Photo provided by www.homeofheroes.com




Memorial to Medal of Honor Recipient, Benjamin C. Criswell
Marshall County Courthouse

Memorial Day - Moundsville, W.Va., 1999

The Intelligencer, June 1, 1999

Submitted by Phyllis Dye Slater.

In Moundsville, the Moundsville Veterans Honor Guard VFW Post 437, the Moundsville Junior High School band and local politicians joined residents in front of the Marshall County Courthouse for a Memorial Day service and a plaque dedication honoring Benjamin C. Criswell.

Criswell was born in Marshall County in 1849 and enlisted in the Army on May 30, 1870. In five years, he rose in rank from private to first sergeant. He later earned a Medal of Honor for his bravery during a battle against the Sioux Indians on the Little Big Horn River in Montana.

Criswell received the Medal of Honor for returning to the river, under heavy fire, to rescue a fallen soldier. The wounded man was shot again and killed after Criswell helped him ashore on the opposite bank, but even as his fellow troops retreated, Criswell went back again to retrieve the man's body and to gather as many saddle bags of ammunition as he could carry. Criswell's bravery earned him much recognition, and his name can be found in numerous archival records and on memorials at several sites around the country. However, before yesterday, no official recognition of his accomplishments existed in Marshall County.

Because Memorial Day 1999 marked the 129th anniversary of the date that Criswell enlisted in Army, Marshall County officials believed the time was right to honor his military service with a permanent memorial to be displayed at the Marshall County Courthouse. The recogition will fit nicely with several other war memorials, including a monument and fountain dedicated to American veterans of all wars, Civil War cannons and a large wall display listing the names of all Marshall County residents who served the armed forces in war time.


By Linda Cunningham Fluharty

      BENJAMIN C. CRISWELL was born February 9, 1849, in Marshall County, (West) Virginia, probably in or near Cameron, since the family lived in Liberty District. In two documents in his pension file, he stated he was born in Cameron; in one, he said the location was Moundsville. The compiled biography at www/homeofheroes.com selected Moundsville as his place of birth, and the author of the book, Men With Custer:: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry used both locations (see below). The www.homeofheroes.com site also gives his hometown as Cincinnati. The most reliable sources should be the statements made by Criswell but they are ambiguous.

     The parents of Benjamin were John and Margaret (Burrows) Criswell, who were married in West Alexander, Washington County, Pennsylvania on August 19, 1832. Benjamin was in the home in 1850 but was not listed in the 1860 census, at which time the family lived in or near Cameron. The parents continued to reside near Cameron, in Liberty District, according to the 1870 and 1880 census records.

1850 Marshall County Census
Sarah A...17-F...VA
Keziah Jane...5-F...VA
William H. H...3-M...VA

     During the Civil War, John Criswell, Sr. and some of his sons served in the 6th West Virginia Infantry. Son, William H. H. Criswell, served in Company "B" of the 12th West Virginia Infantry.

     Benjamin C. Criswell, 27, married Jennie Ross, 18, in Marshall County on November 1, 1877. However, that is not specifically reflected in the information contained in his pension file from the National Archives.

     Benjamin and Jennie Criswell are found in the 1880 Census of Dallas, Texas:

Beng. CRISWELL Self M Male W 30 WV Hotel Prop. VA VA
Jennie CRISWELL Wife M Female W 20 VA Housekeeper VA VA
Florence CRISWELL Dau S Female W 2M MO VA VA

     Two more children, Fred and Pearl, were born to Benjamin and Jennie after the 1880 census.

     Although Benjamin's widow, Anna (Hall) Criswell, stated in her pension application that Benajmin was previously married to one woman who died in 1897 in Grant, Oklahoma (formerly Indian Territory) and another who died at Ft. Smith, Arkansas "about 20 years ago," Benjamin lists only one previous marriage. He stated he was married to Ella Evans, maiden name Ross, on August 16, 1896 and her death occurred at Grant, Ind. Ty., on November 2, 1898.

     Ella Ross married Lincoln Evans, the son of John Evans and Angeline Criswell, in Marshall County on September 6, 1885. Angeline was the daughter of John Criswell and Margaret Burrows and was the sister of Benjamin*. Ella was the second wife of Benjamin Criswell and she was the sister of his first wife, Jennie Ross. - Lincoln Evans, born about 1865, was a newlywed in the 1900 census of Marshall County. If he was Ella's first husband, then she was not a widow as claimed by Benjamin in his pension application. Perhaps she was divorced, instead.

     Jennie (Ross) Criswell died before August 16, 1896, at which time Benjamin married Ella (Ross) Evans. Their son, Robert, was born in September 1897 and Ella died November 2, 1898.

     At the time of the 1900 census of the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, Benjamin, a farmer, was residing with his son, Fred, born Feb 1885; daughter, Pearl, born Feb 1892, and son, Robert. Also in the home was Elsie* Evans, "daughter," born December 1886, evidently Ella's daughter from her previous marriage. [There was also a Mattie Collins, a widow, born in Texas in September 1876. She is listed as a housekeeper; relationship illegible.]

     On October 1, 1901, Benjamin C. Criswell, married Anna (Hall) Mastion (also Maston), who was either divorced or a widow, according to the pension records. Their children were Benjamin Theodore, Charles H., Margaret, Marie and Bert C. Their dates of birth are shown on Page 2 of the pension file pages below.

     The Criswells were living in Arriola, Montezuma County, Colorado in 1910. Benjamin C., 60, married three times, and wife Annie B., 31, married twice, had been married 7 years. Annie had given birth to 4 children, three of whom were living. With them in 1910 were Robert E., 12; Theodore B., 5; Charles H., 3 and Leona M., age 1 1/2. Leona M. must be "Margaret" in other records. As mentioned previously, Robert was the son of Benjamin and his second wife, Ella.

     In 1920, the Criswell family lived in Everidge, Choctaw County, Oklahoma. With Benjamin and Anna were their children Charles, Margaret, Marie and Bert, the last three born in Colorado. Benjamin died October 17, 1921.

     Following Benjamin's death, Annie Criswell applied for a widow's pension, as well as a pension for her minor children. She wrote a letter in October 1921 and then filed a formal application on December 1, 1921. In a letter dated January 9, 1922, the Pension Office asked that Annie provide proof of the marital histories, divorces, and deaths of spouses. That was the last document related to her claim; she did not proceed and no certificate was issued.


Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5

From Men with Custer: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry; by Kenneth M. Hammer, June 25, 1876
Revised by Ronald H. Nichols; published by Custer Battlefield Historical and Museum Association, 2000.


Photo & book page provided by Kathy Johnson.


Provided by Forrest Aurentz.

     When Congress authorized the new design for the Army version of the Medal of Honor, Criswell applied for this new medal. He had to provide proof of an honorable discharge. Due to a home fire, he provided information for a new discharge that is more detailed than the information in other documents.

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5

For more information about this Criswell Family,
submitted by Sylvia Sligar.

* - Info provided by Sam Criswell.

Special thanks to Gail Yoho for the beautiful pictures!

Research & webpage by Linda Cunningham Fluharty.