April 15, 1837…I Think…

As mentioned before, Jesse J. Bean’s early life is very much shrouded in mystery. Based on my best guess, Jesse was born in Fredonia, Chambers County, Alabama on April 15, 1837. I say my best guess because birth certificates were not required by the state until the early 1900’s, so there is no definitive proof. Prior to last Friday, I would have said his birth date was April 6, 1838. During my trip to Etowah County, we were able to locate, not only Jesse’s final resting place, but also copies of his Civil War pension papers. The very helpful genealogical librarian at the Gadsden Library was able to provide us with copies of Jesse’s pension papers from 1893 and 1911.

The 1893 pension was filed in Talladega County on May 29, 1893. On this application, which was applied for in person, Jesse indicated that his left thumb was lost during the Civil War. As a result, his left hand was rendered useless. The Alabama Department of Archives and History indicates that this injury occurred at Lovejoy Station, Georgia, but more on Jesse’s Civil War service later because it is a story unto itself.

The 1911 pension application was filed in Etowah County on July 31, 1911. Again, Jesse appeared in person before the probate judge as a testimony to his injury and right to a pension. This pension application clearly indicates Jesse’s birthdate as April 15, 1837 in Chambers County, Alabama. Since he signed his mark testifying to the accuracy of this information, I have to go with it as fact…in so much as anything could be fact in those days.

What is crazy is that I have also seen his birth year documented as 1832 (on his death certificate), 1836 (on the ADAH Civil War database), and 1838 (census records). Whose to say which is right…I do believe however, that April 15 is correct because I have seen the same date on most of the records I’ve found for Jesse.

Since we live in a time were it is second nature to know the year of your birth, it is hard to imagine going through life not knowing. It is possible that he knew the truth and for some reason was inconsistent in the reporting of it over the years. It is also possible considering the family rumors of his being illegitimate that he didn’t know for sure himself. Either way, this is just one more detail that is not solid in Jesse’s life.

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