Occasionally, I run across an interesting mystery during my family history research. The story of Hiram Wendt, my husband's great great uncle, was one such mystery.
Hiram was b. about 1840, probably in Pennsylvania. He enlisted in Company G, 59th Infantry Regiment, Illinois, on August 6, 1861, was promoted to Full Lieutenant 1st Class on September 9, 1863, and eventually mustered out on May 1, 1865. Records indicate that Hiram never married and listed his mother as his next of kin on enlistment papers.
Once Hiram mustered out of the Infantry, he returned home to his parent's house, where he lived until 1873. In 1873, he vanished into thin air and was never heard from again. I haven't been able to find any mention of Hiram after that date.
His mother, Sarah Kitchen Wendt, applied for a Dependent Mother's Pension in 1894. The pension file indicates she attempted, unsuccessfully, to collect a pension until at least 1901. The pension applications/appeals were denied because there was no material evidence that Hiram had died.
One letter in the pension file was written by Hiram's sister, Margaret Wendt Keyes, dated July 1899:
Carlinville, Ills, July 1899
President of the United States
Pardon the liberty I take in sending these few lines to you, and do not pass them by unheeded, for they are in behalf of a good kind feeble old lady whose son was in the army of the great rebellion who fought gallantly for three years, was
on the battle field, and never entirely recovered from the shock. She has mourned him as dead for almost twenty-five years, and has tried to get his pension for years but as yet has failed to accomplish it. She is a deserving old lady depending upon the cold charities of the cruel world for a living, now surely something can be done for her. He son was Lieut H Wendt, Co G, 59th Reg Ills Vols. Please don't pass this by without perusing it carefully. I know the good god will reward your address.
Mrs. C Keyes, Carlinville,Macoupin Co, Ills
Another letter in the pension file was from a neighbor of the Wendts.
While in the army her son Hiram received a sun stroke from which he never fully recovered and she believes that it was at last the cause of his death among strangers and that he was unable to fully identify himself as that absolute proof could be made of his death. About 1872, he left for a visit to friends in Quincy, Ills. Since that time no word has ever been received from him and his whereabouts if alive is unknown. Mrs. Wendt is 83 yrs. old and dependent entirely on friends and a married daughter, who is in very straitened
circumstances and barely able to support herself by close economy...Living in her extreme age and her great destitution, I would ask as a favor to have her claim placed for special consideration.
Sadly, all of Mrs. Wendt's applications were denied, and no word of Hiram's fate was ever received.