It seems fitting that I will conclude this narrative of Anthony Hensler’s life on Memorial Day (Decoration Day in Anthony’s time). A veteran of the Civil War and a captive in one of the most abhorrent prisons in history, Anthony is, without question, among those to be remembered today. More than this, I would like to dedicate the memories I share in this chapter to Anthony Hensler, to his great nephew John R. Murphy, and to all of the resolute and courageous souls who served before and after.
The Cinderella story
A few questions remain outstanding in this search for the truth about my great-great grand uncle. Was he indeed the son of my 3rd great grandfather, Valentine? Is Arthur Fay and Anthony Hensler the same person? Finally - and perhaps most fascinating - did he marry his Cinderella?
The answers to these questions were at once explained and confirmed in the pages of his pension record. However, the composition of his life is much more vivid when painted by more than the words from a government record (indeed, who would want to be remembered based on the statements of a government pension auditor?!).
In previous posts, I’ve shared the overwhelming struggles that Anthony likely faced: an impoverished childhood, a tormented father and a young psyche filled with ghastly memories of war. However, not all was grim. If we assume, for the moment, that Arthur is Anthony, then he indeed found enjoyment - perhaps even love - in a young woman, 10 years his junior. On a sweltering June day in 1873, Arthur Fay and Cinderella Bromley were married by Rock Island Judge Samuel S. Guyer. Arthur was an employee of the Buford Plow Company and Cinderella the young daughter of an Englishman who also worked in a plow factory.
At the time of their marriage, Cinderella was a girl of 17, living with her widowed father in Moline Township, Illinois. One can imagine how Arthur, perhaps an associate of Cinderella’s father and brother, met the girl with the name of a princess.
Within a year of their nuptials, Cinderella and Arthur were expecting a child. Frederick Arthur Fay was born November 20, 1874. This boy would grow to know a different man as his father (Cinderella’s second husband, Frederick Hoppe), as Arthur sadly died in March of 1875 - a young man of 30. According to his pension record, he was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery in Moline, Illinois.
A resting place
If there is any doubt of the authenticity of Arthur’s and Cinderella’s marriage, there is one last piece of information that unequivocally demonstrates the connection between these two figures. During a recent trip to Rock Island County, I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours searching for the resting place of Arthur.
That day, I began my morning at the Rock Island County courthouse, requesting copies of marriage, birth, and death records for various family members of Cinderella. While I was able to acquire a handful of valuable documents, there was no death record on file for Arthur Fay or Anthony Hensler, or any combination of the two (recording of deaths began in 1878 in Rock Island County). My next stop was the expansive 62-acre Riverside Cemetery. Hoping for serendipity, I drove around (what appeared to be) the oldest parts of the cemetery for nearly an hour. With no luck - and only one hour remaining of research time - I headed to the Rock Island County library.
The librarian directed me to a small room that housed the microfilm and a few volumes on the history of Rock Island. As serendipity does, it came unexpectedly. On the very first shelf I glanced, I found a book titled, Riverside Cemetery, Moline, Illinois: Extract of Sexton Records 1873 - September 2011. Listed alphabetically, I opened the book to the F’s. And there was his name: Fay, Arthur. The book provided his exact plot in the Riverside Cemetery.
With time waning, I raced back along the Mississippi to the cemetery. This time, I called the sexton for assistance in locating Anthony’s gravesite. A very patient and helpful man, the sexton guided me over the phone to the northeast corner of Old Riverside Cemetery. I anxiously counted the rows and the headstones as instructed.
Disappointed, I did not find a stone for Arthur. The spot was empty.
And then, just as the sexton suggested that I look at nearby headstones for any familiar names, I spotted the one next to Arthur’s resting place:
It is difficult to read, but as I finally made out the name - nearly simultaneously - we read the names of those laid to rest next to Arthur Fay: Elizabeth and John Bromley.
Arthur was buried alongside the parents of his wife, Cinderella.
A closer look reveals that nearby is also buried Cinderella’s sister and brother-in-law. There is a family resting here. It is difficult to describe the feeling of finding the place where, after a life filled with tragedy and horror, Arthur (Anthony) found peace. I took a photograph, and, as with many things, the picture tells the story.
Finally, we come to the questions surrounding Anthony’s alias. And, if they were indeed the same person, was Anthony Valentine’s son? As I mentioned, these enigmas were solved upon review of Anthony’s pension record. Within the first few pages of the documents is an affidavit from Emma (Hensler) Sickler:
Here, Emma confirms that Anthony and Arthur are the same man. She also confirms that Anthony was not Valentine’s son: he was her half-brother.
In fact, I was able to find the answers to nearly all of my initial questions upon reading all 98 pages of letters and affidavits of the record, including Cinderella's eligibility for the widow's pension. Yet, these pages represent more than a year of correspondence with the Bureau of Pensions, multiple lawyers and several requests for affidavits from friends and family. In short, Cinderella went to great lengths to prove that she was the wife of Arthur Fay and that he was, indeed, the same Anthony Hensler.
The extensive investigation was concluded with brief notes from the Board of Review in the Bureau of Pensions:
“…as soldier’s mother, Theresa Fay, says she was not married before she married Valentine Hensler, it is probable that soldier was illegitimate and the reason for his two names…”
And, mystery solved.
Lisa Medina, here to share the history of families - one story at a time. .
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