Category Archives: Blakeslee

Southern Tier stopover

Second in a series tracking my ancestor Arthur Bull’s family from the Catskills to the Adirondack foothills (1870-1875).

Between 1870 and 1875, there were major developments in the lives of my great, great grandparents Arthur and Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull — as their family evolved and they pulled up stakes yet again in search of economic stability.

Binghamton, N.Y. (1800-1900). My ancestor Arthur Bull and his family appear to have made one more stopover in Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y. -- on the state's Southern Tier -- before moving on to New York's Adirondack foothills. By: Internet Archive Book Images
A horse-drawn cart parked at curbside in Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y. (1800-1900). My ancestor Arthur Bull and his family appear to have made one more stopover in Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y. — on the state’s Southern Tier — before heading north to New York’s Adirondack foothills. By: Internet Archive Book Images

First came the birth of their second son, Frederick Duane Bull, in 1871, followed by the birth of a third son, William Arthur Bull, in 1873 . Both were born in Delaware County, N.Y. — presumably in Town of Hancock (Hancock Post Office) where the Bulls were living at the time of the 1870 US Census.

So when the 1874 New Year dawned, Arthur, 40, and Mary E., 35, had seven children living at home: daughters Emma, 16, and Carrie, 14; son Milo, 12; daughters Eva, 7, and Jessie, 5; and sons Frederick, 4, and William, <1.

As discussed in the last post, Delaware County diaspora, the Bulls may have had trouble making ends meet in 1870. The economic pressures of yet more children at home likely pushed them to relocate to an area where tanneries were still booming and Arthur could find steady work.

Five years later — time of the June 1875 New York State census — the Bulls were living in Lyonsdale, Lewis County, N.Y., in the Adirondack foothills.

But did they go straight there from Delaware County?  Or did they stopover elsewhere first? Back I went to my files, and I had to smile when I opened my Broome County folder.

For there I found a handwritten note from my dad attached to research materials we had discovered together years before — which contained a valuable clue that placed the Bulls once more in the Southern Tier city of Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y., in 1874. More on this in the next post.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Delaware County diaspora

First in a series tracking my ancestor Arthur Bull’s family from the Catskills to the Adirondack foothills (1870-1875).

For the New Year we embark on a new trajectory with my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull — Union Army veteran, tannery foreman and head of a growing family. This path leads to the foothills of New York’s Adirondack Mountains, where one of his daughters — my great grandmother Eva May Bull — will marry into the Charboneau family.

But first the family of Arthur and Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull made one more Delaware County detour back to Town of Hancock (Hancock Post Office) in the Catskills foothills — which is where the U.S. Census taker found them living on 27 Aug. 1870.

By: Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
Tannery workers in 1870.  My ancestor Arthur Bull and his fellow tanners were having a tough time earning a living in the Catskills in 1870. They became part of a widespread migration to forested areas further north. By: Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County

The family had grown since the end of the US Civil War — with the addition of my great grandmother Eva May, born in 1866 in Pennsylvania, and another daughter, Jessie Ann, born in 1869 in Delaware County, N.Y.

So at the time of the 1870 US Census, the Bulls had five children living at home in Hancock: Emma, 12, Carrie, 11, Milo, 8, Eva, 4 and Jessie, 1 [incorrectly identified as “Lewis” and “male” by the census taker].

Arthur, 36, was still working as a tanner and Mary, 29, was keeping house — but their census entry implies that they may have been experiencing hard times.

No value is listed for real estate on their census entry, and their personal property only amounted to $200 (about $3,700 today) — much less than what they reported 10 years earlier when they last lived in Delaware County.

The decline in the family’s fortunes may have been due to the scarcity of tanbark in the depleted forests of the Catskills foothills, making it more difficult to earn a living there as a tanner. They were also now supporting a larger family.

A nearby cousin?

Nevertheless, they do not appear to have been alone in their struggles. For nearby lived another Bull family — John Bull, 34, a laborer; his wife, Eliza, 32, a housekeeper; and their son Daniel, 16, also a laborer — with personal property valued at just $100 (about $1,850 today).

Arthur’s father — my ggg grandfather Jeremiah Bull — came from a large Catskills family, and John may have been the son of one of Jeremiah’s brothers. More research is needed to verify an exact relationship, which I have found hints of online (albeit unsourced).

Yet I can’t help but think that Arthur and Mary would have drawn some support from having relatives as neighbors, if indeed they were cousins.

Catskills tanners in general were having a tough time — and they became part of a widespread migration to forested areas further north. Arthur Bull and his family joined this Delaware County diaspora some time before 1875.

However, as we will learn in the next post, the Bulls appear to have made one more stop in the Southern Tier first.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Hidden hometown heritage

Fifth and last in a series on my ancestor Arthur Bull’s parents and siblings at the end of the US Civil War (1865).

At the end of the US Civil War — when my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull returned home to his wife and children after mustering out of the Union Army — his parents, siblings and their families all lived and worked within 60 miles of Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y.

http://www.loc.gov/item/91680390/
Bird’s eye view of Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y. (1882). In 1865, my Bull ancestors lived within 60 miles of Binghamton — something my family was unaware of when we lived in the same area 100 years later. Image: Library of Congress
  • Arthur and Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull resided in Town of Conklin, just 13 miles south of Binghamton.
  • Parents Jeremiah and Mary Bull also lived in Conklin — in the household of Arthur’s sister, Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins and her husband, Edward.
  • Younger brother Milo Bull, and his wife Catherine (Hinman) Bull, lived in Town of Triangle, Broome County, N.Y. — 19 miles north of Binghamton.
  • Older brother Norris C. Bull, and his wife Sabra Ann (Howland) Bull, lived the furthest away in Town of Colchester, Delaware County, N.Y. — about 59 miles northeast of Binghamton.

Surprise family ties

Why is this important? Because 100 years later, in 1965, my own family of origin lived in Town of Union — about 9 miles west of Binghamton — and we were completely unaware we had any family connection to the Southern Tier! Nor were the Bulls the only ancestors who were part of our hidden hometown heritage.

As I will discuss in future posts, the Blakeslee family of Arthur’s wife Mary Elizabeth (and the Hance family of her mother) also lived in Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — and just over the border in Town of Liberty, Susquehanna County, Pa.

All I can say is: Amazing!

My dad, Norm Charboneau, may have had an inkling about our Southern Tier family ties. But he never mentioned anything until we went back to Binghamton on a family history road trip in 1995 — decades after our family had left the area.  In some ways, I wish I had known sooner.

A Southern Tier connection

My family moved to the Binghamton area from Albany County — where we shared a farmhouse with my maternal grandparents — after my dad got a promotion at his job with General Electric in the late 1950s. I was just starting second grade.

Growing up, I thought it was odd that we had no family members nearby. Most of my friends from the neighborhood, and at school, seemed to have loads of local  relatives — grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, big extended families.

My local family — on the other hand — consisted of me, my parents, two younger brothers and two younger sisters. If we wanted to see our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins we had to pile into the car and drive for up to four hours.

How I envied my classmates and the kids on my street — with their hordes of relatives within shouting distance!

Yet today I sometimes wonder: Was it because I lacked nearby relatives as a child that I developed an interest in my family’s history? Did isolation from my extended family become a wellspring for genealogy research?

Maybe so. But this much I know for sure: Finding and writing about my Bull ancestors living near Binghamton in 1865 has deepened my connection to the area where I grew up — and genealogy research has finally provided me with those long hoped for hometown family ties.

In the next post: Holiday greetings from my paternal grandmother Mary Frances “Molly” (Owen) Charboneau.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A Delaware County detour

Between his marriage in 1856 and his enlistment in the Union Army in 1864, my ancestor Arthur Bull — a leather tanner who regularly relocated for work — took a Delaware County detour in his moves around New York State.

Township Valley in Delaware County, N.Y. At the time of the 1860 U.S. census, Arthur Bull, his wife Mary, their two daughters and their extended family — including my great, great, great grandmother Hannah Blakeslee — were living in the Catskills Town of Hancock, Delaware County, N.Y. (Walton Post Office). Photo by Andy Arthur

My great, great grandparents Arthur and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull were married in Bookdale, Susquehanna County, Pa. — the home of Mary’s family just south of New York’s southern border.

And at the time of Arthur’s military enlistment nine years later, they were back in nearby Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y., where they were counted in the 1865 state census.

But when the federal census taker called on 11 July 1860, Arthur, 27, and his family — wife Mary E., 22, and daughters Emma, 2, and Carrie, 7 months — were living in the Catskill Mountains foothills in the Town of Hancock, Delaware County, N.Y. (Walton Post Office).

Finding a great, great, great grandmother

Residing at the same address were Mary’s sister Rhoda. A (Blakeslee) Whitney, 29, her husband William Whitney, 47, and their sons Earl D., 10, and Albert J., 8.

And by one of those happy strokes of luck that sometimes happen in genealogy research, living with them was Hannah Blakesley [Blakeslee], 48 — likely Mary and Rhoda’s mother and my great, great, great grandmother, who I discovered for the first time through this census!

Arthur seemed to be doing well in 1860 — working as a foreman in a tannery with real estate valued at $1,000 or about $29,000 in today’s dollars (which may mean there are land records to search for) and personal property valued at half that much at $500.

His brother-in-law William Whitney was working as a “Hired man” with personal property worth $150 — about $4,400 today. Both Mary and  Rhoda were given their occupational due as “Housekeeper” by the census taker.

My great, great, great grandmother Hannah does not have an occupation listed, but she likely pitched in to help — particularly with four grandchildren in the household.

Adjoining census entries list neighbors employed in such occupations as teamster, blacksmith, domestic, tannery hand, night watchman — and, of course, housekeeper. Yet the the area also retained its agrarian character, with other neighbors working as farmers.

Taken together, this census information paints a picture of an extended family of three generations living together under one roof in a solidly working class community, which was nestled in productive, rural farm country along the Delaware River’s western branch.

In short, a worthwhile Delaware County detour for Arthur Bull and his family before their return to Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y., on the eve of the U.S. Civil War — and a beneficial one for me as it helped my find  my great, great great grandmother on my Blakeslee line.

So where will the Bull family’s tannery travels take us next? How about back to Broome County, N.Y. — where Arthur’s parents and sister were living in 1860 and where his father Jeremiah may have owned a tannery in the hamlet of Corbettsville. More in the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Some Leatherstocking locales

The part of New York State popularly known as the Central-Leatherstocking Region encompasses several counties — Schoharie, Broome and Oneida — where my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull and my other Bull ancestors worked as leather tanners during the 19th century.

http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-ad3a-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Open air tannery (1860-1920). My great, great grandfather Arthur Bull worked as a leather tanner before joining the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. He resumed this work at war’s end, and his family’s frequent moves appear to have been work-related. Photo: New York Public Library Digital Collections

This made me curious: What was the tanning industry like back then? And were there work-related reasons why Arthur Bull and his family relocated so frequently, both before and after the U.S. Civil War?

In the 1800s, the tanning trade required a location with adequate water power, good transportation to bring in animal hides, and enough hemlock and oak trees for the requisite tannin to process those hides into leather.

The Catskills area bordering New York’s Hudson River — where Arthur Bull learned the tanning trade — had all of these in abundance in the early 19th century, as outlined in Augustus Ostow’s excellent environmental blog post The Catskill Tanning Industry.

The work itself was a physically demanding, grisly business, with open vats of fermenting hides — as depicted in the photo above — sending up quite a stench. Yet the need for domestically produced leather kept most Catskills tanneries active until the mid 1800s.

Eventually, however, forests became depleted through overuse by the tanning industry. That and an economic recession from 1833-1840 — which caused leather prices to plummet — likely prompted some Catskills tanners to pick up and relocate.

Moving for work

Among those who moved was the family of origin of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull.  By 1855 they had left the Catskills area and settled in the Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — in the state’s Central-Leatherstocking Region — where Arthur, his father Jeremiah and brother Milo were listed as tanners in the 1855 New York State census.

This move was the first of many for Bull family members as they followed the booms and busts of the leather tanning trade to start over again and again in new, forested locations.

Judging by the birth locations and ages given for Arthur’s children in the 1865 New York State census for Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y, he and his wife Mary Elizbeth (Blakeslee) Bull lived in three different locations during the nine years between their 1856 marriage and the end of the U.S. Civil War:

  • Pennsylvania in 1858 [most likely in Susquehanna County just south of Broome County, N.Y.],
  • Delaware County, N.Y., in 1860, and then back to
  • Broome County, N.Y., until at least 1865.

Nor was that the end of their moves around the Empire State. More in the next post as I continue on the trail of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull’s civilian life before and after the U.S. Civil War.

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