All posts by Molly C.

Miss George goes to college

Sepia Saturday 444: Third in a series about my fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George — one of those friends, acquaintances and neighbors (FANs) who can make such a difference in a person’s life.

Born in 1917, my fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George grew up in Binghamton, N.Y., where she lived with her parents and younger brother Thomas.

Miss George’s childhood spanned the Roaring Twenties — a period when women jettisoned the confining clothing and ideas of the previous century, finally won the right to vote and envisioned new possibilities for their lives, including higher education and careers.

https://www2.cortland.edu/about/history/
Cortland Normal School, Old Main campus (1923). In 1936  my fourth grade teacher Helen George enrolled in a three-year teacher training program here. She graduated with teaching credentials in 1939. The school is now the State University of New York Cortland. Photo: SUNY Cortland

So the tenor of the times may have influenced Miss George’s decision to become a teacher — a job that many young women, including my maternal grandmother, embraced as their calling during the same period.

Early education

Miss George’s early education was in the the Binghamton, N.Y., public school system.

Today the large, modern Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School sits across from her childhood home at 22 Ogden Street — and Miss George may have attended its predecessor at the same location.

Binghamton Central High School. My fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George attended high school here in the 1930s. Photo: pressconnects/Broome County Historical Society

Later, Miss George went to Binghamton Central High School — as confirmed by her listing on the student rosters of several BCHS yearbooks I found online.

Her high school –which was built in 1915 and relatively new when she attended — still holds classes in the original building shown above and in several adjoining structures that have been added over the years.

On to college

After graduation, Miss George went on to college at the Cortland Normal School in Cortland, N.Y. (now SUNY Cortland) — just a short trip north from her Binghamton hometown.

Her father Thomas George was a railroad conductor who probably made sure she knew the train route back and forth to school — since rail was the standard means of transportation for New York college students at the time.

Miss George’s parents were surely proud of her educational ambitions. According to the 1940 U.S. Census1 Helen’s father had only completed the 6th grade and her mother Anna the 8th grade. So raising a daughter who not only graduated from high school but was headed to college must have been gratifying to them both.

And I can only imagine Miss George’s excitement to arrive at Cortlandt Normal School to study among hundreds of like-minded young women who were also preparing for an educational career.

Graduation in 1939

Miss George graduated in 1939 after completing a degree in General studies, according to her listing in the Didascaleion yearbook published by her senior class.

Cortlandt Normal School, Didascaleion yearbook, Class of 1939. Bottom row, first from right: Senior yearbook photo of Miss George, 22, wearing her signature eyeglasses. Scan: Molly Charboneau

According to her yearbook, during her third year Miss George belonged to Alph Beta (presumably a sorority) and was on the Co-No staff in her first year.

The oddly named Co-No-So is described as the “club for non-club girls,” featuring “fun and good times,” “new challenges for underclass women,” seasonal parties, a winter snow sculpture contest, and a spring banquet freaturing “fluffy dresses, flowers, delicious food, music, and always the spirit of friendship.”

Although I can’t quite picture no-nonsense Miss George in a fluffy dress, it’s nice to learn that she enjoyed the social side of her college years apart from her studies.

And by 1945 — six years after graduation — she was back in the Southern Tier teaching Endwell, which is west of Binghamton, where she became my fourth grade teacher at Hooper School in 1960.

Please stop back as this series continues. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs  of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Miss George’s Binghamton childhood

Sepia Saturday 443: Second in a series about my fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George — one of those friends, acquaintances and neighbors (FANs) who can make such a difference in a person’s life.

When I was a grade schooler, I didn’t think about my teachers having an outside life — or any life at all apart from our classroom, where they lived up front by the blackboard.

Whether my teachers had parents or siblings or were once young themselves were questions that never entered my head.

Miss George’s childhood home: 22 Ogden Street, Binghamton, N.Y. Before she became my fourth grade teacher, Miss George lived here for most of her childhood and young adult years with her parents and younger brother. Photo: Google Maps

So it was not until this month — while visiting my hometown for a 50th high school reunion — that I learned about my fourth grade teacher Helen George’s family.

Miss George’s father Thomas George (1882-1954), mother Anna O’Dea George (1888-1955) and younger bother Thomas M. George (1920-1997) are buried beside her in Vestal Hills Memorial Park, Vestal, N.Y., as discussed in the last post,

Miss George’s family history

Finding her family led me to wonder about her younger years — before she began teaching — and what her childhood may have been like. Where did she live? What did her parents do? What records might help me discover some of her family history?

Turning to U.S. Census records, I easily located her family living in Binghamton, N.Y., in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 federal population censuses as summarized in the table below.

Helen George and family in the U.S. Census (1920-1940) Binghamton, Broome, N.Y. – Source: Family Search2
Year Address Thomas Anna Helen Thomas Jr.
1920 2 44 Dennison St. (Rent) 37, Head, Trainman 31, Wife, born in PA 2.5 yrs., Dau., born in NY
1930 3 22 Ogden St. (Own) 48, Head, Steam RR Conductor 42, Wife 12, Dau. 9, Son
1940 4 22 Ogden St. (Own) 57, Head, Steam RR Conductor 52, Wife, Housework 22, Dau., Attended School/College 19, Son, Attended School/College

The census entries show that Miss George’s father worked on the steam railroad — as opposed to the local electric railroad and streetcars that also operated in Binghamton, N.Y. at the time.

Her dad was a railroad man

Researching Thomas George’s occupation, I discovered the fascinating railroad map below, which shows the various lines — including steam train lines — traversing the Triple Cities, as the area was known when I lived there.

Miss George and her family lived just south of the Fair Grounds and Ball Park, which is grayed out on this map.

https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/mcgraw_electric.html
Railway map of Binghamton, N.Y. and Vicinity (1913). [Click map to enlarge.] The father of my fourth grade teacher, Miss Helen George, was a conductor on a steam railroad that carried passengers to and from Binghamton, N.Y. — like the train I took as a child to visit my grandparents during the summer. Image: McGraw Electric Railway Manual maps/U. of Texas Libraries (Austin)
My childhood overlapped the last years of these passenger railroads — one of which ran right behind Hooper School where I had Miss George for fourth grade in 1960.

I remember summers as a youngster taking the Delaware and Hudson railroad north from Binghamton, with my younger brother Mark, to visit our grandparents near Albany, N.Y. — a train line that appears on the above map.

What a surprise to learn that Miss George’s dad was a railroad conductor who worked on a steam train line — maybe even the same railroad I later traveled on as a child!

Please stop back as this series continues. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs  of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Visiting Miss George

Sepia Saturday 442: First in a new series about my fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George — one of those friends, acquaintances and neighbors (FANs) who can make such a difference in a person’s life.

When I was in the fourth grade in 1960, I was amazed at how many tall, mature-looking teenagers would stop by our classroom at the end of the day to visit our bespectacled teacher Miss Helen George.

Young women in full-skirted dresses with books in their arms, muscled young men in bulky, athletic letter jackets, and tall, studious types who engaged Miss George in conversation — they all returned to visit a teacher they clearly remembered with fondness.

Helen George plaque, Vestal Hills Memorial Park, Vestal, N.Y. (2018). Miss Helen George was a beloved fourth grade teacher at nearby Hooper School, where many of her former students returned to visit throughout their high school years. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Often, Miss George would proudly introduce her former students to us and say how one day we, too, would be high school students just like them — an amazing thought for a fourth grader!

That memory stuck with me — and years later, walking home from the high school one afternoon I became one of those “big students” who stopped by to say hello to Miss George and be introduced to her class.

A quintessential teacher

Miss George was a quintessential teacher of her era and reminded me in some ways of my maternal grandmother. Her short reddish hair had a hint of grey (she would have been in her early forties at the time) — and I remember her in calf-length, button-front, small-print shirt dresses and sensible black lace-up pumps with square, career-height heels.

Rimless eyeglasses completed her look as a no-nonsense instructor bent on fulfilling her duty to impart knowledge to us youngsters. A stern taskmaster, Miss George nevertheless found creative ways to spark learning by sharing her community involvement in town history with our class — and she rewarded us when we did well.

One more visit

So is it any wonder that this month, as I prepared to return to my home town for my 50th high school reunion, Miss George was the teacher who sprang to mind?

My high school classmates planned a mixer, a tour of the school and a dinner — all fun stuff as we got reacquainted and reminisced about our teenage time together.

And before the festivities began , I decided that one more visit to Miss George was also in order — this time to her final resting place in Vestal Hills Memorial Park in Vestal, N.Y. — to pay my respects to a teacher who had made a great impact on me during my formative years.

Plaques of Helen George, her parents and brother, Vestal Hills Memorial Park, Vestal, N.Y. (2018). The park maintainers graciously cleaned the plaques of the George family in advance of my visit. Miss George’s plaque is third from left. Photo: Molly Charboneau

“Nobody has been to see her for a long time,” said the park secretary, who arranged to have her plaque — along with those of her parents and brother — cleaned up for my visit.

Telling Miss George’s story

Miss George was single and childless — and I’m not sure who might be around to chronicle a bit of her personal history.

But there’s more than enough room for her in Molly’s Canopy!

So as her former student, I plan to write a few blog posts about how her life intersected with mine and what I have been able to learn about her through research.

Please stop back as this new series unfolds. 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: Sureties for Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull’s administrator bond

Sepia Saturday 437: Fifth in a series on the settlement of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull’s estate. A Union Army veteran of the U.S. Civil War, he was the father of my paternal great grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

On 13 Aug. 1890, two days before my great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull received her Letters of Administration to oversee disposition of her late husband Arthur  T. Bull’s estate, she signed a financial bond for $150 — a sum she would forfeit if she fell short on the job.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grand_Army_of_the_Republic_Home_Puyallup_WA_1922.jpg
GAR Widows Home in Puyallup, Wash. (1922). While lobbying for veteran and dependent pensions, Grand army members also took state and local action. They established homes for Union veterans and widows. And, as happened with my widowed great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull, they stepped up to help with probate when a veteran died intestate. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Two men co-signed as sureties to guarantee the bond — attorney Carey D. Davie (possibly her lawyer) and William H. Crandall (a Union cavalry veteran of the U.S. Civil War who belonged to Arthur’s Grand Army of the Republic lodge after the war).

Carey Davie’s assets were discussed in a previous post — but what did William H. Crandall have to offer as collateral?

Financial backing for a widow

When he generously signed Mary’s administrator bond in Aug. 1890, Willam Crandall provided the following notarized details of his assets. (Handwritten portions are underlined below.)

William Crandall of Salamanca N.Y. the surety named in the foregoing bond being duly sworn, deposes and says that he owns in his own right real estate in the town of Salamanca consisting of house and other building and that it is worth not less than the sum of one thousand dollars, and exclusive of property exempt by law from levy and sale under execution.

And that he owns personal estate in said town, and it is worth not less than the sum of five hundred dollars and that he is worth in good property not less than one thousand dollars over all debts and liabilities which he owes or has incurred and exclusive of property exempt by law from levy and sale under an execution.

In short, William Crandall’s assets — added to Carey Davie’s — were more than sufficient to back widow Mary Bull’s administrator bond and assure a smooth settlement of Arthur’s estate.

Nor is it any surprise that William Crandall stepped forward to do this for the widow of a fellow GAR member.

Union veteran solidarity

https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100552788/Home
Grand Army of the Republic. National Encampment. 24th, Boston, 1890 souvenir graphic. Souvenir 24th National Encampment, G. A. R., Boston, 1890. [Boston: Press of E. B. Stillings & Company, 1890.] Image: Hathi Trust Digital Library
From Aug. 11-15, 1890, the same week that Mary received her Letters of Administration, the Grand Amy of the Republic held its 24th annual encampment in Boston, Mass. — where veteran and dependent pensions were high on the agenda.

In addition to lobbying the federal government, GAR members acted at the state and local level to help widows and dependents where they could.

In some cases, the Grand army established homes for Union veterans and widows as shown in the photo above.

In others, like the case of my widowed great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull, members stepped up to help with probate when a veteran died intestate — showing camaraderie and solidarity long after the dusts of battle had settled.

Up next: A brief break for Molly’s Canopy until mid-October. 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: A GAR member helps with Arthur T. Bull’s probate

Sepia Saturday 436: Fourth in a series on the settlement of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull’s estate. A Union Army veteran of the U.S. Civil War, he was the father of my paternal great grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

When Union Civil War veteran William H. Crandall co-signed my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull’s estate administration bond, I wondered how he knew her and my late great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull.

In the last post, I detailed what I learned about William Crandall’s U.S. Civil War service — which in 1864 partially overlapped Arthur’s time in the Union Army. I wondered if they knew each other while serving — a possibility that hinges on one month: September 1864.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.37271/
Private William Liming of Co. B, 21st U.S. Veteran Reserve Corps Infantry Regiment, and unidentified soldier in same uniform (1865). As a VRC soldier William H. Crandall would have worn one of these distinctive sky-blue uniforms — but he did not directly serve with my gg grandfather Arthur T. Bull. They appear to have met after the war through the Union veterans fraternal group — the Grand Army of the Republic. Image: Library of Congress

A scheduling near miss

In September 1864, Arthur went back on active duty with the 6th New York Heavy Artillery after two months in hospital for war-related illness.

While he was away, Arthur’s unit was stationed at Ft. Stevens and helped repulse a July 1864 attack on Washington, D.C. by Confederate forces from the Shenandoah Valley. The capital’s defenses were strengthened after the attack — and  Arthur’s artillery unit was held there until September 24.

Meanwhile, William Crandall was stationed at Giesboro cavalry depot outside Washington, D.C. doing light-duty work with the Union Veteran Reserve Corp — which was made up of injured and infirm service members.

VRC troops played a valiant, emergency role at Ft. Stevens by beefing up Union lines until reinforcements could arrive. Yet while they may have rubbed shoulders with my great-great grandfather’s fellow artillerists, Arthur wasn’t in D.C. at the time —  and it’s unclear whether VRC soldiers remained on combat duty through September, when he returned.

Enter the GAR

So a new question arose: If William and Arthur didn’t directly serve together, how else might they have met? Then I remembered the Grand Army of the Republic — the fraternal organization of Union Army veterans that my ancestor belonged to.

And that’s where I discovered their connection — as shown in the GAR Descriptive Book excerpt below. [1. New York, Grand Army of the Republic Records, 1866-1931, N. Crosby Post 550 Descriptive Book, entry no. 29 W.H. Crandall and 30, A.T. Bull, digital images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 12 Sept. 2018)]

William H. Crandall and Arthur T. Bull listings in the Descriptive Book of Nathan Crosby Post 550 NYS GAR – Salamanca, N.Y. – Source: Ancestry.com – New York, Grand Army of the Republic Records, 1866-1931 [2. Ibid.]
No. Name Age Birthplace Residence Occupation
29 W. H. Crandall 45 Oswego, NY Salamanca Merchant
30 A.T. Bull 52 Greene Co., NY Salamanca Tanner
Entry into the Service
Date Rank Co. Regiment
Sep. 25th, 1861 Private B 9 NY C
Jan. 4th, 1864 Private F H. A. NY
Final Discharge
Date Rank Co. Regiment Length of Service Cause of Discharge
Oct. 8th, 1864 Private B 9 NY C 3 years 7 days Ex. of Service
Aug. 24th, 1865 Private F H. A. NY 1 year 2 m. General Order
Date of Muster into the GAR: Arthur – July 21st, 1886; W.H. Crandall – blank (Note: Date of Muster for member above him was Oct. 7th, 1885)

William and Arthur joined their Salamanca, N.Y., GAR post within months of one another. Both men were transplants from elsewhere in New York State and had served overlapping tours in or near Washington, D.C. during the U.S. Civil War — which meant they had some things in common.

They had also been fellow lodge members for more than three years when my great-great grandfather Arthur died in 1890.  So it seems natural that William would help his widow — my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — by co-signing her administration bond so she could settle Arthur’s estate.

And William Crandall certainly had the collateral to do it.

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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