All posts by Molly C.

1934: Summer season in Otter Lake, N.Y.

Second in a series on my Charboneau ancestors in New York’s Adirondack foothills during the summer of 1934.

After my paternal grandmother Mary (Owen) Charboneau was given a Self Book by a hotel guest, she used the blank pages to write about events at the Otter Lake Hotel — which she operated with my grandfather William Ray Charboneau in Oneida County’s town of Forestport.

http://digitalcollections.archives.nysed.gov/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/14237
Otter Lake Hotel, with lake in background (circa 1930). My paternal grandparents Ray and Molly (Owen) Charboneau operated the Otter Lake Hotel, which my grandmother journaled about in 1934. My dad said the hotel could not have run without her. Photo: New York State Archives

My dad said the hotel could not have run without her. She handled deliveries, coordinated hotel and kitchen staff and created an enjoyable atmosphere for guests escaping the hotter climes to summer near the Adirondacks.

My grandmother’s newsroom style

Reading her entries, I can’t help but think that — with training and editorial help —  she might even have made a good local newspaper reporter. Her first short piece described a birthday party at the hotel.

A very enjoyable party was held in the dining room of the Otter Lake Hotel on Saturday, August 11 – 1934. The occasion being Mrs. P. J. De Vries birthday. A birthday cake and favors for all the guests were enjoyed. Also Mr. James Burrus passed wine to all. Guests were Mr. & Mrs. P. J. De Vires, Mr. James Burrus and Miss Margaret Saum [all from Brooklyn]; Mr. & Mrs. Louis Migurt, Misses Hilda and Adele Migurt, Misses Lillian Hundley and Jennie Wilson, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Manning, Mr. and Mrs. R. G. Norton.

Otter Lake Hotel: A  cultural gathering place

In a later entry my grandmother reveals that, beyond being a guesthouse, the Otter Lake Hotel served as a cultural gathering place for the lakeside community — spreading goodwill by hosting performances.

A string trio and soloist gave a lovely concert on the evening of August 22 – 1934 in the parlor of the Otter Lake Hotel. The trio was composed of George Wald pianist, Eugene Gantner violinist and Edward Creswell cellist. Symphonic selections and Russian music were much enjoyed. Mr. Creswell gave the Liebestraum and Tarantella as solo numbers. Mr. Gantner gave Ave Maria in a very beautiful manner. Mr. Elliot Stewart sang several selections and rendered Old Man River in a wonderful manner. The concert was much enjoyed by the guests and people from around the lake.

Family on the guest list

My grandmother included herself and my grandfather among the August 22 concert guests (Mr. & Mrs. W. R. Charboneau). And I was surprised to see my Aunt Gig — who later married my dad’s oldest brother Owen — listed as a guest under her maiden name (Aline Des Jardin).

Guests present were Misses Lillian Hundley and Jennie Wilson, Mr. W. R. Wilson, Mr. & Mrs. Migurt, Misses Hilda and Adele Migurt, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Manning, Miss Irene Hundley, Mr. & Mrs. Stewart George, Mrs. Arthur Logan, Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Reese, Barbara Reese, Mary Berthalman, Aline Des Jardin, Mrs. John White, Mary White, May Mangan, Ed Unser, Sadie Underwood, Marie Sorenson, Mr. & Mrs.  W. R. Charboneau, Mr. & Mrs. R. G. Norton, Mr. & Mrs. Dan Tanner, Mr. & Mrs. Edwin Tanner and many others.

Roscoe Norton ‘s curtain call

Two other interesting guests at both events were Mr. & Mrs. R. G. Norton. Roscoe Norton was the original owner of the Otter Lake Hotel. He also operated a general store/post office across the street — right next to the railroad tracks where hotel guests arrived and departed.

My dad often told stories about Roscoe — like how he would put on his official hat when he went to the post-office window in his small store, then take it off again in the general-store side, on again, off again all day long.

Dad even patterned a character after Roscoe in his Labor Day Mystery novel — so it was nice to see him listed with his wife among the party goers at the hotel.

Up next: My grandmother’s write-up of a 1934 Charboneau family reunion. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1934: Christmas in August at the Otter Lake Hotel

First in a series on my Charboneau ancestors in New York’s Adirondack foothills during the summer of 1934.

During the 1930s, my paternal grandparents William Ray and Mary (Owen) Charboneau operated the Otter Lake Hotel in the scenic Adirondack foothills of New York State’s North Country.

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Otter Lake Hotel. During the 1930s, my paternal grandparents William Ray and Mary (Owen) Charboneau operated the Otter Lake Hotel in the scenic Adirondack foothills of New York State’s North Country. Photo: Larry Meyers/Fulton Chain of Lakes Postcards

My grandparents were known as Ray and Molly to family and friends — and they did their best to entertain hotel guests and encourage return visits.

Since the hotel was closed during the winter, one of the high points at the end of each summer season was the Christmas-in-August party before the last guests departed.

At one of these parties, a guest gave my grandmother a “Self Book” with a calendar, a page to list important dates and blank pages for notes. Here’s the first one she wrote:

This book was given to me by Mrs. O’Donnell at a Christmas party held at Otter Lake Hotel August 14 – 1934.

Party highlights and guests

Grandma Charboneau then described the party in an entry that reads like a local newspaper community events column item:

A very lovely Christmas party was held at Otter Lake Hotel on August 14 – 1934. A lighted Christmas tree and presents with a poem for each was a feature of the occasion. Mr. James Burris made a delightful Santa Claus. After the tree and presents, the rest of the evening was spent in parlor games and music. Singing was enjoyed by both ladies and gentleman.

Even better is the guest list, which includes some of my family members (in bold below):

Guests at the Christmas party – Mr. & Mrs. Louis Migurt, Miss Adelle & Hilda Migurt, Mrs. Nora O’Donnell, Miss Lillian Hundley, Miss Jennie Wilson, Mr. W.R. Wilson, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Manning, Mr. &  Mrs. P. T. De Vries, Mr. James Burris, Miss Margaret Saum, Mr. Wm. Charboneau, Mr. Frank Owen, Norman Charboneau, Frederic Charboneau, Mr. & Mrs. W. R. Charboneau.

My dad, Norm, was 10 years old at the time. Uncle Fred, his brother and hotel roommate, was 16. My paternal great grandfather Will Charboneau, 76, lived locally. My maternal great grandfather Frank Owen, 72, was from Baltimore, Md. and known as “Pop” to the family.  My grandfather Ray was 46 and my grandmother Molly was 45.

Pop  Owen’s summers up north

I once asked my dad about Pop’s presence at this gathering. He said by that time Pop had given up his Baltimore, Md. home and took turns staying with one or another of his children throughout the year.

My grandmother’s turn came in the summer so Pop could spend the hot months up north at the hotel — and that’s how he ended up at the August Christmas party.

Pop was born in Wales and Dad considered him quite a character. “Every day he would put on a World War I pith helmet and march across the street and up the hill to Norton’s Store, near the railroad tracks, to pick up the mail,” he said. A cousin told me Pop also drank a daily glass of Epsom salts and took cold bath as a constitutional.

I am grateful to Nora O’Donnell for giving Grandma Charboneau the “Self Book” that inspired her to write about this party and several other happenings that summer. There was even a brief entry about a Charboneau family reunion!

More in the next post. Please stop back!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Memories of Dad on his 93rd birthday

Today my dad would have turned 93. I recently wrote about his younger years. Here, to commemorate his birthday, is an earlier blog post about his landmark eightieth birthday.

The year my dad, Norm Charboneau, turned 80, our family threw him a surprise birthday party a little ahead of the big event at a lovely restaurant near my parents’ home outside Syracuse, N.Y. Dad had a great time — and so many of us turned out from far and wide that we had to take the group photo in two parts to fit everyone in.

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Labor Day Mystery book cover (2005). When he turned 80, my dad Norm Charboneau started blogging and finished up the process of self-publishing his mystery book, which was set in the Adirondacks in the 1940s. Photo by Molly Charboneau

This meant that on his actual 80th birthday — besides celebrating with Mom — Dad was left to his own devices. And as always, he had a plan.

“Today I drove over to Carol’s Polar Parlor, ordered a banana split with everything on it and ate the whole thing myself,” he announced proudly when I called to say Happy Birthday.

Norm felt this was the most suitable way to mark eight decades of a pretty active life — and to anticipate two major octogenarian projects he had in the works.

Chabonews blog

One month later,  Norm started blogging — designing and launching his blog Charbonews all on his own, with a full bio, photos, the works. I have always loved my dad’s forward looking, let’s-try-a-new-challenge attitude — and starting a blog at the ripe old age of 80 was certainly an inspiring act.

Norm wrote short pieces — more as an online journal whenever the mood struck him — about his home town, Elderhostel trips with my mom, and even a post titled Famous Relative? about our family history. Dad had a mini marketing plan, too — emailing family and friends to alert them to blog posts. Like I said, way ahead of his time.

Labor Day Mystery: A Red Flannel Yarn

Norm’s other landmark project, which he was finishing up as he turned 80, was self publishing his book Labor Day Mystery: A Red Flannel Yarn — set in the fictional town of Panther Lake and featuring an amateur sleuth Red Flanneau (aka Red Flannel) loosely based on himself.

Dad modeled other characters and plot lines after friends, family and events from his home town — Otter Lake, Oneida County, N.Y. — to create a murder mystery true to its North Country setting.

Mom and I shared the spoiler alert of reviewing and giving feedback on the manuscript, while Dad handled all the publishing arrangements. Then, like any good publicist, Norm emailed his list and did a blog post alerting us when the book was out — and also made sure that family members got a copy.

Some day, with luck and healthy living, we could all turn 80. When my time comes, I hope I am still writing, blogging and living life to the fullest — though perhaps without the banana split — just like my dad Norm was doing on his 80th birthday.

Up next: Christmas in August 1934 at the Otter Lake Hotel. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Dec. 1885: U.S. Pension Board approves Arthur Bull’s claim

Sixth and last in this series on my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull’s reapplication for a US Civil War pension and his family’s life at the time.

On 10 Dec. 1885, the U.S. Pension Board finally approved my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull for a one-half disability pension of $4 a month for “disease of heart.” The decision followed both a legal and medical review — and came more than five years after he applied for his Civil War pension.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Army#/media/File:Union_Private_infantry_uniform.png
Union private infantry uniform in the U.S. Civil War. My great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery unit primarily fought as infantry. The rigors of battle, along with double-quick marches through rough environments carrying heavy packs and gear likely contributed to the war-related illness he was pensioned for in 1885. Photo: Wikipedia

Today, Arthur’s $4 monthly pension would be worth about $102 in purchasing power — or about $1,224 per year. Not an extravagant sum, but something coming into the household on a regular basis to supplement his reduced earnings.

In addition, the start date for Arthur’s monthly pension was 2 July 1880 — the day he filed his application — so the family likely received a retroactive sum of about $256 (worth $6,136 today) to cover the years of waiting.

Entering the pension system

Also important, once Arthur entered the U.S. Civil War Pension system he was eligible to apply for additional support if his ability to work diminished.

No longer would my great-great grandfather have to prove that he served or that his illness was war-related. Henceforth, Arthur would only need to document any further decline in his health.

These pension developments must have come as a relief to my aging ancestor and his loved ones after their long wait.

Landmark dates

I particularly cherish the document admitting my ancestor Arthur Bull to the pension system because it contains the dates of his Union Army service and pension application — as well as health details that place him at Cedar Creek, Va. at a turning point in the Civil War:

Elisted Jan’y. 4th 1864 — Mustered Date not stated — Discharged Aug. 24, 1865 — Declaration filed July 2, 1880 — Continuous service from Jany. 4th, 1864, to Aug. 24th, 1865, in Cos. L, E & F 6th N. H. Art. (by transfer) — Not in service since Aug. 24th, 1865

Basis of Claim (Claimant writes): Alleges in declaration, filed as above, that in service and line of duty, near Cedar Creek, Va., about Nov. 10th, 1864, he contracted disease of the heart and lungs and was treated at Point of Rocks Hospital, Bermuda Hundred; also in hospital at Fortress Monroe.

These details, and others in Arthur’s pension file, helped me piece together my ancestor’s military history — which I wrote about during the 2014 Sesquicentennial of the U.S. Civil War.

Fortunately for Arthur and his family, his re-application for a Union Army pension was successful — but his story does not end here. There will be more on Arthur Bull and his family in future posts.

Please stop back!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1885: A Limestone doctor’s final affidavit

Fifth a new series on my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull’s reapplication for a US Civil War pension and his family’s life at the time.

On 22 Sept. 1885, a doctor from Cattaraugus County, N.Y., submitted the final affidavit supporting my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull’s reapplication for his Civil War pension.

https://www.loc.gov/item/ny0481/
Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Parallel Pratt Thru-Truss Bridge, Limestone, Cattaraugus County, NY. The railway network that criss-crossed New York State in the 1880s enabled my ancestor Arthur Bull to move with his family from the Adirondack region to Western New York. Photo: Library of Congress

The testimony of M.W. Smith, M.D. of Limestone was filed with the U.S. Pension Office on 1 Oct. 1885.

His was the last of a series of affidavits that would hopefully allow my great-great grandfather to collect his partial disability pension.

Dr. Smith was a new doctor for Arthur, who had only recently relocated to Cattaraugus County from the state’s Adirondack region. Yet his affidavit paints a disturbing picture of my ancestor’s war-related illness that is similar to previous testimony:

I hereby certify that I have examined Mr. A.T. Bull and find his injuries to consist of a Heart Disease with a Lung complication. The heart is enlarged and beats very irregular. He has at times Dysponea [difficult labored breathing] with severe pain in that region.

Persistent wartime illness

I have written about the wartime conditions Arthur and his fellow combatants endured: Battle after battle in the Army of the Potomac’s 1864 Overland campaign, with double-quick marches in between — some through choking dust that felled men and horses as the troops neared Cold Harbor.

Arthur was among those who “gave out” on that last march. He was treated for several months in hospital in the summer of 1864. Yet the irritable heart and lung problems he developed never fully left him after the war — and apparently worsened as he aged. More from Dr. Smith:

His Lungs are weak and has a cough most of the time, raises large quantities of phlegm. His disease is getting worse instead of improving. I have never treated him until now for this difficulty for this reason, He has not lived here but a short time. I consider him able to perform one half manual labor.

The attorneys rest their case

With Dr. Smith’s testimony, Arthur’s attorneys rested their case:

  • Relatives/colleagues who knew Arthur before and after the war had described its impact on his health;
  • Physicians in the Adirondack region had attested to treating him for heart and lung issues for a period of years;
  • Finally, a new Limestone, N.Y. doctor halfway across the state had testified that he, too, found Arthur one-half disabled.

By October 1885 — when the last supporting affidavit from Dr. Smith was submitted — more than a year had passed since a pension board medical referee recommended Arthur for a one-half disability pension.

Now only one question remained: Would the pension board approve Arthur’s application?

Up next: The pension board renders its decision. Please stop back for the final post in this series.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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