Delaware County diaspora

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

For the New Year we embark on a new trajectory with my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull — Union Army veteran, tannery foreman and head of a growing family. This path leads to the foothills of New York’s Adirondack Mountains, where one of his daughters — my great grandmother Eva May Bull — will marry into the Charboneau family.

But first the family of Arthur and Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull made one more Delaware County detour back to Town of Hancock (Hancock Post Office) in the Catskills foothills — which is where the U.S. Census taker found them living on 27 Aug. 1870.

By: Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
Tannery workers in 1870.  My ancestor Arthur Bull and his fellow tanners were having a tough time earning a living in the Catskills in 1870. They became part of a widespread migration to forested areas further north. By: Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County

The family had grown since the end of the US Civil War — with the addition of my great grandmother Eva May, born in 1866 in Pennsylvania, and another daughter, Jessie Ann, born in 1869 in Delaware County, N.Y.

So at the time of the 1870 US Census, the Bulls had five children living at home in Hancock: Emma, 12, Carrie, 11, Milo, 8, Eva, 4 and Jessie, 1 [incorrectly identified as “Lewis” and “male” by the census taker].

Arthur, 36, was still working as a tanner and Mary, 29, was keeping house — but their census entry implies that they may have been experiencing hard times.

No value is listed for real estate on their census entry, and their personal property only amounted to $200 (about $3,700 today) — much less than what they reported 10 years earlier when they last lived in Delaware County.

The decline in the family’s fortunes may have been due to the scarcity of tanbark in the depleted forests of the Catskills foothills, making it more difficult to earn a living there as a tanner. They were also now supporting a larger family.

A nearby cousin?

Nevertheless, they do not appear to have been alone in their struggles. For nearby lived another Bull family — John Bull, 34, a laborer; his wife, Eliza, 32, a housekeeper; and their son Daniel, 16, also a laborer — with personal property valued at just $100 (about $1,850 today).

Arthur’s father — my ggg grandfather Jeremiah Bull — came from a large Catskills family, and John may have been the son of one of Jeremiah’s brothers. More research is needed to verify an exact relationship, which I have found hints of online (albeit unsourced).

Yet I can’t help but think that Arthur and Mary would have drawn some support from having relatives as neighbors, if indeed they were cousins.

Catskills tanners in general were having a tough time — and they became part of a widespread migration to forested areas further north. Arthur Bull and his family joined this Delaware County diaspora some time before 1875.

However, as we will learn in the next post, the Bulls appear to have made one more stop in the Southern Tier first.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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