1890: Rhoda A.(Blakeslee) Whitney testifies to a wedding

Sepia Saturday 429: Fourth in a series about my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a U.S. Civil War widow. Mary was the mother of my paternal great-grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

My great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull set sail, at 50, on the rocky seas of widowhood after the January 1890 death of her husband Arthur T. Bull, 57, a Union Army veteran.

Fortunately, she had relatives to help guide her to safe harbors — among them her sister Rhoda A. (Blakeslee) Whitney and husband William Whitney, then living in Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y.

https://msu.edu/user/beltranm/mourning/mourning.htm
Woman in mourning for her husband, whose photo she wears in a brooch (circa 1896). This photo appears to capture a certain strength that widows must muster to continue on after the death of their husbands. My great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull likely drew on inner strength, as well as support of family, in her quest for Civil War widow’s benefits. Image: msu.edu

Testifying to a wedding

When Mary needed to prove the date and location of her wedding — as part of her application for Civil War widow’s benefits — she turned to the Whitneys for help. They obliged by providing a remarkable affidavit testifying to the details.

How did they know them? Because they had attended Mary and Arthur’s wedding! Their testimony from Mary’s widow application file follows. (The document was typewritten except for the underlined portions, which were handwritten.)

On this 26th day of February, 1890, before me, a notary public within and for the county and state aforesaid, duly authorized to administer oaths, personally appeared William Whitney, aged 71 years and Rhoda A. Whitney, aged 59 years, who being by me severally and duly sworn, say:

That they reside at No. 179 43 South Street, in the city of Binghamton, Broome County, New York; that they were present at the  marriage of Arthur T. Bull to Mary E. Blakslee; and that the said Arthur T. Bull and Mary E. Blakslee were united in marriage at Bookdale, in the Town of Liberty and state of Pennsylvania, on the 11th, Day of August, 1856, by the Reverend Willard Richardson, a Presbyterian clergyman.

Signatures of my great-great grandaunt Rhoda A. Whitney and her husband William (1890). The Whitneys provided details of my great-great grandmother Mary’s 1856 marriage to Arthur T. Bull to support her application for Civil War widow’s benefits. Rhoda was Mary’s sister. Photo by Molly Charboneau

No marriage record

That there is no public or private record of said marriage as deponents verily believe; that as deponents are informed and believe it was not then customary among people of said county, at the time of said marriage, to record marriages in town or county records nor required by the laws of said county or state; and that the present whereabouts of said Willard Richardson who married said parties is unknown to deponents and whether he is alive or not is to them unknown.

Deponents further swear that they derive the facts of the said marriage and the time when it took place and where it was performed from a distinct remembrance of the same, said Mary E. being a sister of the deponent Rhoda A. Whitney, and deponent William Whitney being the husband of said Rhoda A.

A sympathetic notary public

William Whitney and Rhoda A. Whitney then signed the document — as shown above — and it was witnessed by a notary public, who declared:

Subscribed and sworn before me this 26th day of February 1890; and I hereby certify that the said affiants are both reputable and credible persons; that the foregoing affidavit was read to and fully understood bey each of them before verification. and that I have no interest, direct or indirect, in the prosecution of this claim. — George Whitney, Notary Public

While I don’t yet know the exact relationship, I suspect that George Whitney was related in some way to William and Rhoda — as they would likely have turned to local family in their efforts to assist Rhoda’s sister Mary. And I’m glad they did — because this clearly-written document aided my family history research tremendously!

More on this in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

 © 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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10 thoughts on “1890: Rhoda A.(Blakeslee) Whitney testifies to a wedding”

  1. I wonder if there were other kinds of government forms or legal problems that required this kind of testimony. I think former slaves sometimes needed proof of residency or family connections. And I suspect family custody issues required a similar testimony of local neighbors knowledge of relationships.

    1. Testimony appears to have been common in the nineteenth century many legal proceedings, substituting for records that were poorly kept back then.

  2. How long did she live on in widowhood? Do you know if the pension was sufficient to live on? She must have been a very strong woman to survive all she did!!

    1. She lived to age 57, so seven years in widowhood. The pension was not large, so it’s fortunate she had many children to turn to. More on this in future posts.

  3. Indeed Mary was very lucky to have witnesses who could testify on her behalf. But how awful for her to have to go through all that she had to in order to receive her due.

    1. She was also fortunate that the Pension Bureau, given the dearth of records back then, would accept testimony in lieu of documents.

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