They Simply Fade Away

Another great-great-grandfather, Francis “Frank” Gaume, was 19 years old when he volunteered and joined the Union forces during the American Civil War. In the Fall of 1862, Frank signed up with the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in Stark County, Ohio. In September of that year, his unit was in reserve at the Battle of Perryville in Kentucky. Then at one of the bloodiest, muddiest battles of the war, Frank was wounded when another soldier discharged his weapon near Frank’s left ear. Deafness and an injury to the right side disabled him for the rest of his life.

His injuries occurred at the Battle of Stone’s River (Battle of Murfreesboro) in Tennessee, which was fought in the freezing rain over four days between December 31, 1862, and January 3, 1863. Frank was what was known as a repeater, meaning that he volunteered twice during the war. After his tour of duty was up the Spring of 1863, Frank returned to his family’s farm near Louisville, Ohio; however, he didn’t stay home for long because he re-upped in early 1864 and joined the 162nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. This time he remained in Ohio and did six months of guard duty at the POW internment camp at Camp Chase, Ohio.


There is a lot of information to be gleaned from the card above. It shows us that he was also known as “Frank Gome”. It lists the two units in which he served. It tells us that he filed for pension twice, the first time in 1890, the second time in 1907, and finally, his wife, with whom he had been separated, filed for a widow’s pension in 1918.

When the war ended, he, like many young men who survived the battlefield and rough conditions of Army life, was no longer content with life as an Ohio farm boy. Following Horace Greeley’s exhortation, he went out West to find his fortune. Also, like other young men traveling throughout the wild West, he found more failure than he did fortune.

The exact chronology of Frank’s life is not always precise, but I think we have established a reasonably good timeline.

Sometime between the summer of 1864 and the birth of his first daughter, my great-grandmother, Della Gaume, in May 1868, Frank met and married Cordelia “Della” Pickering in the state of Wisconsin. It is believed that Frank and Della married in the fall of 1867. My great-great-grandmother died in June 1868, about a month after giving birth. She is believed to be buried in Stark County, Ohio.

Following her mother’s death, my great-grandmother, Della, was left in the care of her grandmother at the family farm in Stark County.

It is not known for sure where Frank Gaume was living between the time of the death of his first wife in 1868 and up to the latter part of the 1870s, but it is known that in 1871 Frank Gaume married 14-year-old Justine Blanchard at Holmes County, Ohio. Together they had seven children.

According to Frank’s obituary printed in the Louisville (Ohio) Herald in 1917, he left Ohio for Kansas around 1883. It is believed that his daughter Della went with him at this time. The obituary of Della (Gaume) DeBacker states that her parents were innkeepers in St Marys, Kansas. According to his military service pension request filed with the U.S. government around 1907, his wife’s residence was in Topeka, Kansas at the time of his death, and census records between 1900 and 1920 show his wife, Justine, ran a boarding house in Topeka.

My gg-grandfather seems to have had a knack for not showing up on census records. Before going off to war, he does show up on the 1850 and 1860 US census records in the household of his parents. He is nowhere to be found in 1870, where his daughter, Della, does appear with Frank’s mother Elise in Stark Co., Ohio. We know that he and Justine were married in Holmes Co. in 1871. Frank does not appear in the records for that county in the previous year. He and Justine, along with their children, do appear in the U.S. Census of 1880 in Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. Of course, there are no census records available for the U.S. census of 1890. Still, Kansas state census records are taken in the fifth year between the Federal accounting, and Frank’s name does not show on any Kansas state census records between 1885 and 1915. We do that he was in Colorado in 1890 because it was from there that he first petitioned the government for his Civil War pension.

It was in 1890 that the U.S. Congress first approved pensions for Civil War veterans. It appears that it took Frank several years to receive his pension finally. A document from the Bureau of Pensions dated October 25, 1893, states that the government could not find Frank Gaume on the rolls of either the 19th OVI or the 162nd OVI. According to the military service pension request filed with the U.S. government in the 1890s, Frank Gaume lived for a while in Fort Morgan, Morgan Co., Colorado. The pension request reads as follows:

State of Colorado, County Of Morgan – On this 31st day of July, A.D. one thousand eight hundred and ninety personally appeared before me Frank Gaume within and for the Count and State aforesaid, aged 47 years a resident of the town of Fort Morgan, County of Morgan, State of Colorado, who being duly sworn according to the law declares that he is the identical Frank Gome who was enrolled sometime in August, 1862 in Company I of the 19th Regiment of Ohio Infantry in the War of the Rebellion, and served at least ninety days and was honorably discharged at Nashville, Tennessee sometime in May of 1863. That he is unable to earn a support by reason of rupture in right side and also lost hearing of left ear while in service caused by the discharge of a gun at Stone River near Murfreesborough, Tennessee.

Frank is listed as a witness to his twin grandsons’ baptism in St. Mary’s, Kansas, in 1892, but between then and 1904, he seemed to have disappeared.

Frank’s wife, Justine, and some of their sons appear together in the U.S. Census of 1900, 1910, and 1920. She and their youngest son also appear on the Kansas state census of 1915. In each case, the family resides in Topeka, and in each case, Frank is missing from the record. What is curious is that for the census record of 1900, Justine is listed as a widow, but we know that Frank was not dead, and there is a record of him reapplying for his Civil pension in 1907, which he finally started receiving in 1912. The 1910 census record does show Justine as being married, but Frank is missing. So, did Frank Gaume just disappear for twenty years, and did his family think that he was dead in 1900?

What we know now is that sometime around 1900, Frank went to California. The census record that I recently found shows him living with his younger brother, Louis Gaume (1851-1928). It is believed that Frank and Louis were working together prospecting and mining in Colorado in the 1890s. Louis raised cattle in Weld County, Colorado, in the 1880s, and his daughter Lonnie was born there in 1883. He was the manager of a fruit cannery in 1900 Sacramento. Frank’s occupation that year is listed as a farm laborer.

U.S. Census 1900 Sacramento, California

I had previously learned that he was admitted to the old soldier’s home in 1904 at 61. This was eight years earlier than I had thought initially. Other information that I recently found confirms this and provides new information regarding his death in October 1917.

Here is an excerpt from the death registry showing that on October 9, 1917, Frank Gaume died at National Military Home in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

His personnel record shows that he was first admitted to the home on April 15, 1904.

The record shows that he died October 9, 1917 of a heart attack.

Also located in that same record is information that tells us that he died in the mess hall, that his wife, Justine Gaume was living in Topeka at the time, and it also gives the location of his burial plot.

Obituary of Frank Gaume from the Louisville (Ohio) Herald.

Louisville relative received the news of the death of Frank Gaume, which occurred at the soldier’s home near St. Mary’s, Kansas, last week. His age was seventy-three years. Mr. Gaume was born and raised near Louisville but moved to the West about thirty-five years ago. He is survived by seven children and the following sisters: Mrs. Stephen Saunier of St. Mary’s, Kan., Mrs. Constance Saunier of Weldona, Colo., Mrs. Eliza Voisard and Mrs. L.S. Menegay of Louisville. Funeral services were held last Thursday and interment was made in the cemetery in connection with the home.

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