Moose River and Otter Lake

When Dad and I made our first family history trip together in August 1992, we knew next to nothing about the family of our ancestor Arthur Bull — the father of Eva (Bull) Charboneau, my dad’s paternal grandmother. In fact, we didn’t even know he had fought with the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War.

DadOtterLakeAug1992img093(2)_2
Aug. 1992: Norman J. Charboneau in his Otter Lake home town. Dad is standing at the edge of Otter Lake, in Town of Forestport, Oneida Co., N.Y., during our first family history trip together. The group of pines in the background was planted decades before by my grandfather, William Ray Charboneau. Photo by Molly Charboneau

All we had in hand was a copy of the 1880 U.S. Census showing that the Bull family, with Arthur at its head, lived in the Town of Lyondsale, Lewis County, N.Y. — and he worked as a tannery foreman.

One of our goals, besides visiting where Dad grew up, was to find out more about Arthur and our other Bull ancestors. And it was on that trip that I first saw Moose River.

Driving north on Route 28, Dad initially passed right through his hometown of Otter Lake (in Town of Forestport, Oneida Co., N.Y.) because he wanted to start our journey at the old McKeever train station.

Dad pulled the car onto a sun dappled forest ledge with a clear view of the vacant station below — a lovely building that is now a renovated stop on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. There, he gave me a lively rundown on how McKeever bustled with passengers during his youth.

Then the problem arose of how to get the car off the overlook and back onto the road — and I was suddenly transported back trips from my childhood with Dad at the wheel.

He nearly pitched us over the edge trying to do a k-turn in the narrow space — his face reddening by the minute. Glancing over the edge of the precipice, I had a fleeting thought that our family history trip might end right there.

But much like the dodgy car maneuvers I remembered from years before, Dad somehow managed to turn the car and, sending an avalanche of dirt from the soft shoulder down toward the station, headed us safely south to Otter Lake.

First view of Moose River

Back on the road, Dad calmed down and at one point cocked his head and said, “That’s Moose River over there.” I looked out the window at the narrow river, with its gravelly shoreline bordered by trees and no evidence of habitation or industry. It seemed like a place that time forgot, yet it was still touched by world events.

“My mother was riding in the car heading north from Moose River to Otter Lake when she heard the start of World War II announced on the radio,” Dad added, another of the spontaneous tidbits he regularly shared about my paternal grandmother.

Because of his brief comment, Moose River stuck in my mind — and the memory returned to me when I later made the surprising discovery that Arthur Bull and his family once lived in Moose River Settlement, just a stone’s throw from Otter Lake.

Exactly how close was it? Stay tuned for maps in the next post.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A Lyonsdale loss

Fifth and last in a series tracking my ancestor Arthur Bull’s family from the Catskills to the Adirondack foothills (1870-1875).

Three generations of my Bull ancestors — my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull, his wife and children, and his parents — appear to have moved north together from Broome County on New York’s Southern Tier to Lewis County in the Adirondacks region.

http://digitalcollections.archives.nysed.gov/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/220
Distant view of a 600-tree maple sugar bush near Lowville, Lewis Co., N.Y. (1911). The landscape and climate in New York’s North Country marked a change from what the Bull family was used to on the Southern Tier. Perhaps the harsher 1875 winter proved too much for my great, great, great grandmother Mary Bull. Image: New York State Archives Digital Collections

The Bulls seem to have pulled up stakes in late 1874, after the marriage of Arthur’s oldest daughter in Binghamton, N.Y.

For by early 1875 the extended family was already in Town of Lyonsdale, Lewis Co., N.Y. at the time of the next major event in their lives — the death of Arthur’s mother, Mary, at Moose River Settlement on 15 Jan. 1875.

Vital records registration was not required in New York State until 1881, so I have not found a death certificate for my great, great, great grandmother Mary Bull.

However, a notice of her death and burial (141 years ago this month) appeared in the Broome Republican and was abstracted in the book Genealogical gleanings from early Broome County, New York newspapers (1812-1880) abstracted and compiled by Maurice R. Hitt, Jr. — yet another clue my dad and I discovered together at the Onondaga County Public Library.

BULL, Mary [BR, 27 Jan. 1875] Died 15 Jan. at Moore [sic] River, Lewis Co., NY: Mary Bull, wife of Jeremiah Bull. Age: 65 yrs. 5 mo. 8 da. Bur. in the Shawsville Cem., Conklin, NY.

The abstract does not say whether my ancestor Mary Bull’s funeral took place in Lewis County (where she died) or in Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. (where she lived for much of her adult life and was buried).

But I have visited my great, great, great grandmother’s grave in Shawsville Cemetery, and the inscription on her stone is consistent with the date in the newspaper abstract.

MARY
WIFE OF
JEREMIAH BULL
DIED JAN. 15, 1875
Aged 65 y’rs & 5 m’s.

Mary’s death must have been particularly difficult for the Bull family, coming so soon after they moved north in search of a better life. Was the relocation too much for her? Had the harsher winter weather laid her low? Once again I long for family letters or a diary to fill in these personal details.

With Mary’s death, my great, great, great grandfather Jeremiah Bull became a widower. According to the 1875 New York State Census for Town of Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y. — enumerated on 7 June — he took up residence in a boarding house in the village of Hawkinsville, N.Y., and at age 70 returned to work as a tanner.

The Bull family surely mourned the loss of my great, great, grandmother Mary Bull. But before long they had a happier occasion to celebrate — the 1876 birth at Moose River Settlement of Arthur and Mary Elizabeth’s eighth child, daughter Alice Istora Bull.

More on my Bull ancestors at Moose River Settlement in the next post.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A new Lewis County location

Fourth in a series tracking my ancestor Arthur Bull’s family from the Catskills to the Adirondack foothills (1870-1875).

Some time between the 1874 marriage of his daughter Emma  in Binghamton, Broome Co., N.Y., and the 1875 New York State census, my ancestor Arthur Bull once again relocated with his family — this time to New York’s Adirondack foothills for a tannery job in the state’s still-forested North Country.

Bing Tannery nypl.digitalcollections.510d47e3-1bb9-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w
J.B. and F.M. Weed & Co’s Upper Leather Tannery, Binghamton, N.Y. (1876). The industrialization of Southern Tier tanneries and dwindling downstate hemlock stands may have forced Arthur Bull to move to the Adirondack foothills with his family in search of work. Image: NYPL Digital Collections

For on 23 June 1875, the state census taker found the family living in a new location — the combined First and Second Districts of the Town of Lyonsdale, Lewis County, N.Y.

The Bull family’s odyssey to this new location was likely forced upon Arthur, as well as other tanners and their families, by dwindling downstate economic circumstances — possibly exacerbated by the industrialization of tanning, which put smaller shops out of business.

According to Hemlock and Hide: The Tanbark Industry in Old New York, an excellent post by Hugh O. Canham on the Northern Woodlands blog:

When the easily accessible hemlock stands in the Catskills were exhausted, tanners looked to the Adirondack foothills for further supplies. Here, water was plentiful, and the Erie Canal and emerging railroads facilitated the shipment of both hides and leather…In all areas, communities sprang up around the tanneries.

Three generations relocate together

My great, great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull must have had her hands full arranging for this move. This would be the furthest she and Arthur had strayed from their childhood homes in the Catskill Mountains — and according to the 1875 state census, they still had six minor children living at home: Carrie, 15, Milo, 13, Eva, 8, Jessie, 6, Frederick, 5, and William, 20 months.

But the census also reveals that she and Arthur likely had help from family who moved north with them. Residing in  the same household was their oldest daughter, Emma E. (Bull) Watson, 17, a housekeeper, and her husband Stephen Watson, 22, who also worked as a tanner.

The Bull and Watson families lived together in a plank house valued at $400 (about $8,900 today) — a higher value than the homes of their neighbors, which seems to indicate that their change of venue was worthwhile.

Nor were the Watsons the only relatives who joined them in the Adirondack foothills. As we will see in the next post, evidence indicates that Arthur’s parents — my great, great, great grandparents Mary and Jeremiah Bull — also relocated to Lewis County, N.Y., around the same time.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Broome County bride

Third in a series tracking my ancestor Arthur Bull’s family from the Catskills to the Adirondack foothills (1870-1875).

Pecking away at the family history of our Bull ancestors was a vacation ritual I shared with my dad — and sometimes it yielded valuable information about the family of our Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull.

http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-f264-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Ahlborn’s Bridal Dress (1875). On a family history research outing, my dad and I found info about the Binghamton, N.Y., marriage of Arthur Bull’s oldest daughter Emma E. to Stephen E. Watson on Oct. 11, 1874 — placing the Bulls in Broome County that year. By: NYPL Digital Collections

Like the time in May 1997, during one of my visits, when Dad and I ventured out on a research day together at the Onondaga County Public Library Local History and Genealogy Room in Syracuse, N.Y.

That’s where Dad and I first saw a copy of Genealogical gleanings from early Broome County, New York newspapers (1812-1880) abstracted and compiled by Maurice R. Hitt, Jr. and realized it contained loads of folks with the Bull surname.

Not yet clear on who was who, we decided to photocopy the lot. This meant using Dad’s library card and having the staff mail him the photocopies to forward on to me.

As we filled out the required paperwork at the front desk and paid for the copies and postage, Dad pursed his lips and shot me the look my youngest sister calls the “Charbo-smirk.”  A couple of weeks later he sent his commentary with the materials:

Well, here is the info we finally pried out of the library. Dad

I had to laugh when I again saw his wry, handwritten note in my files — stuck to a stack of photocopies containing a clue about a Broome County bride that we discovered together nearly 20 years ago.

A Broome County bride

And it has indeed turned out to be a valuable lead regarding the Empire State meanderings of our Bull ancestors. Specifically, the following abstract from a Broome Republican announcement of the Oct. 11, 1874, marriage of Arthur and Mary’s oldest daughter Emma to Stephen E. Watson:

WATSON, Stephen E. [BR, 21 Oct., 1874] Marr. 11 inst. At the home of the bride’s father in the town of Binghamton by Rev. A.M. Brown: Stephen E. Watson to Emma E. Bull, both of Binghamton.

Wait…at the home of the bride’s father in Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y.?

That had to be my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull’s home. Which meant he and Mary — and their family — made one more stopover in the Southern Tier between the 1873 birth of their son William and their 1875 arrival in the North Country.

Perhaps they were once again trying to make a go if it closer to their Binghamton, N.Y., family. Maybe it wasn’t until later that they were lured north by better job prospects for Arthur. Hard to know for sure.

But either way, it’s been a fun having my dad along again in spirit on the Bull family research journey.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Southern Tier stopover

Second in a series tracking my ancestor Arthur Bull’s family from the Catskills to the Adirondack foothills (1870-1875).

Between 1870 and 1875, there were major developments in the lives of my great, great grandparents Arthur and Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull — as their family evolved and they pulled up stakes yet again in search of economic stability.

Binghamton, N.Y. (1800-1900). My ancestor Arthur Bull and his family appear to have made one more stopover in Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y. -- on the state's Southern Tier -- before moving on to New York's Adirondack foothills. By: Internet Archive Book Images
A horse-drawn cart parked at curbside in Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y. (1800-1900). My ancestor Arthur Bull and his family appear to have made one more stopover in Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y. — on the state’s Southern Tier — before heading north to New York’s Adirondack foothills. By: Internet Archive Book Images

First came the birth of their second son, Frederick Duane Bull, in 1871, followed by the birth of a third son, William Arthur Bull, in 1873 . Both were born in Delaware County, N.Y. — presumably in Town of Hancock (Hancock Post Office) where the Bulls were living at the time of the 1870 US Census.

So when the 1874 New Year dawned, Arthur, 40, and Mary E., 35, had seven children living at home: daughters Emma, 16, and Carrie, 14; son Milo, 12; daughters Eva, 7, and Jessie, 5; and sons Frederick, 4, and William, <1.

As discussed in the last post, Delaware County diaspora, the Bulls may have had trouble making ends meet in 1870. The economic pressures of yet more children at home likely pushed them to relocate to an area where tanneries were still booming and Arthur could find steady work.

Five years later — time of the June 1875 New York State census — the Bulls were living in Lyonsdale, Lewis County, N.Y., in the Adirondack foothills.

But did they go straight there from Delaware County?  Or did they stopover elsewhere first? Back I went to my files, and I had to smile when I opened my Broome County folder.

For there I found a handwritten note from my dad attached to research materials we had discovered together years before — which contained a valuable clue that placed the Bulls once more in the Southern Tier city of Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y., in 1874. More on this in the next post.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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