On April 1, 1891, with the passage of Act 91, Arkansas became one of the first southern states to grant annual pensions to Ex-confederate servicemen and their widows. Arkansas and other states, by common consent, had agreed that pensions for C.S.A. service would be granted by the state in which the veteran or his widow lived at the time of application rather than by the state from which he served. Almost 50,000 Arkansas received pensions for Civil War service under this program from 1891 until the creation of the State Department of Public Welfare in 1939. After that date pensions were administered by that agency. Act 91 created a State Pension Board and seventy-five local pension boards, one in each county. These boards oversaw the granting of all pensions. Information in this index is abstracted from the records created by the State Pension Board. They date from 1891 to 1936 and were kept by the State Auditor. The original index was made in 1935-1936 by the Works Progress Administration. All of these records are now at the Arkansas State Archives.
Initially, only “indigent” or disable, “honorably discharged” veterans or unmarried “indigent” widows of veterans, who lived in Arkansas for twelve months prior to applying, were eligible. In 1915 needy widows who had re-married, but who were born before 1878 and widowed mothers of veterans – few actually applied – became eligible. A definition of “indigency,” as one owning less than $500 worth in real estate or having an annual income of less than $250, was added to the law. In 1937 widows marrying veterans before 1927 became eligible. However, as of 1939, these widows had to have been born before 1870. Upon a veterans death, his widow automatically became eligible for his pension. During the 1920s and 1930s it was not unusual for members of the Arkansas General assembly to add individuals to the pension rolls without regard to their qualifications. In such cases there may or may not have been a pension file created.
From 1891 until 1915 the annual pension payment was $25.00. After 1915 the amount was raised to $100.00. However, due to inadequate funding, pensioners often received much less. Applications were submitted to the local pension boards before July 1 each year. Payment in the form of State Treasury Warrants were mailed out once a year after September 1. They were not sent directly to individuals but to the local board which distributed them.
A typical pension file contains an application form, a doctor’s certificate of disability, and sworn statements from two “comrades in arm.” After 1927 widows submitted additional biographical inform. Original discharges, paroles, letters, or other family documents are occasionally found in these files. Inmates of the Arkansas Confederate Home were eligible for any pensions.