One of my brothers, Alfred Courtney Snider of Dallas, became interested in the life and times of our grandfather, Alfred Snider, and particularly in his Civil War record. He asked the National Archives for help, and what he has turned up so far gives me a Kansas background I never realized I had.
After reading the material, it is obvious I should have run for state office, citing my deep Kansas roots. My ancestors were Jayhawkers long before they were Okies.
Grandpa Snider was born in Stark County, Ohio, but was living in Allen County, Indiana, when, at the age of 18, he joined Company D of the 88th Regiment of Indiana Infantry Volunteers. This was June of 1862.
In July of 1864, he suffered a gunshot wound in the left leg in Atlanta, but it did not cause him to be hospitalized. In keeping with true Snider tradition, he probably brushed it off and said, “It’s just a scratch.”
He was discharged from the Union Army in June of 1865 and went back to Indiana. He married Elizabeth Nail at her father’s home in December 1866. In 1877 he moved to Ottawa County, Kansas, to a farm, but the mailing address was in nearby Oak Hill in Clay County. My dad, Daniel William, was born in nearby Miltonvale, in Cloud County, in 1880, the third of six children.
In 1894 this clan moved to Custer County, Oklahoma, where Alfred Snider died in May 1924 at the age of 81. The death certificate is signed by Dr. K.D. Gossam of Custer, the same doctor who delivered me and my two brothers. The cause of death is listed as “senilitis,” a medical term of that time meaning, “Beats hell out of me.”
Among the Grandpa Snider papers one thing caught my eye. On June 27, 1890, Congress approved a pension plan for Civil War veterans, and in true Snider tradition, Grandpa wanted to be one of the first at the trough. He applied for one only 15 days later.
He had to fill out a government form that toward the bottom read, “He makes this declaration for the purpose of being placed on the pension roll of the United States, and hereby appoints, with full power of substitution and revocation, R.B. DONALDSON & CO. OF WASHINGTON, D.C., his true and lawful attorneys to prosecute this claim.”
Even back then, lawyers had their clammy hands on the action. If anything, it was even worse then, because the name of the law firm was printed right on the government form. The poor applicant had no choice but to accept them, undoubtedly for a fee.
But it couldn’t have been much. Grandpa got the pension, the princely sum of $6 per month, and it took this fancy law firm only a year to get it for him. There is evidence, too, that they did a lousy job.
In November 1895, Grandpa was dropped from the pension rolls because of “disability having ceased.” It didn’t say what his disability was in the first place, but, being a Snider, we can guess that it might have been a weakness for easy money.
He had no weakness, however, in pursuing it. He applied to have the pension reinstated, and was successful, and at the time of his death was drawing not just $6 per month, but a very substantial $50. Good for Grandpa. He was the first, and probably the last, Snider to get anything like that out of Washington.
In the papers he filed after he lost the first pension, there is no mention of the law firm, giving us reason to believe that back then, like now, lawyers often told losers, “They can’t do that to us,” and then moved on.
Grandpa and Grandma Snider weren’t backward about giving fancy names to their children. The first was Lafayette Benjamin, followed by John Grant, (get this) Oliver Perry Morton Eugene, my dad Daniel William, Clyde Elwood and Mary Susan. My brothers, both older, have told me they never knew anything about Uncle Lafayette Benjamin. Uncle John lived in Grand Junction, Colo., and was a grocer. He had a son named Dent, a name that always intrigued me, the only problem being that he grew up to be a lawyer.
Uncle Gene, the one with the long name, was a mystery man. Our dad and mom never would talk about him, but one day he showed up in our hometown of Britton, Okla., wearing fancy clothes and driving an air-cooled, 12-cylinder Franklin. Our parents sort of held their breath until he left town. I wish I knew more about him.
Uncle Clyde was a career Navy man, retiring as a chief warrant officer. He moved to the Washington, D.C., area, earned a Ph.D, and worked and taught in radiology for many years.
Aunt Mary, the only daughter of the family, died at a young age, and my brothers said they never saw her. Neither did they ever see Grandma Snider, who also died young.
They barely remember Grandpa, and brother Al in Dallas, who was 5 when Grandpa died, said he remembered him as a tall, lean man with a white beard who visited the family home in Oakwood, Okla. Al got a real shock when the Civil War papers said he was only 5-7.
What I have written here is about all we know of Grandpa Snider. There are no family papers referring to his ancestors, and the person who provided the information for his death certificate said the identities of his father and mother were “unknown.”
That could mean a lot of things. We hope the truth is that he really knew, but just didn’t want to bother writing them down.