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John Hilyard Family ca. 1909

Friday, January 23, 2015

My Family in the Civil War, Part Six: William Henry Harrison Reck

This is the sixth in a series on my Civil War ancestors.

William Henry Harrison Reck, 69th Regiment Ohio Infanty, Company D and 19th Regiment Veterans Reserve Corps Company G

Harrison Reck began an application for pension in 1891. He claimed he was disabled by rheumatism, a shoulder injury, and weak eyes. His physical exam noted he was 5'7" and weighed 138 lbs. at age 55. The rheumatism and weak eyes, he claimed, began during his time in service and increased in severity over time. In fact, by today's standards, Harrison was legally blind. From the doctor's description, this is probably not due to any injury he received but rather progressive myopia. The surgeon's report in 1901 noted Harrison used a cane because his vision was so poor.

The shoulder injury is documented carefully. Harrison was riding a horse on September 3rd, 1889, and was thrown, dislocating his shoulder. Though this had nothing to do with his service, it was considered in his pension application.

Squire Hathaway, a close neighbor of the Recks, testified: "I know that said claimant has been suffering severely with Rheumatism, at various times he would be confined to his house from 2 to 3 & some times 4 weeks at a time."

John Clapper, a young carpenter, had this to say: "[I] have worked on buildings in his immediate neighborhood & worked as a carpenter on the building of a of which said Wm. H. Reck was serving as Building Committee...& know that he was suffering from what he said was Rheumatism to such an extent that at times when we would want directions I would have to go and see him as he was unable to come out although the building was in less distance than 1/4 of a mile from his house."

I admire that even though he was nearly blind and so crippled by back pain he couldn't get out of bed at times, Harrison Reck continued to serve on committees and oversee building projects. He wanted to stay busy and connected to his community.

William Harrison and Catharine (Murphy) Reck

Harrison and Catharine Reck had seven children. They lost their son Charles in an accident in 1893. They, along with four of their adult children--David, John, Martha, and Perry, made a big move to California sometime in the early 1900s. My great-grandmother Jennie and her sister Angie stayed behind in the midwest.

I will leave you with some excerpts from a letter Catharine wrote to her daughter Jennie, my great-grandmother back in Indiana after the death of Harrison. The letter is dated December 14, 1909, a month after Harrison's death.

"Dear Daughter Jennie, Marion and Family, I will write you a few lines to let you know how we are. Martha and I are keeping house together. I have about 50 chickens young and old together. Martha is packing lemons today and expects to pack oranges after the first of January. We both have pretty good health. We have nice weather now, after the rain everything is green and seems like summer, or spring rather where the grass starts to grow, just before the trees put out their blossoms. Next month the wild flowers will be blooming.

"I want to tell you more about Pap’s sickness and death. I don’t know how much Martha told you. I didn’t think she would tell you all. He suffered awfully for a year, first one thing and another getting wrong with him. As soon as one disease let up, he was stricken with some else. He had that cough only worse like he always had. His heart was awful weak. He had dropsy in his legs and it left them and went to his stomach a couple of weeks before he died. He had between 2-3 gallons of water in his stomach. He had to take a teaspoon of cream of tartar and 2 of salts three times a day. Then he had brights disease, his kidneys would not work anymore. He got out of bed on Saturday after laying up for nearly a month. He sat out on the front porch. Then he stayed up and was able to walk outside. 

"But on Wednesday night he got to feeling bad about 10 o’clock and again morning his left side was paralyzed and had a hemorrhage in the right side of his head. He kept on getting paralyzed a little at a time till Friday morning he could not move anywhere. He would not talk nor open his eyes. He only coughed and strangled and choked. He could not take a drop of water from Friday till Sunday morning about 10 o’clock when he died. He went just like blowing out a candle. He looked so nice after suffering so hard. He had a lovely smile on his face. He took sacrament about 2 weeks before he died and told the preacher he was ready to go. He wanted to see you so bad. One night when he realized he was never to get well again, he cried like a child and said he wanted to see you and Angie once more. But you can see him again in a better world. He has passed through what we all have to do sooner or later. He is resting in a nice spot in Olivewood Cemetery. I waited on him day and night when he needed attention and he didn’t seem to want anyone else. But toward the last, John & Dave & Perry stayed constantly by his side. John seemed to stand it the best, and done more about him, he was a helpless as a child...

"I send you my love and best wishes to all. From your loving mother, Catherine Reck"

I love that line, "He went just like blowing out a candle." My heart breaks for the father and daughters that didn't get to see each other at the end, but Harrision was surrounded by his other four children and wife, caring for him until the last.

Harrison and Catharine are buried in Olivewood Cemetery in Riverside, California. I was able to locate their graves while living in nearby San Bernardino in the early 1990s.

William and Catharine Reck graves, Olivewood Cemetery, Riverside, California

This ends my direct ancestors' involvement in the Civil War. I may do posts on brothers and sons of my ancestors who also fought, at a later time. Thank you for reading along.

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