John Boans

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John was born 29 March 1825 in Swineshead, Lincolnshire, England[1]. His parents' names are currently unknown.

His Life

Marriage and Family

Detail of ME Church, Spring Brook from a larger map
Detail of ME Church, Spring Brook from a larger map

John married his wife, Elizabeth Jane May, 29 July 1849, in Springbrook, Erie, New York[1]. In 1856 Springbrook became a hamlet within the town of Elma[2]. According to John's pension file, they were married by a Reverend Bush, the Methodist Episcopal minister of the Springbrook church. Witnesses were Ann May Besse, John Curtis May, and Robert May.

Spring Brook is located somewhat Southeast of the city of Buffalo, New York.

John and Elizabeth had at least four children:

Maria Ann Boans, born 10 Jul 1857
Eva Boans, born 22 Jul 1860
Edward Albert Boans, born 24 Jan 1864
Justin Childs Boans, born 10 Jun 1866

Civil War Military Service & A Family Rift

John was drafted to the 47th Infantry Regiment Illinois, Company A, Unit 370, and served from 15 October 1864 to 20 July 1865. He was one of 200 drafted men who joined the 47th on 28 November 1864. From Illinois the regiment was moved in January of 1865 to Nashville, then to Mississippi. It moved to New Orleans, then to Mobile Bay, where it participated in the battle at Spanish Fort, AL, in the latter part of March, 1865[3].

Of their time in New Orleans, Edward Mann, a tent-mate of John's wrote (in a testimony for John's pension claim):

We were in the same tent at New Orleans, latter part of Feby. 1865 when he (John) was quite sick, being somewhat a home doctor and having a dislike for the hospital, he sent for medicine and doctored himself and as we were not in active service and only waiting transportation to Mobile, he got along well and was about in a few days.[1]

It was on the march to Montgomery, Alabama in March of 1865 that John, according to his messmate, contracted dysentary and piles (also known as hemorrhoids).

According to the captain of the company, Royal Olmsted, John's gun and knapsack had to be hauled during the march because of his condition. He testified in 1899:

It was either at Bowling Green or during the trip on the boat from Nashville to Mobile that he complained of diarrhoea. I recollect his complaining of piles later on after the siege of Mobile on the march from Mobile to Montgomery, Ala. I had his gun and accoutrements carried for him for a couple of days on that march. He was not hauled in the ambulance, but marched in the ranks. ... While on the steamer coming down the Mississippi from Nashville to New Orleans and from New Orleans to Mobile we had very little chance to cook our meals, and the rations on that account were very unhealthful to say the least. During the siege of Mobile the rations we had were about what we generally had, pretty slim without any vegetables.[1]

Another soldier and acquaintance (Henry White, who was neighborly and friends with the Boans prior to the war) testified in the pension papers that the company was "much exposed to cold rains" during their time in Alabama, when John "took a severe cold and his comrades noticed that his hearing was defective. In a short time," White said, John could not hear anything unless the other soldiers "hallooed loud into his ears."

A former bunk and messmate, Daniel W. Wonderly, testified in 1900:

I do not remember when or where he first had dysentery. I think while in the rear of Mobile, just before beginning the fight on Spanish Fort. He complained of dysentery a good bit. He was a man that complained a good deal.[1]

John testified to his experiences in the war himself on 13 September 1886, when he wrote in his pension claim deposition:

About the middle of December 1864 we left Springfield for St. Louis, Mo. The weather was very diagreeable and cold. When we got to St. Louis we were put in the barracks. The weather being very cold the barracks were kept as hot as an oven. We staid [sic] at St. Louis about a wk and then we were ordered to Louisville, Ky. We went on board of the boat and I lay all night in the lower deck with but one blanket. When we arrived at Louisville, we were ordered to Bowling Green, Ky. arriving there a few days before Christmas about 9 oclk at night. I slept in the platform that night with only one blanket and the next morning I was covered with snow. It had been raining in the for part of the night and snowing in the latter part. When I woke up in the morniong I had a severe cold in my head and believe that is when my catarrh set in. ... During the siege of Mobile, Ala. I reported to sick call. I don't know who the physician was or the command he belonged to but I think it was either 20th Wis. or 8th Wis. He asked me what was the matter with me and I told him I had hemorrhoids and dysentary. Confound him he gave me whiskey and castor oil. [1]

John was discharged with distinguished service on 20 July 1865. Prior to his discharge he had been detailed to a position as company clerk, as his bowel and hearing conditions prevented him from serving in other positions, including guard duty. According to his civil war pension applications, John was left hard of hearing from the war, and also suffered terribly from bowel issues for the rest of his life, as well as lost all of his teeth. His deafness, apparently caused by a cattarhic infection, worsened throughout his life until he was almost totally deaf.

John began receiving a pension in 1888: $22 per month for disability of deafness in both ears. His pension was suspended in 1902, after a review of his pension uncovered the possibility that he had suffered from hearing issues prior to his service time in the war. This position was supported by his brother-in-law, Robert May, with whom John shared "ill will". Charles B. Dilley, a special examiner on John's pension case, wrote in 1901:

The pensioner does not like his brother-in-law, Robert May, and they have not been on good terms since before the war, but even then he would not say May wilfully made a false statement.[1]

John himself testified in 1901:

Robert May was and is my brother-in-law, but we did not associate at all for two years before the time we were both drafted.

Information on the rift is found in a pension commissioner report dated 15 May 1905:

Robert May is a brother-in-law of this affiant (John Boans), but that for many years there has been ill will between them, That this affiant has had no dealings with said May since the death of Mays mother about 1855, that at one time this affiant had a search warrant issued for property of his which some of the family were wrongfully detaining, and a new harness, the property of this affiant was found, boxed, under the bed in the house of said May's sister, and said Robert May returned certain other property for which his own house was about to be searched. That said affiant believes that said Robert May willfully and maliciously testified falsely in said special examination, for the purpose of injuring this affiant and depriving of his pension.[1]

John's pension was eventually reduced to $12 per month for deafness and senile debility.

Residences and Occupations

John's first known residence in the United States was in New York state. Information on his immigration and early locations of residence are currently unknown.

According to his pension papers, prior to the Civil War, John was residing with his family about 3 1/2 miles Northwest of Atkinson, Henry County, Illinois, where he worked as a farmer. Among John's pension papers we find the names of friends and acquaintances from Atkinson, of whom many are among the town's earliest settlers: Asa Crook, the Fanes family, the Besse family (into which John's sister-in-law Ann had married), and the Wonderly family.

John resided outside of Atkinson from about 1858, working as a farmer, until he moved to Geneseo close to the end of 1863, where he pursued work as a nurseryman. John's move to Geneseo was precipitated by his sale of his 40 acres outside of Atkinson to Geo. E. Waite, who included in his payment six acres of land within incorporated Geneseo. It was on these six acres that John built a house and planted his nursery. It was here that John was living when he went to serve in the war in 1864.

On 08 June 1871, John went to Butler County, Nebraska, apparently along with four other families from Geneseo (according to pension testimony given by Dr. S. T. Hume; two of the other families were perhaps the Day and Verity families). In November of that year, he returned to his family in Geneseo, Illinois. 20 April 1872, he returned to Butler County, Nebraska, where he intended to start a nursery.

A social item from the 02 August 1871 Platte Journal, of Columbus, Nebraska states:

"Mr. John Boans, of Henry county, Illinois, favored us with a call on Wednesday of last week. He has selected a farm in Butler county, Neb., and intends moving to it in the fall, or next spring. He informs us that he will engage extensively in the nursery and flower business. Truly, his seventy-five varieties of tulips in full bloom, would be a charming sight to behold. We wish him great success."

During the summer of 1871, a resident on this homestead section was George Washington Burgess, who married John's daughter Maria on 26 Sep 1875, in Rising City.

An ad for John Boans' nursery, published in 1872. According to the ad, John was selling ornamental and evergreen trees, fruit trees, shrubs and flowers.
An ad for John Boans' nursery, published in 1872. According to the ad, John was selling ornamental and evergreen trees, fruit trees, shrubs and flowers. [4]

His family joined him in Nebraska in November of 1872[1] .

On 15 October, 1879, he moved to Rising City, Butler, Nebraska[1] .

In December, 1884 he moved to Garner Station, White County, Arkansas, selling his land in Nebraska in order to move to "a more even and moister climate, believing that it would... make life more endurable and might benefit his catarrhic disease" (pension testimony of neighbors AP Day and DO Verity)[1] .

In March 1885, he moved to Beebe, White, Arkansas, where he resided until 15 February 1886[1] .

In the Spring of 1886, he relocated to Gum Log, Pope, Arkansas[1] .

John moved to Arkansas City, Cowley, Kansas about 1892, and was residing there when the Kansas state census was conducted on 01 March 1895. On the 27th of April, 1899 he was residing at #602 South 5th Street, Arkansas City, Cowley, Kansas, where he worked in a grocery store.

Death and Burial

John died 19 May 1913 in Arkansas City, Cowley, Kansas[5]. He is buried in the Parker/Prairie View Cemetery, Cowley, KS.

Gravestone of John Boans
Gravestone of John Boans


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 John Boans Civil War Pension Application.
  2. See:
  3. American Civil War Regiments. Online at
  4. Ad published in The Platte Journal, Columbus, Nebraska, Wednesday 15 May 1872, Page 1, Column 2
  5. Original Certificate of Death, John Boans
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