Months and months ago, back when I just suspected, rather than knew, that Tubal Keen was my 3X great-grandfather, I downloaded his Revolutionary War pension file from Fold3. I haven’t yet delved into the records in the file, so I think now, in light of this week’s prompt, is a good time.
Fold3 is a genealogy website that focuses on military records. I don’t have a membership, so I took advantage of a free weekend’s access. I really was just using a shotgun approach to research, so in addition to Tubal’s file, I downloaded a few other likely prospects. And, it paid off.
If you remember, a while back, I found the will of Sarah Ruck Keen, Tubal’s widow. (I have a marriage record for them.) In her will, all four of her children are named. That was the link that tied Washington E. Keen to his hard-to-find father, Tubal. You can see the generations between him and me in the graphic below.
Tubal was born in Pembroke, Massachusetts, circa 1756, the son of Francis Keen, Sr. and Margaret Hunt Keen. He was the right age and in the thick of things when war broke out between England and the colonies, a prime candidate for Revolutionary War service.
Below is the first page of his pension file. It confirms that he served in Massachusetts in the Navy.
The second page of the file contains information about his service and the outcome of his pension application:
Tubal Keen, of Boston in the state of Massachusetts, who was a Midshipman on board the frigate Dean commanded by Capt. S. Nicholson, for the term of 2 years.
His application was approved:
Inscribed on the Roll of Massachusetts at the rate of 8 Dollars per month, to commence on the 3rd of April, 1818.
The third page repeats his service details, but also adds “Invalid” at the top of the page.
The page below is a copy of his testimony as to his service, but it’s dated June 24, 1820. It appears that he was granted pension funds in arrears, based on the dates and notes on the page above.
The handwriting is hard to read. But here is a transcription of the majority of the document as near as I can get:
On the Twenty fourth day of the June, 1820, personally appeared, in open Court, being a Court of Record, viz. a special District Court of the United States for the said District, Tubal Keene aged sixty seven years, resident in Boston in the County of Suffolk, in said District, Mariner, who being first duly sworn according to law, doth on his oath declare, that he served in the Revolutionary War, as follows:
As a private in the company commanded by Captain (?) in the regiment commanded Co. (?) Massachusetts line of the army three years and six months afterward as a midshipman on board the Frigate Dean Captain Nicholson which (?)was subsequently call the Hague and commanded by Capt. (?) this declaration was dated the 26 April 1818. His pension certificate is ? 6457 and dated January 30th 1819.
And, I do solemnly swear, that I was a resident citizen of the United States, on the 18th day of March, 1818; and that I have not, since that time, by gift, sale, or in any manner, disposed of my property, or any part thereof, with intent thereby to diminish it, as to bring myself within the provisions of an Act of Congress, entitled “An Act to provide for certain persons, engaged in the Land and naval Service of the United States, int Revolutionary War,” passed on the 18th day of March, 1818; and that I have not, nor has any person in trust for me, any property, or securities, contracts, or debts, due to me; nor have I any income, other than what is contained in the schedule hereto annexed, and by me subscribed.
X (his mark)
Sworn to and declared, on the twenty fourth day of June A.D. 1820
The next page is an accounting of the possessions of Tubal:
Schedule of property belonging to the subscriber (?) late a midshipman in the United States Navy
Real Estate. None.
Personal Estate. None.
Occupation a laborer but unable to work in consequence of old age and infirmities, having had my left leg and arm broken (?).
Family. I have none.
X His mark
Well, that’s interesting. At this time, he had four living children and a wife, Sarah. Hummm…
The file also includes a letter of testimony as to his service in the war:
The letter reads:
District of Massachusetts
I Tubal Keen of Boston in the County of Suffolk Commonwealth of Massachusetts laborer of the age of sixty three years a native citizen and resident in the United States an application for a pension under the law of the United States do before you oath declare that in the month of January in the year 1781 I enlisted as a midshipman in the Navy of the United States and was attached to the Dale Frigate afterwards called the Hague under Captain Samuel Nicholson. That I served two years and two months in the capacity and after the declaration of peace I was honorably discharged. Our first cruise was in the West Indies coast where we captured many prizes- as was also our (?) . Captain Manley was commander as the time after peace took place. My discharge was destroyed by fire in a house which was hired by me about seven years since, and which was burned to the ground in Boston. I further testify and declare that my circumstances are much reduced and I am in extreme poverty and in need of aid from my country for support.
(Signed) Tubal Keen
The letter is signed by a district judge and also includes a declaration of the ship’s surgeon as to the veracity of Tubal’s testimony.
The remaining pages in the file are official court documents that show the approval of his application.
Just a few years later, Tubal died in the Boston Almshouse:
Tubal died on June 12, and he was buried June 13, 1821. His cause of death was “Liver Complaint.” The last columns list the undertaker and the grave position in the cemetery.
A sad end and a bit of a puzzler, too. Sarah, his widow, had enough property to execute a will for her children and to provide care for a granddaughter. Yet, Tubal seems to have died penniless and alone. It warrants more research. But, that will have to wait for another day.
‘Til next time.