension. She lived with him until death, and it does not appear that Augusta, at any time after her separation from the soldier, ever claimed to be soldier's wife, at least in the community where soldier lived. She offered no impediment to the union of the soldier with Sarah, nor did she thereafter offer any obstruction to their continuous relations. It appears, therefore, as a fact, that there was no disturbance of the marital relations between the soldier and the claimant Sarah, nor did she thereafter offer any obstruction to their continuous relations. It appears, therefore, as a fact, that there was no disturbance of the marital relations between the soldier and the claimant Sarah, nor any dispute of the legality of the wedding ceremony from the date of said ceremony to the period of the death of the soldier.
This ceremony and pretended marriage between soldier and appellant was not only illegal but void. Nor could any subsequent conduct call it into existence. No authorities can be found to sustain the proposition that a marriage absolutely void can be afterward legalized.
The contention that "there was no attempt during the soldier's life to invalidate the marriage that was publicly formed December 1, 1849, on the ground that it was either void or voidable," is inconsistent and untenable. Why should he seek to, or how could he, invalidate an act that was never valid? It was absolutely void from the beginning and never was of any binding or legal force whatever.
"A second marriage by a party who has a consort living is absolutely void" (3 Wait Actions and Defenses, p.630; 51 Barb. N.Y., 270; 15 La., 579; 23 Pa. St., 104); and where a woman marries without knowledge that the one whom she marries has a wife then living she may, during his lifetime, and without any proceedings having been had to nullify such marriage, lawfully contract a marriage with another. (Shaaks Estate, 4 Brewst. Penn., 305; S.C. 3 Pitts., 275; Reeves v. Reeves, 54 Ills., 332.)
Bouvier's Law Dictionary defines the word "void" thus: "That which has no force or effect"; and voidable, "That which has some force or [page 66] effect but which, in consequence of some inherent quality, may be legally annulled or avoided."
So that the contention that "the marriage of soldier to Augusta in 1849 was, at the worst, a voidable marriage," is incorrect and not supported by authority; and the whole argument that the marriage solemnized in 1849, when an impediment to such marriage existed, was made valid by the removal of the impediment, is not sustained by any authority. This is not the theory on which the Felber case rested. The ground upon which that rests is not that by the removal of the impediment the void marriage is legalized and revived, but that a new contract had been entered into by the parties subsequent to the removal of the impediment.
This void marriage did not and could not become a valid and legal marriage by operation of law. If legally married at all she must have been married subsequent to the death of soldier's first wife, and the evidence negatives [sic] that idea, for he was living at one time with Augusta and at another time with some other woman. Had he lived with Augusta continuously up to the time of his death, as was the case of Felber, raised children, and, with her, made a general showing of an honest intent of holding fully the relation of husband and wife, I would unhesitatingly say that such conduct was sufficient to warrant the inference that, at some time subsequent to the death of the first wife, the words were spoken which created the marriage relation. But when he had a wife wherever he went, and for twelve years prior to his death had lived continuously with another woman, to whom he had been married by a solemn ceremony, it furnishes the best proof that he did not marry Augusta subsequent to 1853, nor had he, at any time after the death of his first wife, intended to continue with claimant in the married relation.
The cohabitation and repute are only evidence to be considered in ascertaining the fact of a subsequent marriage; thus, if the parties had been living together, prior to and at the time of the death of the former matrimonial partner, in a relation regarded or desired by them to be matrimonial, then, this desire still continuing at the death of such other matrimonial partner, the court would infer that a marriage contract had been made subsequent to such death of the former wife, because cohabiting together, intending to be in fact husband and wife, evinces marriage; but the intent must be proved. Thus, courts take a continuous cohabitation, accompanied by declarations of the parties to their friends and neighbors that they are husband and wife, and the general repute to the same effect in the community, as evidence that such intent exists.
Then, in this case, if the conduct of the parties (both of them) subsequent to the death of the former wife showed that one of them had no intention of their relation being a valid marriage relation, there was no contract and no marriage.
In this case when it is shown that he (soldier) used to leave appellant [page 67] for a year or two at a time and live with other women, how are you to determine which woman he was living with at the death of his former wife? and, if cohabiting with a woman and appearing in the relation of husband and wife before the public while another matrimonial partner is living, creates a marriage immediately on the death of the former wife, then, in this case, the difficulty arises in ascertaining which of the many women with whom soldier cohabited he was living with in that relation at the death of his first wife, Margaret.
It is this very doubt, the inconsistent and inconstant conduct of the soldier towards Augusta, that negatives [sic] the idea of a valid common law marriage in the case of Augusta and the soldier subsequent to the death of Margaret.
As said before, cohabitation and repute do not constitute marriage, but are circumstances only from which marriage may be inferred; but where other conduct of the parties shows a different intent from that of lawful marriage it will require the strongest and most positive evidence of marriage.
If the soldier was [sic] living, what would he say as to his intention and relations with appellant? We can only infer (as we could on the other hand infer marriage), from his conduct, and that indicates that he would say:
My marriage with Augusta was void, because when the ceremony was performed which purported to make us man and wife I had another wife living, and I never, after the first wife died, remarried Augusta nor intended to do so, or to take her as my lawful wife; but I have married Sarah (the third wife) since my first wife died, and she is the only woman I have married since Margaret died, and is now my lawful wife.
Is not this the reasonable inference to draw from the evidence? and if it is it certainly negatives [sic] the idea of a legal or lawful marriage with appellant at any time since the first wife Margaret's death.
As will be seen, the desire for actual marriage as distinguished from a living together in the way of concubinage must be shown to exist in the minds of both parties; therefore, if the soldier was living and cohabiting with a woman other than appellant, this desires for actual marriage can not be presumed from such conduct, but, on the contrary, the conduct raises a strong presumption that this desire did not exist in the minds of both parties at any time since the death of the first wife.
Therefore, in my opinion, the evidence showing that the soldier, from time to time, after he pretended to marry appellant, lived and cohabited with other women, and, as stated by herself three times in her testimony before the special examiner, never returned to her after his discharge from the Army, but immediately went to live with another woman, and finally married, in 1874, the wife Sarah, with whom he lived continuously up to the time of his death, together with the fact that appellant was informed by a relative of the soldier just prior to her pretended marriage with him that he then had a wife living, makes it so extremely improbable that this mutual contract was ever made [page 68] subsequent to the death of Margaret, the first wife, that it would be stretching the law beyond reason to hold that Sarah, the third and last wife, in view of the fact that she has already been granted a pension, and had lived with the soldier during the last twelve years of his life, and nursed him in his last illness and followed him to his grave, was only a concubine and not a legal wife.
No such facts as these appear in the Felber case (vol. 4, P.D., p.329) cited. There they lived together from the date of the removal of the impediment to the death of the soldier, a period of twenty-one years, all the time outwardly attesting their desire for actual marriage by raising and having christened their children, conveying real estate in their names as husband and wife, and finally the husband solemnly making his will and therein recognizing applicant to be his "beloved wife Elizabeth."
Here there is a lack of such proof as would comply with the rules laid down in the books.
I, therefore, hold that the evidence in this case is insufficient to show the intent or desire on the part of both parties for actual lawful marriage subsequent to the death of the first wife Margaret, and the former decision of the Department will, therefore, be adhered to, and the motion is overruled.
Census Records | Vital Records | Family Trees & Communities | Immigration Records | Military Records Directories & Member Lists | Family & Local Histories | Newspapers & Periodicals | Court, Land & Probate | Finding Aids