Last recognized widow of Union veteran in Civil War dies at 93
BLAINE, Tenn. -- Gertrude Janeway, the last widow of a Union veteran from the Civil War, has died in the three-room log cabin where she lived most of her life. She was 93.
Bedridden for years, she died Friday, more than six decades after the passing of the man she called the love of her life, John Janeway, who married her when he was 81 and she was barely 18.
"She was a special person," said the Rev. Leonard Goins, who officiated at her funeral Sunday.
"Gertie, as she was called, had a vision beyond that (cabin) that kept her going. She never had any wavering or doubt in her salvation. She was strong in that," he said.
She was to be buried Monday near her husband's slender military tombstone at tiny New Corinth Church cemetery.
An honorary member of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Mrs. Janeway was the last recognized Union widow. She received a $70 check each month from the Veterans Administration.
Still alive is Confederate widow Alberta Martin, 95, of Elba, Ala.
Mrs. Janeway, who lived her whole life in Blaine, about 30 miles north of Knoxville, was born 44 years after the Civil War ended.
In a 1998 interview, she said her husband rarely spoke about the war.
"He says the nighest he ever got to gettin' killed was when they shot a hole through his hat brim," she said, but he never told her where that happened.
Her husband was a 19-year-old Grainger County farm boy who ran away to enlist in 1864 after being encouraged by a group of Union horse soldiers that he met on his way to a Blount County grist mill.
He sent his horse home and signed up under the surname January because "he was afraid his people would come and claim him," Mrs. Janeway said.
Two months later, he was captured by Confederates near Athens, Ga. He was later released and rejoined his unit, the 14th Illinois Cavalry. After the war, he spent many years in California before returning home to Tennessee and meeting then 16-year-old Gertrude.
Mrs. Janeway said her mother refused to sign papers to let her marry him before she turned 18. "So my man says, 'Well, I will wait for her until you won't have to,"' she recalled. "We sparked for three years."
She remembered getting married in the middle of a dirt road in 1927 with family and friends gathered around. He bought her the cabin in 1932 and it was there that he died in 1937, at 91, from pneumonia.
"After he died, why it just seemed like a part of me went down under the ground with him," she said in the 1998 interview. "He is the only one I ever had. There wasn't anybody else."