1870: Laurent Charbonneau – from sawyer to farmer

Eighth and last in this series about my paternal Charbonneau and Zinsk ancestors in New York State’s Adirondack region during the 1800s.

The last few posts have outlined some of what I know about family of my great, great grandparents Laurent Charles and Ursula Angeline (Zinsk) Charbonneau — who lived in Hawkinsville, Oneida County, N.Y. from the mid-1850s. A brief look at Laurent’s occupational transition — from sawyer to farmer — seems like a good way to conclude this series.

Barn with rainbow. By 1870, my great, great grandfather had gone from laboring as a sawyer to working the 37-acre family farm he owned in Hawkinsville, Oneida County, N.Y. By: Mark Goebel

Laurent the lumberman

When my Quebecois immigrant great, great grandfather Laurent Charles Charbonneau, 33, was enumerated in the 1865 New York State census for Boonville, Oneida County, he was working as a sawyer — a common occupation with so many lumber mills operating in the forested Adirondack foothills.

He was married to my Swiss immigrant gg grandmother Ursula Angeline (Zinsk) Charbonneau, 30, and they had one son — my great grandfather Willard, 7.

Although they did not own land in 1865, they lived in a frame house and Laurent was working — so they were off to a respectable start after less than ten years of marriage.

Within a few years, their fortunes had improved. According to the Gazeteer and Business Directory of Oneida County for 1869, compiled and published by Hamilton Child, Laurent had become a farmer. Here is his listing, from page 159:

Charbonno, Lawrence, (Hawkinsville,) Lot 31, Farmer, 37.

At the start of the Business Directory there is a list of Explanations to Directory, which includes this important note:

Figures after the occupation of farmers, indicate the number of acres of land owned or leased by the parties.

A good sized farm

I was impressed to discover these details about my gg grandfather’s family farm. Whispering Chimneys, the farm where I spent my early childhood, covered 10 acres — which seemed pretty big to me at the time. The Business Directory indicates Laurent Charbonneau’s farm, at 37 acres, was nearly four times that size!

A year after the Business Directory was published, the 1870 U.S. census for Boonville, Oneida, N.Y., confirmed that Laurent was working as a farmer and indicated that he owned his land (rather than leased it) — making him the second agricultural ancestor I have documented.

Under the category “Value of Real Estate Owned,” the 1870 census reports the following about the Charbonneau family farm:

  • Ques. 8 – Value of Real Estate – $940 [about $16,500 today]
  • Ques. 9 – Value of Personal Estate – $265 [about $4,650 today]

Keeping up with the neighbors

Of course, Laurent may have continued sawing lumber on the side to bring in extra income — possibly during the fallow winter months. However, the value of the Charbonneau family’s land and personal property was in line with what most nearby families reported in the 1870 federal census — so my ancestors were doing as well as their neighbors.

These discoveries got me wondering: What were farming conditions like in Town of Boonville — which encompassed the Hawkinsville area where the Charbonneau farm was located? Were there maps of the area that might pinpoint the  farm’s location? And what was actually produced by my ancestors’ farm?

Which means I am off again on the research trail to see what else I can learn about my Charbonneau-Zinsk ancestors!

Meanwhile, St. Patrick’s Day is nearly here. Please stop back throughout March for posts about my Irish (Dempsey) and Welsh (Owen) ancestors in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Maryland.

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