H. M. Atkinson was either not impressed with the application of Mary Martin claiming dependent support from her son, Lewis Martin, who had died during the Civil War, or he was just doing his due diligence. In his process to confirm the physical disability of Charles Martin, husband of Mary, and father of Lewis, he wrote to the Postmaster of Highgate Center, Vermont, J. R. Cross, and had him do a little snooping into the situation. The most damning testimony on the character of the family may have also been the most beneficial as it provides proof that Charles was unable to rely on his other sons. It comes at the end of Cross’ letter where he states Charles “has other sons but in like condition of the father poor +some of them remarkably shifters.”
First, I notice that he used the word “some” implying that it was more than just one (aka Seleme). I wonder who else he was describing in 1875? The only other sons that an individual who resided in Highgate Center since 1865 would personally know would be Joseph, John, and Antoine.
A shifter is another word for a cozener. Both are words which describe a fraudster. The Post Master is directly stating that some of the sons of Charles Martin practiced deceit to obtain things they desired. And that’s saying it nicely!
C M T
Department of the Interior
Washington D.C. Oct. 5th 1875
Mary Martin, mother of Lewis Martin has filed a claim as dependent mother for a pension (no. 215,996.) Will you please report to this office such facts as you have or may obtain on inquiry, touching the nature and degree of the physical disability of claimants husband (Charles Martin) during the years 1863 and 1864. What amount of labor could he perform, and what was the value of his property during this period. Were said parents dependent upon this son and if so, to what extent were they assisted by him.
Your communication will be treated as confidential (over)
H. M. Atkinson
Please return this letter with your reply endorsed thereon.
Highgate Centre, Vermont
Oct 13th 1875
Charles Martin + Mary Martin I have known for about ten years [since 65 written above]. Charles Martin, husband of Mary is able I should wage to do about 3/4 of a mans labour. He works by the day job + carries on land on shares as opportunity offers do not think he was worth any thing in 1863 or 1864 and nothing now. Whether the parents were dependent on this son or not I do not know when he went into the army. I think his father able to earn a good living + did so, do not think the son helped any until after he enlisted then he bought 20 acres of land (if I am correctly informed) and paid for it or nearly so and his father went to live on it + when he died the father became the owner but has since lost it in consequence of bad management + is poor to day but manages to live some how. He has other sons but in like condition of the father poor + some of them remarkably shifters.
Yours truly, J. R. Cross
P.S. If I have not answered this so you understand it or all the points you wished to know write again
Source: Box 35098, Pension Certificate #219698, Charles Martin (father of Lewis Martin), Federal Military Pension Application; Civil War and Later Complete File, National Archives record Group Form 85D; National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.