All posts by Molly C.

1890: A widow’s witnesses

Sepia Saturday 428: Third 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.

Widows of U.S. Civil War veterans — such as my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — were required by Acts of Congress to substantiate their marriages when applying for benefits.

So Mary had to produce witnesses and/or available documents to support her contention that she was indeed the wife of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, a Union Army pensioner.

https://msu.edu/user/beltranm/mourning/mourning.htm
Fashion illustration of a widow and a bride (circa 1896). In 1890, my widowed great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull needed witnesses to substantiate her marriage to Union pensioner Arthur T. Bull. One person she turned to was son-in-law Sidney Banton, who had married her daughter Jessie two years before. Image: msu.edu

Proof of a marriage

In a 2010 article “‘A Reasonable Degree of Promptitude’: Civil War Pension Application Processing, 1861-1885,”1 Claire Prechtel-Kluskens describes how proofs of marriage typically worked .

The pension office could allow a widow’s pension based on evidence of cohabitation but, ironically, could not legally terminate a widow’s pension because of cohabitation. Because marriage records had been created haphazardly in many places, or not at all, pension office custom was “to accept evidence of cohabitation and general recognition as husband and wife, as sufficient proof of marriage to entitle to pension in cases where it is clearly shown that more satisfactory proof cannot be furnished.”  The pension files are replete with affidavits of persons who may not have witnessed the marriage ceremony but who could testify that John Doe and Mary Doe held themselves out as being husband and wife and were so accepted in the community.

Mary Bull’s witnesses

In this, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull was no different from the mass of other Civil War widows filing pension claims.

Her Application for Accrued Pension. (Widows.) includes the following written testimony of two witnesses attesting to her marriage. (Handwritten entries are underlined; strikethroughs were manually entered.)

Also personally appeared Carey D. Davie, residing at Salamanca, N.Y., and Sidney S. Banton, residing at Salamanca, N.Y., who, being duly sworn, say that they were present and saw Mary E. Bull sign her name (make her mark) to the foregoing declaration; that they know her to be the lawful widow of Arthur T. Bull, who died on the 30th day of January, 1890; and that their means of knowledge that said parties were husband and wife, and that the husband died on said date, are as follows: from acquaintance with Mr. Bull and family and from general reputation and the annexed certificate of William Whitney and Rhoda A Whitney.

Carey D. Davie was a lawyer, according to the 1892 New York State census2. Judging by the penmanship, he appears to have completed the handwritten portions of Mary’s application.

Sidney S. Banton was Mary’s son-in-law, who had married her daughter Jessie Ann Bull just two years earlier. At the time, Mary was mourning the Jan. 1888 death of her mother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — so the above illustration of widow and bride echoes the ups and downs of Mary’s life during that period.

But what was the “annexed certificate of William and Rhoda A. Whitney”?

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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  1. Prechtel-Kluskens, Claire.  ‘A Reasonable Degree of Promptitude’: Civil War Pension Application Processing, 1861-1885. Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Admininstation, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Spring 2010). Website. Archives.gov (https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/spring/civilwarpension.html : accessed 19 July 2018.
  2. Free login required by FamilySearch to view the document image.

1890: Widow’s application reveals Bull family history

Sepia Saturday 427: Second 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.

When my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, 50, filed an 1890 Application for Accrued Pension after the death of her husband Arthur T. Bull, she had to prove several things.

First, she had to show that Arthur was a bona fide military pensioner from his Union service in the U.S. Civil War and that there was an accrued pension amount due.

An unidentified 1850 bride. In her application for a Civil War widow’s pension, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakesleee) Bull provided details of her 1856 marriage to Arthur T. Bull. Photo: George Eastman Museum

Then Mary had to verify that she was Arthur’s wife and therefore entitled to the accrued amount. This entailed providing the specifics of their marriage as excerpted below. (Handwritten entries are underlined; strikethroughs were manually entered.)

…that she was married to the said Arthur T. Bull on the Eleventh day of August, 1856, at Brookdale in the State of Pennsylvania; that her name before said marriage was Mary E. Blakslee (sic); that she had (or had not) been previously married; that her husband had (or had not) been previously married; that she hereby makes application for the pension which had accrued on aforesaid certificate to the date of death; that her residence is No. 82 W. State Street, City Village of Salamanca, County of Cattaraugus, State of New York, and her post office address is Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, N.Y.

A remarkable legacy

What a remarkable legacy with a few strokes of the pen!

Mary gave her maiden name, the exact date of her 11 Aug. 1856 marriage to Arthur and the  location of their ceremony in Brookdale, Pennsylvania — all of which backed up some of my earlier research.

In addition, Mary gave the address where she and Arthur lived in Salamanca, N.Y., pinpointing where he spent his final days — which was new information to me.

And her signature on this document was my first tangible memento of my great-great grandmother, since I have inherited no photos of her.

March 1, 1890: Widow’s signature of Mary E. Bull on form 3-560, Application for Accrued Pension. (Widows.). Her signature on this document was my first  tangible memento of my great-great grandmother, since I have inherited no photos of her. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Witnesses

Alas, the court and the Pension Board were not just going to take Mary’s word. They also required witnesses and whatever documentation could be pulled together — not an easy task for the years before state-wide vital records were kept in Pennsylvania and New York.

Accordingly, Mary did not go alone when she filed her claim with Cattaraugus County Judge O.S. Vreeland. Pension paperwork indicates that two “reputable persons” went along to serve as her witnesses.

Who were these witnesses and what were their statements? 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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1890: Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull becomes a Civil War widow

Sepia Saturday 426: First in a series about my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a U.S. Civil War widow. She was the mother of my paternal great-grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

In January 1890, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, 50, became a Civil War widow following the death of her husband — Union Army pensioner Arthur T. Bull, 57, a veteran of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

May 4, 2014: A Union Army reenactor and his wife at Spotsylvania Court House, Va. In January 1890, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, 50, became a Civil War widow following the death of her husband — Union Army pensioner Arthur T. Bull, 57, a veteran of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Mary’s new persona was thrust upon her after two years of ups and downs in her Salamanca, Cattaragus Co., N.Y. household. Among the major events in her life during that time were:

A new round of paperwork

When Arthur died in early 1890, Mary was faced with a double loss. Not only was her beloved husband, and father of her nine children, gone from her life — but with him went the financial support of her household.

So with barely time to mourn, Mary began the difficult process of seeking an income by applying for a widow’s pension — with its own set of proofs and paperwork to be sent in to the U.S. Pension Board.

Application for accrued pension

On 1 March 1890, Mary appeared with her attorney William H. Peck before  Cattaraugus County Judge O. S. Vreeland and filed form 3-560 — Application for Accrued Pension. (Widows.).

The opening passage of her application is excerpted below, with handwritten portions underlined.

On this First day of March, 1890, personally appeared Mary E. Bull, who, being duly sworn, declares that she is the lawful widow of Arthur T. Bull, deceased; that he died on the 30th day of January, 1890; that he had been granted a pension by Certificate No. 315 208…; that he had been paid the pension by the Pension Agent at Buffalo, NY up to the 4th day of Dec–, 1889; after that date he had not been employed or paid in the Army, Navy, or Marine service of the United States…

A poignant bequest

Once she had established that her late husband had been granted a pension and there was likely an accrued, unpaid pension amount, Mary went on to provide other details required of Civil War widows.

And in so doing, my great-great grandmother Mary unknowingly created a rich source of family history and relationships — a poignant genealogical bequest to her descendants, which will unfold in this series.

More on Mary’s widow application 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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30 Jan. 1890: Arthur T. Bull RIP

Sepia Saturday 425: Fourth and last in this series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s final years as a U.S. Civil War pensioner.

Every family historian has that one ancestor whose story takes hold of them like no other — and the story of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull was the one that spoke to me. So it is understandably hard for me to bid him farewell after writing about his final days in the last post.

Arthur T. Bull Obituary (Cattaraugus Republican 31 Jan. 1890) — A.T. Bull died yesterday morning from the effects of pneumonia resulting from the grip. The funeral will occur to-morrow at 2 p.m. at the M.E. church.

From discovering his Union Army service on a road trip with my late dad and traveling to Washington, D.C., to obtain his pension file, to attending reenactments of the battles he fought in that prompted me to launch Molly’s Canopy — my ancestor Arthur T. Bull has been a game changer for me.

I’m proud to have brought Arthur’s story to light on Molly’s Canopy — something my great-great grandfather would never have imagined while taking life as it came more than a century ago.  But I did not do it alone.

It takes a village

Every genealogist knows that it takes a village of helping hands to find an ancestor and tease out the details of a forbear’s life — and so it was with Arthur.

Tombstone of Arthur T. Bull in Wildwood Cemetery, Salamanca, N.Y. (2005). Every family historian has that one ancestor whose story takes hold of them like no other — and the story of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull was the one that spoke to me. Photo courtesy of Wildwood Cemetery staff.

His pension file provided information about his military life, and the U.S. and New York State censuses helped me track his many moves around the state.

But it took the personal touch of city, library and cemetery workers to flesh out vital information about Arthur’s end of life, and I owe them my thanks. Among them:

  • The Salamanca City Clerk who sent me Arthur’s death certificate, indicating he was buried in Wildwood Cemetery in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, New York.
  • The Salamanca Public Library librarian who located and mailed me Arthur’s newspaper obituary, which is quoted above.
  • The Wildwood Cemetery worker who graciously took the above photo of Arthur’s tombstone, which has been framed on my desk for years.

Arthur revisited

For those of you who have grown to love Arthur as I have, take heart. There is still much of his backstory to uncover — including the details of his birth and early years — so he will reappear on Molly’s Canopy at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, the end of Arthur’s life brought a new set of circumstances for his immediate family — his widow Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, their two minor children Alice and Waples — as well as the extended Bull family who rallied to assist them.

And a new struggle unfolded as my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth applied for a Civil War widow’s pension — a process requiring its own set of forms, proofs and affidavits. In the next post, I will begin the story of the Bull family’s challenges in a post-Arthur world.

Up next: Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull files for a widow’s pension. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1890: Arthur T. Bull, a soldier to the end

Sepia Saturday 424: Third in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s final years as a U.S. Civil War pensioner.

Documents approving a U.S. Civil War full-disability pension for my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull are the last ones pertaining directly to him in his pension file.

Sadly —  just seven months after his full military pension was approved — Arthur, 58, died on 30 January 1890 in Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y.

However, because my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull filed a claim for a widow’s pension, there is one more document that describes his final days.

Aug. 2014: Union Army encampment on Governors Island, N.Y. A soldier to the end, on 29. Jan. 1890 — despite his war-related rheumatism and heart disease — my ancestor Arthur T. Bull  made a final half-mile march  to the doctor’s office in freezing weather to be seen about a severe cold. Photo by Molly Charboneau

A pension bureau request

On 29 April 1892 a Bureau of Pensions commissioner wrote from Washington, D.C., to Dr. Abner P. Reeker of Salamanca — Arthur’s last physician — asking for clinical details of his final days as part of the verification process for Mary’s claim:

In the pension claim No. 427,089 of Mary E. Bull as widow of Arthur T. Bull, late of Col L. 6 N.Y. HA, will you please supplement your affidavit by a statement, giving a full and complete clinical history of the soldier’s last illness, its commencement and duration, which he suffered at that time, and the immediate cause of his death, and the direct pathological connection, if any, between the death cause and the disease of heart for which he was pensioned.

A doctor’s response

Dr. Reeker responded promptly by return post on 9 May 1892 with a moving portrayal of my ancestor’s final days:

Arthur T. Bull suffered from heart disease for 4 years before his death and dropsy [edema] of the lower extremities. He had an ulcer on one of his legs. He took a cold I think on the 28th day of Jan 1890 — I did not see him until Jan 29th 1890.

He walked to my office half a mile. Saw him last time on evening of the Jan 29th 1890. To the best of my knowledge he died or his death was caused from heart disease and dropsey [sic.], hastened by his taking a severe cold as he died on the morning of Jan 30th 1890. It has been 2 years since his death, and the above statement is as near the facts as I can recall.

A soldier to the end

As difficult as Dr. Reeker’s letter is to read, it also fills me with tremendous admiration for my great-great grandfather Arthur.

There he was, suffering from rheumatism with symptoms of advanced heart disease — yet, a soldier to the end, he made a final march of half a mile to the doctor’s office in freezing January weather to be seen for a severe cold!

And I can’t help but wonder whether Arthur had merely contracted a severe cold or something worse. The deadly 1889-1890 flu pandemic was then sweeping the globe, and its U.S. mortality rate peaked on 12 January 1890 — only a few weeks before Arthur’s final doctor visit.

More on the late Arthur Bull and his family 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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