Category Archives: Watson

1885: Steven E. Watson’s Limestone testimony

Fourth 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.

A mysterious one-year gap occurred in my ancestor Arthur Bull’s re-application for his Union Army pension. A medical referee recommended a one-half disability pension for him in October 1884.

http://www.oleantimesherald.com/news/a-look-back-at-limestone-town-s-history-rich-with/article_1a8315e0-9f30-549c-a16b-453df7eff28d.html
Street scene in Limestone, Cattaraugus County, N.Y. (1893). Construction of a tannery here in 1858, and the later discovery of oil in 1865, drew new residents to the area. By 1885, my Bull ancestors were among them. Photo: Olean Times Herald/Bradford Landmark Society

So why was the next affidavit in my great-great grandfather’s case not provided until 15 Sept. 1885 — nearly a year later?

The first clue lies within that affidavit from S.E. Watson of Limestone, Cattaraugus County, New York.

Steven E. Watson, a tanner, was married to Arthur’s oldest daughter Emma. As detailed in A Broome County bride, their wedding took place “at the home of the bride’s father in the town of Binghamton” on 11 Oct. 1874 — when Arthur, a tanner, was living in New York’s Southern Tier.

A move to Cattaraugus County

Shortly after the wedding, in 1875, the Watsons relocated to the Adirondack foothills— at the same time as Arthur, his wife Mary and their children, and Arthur’s parents Mary and Jeremiah (who also worked as a tanner.) They were three generations of tanners apparently moving together for work.

In the mid 1880s, the extended Bull family moved again to Cattaraugus County, probably in their continuing quest for jobs. The logistics of such a move — especially given Arthur’s delicate health — could explain the yearlong gap in his pension documents. However, his application process picked up again once he re-settled and was seeing local Limestone doctors.

Intriguing family details

Besides the geographic clue, Steven E. Watson’s 1885 affidavit also provides intriguing family details. He testified:

…that he has known the claimant for the last fourteen years; has been his fellow workman and intimately acquainted with him during that period; knows that he has been troubled with heart and lung trouble and unable to obtain subsistence by manual labor and, in affiant’s judgement, his disability has been one half since his first acquaintance with him.

Steven said he knew Arthur for fourteen years — as a co-worker and apparently a friend. But he had only been married to Emma for eleven years. Did Arthur introduce them? Or did they meet by chance while attending a social, church or Bull family get-together?

Hard to know for sure. But the pension examiners ruled Steven Watson’s “credibility good” when they examined the affidavit — and I have no reason to dispute that finding.

Limestone: oil wells and a tannery

According to an article in the Olean Times Herald, Limestone was the site of the first commercial oil well in New York State — erected in 1865, right after the US Civil War.

More pertinent to my family’s history, a tannery was established there in 1858 by Dodge & Smith Company — a potential source of jobs for the next generation of the Bull family as production wound down at the Adirondack tanneries where my ancestors worked.

However, my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull — now less able to work — needed his U.S. Civil War pension more than ever. So he began seeing doctors in Cattaraugus County, both for health reasons and in connection with his claim.

More on this in the next post.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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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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A new Lewis County location

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

Some time between the 1874 marriage of his daughter Emma  in Binghamton, Broome Co., N.Y., and the 1875 New York State census, my ancestor Arthur Bull once again relocated with his family — this time to New York’s Adirondack foothills for a tannery job in the state’s still-forested North Country.

Bing Tannery nypl.digitalcollections.510d47e3-1bb9-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w
J.B. and F.M. Weed & Co’s Upper Leather Tannery, Binghamton, N.Y. (1876). The industrialization of Southern Tier tanneries and dwindling downstate hemlock stands may have forced Arthur Bull to move to the Adirondack foothills with his family in search of work. Image: NYPL Digital Collections

For on 23 June 1875, the state census taker found the family living in a new location — the combined First and Second Districts of the Town of Lyonsdale, Lewis County, N.Y.

The Bull family’s odyssey to this new location was likely forced upon Arthur, as well as other tanners and their families, by dwindling downstate economic circumstances — possibly exacerbated by the industrialization of tanning, which put smaller shops out of business.

According to Hemlock and Hide: The Tanbark Industry in Old New York, an excellent post by Hugh O. Canham on the Northern Woodlands blog:

When the easily accessible hemlock stands in the Catskills were exhausted, tanners looked to the Adirondack foothills for further supplies. Here, water was plentiful, and the Erie Canal and emerging railroads facilitated the shipment of both hides and leather…In all areas, communities sprang up around the tanneries.

Three generations relocate together

My great, great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull must have had her hands full arranging for this move. This would be the furthest she and Arthur had strayed from their childhood homes in the Catskill Mountains — and according to the 1875 state census, they still had six minor children living at home: Carrie, 15, Milo, 13, Eva, 8, Jessie, 6, Frederick, 5, and William, 20 months.

But the census also reveals that she and Arthur likely had help from family who moved north with them. Residing in  the same household was their oldest daughter, Emma E. (Bull) Watson, 17, a housekeeper, and her husband Stephen Watson, 22, who also worked as a tanner.

The Bull and Watson families lived together in a plank house valued at $400 (about $8,900 today) — a higher value than the homes of their neighbors, which seems to indicate that their change of venue was worthwhile.

Nor were the Watsons the only relatives who joined them in the Adirondack foothills. As we will see in the next post, evidence indicates that Arthur’s parents — my great, great, great grandparents Mary and Jeremiah Bull — also relocated to Lewis County, N.Y., around the same time.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Broome County bride

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

Pecking away at the family history of our Bull ancestors was a vacation ritual I shared with my dad, Norm Charboneau — and sometimes it yielded valuable information about the family of our Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull.

http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-f264-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Ahlborn’s Bridal Dress (1875). On a family history research outing, my dad and I found info about the Binghamton, N.Y., marriage of Arthur Bull’s oldest daughter Emma E. to Stephen E. Watson on Oct. 11, 1874 — placing the Bulls in Broome County that year. By: NYPL Digital Collections

Like the time in May 1997, during one of my visits, when my Dad and I ventured out on a research day together at the Onondaga County Public Library Local History and Genealogy Room in Syracuse, N.Y.

That’s where Dad and I first saw a copy of Genealogical gleanings from early Broome County, New York newspapers (1812-1880) abstracted and compiled by Maurice R. Hitt, Jr. and realized it contained loads of folks with the Bull surname.

Not yet clear on who was who, we decided to photocopy the lot. This meant using Dad’s library card and having the staff mail him the photocopies to forward on to me.

As we filled out the required paperwork at the front desk and paid for the copies and postage, Dad pursed his lips and shot me the look my youngest sister calls the “Charbo-smirk.”  A couple of weeks later he sent his commentary with the materials:

Well, here is the info we finally pried out of the library. Dad

I had to laugh when I again saw his wry, handwritten note in my files — stuck to a stack of photocopies containing a clue about a Broome County bride that we discovered together nearly 20 years ago.

A Broome County bride

And it has indeed turned out to be a valuable lead regarding the Empire State meanderings of our Bull ancestors. Specifically, the following abstract from a Broome Republican announcement of the Oct. 11, 1874, marriage of Arthur and Mary’s oldest daughter Emma to Stephen E. Watson:

WATSON, Stephen E. [BR, 21 Oct., 1874] Marr. 11 inst. At the home of the bride’s father in the town of Binghamton by Rev. A.M. Brown: Stephen E. Watson to Emma E. Bull, both of Binghamton.

Wait…at the home of the bride’s father in Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y.?

That had to be my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull’s home. Which meant he and Mary — and their family — made one more stopover in the Southern Tier between the 1873 birth of their son William and their 1875 arrival in the North Country.

Perhaps they were once again trying to make a go if it closer to their Binghamton, N.Y., family. Maybe it wasn’t until later that they were lured north by better job prospects for Arthur. Hard to know for sure.

But either way, it’s been a fun having my dad along again in spirit on the Bull family research journey.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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