1885: Steven E. Watson’s Limestone testimony

Fourth in a new series on my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull’s reapplication for a US Civil War pension and his family’s life at the time.

A mysterious one-year gap occurred in my ancestor Arthur Bull’s re-application for his Union Army pension. A medical referee recommended a one-half disability pension for him in October 1884.

http://www.oleantimesherald.com/news/a-look-back-at-limestone-town-s-history-rich-with/article_1a8315e0-9f30-549c-a16b-453df7eff28d.html
Street scene in Limestone, Cattaraugus County, N.Y. (1893). Construction of a tannery here in 1858, and the later discovery of oil in 1865, drew new residents to the area. By 1885, my Bull ancestors were among them. Photo: Olean Times Herald/Bradford Landmark Society

So why was the next affidavit in my great-great grandfather’s case not provided until 15 Sept. 1885 — nearly a year later?

The first clue lies within that affidavit from S.E. Watson of Limestone, Cattaraugus County, New York.

Steven E. Watson, a tanner, was married to Arthur’s oldest daughter Emma. As detailed in A Broome County bride, their wedding took place “at the home of the bride’s father in the town of Binghamton” on 11 Oct. 1874 — when Arthur, a tanner, was living in New York’s Southern Tier.

A move to Cattaraugus County

Shortly after the wedding, in 1875, the Watsons relocated to the Adirondack foothills— at the same time as Arthur, his wife Mary and their children, and Arthur’s parents Mary and Jeremiah (who also worked as a tanner.) They were three generations of tanners apparently moving together for work.

In the mid 1880s, the extended Bull family moved again to Cattaraugus County, probably in their continuing quest for jobs. The logistics of such a move — especially given Arthur’s delicate health — could explain the yearlong gap in his pension documents. However, his application process picked up again once he re-settled and was seeing local Limestone doctors.

Intriguing family details

Besides the geographic clue, Steven E. Watson’s 1885 affidavit also provides intriguing family details. He testified:

…that he has known the claimant for the last fourteen years; has been his fellow workman and intimately acquainted with him during that period; knows that he has been troubled with heart and lung trouble and unable to obtain subsistence by manual labor and, in affiant’s judgement, his disability has been one half since his first acquaintance with him.

Steven said he knew Arthur for fourteen years — as a co-worker and apparently a friend. But he had only been married to Emma for eleven years. Did Arthur introduce them? Or did they meet by chance while attending a social, church or Bull family get-together?

Hard to know for sure. But the pension examiners ruled Steven Watson’s “credibility good” when they examined the affidavit — and I have no reason to dispute that finding.

Limestone: oil wells and a tannery

According to an article in the Olean Times Herald, Limestone was the site of the first commercial oil well in New York State — erected in 1865, right after the US Civil War.

More pertinent to my family’s history, a tannery was established there in 1858 by Dodge & Smith Company — a potential source of jobs for the next generation of the Bull family as production wound down at the Adirondack tanneries where my ancestors worked.

However, my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull — now less able to work — needed his U.S. Civil War pension more than ever. So he began seeing doctors in Cattaraugus County, both for health reasons and in connection with his claim.

More on this in the next post.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1884: Doctors bolster Arthur Bull’s Civil War pension claim

Third in a new series on my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull’s reapplication for a US Civil War pension and his family’s life at the time.

In October 1884, a medical referee from the U.S. Pension Board recommended my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull for a partial disability pension — but more proof was required before payments would begin.

http://www.postcardpost.com/leyden.htm
Main Street in Port Leyden, N.Y., showing a bridge over the Black River Canal (1889). In Sept. 1884, an affidavit from Port Leyden physician D.D. Douglass, M.D., bolstered my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull’s Civil War pension claim. Photo: Larry Meyers/Port Leyden NY in Postcards

So my great-great grandfather’s attorneys created an abstract of affidavits — from relatives and doctors who had known/treated him since the Civil War — to verify his  war-related illness.

These testimonials chronicle my ancestor’s steadily declining health, which he attributed to  the rigors of the U.S. Civil War during his Union Army service.

A Port Leyden doctor’s findings

On 24 July 1880, D.D. Douglass, M.D., from Port Leyden, Lewis County, N.Y., treated Arthur for chronic post-war health problems. According to the abstract of his affidavit —  filed on 15 Sept. 1884 and characterized as “credibility good” —  Dr. Douglass testified:

…that he was called to treat claimant on the 24th July, 1880, and found him suffering from debility, asthmatic affection of lungs, “attended with severe palpitations of heart;” that he continued treatment up to Aug. 31st 1882, occasionally; that he was not able to perform manual labor; “would have spells of exhaustion, especially if he exercised too much,” and that the disease being chronic, his improvement is doubtful.

A Boonville physician weighed in

Next was an abstract of an affidavit from another credible witness, G.P. English, M.D., of Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y. In the document, filed on 27 Sept. 1884, Dr. English stated:

…he was called to treat claimant in July 1883 and found him suffering from heart and lung trouble, was asthmatic and had palpitation of the heart of long standing; could call it chronic; thinks it doubtful whether he ever recovers fully. Is still treating him and thinks his disability fully one half.

The testimony of these doctors, bolstering an earlier affidavit from relatives, appears to have helped Arthur’s case. The U.S. Pension Board medical referee recommended a one-half disability pension for Arthur the month after these two medical affidavits were filed.

The rigors of war

Earlier, I wrote about my great-great grandfather’s US Civil War experience — from his participation in the Army of the Potomac’s 1864 Overland campaign and his wartime illness to his later service in the Shenandoah Valley and in Virginia’s Bermuda Hundred.

In 1863, Arthur stepped up to serve in the Union Army during the final push to end slavery and maintain the union — marching bravely into wartime conditions that likely left him chronically ill.

In the 1880s, a new struggle for his military pension was the battle Arthur had to win — and his family rallied round to help him.

Up next: Arthur’s relatives testify in support of his pension claim. Please stop back.

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1884: A medical referee rules in Arthur’s favor

Second in a new series on my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull’s reapplication for a US Civil War pension and his family’s life at the time.

In November 1884 — four years after he applied and twenty years after he served — a Pension Board medical referee ruled that my ancestor Arthur Bull was sufficiently disabled to receive a Union Army pension. He was 51 years old.

https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/spring/civilwarpension.html
Pension clerks at work in the Pension Building, ca. 1900. Each folded bundle is one pension claim. Union Army veterans like my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull had to verify their Civil War-related health issues to collect a pension — a process that often took years. Source: US National Archives

The month before, a team of doctors at my great-great grandfather’s  local Pension Board — in Utica, Oneida County, N.Y. — recommended he be compensated at a rate of 1/4 disability.

However, the medical referee at the US Pension Office in Washington, D.C., recommended a higher rate. In his 12 Nov. 1884 response to Arthur’s attorneys R.S. and A.P. Lacey, the referee said:

Claimant is entitled to a rating of 1/2 for Disease of the Heart. If clean face is appended to the brief it will be so endorsed.

There may have been sighs of relief in the Bull household at this finding, as it put Arthur one step closer to receiving his pension. Yet more proof was needed before the pension office would start sending payments.

Background checks begin

So Arthur’s attorneys collected a series of affidavits and reports — from doctors and family members who had known him since the Civil War ended — to verify that his disability was war-related. I found these bundled together in his pension file.

PENSION AFFIDAVITS/REPORTS – Pvt. Arthur T. Bull – 6th NY Heavy Artillery
Year Date Names NYS Location
1881  25 Jan. Edward C. Tamkins & William Whitney Binghamton
1884 15 Sept. D.D. Douglas, MD Port Leyden
1884 22 Sept. G.P. English, MD Boonville
1884 22 Oct. Pension Board doctors Utica
1885 15 Sept. S.E. Watson Limestone
1885 22 Sept. M.W. Smith, MD Limestone
1885 1 Oct. M.W. Smith, MD Limestone
1885 30 Nov. William Whitney (supplementary) Binghamton

The 1881 affidavit from Arthur’s brothers-in-law Edward C. Tamkins (husband of his sister) and William Whitney (husband of his wife’s sister) was summarized by the attorneys — since it was previously submitted to the Pension Board. The later affidavits and doctor reports are more detailed.

Combined, they tell the heart-rending saga of Arthur’s struggle with war-related illness as his ability to work declined — a story that will unfold here on Molly’s Canopy over the next few weeks.

Bull family diaspora

These documents also trace the Bull family’s trajectory across New York State during Arthur’s declining years. They traveled from the Southern Tier (around Binghamton, N.Y) to the Adirondack region (near Port Leyden, Boonville and Utica) and finally to Western New York (around Limestone).

The period from 1880 to 1900 is a difficult one for locating and researching an ancestral family. There are few remaining remnants of the 1890 federal census, which was destroyed in a fire — and a significant gap also exists between the 1875 and 1892 New York State censuses.

Yet because my great-great grandfather applied for his Union Army pension during this period, his file provides many precious clues about family names, relationships and geographic locations that help fill out his ancestral story.

What do these pension records tell us about Arthur Bull and his family in the 1880s? Please stop back for the next chapter in his story.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1884: Arthur Bull reapplies for his Union Army pension

First in a new series on my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull’s reapplication for a US Civil War pension and his family’s life at the time.

When I last wrote about my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull — a Union Army veteran of the US Civil War — I described how the  federal pension office rejected his initial pension application in April 1883.

https://www.loc.gov/item/det1994016863/PP/
Utica, N.Y. monument to Union Soldiers and Sailors who fought in the US Civil War (1900). In October 1884, my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull traveled to Utica to reapply for his Union Army pension. Photo: Library of Congress

The following year may have been a difficult one for my Bull ancestors. Arthur’s health was declining due to war-related disability that made it harder for him to work in the tanning trade.

Pension income was vital for my ancestor and his family — and for thousands of other Union veterans in similar circumstances. So Arthur kept at it and reapplied for his pension the next year.

A new medical exam

On 22 October 1884, Arthur was examined by a new team of pension board doctors in Utica, Oneida County, N.Y. — about 30 miles south of his home in Hawkinsville, N.Y.

Arthur told the doctors he incurred heart and lung disease in 1864 at or near Cold Harbor (in Virginia) while serving as a private in Company L of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

The doctors’ notes on my ancestor’s claim and his medical examination revealed the following:

His pulse-rate is 120 per minute; his respiration 19; his height is 5 feet and 8 inches; he weighs 150 pounds, and states that he is 51 years of age.

At Cold Harbor he “gave out” and was confined 2 mos in hosp. & he cannot say of what his ailment consisted. Has now a hacking cough with expectorant and phlegm, has pains about the heart and turns of dizziness.

He is a well formed strong looking man. The heart rate is rapid with increased impulse and irregular rhythm, but without disease of the valves….Pulmonary resonance + vascular murmur are normal. The abdominal organs are healthy. His alleged symptoms are all due to the enlargement and irregularity of the heart, and for this condition we advise 1/4 rating for disability caused by disease of the heart.

Waiting for pension approval

Doctors W. E. Ford, Pres.; M. M. Bazz, Secretary; and W. H. Booth, Treasurer of the local pension board signed and posted Arthur’s new Surgeons Certificate. It was received by the US Pension Board in Washington, D.C., on 29 October 1884.

Then a new period of waiting began for the Bull family to see whether the doctors’ recommendation of 1/4 disability would be approved.

An ancestral legacy

Meanwhile, Arthur’s reapplication revealed many items of interest about my ancestor. From it I learned my great-great grandfather’s height, weight, age and general appearance — along with the service location where he first became ill and the long-term effects of his illness.

I also learned that he lived in Hawkinsville in 1884, placing him near my Charbonneau and Zinsk ancestors — an important discovery in a year with no state or federal census.

Arthur was undoubtedly focused on the immediate future — and sustaining his family — when he reported for a new physical examination and provided these details to the pension board.

Yet I am grateful for this documentary legacy, since I have inherited no photos or other mementos from him.

Up next: A Pension Board referee rules in Arthur’s favor. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Reflections on Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood – #atozchallenge

Reflections:  Molly’s Canopy and the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood…where my genealogy journey began.

Now that Molly’s Canopy is proudly sporting a survivor badge, it’s time to kick back and reflect on my second April 2017 Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

A new game plan

In year two, I had a better idea what to expect — and this time did a Theme Reveal.  During the challenge, I worked from an outline and photo list — but did not prepare posts in advance, so the writing was as hectic as ever! Lesson learned: write ahead!

And then there were those pesky adjustments: No linky list of participants, no code to easily identify fellow family history/ genealogy bloggers, no AZChat on Twitter (where I met several bloggers last year), and learning to hyperlink my daily posts for the AZ Blog. Sigh.

So I needed a new game plan to maximize the challenge experience as I settled in for the blogging marathon on the theme Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood.

Building my own linky list

This involved: reconnecting with AtoZers I met last year; combing through the A to Z blog daily letter list to find new kindred spirits; visiting genealogy bloggers from last year to see who was in for 2017; regularly sharing posts with my subscribers — and throwing out the welcome mat for any new visitors who showed up.

It was a bit of work building my own personal linky list — but it paid off in blog traffic this year. I spent more time discovering, visiting and commenting on other blogs, and in turn I received more visits and quality feedback on my posts. This made the 2017 A to Z Challenge particularly gratifying and empowering — and also led to new connections and subscribers for the future.

Exploring memoir

Aerial view of Whispering Chimneys (early 1950s). This upstate New York farm was the setting for Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood as I blogged about the start of my genealogy journey. Scan: Molly Charboneau

Another plus for me was exploring memoir as a potential blog subject. I generally write about my ancestral journey in longer posts or series — with links to family history research discoveries.

But last year some A to Z genealogy bloggers pointed out that we owe it to posterity to include ourselves in the mix — to leave behind an online diary in our own voice like the ones we wish our ancestors had left.

This inspired me to go back to my childhood and explore how my interest in family, ancestors and heritage took root. As I rolled out my own story from A to Z this year, I was gratified by the positive feedback — with many readers sharing tales from their own childhoods that paralleled my experiences.

Many thanks to everyone who visited, subscribed, followed and commented on Molly’s Canopy. You  made my second A to Z Challenge so rewarding!

Hey, where’s the T-shirt?

That said, here are my thoughts on this year’s A to Z changes.
  • Quantity vs. quality. Last year, there were more than 1,000 bloggers who completed the challenge, and many more who started out. This year, there seemed to be about 300 or so posting their links on the A to Z blog/Facebook. That’s a significantly lower quantity — yet the quality of comments on my blog was higher and I had more repeat visitors.
  • Bring back the codes. I think subject codes would still work in this new format — and would be easier to search for on the A to Z blog/Facebook. Not hard to do: make a list (similar to the posting schedule), post it on the blog, and let us use them if we choose. And please add a Family History/Genealogy code.
  • Hey, where’s the T-shirt? I proudly wore my 2016 A to Z Challenge Survivor T-shirt all year — including to a huge NYC WordCamp packed with bloggers. I was looking forward to buying a new one  this year– but it looks like I’ll have to find a way to print my own. For 2018, maybe the A to Z team could arrange print-on-demand T-shirts/gear for those of us who want them.

Would I do it again? You bet!

Was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? You bet! Like any marathon, the A to Z Challenge was not easy — it was a long, sustained trek outside the comfort zone. But it was also an instructive, energizing and affirming journey through an enchanted forest of friendly fellow bloggers — and a great way to get a block of writing done.

So I’m already working on my list of 2018 A to Z blog posts — and planning to write some of them ahead of time. Next year, I’ll be ready! Here’s hoping you’ll join me! Until then, stop by any time — Molly’s Canopy will leave the comment box open for you.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf (and road trip) at a time