Category Archives: Tamkins

1884: A medical referee rules in Arthur’s favor

Second in 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.

In November 1884 — four years after he applied and twenty years after he served — a Pension Board medical referee ruled that my ancestor Arthur Bull was sufficiently disabled to receive a Union Army pension. He was 51 years old.

https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/spring/civilwarpension.html
Pension clerks at work in the Pension Building, ca. 1900. Each folded bundle is one pension claim. Union Army veterans like my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull had to verify their Civil War-related health issues to collect a pension — a process that often took years. Source: US National Archives

The month before, a team of doctors at my great-great grandfather’s  local Pension Board — in Utica, Oneida County, N.Y. — recommended he be compensated at a rate of 1/4 disability.

However, the medical referee at the US Pension Office in Washington, D.C., recommended a higher rate. In his 12 Nov. 1884 response to Arthur’s attorneys R.S. and A.P. Lacey, the referee said:

Claimant is entitled to a rating of 1/2 for Disease of the Heart. If clean face is appended to the brief it will be so endorsed.

There may have been sighs of relief in the Bull household at this finding, as it put Arthur one step closer to receiving his pension. Yet more proof was needed before the pension office would start sending payments.

Background checks begin

So Arthur’s attorneys collected a series of affidavits and reports — from doctors and family members who had known him since the Civil War ended — to verify that his disability was war-related. I found these bundled together in his pension file.

PENSION AFFIDAVITS/REPORTS – Pvt. Arthur T. Bull – 6th NY Heavy Artillery
Year Date Names NYS Location
1881  25 Jan. Edward C. Tamkins & William Whitney Binghamton
1884 15 Sept. D.D. Douglas, MD Port Leyden
1884 22 Sept. G.P. English, MD Boonville
1884 22 Oct. Pension Board doctors Utica
1885 15 Sept. S.E. Watson Limestone
1885 22 Sept. M.W. Smith, MD Limestone
1885 1 Oct. M.W. Smith, MD Limestone
1885 30 Nov. William Whitney (supplementary) Binghamton

The 1881 affidavit from Arthur’s brothers-in-law Edward C. Tamkins (husband of his sister) and William Whitney (husband of his wife’s sister) was summarized by the attorneys — since it was previously submitted to the Pension Board. The later affidavits and doctor reports are more detailed.

Combined, they tell the heart-rending saga of Arthur’s struggle with war-related illness as his ability to work declined — a story that will unfold here on Molly’s Canopy over the next few weeks.

Bull family diaspora

These documents also trace the Bull family’s trajectory across New York State during Arthur’s declining years. They traveled from the Southern Tier (around Binghamton, N.Y) to the Adirondack region (near Port Leyden, Boonville and Utica) and finally to Western New York (around Limestone).

The period from 1880 to 1900 is a difficult one for locating and researching an ancestral family. There are few remaining remnants of the 1890 federal census, which was destroyed in a fire — and a significant gap also exists between the 1875 and 1892 New York State censuses.

Yet because my great-great grandfather applied for his Union Army pension during this period, his file provides many precious clues about family names, relationships and geographic locations that help fill out his ancestral story.

What do these pension records tell us about Arthur Bull and his family in the 1880s? Please stop back for the next chapter in his story.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Broome County, NY: First supporting affidavit

Second in series about my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull and his application for a Civil War pension.

On 14 July 1862 — about two months before my ancestor Arthur Bull registered for the draft in Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — the U.S. government approved an important pension act (12 Stat. 566) that covered Union veterans of the U.S. Civil War.

https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/btlflags/artillery/6thArtFlankMarkers.htm
U.S. Civil War flank marker of my ancestor’s regiment. Fifteen years after he honorably mustered out with the 6th NY Heavy Artillery at the end of the U.S. Civil War, my ancestor Arthur Bull filed a declaration requesting his veteran’s pension due to lingering health effects from his military service. Image: NYS Military Museum

The act “increased pension rates and provided potential eligibility for pensions to every person in military or naval service since March 4, 1861, their widows and orphans, and for dependent orphan sisters,” according  to the U.S. National Archives website.

Two decades later, an amended version of this act would provide my great, great grandfather Arthur with an invalid pension for partial disability due to the persistent effects of war-related illness — sustained during his 1864-1865 service in the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

But first he would have to prove his case. So after filing for benefits on 2 July 1880, Arthur approached family members for help.

First of many affidavits

On 25 Jan. 1881, Arthur’s two brothers-in-law signed a general affidavit testifying to their knowledge of his health status before and after the U.S. Civil War.

The document was notarized, then signed and sealed by a New York State Supreme Court clerk for Broome County. The affiants were:

  • Edward C. Tamkins, 41, of Conklin Station, Broome County, N.Y. [widower of Arthur’s late sister, Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins] and
  •  William Whitney, 62, of Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y. [husband of Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney, sister of Arthur’s wife, Mary].

The notary wrote that the two men “are personally known to me, and they are credible persons.” Written in Edward’s hand, they stated the following:

That we have primarily known the said Arthur T. Bull for 10 years previous to his enlistment and knew him to be a sound man physically and mentally. And that since his discharge he has been unwell and part of the time under a physician’s care. And know personally that his health was impaired by service rendered between the date of his enlistment and the date of his discharge.

Eventually, their testimony found its way to the U.S. Pension Office, where their affidavit was stamped on 27 May 1882 — a year and a half later! Which raises some questions.

Missing pieces

On a genealogy research trip to Washington, D.C., I copied the entire contents of my ancestor Arthur Bull’s pension file. But now that I have finally begun to closely examine the documents, I wonder whether pieces may be missing.

The date that Arthur filed his pension declaration is clearly stated as 2 July 1880 on later documents. But an original copy of the declaration was not in his pension folder at the National Archives.

And could it really have taken a year and a half for the Tamkins-Whitney affidavit — apparently the only supporting document between 1880 and 1882 — to make its way to the pension office?

Or might there have been other documents filled out and filed in the interim that also did not make it into the pension file?

Stay tuned as I try to unravel these mysteries and continue on the trail of my ancestor Arthur Bull’s Civil War pension application.

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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Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins: The 1865 sandwich generation

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

Locating early records pertaining to female ancestors is seldom easy. But those I have found on Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins — my ancestor Arthur Bull’s younger sister — reveal a young woman with many responsibilities during the Civil War era.

From a book of calisthenics for women (1864). Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins might have have needed these to keep in shape for her many duties: caring for two toddlers and her aging parents, and running a farm while her husband served in the Union Army during the US Civil War. By: Internet Archive Book Images
Illustration from a book of calisthenics (1864). Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins might have have needed these exercises to keep in shape for her many duties: caring for two toddlers and her aging parents, and running a farm while her husband served in the Union Army during the US Civil War. By: Internet Archive Book Images

The dutiful daughter

In the 1855 New York State census, Mary, 15, was enumerated as M. E. Bull in the household of her parents — Jeremiah and Mary Bull of Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. Her brothers Arthur and Milo were also still living at home.

Five years later — according to 1860 US Census returns — brothers NorrisArthur and Milo had moved away for work and started their own families. Yet Mary E., 20, was still living at home with her parents in Conklin — about 13 miles southeast of Binghamton, N.Y.

Mary’s father — my great, great, great grandfather Jeremiah Bull — was 57 and required the assistance of a live-in farm hand, who was enumerated in their household. So Mary was probably tasked with whatever housekeeping duties her mother, 51, could not handle.

Mary marries the local butcher

The following year, however, Mary’s life took a new direction as she began a family of her own. According my notes from a Philadelphia Free Library research trip (later supported by a newspaper abstract), she married Edward C. Tamkins, a local butcher and farmer who was born in Dutchess County, N.Y., on 4 May 1861 in Great Bend, Susquehanna Co., Pa. — just across the border from Conklin, N.Y.

By the time the New York State census taker called on 8 June 1865, Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins, 24, and husband Edward, 25, had two children — Carrie, 3, and Norris, 21 months. Also living in their Conklin household were Mary’s parents –Jeremiah, 62, and Mary, 56 — neither of whom had an occupation listed.

So Mary was an early example of the “sandwich generation” — minding two toddlers while also keeping house for her aging parents. Nor were these the only responsibilities she shouldered.

A Union soldier’s wife

On 30 August 1864, Mary’s husband Edward C. Tamkins was called to war — serving in the Union Army as 1st Sergeant in Co. L of the 137th Regiment, New York Infantry. According to information from his N.Y. Civil War Muster Roll Abstract, Edward’s fighting unit took part in Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s march through Georgia — and he was hospitalized in January 1865 in Savannah.

This meant Mary had the added duties of a Civil War wife — taking care of the farm while her husband was away at war and worrying about what might become of him in the heat of battle. She likely relied on Edward’s town and county military bounties totaling $900 (about $13,500 today) to keep the household going.

Fortunately, Edward survived the war and was mustered out with his unit on 9 June 1865 at Bladensburg, Maryland — a couple months before my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull, who mustered out in August.  One can imagine Mary’s relief to have both her husband and brother return safely at the end of the US Civil War.

Still, I can’t help but wonder: Was she entirely pleased to have her husband take up part of the workload she’d been handling alone? Or was she a bit wistful about giving up some of the independent decision making she engaged in during his absence?

There will be more on Mary in future posts. For now we turn to  Arthur’s oldest brother Norris C. Bull  to see where he lived and worked in 1865.

To be continued.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Tanners in my family tree

While hunting for the birth place of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull I discovered that, not only do I have Catskill Mountains heritage — but I also have at least two generations of tanners in my family tree.

My ancestor Arthur Bull with his family of origin in the 1855 NYS Census for Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y.
My ancestor Arthur Bull with his family of origin in the 1855 NYS Census for Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y. (listed as A.T. Bull on line 13). The Bulls had been in Conklin only a year, and Arthur, his father Jeremiah and brother Milo were all tanners — a common occupation in the Catskills area where they likely resided until at least 1840. Screen shot by Molly Charboneau

How do I know this? From the general evidence provided by the Bull family’s enumeration in the 1855 New York State Census for Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — which helps elucidate Arthur’s early life.

First, the census entry indicates that Arthur, his parents and siblings were relatively new arrivals to Conklin that year — judging by the number 1 appearing in the column “Years resided in this city or town.”

Next, all the Bulls are listed with Schoharie or Greene County birthplaces, including the  youngest child M. E. [Mary Elizabeth] Bull, 15, who was born in Greene County, N.Y. This information appears to place the family in the vicinity of the Catskills until at least 1840.

Finally, in the column for “Profession, trade or occupation,” Arthur, his father Jeremiah, and his brother Milo were all listed as “Tanner” — a common leather-producing job in the Catskill Mountains area of New York State since the early 1800s.

Alas, the census taker did not put the usual occupation of “keeping house” beside the entry for my great, great grandmother Mary — Jeremiah’s wife and Arthur’s mother.

But for now we can assume that was how she was occupied on a daily basis — and that some time after 1840 she rose to the challenge of relocating her family from Greene County to Broome County, N.Y., with all of the logistics such a move entailed.

So my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull likely spent his childhood and adolescence in the vicinity of his birthplace (in either Greene or Schoharie counties) — eventually becoming a leather tanner like his father as he reached young adulthood. Then, when he was around 20 years old — about a year before this census was taken — he relocated with his family of origin to New York’s Southern Tier.

What an amazing amount of family history information from just one historic document!

Knowing I have tanners in my family tree raises new questions: How was leather production done in the mid nineteenth century? Was it a robust industry, or one with booms and busts that forced families to move? Were there occupational hazards that may have affected Arthur’s war-related health issues when he went back to this work after his Union Army service during the U.S. Civil War?

The search for answers continues with the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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