Dinah Sands, widow of Edward Sands (W16148) of New Hampshire, applied for pension benefits after her husband's death on August 19, 1824. She applied for a pension fourteen years after his death, under the Pension Law of 1838.
During the application process, she ran into difficulties proving that her marriage was legal. In her affidavit before the Merrimack County court, she stated that she married in Chichester in October 1793, but she had no written proof of this fact. Her application contained a letter written on her behalf that explained why there was no record, and also supported her claim.
Nathaniel Sherburne, Town Clerk of Chichester, in his July 25th, 1839 letter to J. L. Edwards, Commissioner of Pensions in Washington, DC, explained that the Reverend Josiah Carpenter did not record any marriages he performed in the early years of his ministry. Although he served as a minister from October 1, 1791 to 1826, he did not begin to record marriages until 1813. Thus all couples in Chichester that he married, including the African American bride and groom, Edward Sands and Dinah Heart, had no written record of their marriage. Reverend Carpenter however was still living in 1839, and he stated to the town clerk that he recalled marrying the Sands couple in Chichester in a “certain house” in 1793.
The letter supplied sufficient evidence for pension officials to approve Dinah Sands’ claim. This document exemplifies one of the difficulties faced by widows attempting to document their marriage with written proof.