1892: Pensions approved for Civil War widow Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull and children

Sepia Saturday 432: Seventh and last in this series about my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a U.S. Civil War widow. Mary was the mother of my paternal great-grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

After two long years, in 1892 my great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull, 53, finally received her U.S. Civil War widow’s pension — which must have come as a great relief as she took a leap into an unknown future with her two youngest children.

Mary’s $12-a-month pension was retroactive to the 30 Jan. 1890 death of her husband — my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, Union veteran of the 6th N.Y. Heavy Artillery who suffered Civil War-related illness and injury.

http://ageofuncertainty.blogspot.com/2010/11/last-month-i-posted-some-highlights.html
Woman in dark dress (circa 1870s). My widowed gg grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull was likely relieved to finally receive survivor pension payments for herself and her dependent children. Image: ageofuncertainty

Her minor children, a daughter Alice and a son Waples, also received a dependent pension — but not before additional proofs assured the pension board that they indeed were Arthur and Mary’s children.

In the last post, I detailed an affidavit from their older sister Carrie A. (Bull) Graff testifying to their birth details. Two additional proofs were submitted: a statement from Mary and a copy of the Bull family bible, which was examined by a Justice of the Peace.

A mother’s statement

On 9 May 1892, Mary appeared before a Justice of the Peace in Salamanca Cattaraugus Co., N.Y. and swore that Alice and Waples were her and Arthur’s children:

I am the above named claimant and the widow of Arthur T. Bull. There was living at the time of the death of said Arthur T. Bull the following named children, the offspring of said marriage of said Arthur T. Bull and this claimant. The years, names and dates of birth of such children are as follows: Alice I. Bull, Residence Salamanca, Born Sept. 29, 1876. Waples H. Bull, [Residence Salamanca], [Born] April 12, 1789. Both of the above were under the age of 16 years at the time of the death of said soldier Arthur T. Bull which took place on the 30th day of Jany 1890. A certified copy of the Family Record is attached. [Signature of Affiants.] Mary E. Bull

The Bull family bible

The “certified copy of the Family Record” referred to in Mary’s General Affidavit above appears to be the Bull family Bible, in which family details were recorded.

An antique Bible. Records in a similar Bull family Bible were used to verify the birth dates of Arthur and Mary E. Bull’s minor children so they could receive pension payments.

For the final record in Mary’s file is a typewritten affidavit from Justice of the Peace T. H. Dowd indicating he had seen and verified the Bible record. (Handwritten portions are underlined below.)

This is to certify that I the undersigned a justice of the peace in the county of Cattaraugus County have this day examined the family record kept by Arthur T. Bull in his family Bible and I find the said Bible to have been published in the year 1873 and to contain the following entries: Alice I. Bull born September 29th 1876 and Waples H. Bull born April 12th 1879.

And I further certify that the said entries appear to have been made years ago and that form all appearances the writing appears to have been done at about the times and dates of the birth of said children mentioned above. I further certify that I am not interested in this claim and have no interest in its prosecution in any manner whatsoever. Dated May 10th 1892. T.H. Dowd Justice of the Peace Certificate on file at the Pension Bureau, Washington, D.C.

Widow’s and children’s pensions approved

With all evidence submitted and verified, on 13 Aug. 1892 — 126 years ago this week — Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull was approved for her $12 monthly Civil War widow’s pension. Not an extravagant sum, but something to keep the household going.

The Buffalo Pension Board also approved the “Additional sum of $2 a month for the following children, until arriving at 16 years of age, commencing Jan. 20, 1890: Alice I. – 16 yrs. – Sept. 28, 1892 [and] Waples H. – 16 yrs. – April 11, 1895.” So that meant support for the children, too.

Thus ends the trail of documents in the Civil War pension file of Arthur T.  and Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull — with a measure of recompense for the war’s impact on their family.

But this is not the end of their story. For Mary also had to deal with probate issues stemming from Arthur’s passing.

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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1890: Widow Mary E.(Blakeslee) Bull’s minor children

Sepia Saturday 431: Sixth in a series about my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a U.S. Civil War widow. Mary was the mother of my paternal great-grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

As the surviving spouse of U.S. Civil War veteran Arthur T. Bull, Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull was entitled to a widow’s pension – which she applied for shortly after his January 1890 death.

However, minor children of deceased veterans were entitled to pension benefits as well. Since Mary’s two youngest children — daughter Alice, 13, and son Waples, 11 — were still living at home, her widow’s pension file also includes paperwork on their behalf.

http://www.costumecocktail.com/2015/08/07/lovely-young-mother-with-children-1850s/
Daguerreotype of a young mother with children (circa1850s). When my great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull was widowed in 1890, her two youngest children, daughter Alice and son Waples,, still lived at home. As dependent children of a deceased U.S. Civil War veteran, they were also entitled to pension benefits. Image: www.costumecocktail.com

As with Mary’s marriage details, the birth dates of her minor children had to be verified for years when New York State did not require statewide vital records registration. So yet another Bull family member stepped up to help.

Birth details from an older sibling

In June 1891 Carrie A. (Bull) Graff, 31 appeared as a witness before Cattaraugus County Justice of the Peace T. H. Dowd. She stated she was present in the home for the births of her youngest siblings Alice and Waples Bull.

A General Affidavit submitted to the Pension Board sums up Carrie’s testimony about the births of her youngest siblings. (Handwritten portions are underlined below.)

State of New York, County of Cattaraugus, ss: In the matter of Claim for pension No. 427.089. of Mary E. Bull, widow of Arthur T. Bull Co. L. 6” Regt. N.Y.H.A. Vols.

On this 20th Day of June A.D. 1891 personally appeared before me a Justice of the Peace in and for the aforesaid County duly authorized to administer oaths, Carrie A. Graff aged 31 years, a resident of Salamanca in the County of Cattaraugus and State of New York whose Post Office address is Salamanca well known to me to be reputable and entitled to credit, and who, being duly sworn, declared in relation to aforesaid case as follows.

I am a daughter of the above named claimant and was at home with my mother at the time of the birth of her two children Alice I. Bull, who was born at Moose River, Lewis County, N.Y. on the 29th day of September 1876 and at the time of the birth of Waples H. Bull who was born at Moose River, Lewis County, N.Y. on the 12th day of April 1878.

Affiant further says that she was well and personally acquainted with the midwife who attended the claimant at the times and she knows said midwife has since died.

I further declare that I have no interest in said case and that I am not concerned in its prosecution. [Signature of Affiants.] Mrs. Carrie A. Graff

Some Bull family history

Each time I read this affidavit I am amazed at how much I learned from it. Not only did Carrie identify herself as Mary’s daughter, but I learned that Graff was surname of her first husband.

I also learned the exact dates and locations of Alice and Waples’ births — and that they were delivered by a midwife. And Waples’ 1878 birth in Moose River helped me establish that Arthur and Mary Bull remained in Lewis County at least until April of that year.

Carrie also indicated that, like her parents, she lived in Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y. — opening up new research questions. Did she move there along with them? Did they decide to relocate to Western New York because daughter Carrie and her husband already lived there? Or did Carrie and her spouse move to Salamanca later, in order to assist her mother after Arthur’s death?

Whatever the sequence, Carrie’s testimony, received at the pension  office on 25 June 1891, surely helped verify her siblings’ claims for dependent pension coverage — while providing valuable Bull family history in the process.

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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Crossed Paths: Brookdale, Broome County and my Bull ancestors

Sepia Saturday 430: Fifth in a series about my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a U.S. Civil War widow. Mary was the mother of my paternal great-grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

At times during my genealogy research I have been surprised to learn that my life unknowingly crossed paths with areas where my ancestors lived — yet I was oblivious to the connection until I began exploring my family history.

In this context, I want to pause and examine the 1856 marriage of my paternal great-great grandparents Arthur T. Bull and Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee in Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna. — which was detailed in her 1890 application for Civil War widow’s benefits.

http://psa.powerlibrary.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/pc/id/13561/rec/1
Valley of the Susquehanna River where New York and Pennsylvania meet (1912). Cross-border interactions were common, so it’s not unusual that my Bull great-great grandparents met and married in 1856, even though they were residents of different states. Image: psa.power library.org

A cross-border courtship

Arthur T. Bull was raised in New York State’s Catskills region, where he learned the leather tanning trade. He later moved with his parents and siblings to Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y., where they were enumerated in the 1855 federal census.

Conklin is located along Little Snake Creek, west of the Susquehanna River and just north of the Pennsylvania border — about an eight-minute drive today from Brookdale, Penna.

Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee resided in Brookdale at the time of her 1856 marriage to Arthur — likely with her parents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee. An abstracted newspaper announcement of their wedding gives Arthur’s residence as Corbettsville, N.Y. — a bit closer to Brookdale.

http://www.west2k.com/pastations/susquehanna.shtml
Railroad map of Susquehanna County, Pa. (1895). Click map to enlarge. Brookdale in Liberty Township, where my great-great grandparents Arthur and Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull married in 1856, is at the center of the northern border. Broome County in New York’s Southern Tier lies just above that border.  Image: www.west2K.com

Then, as now, cross-border interactions were common — with Broome County in New York’s Southern Tier just a stone’s throw from Susquehanna County, Penna. So it’s not unusual that my Bull great-great grandparents met and married while residing in different states.

Crossing paths with the Bulls

Fast forward a century to 1956, and it was my family of origin that was moving to Endwell in Broome County, N.Y. — just one block north of the Susquehanna River. Thus begins the study in similarities, contrasts and crossed paths with the Bulls.

Like Arthur’s father, my dad Norm Charboneau was relocating with our family for a new job — setting up house just 17 miles from where the Bull family lived in 1855. However, we had no idea the Bulls even existed — much less that they were paternal ancestors of ours!

Page Lake in New Milford, Penna. (1910). This vintage post card captures the summer pleasures my family of origin enjoyed at Page Lake in the 1950s-60s. I had no idea then that we were just a few miles from Brookdale, Penna., where my paternal gg grandparents Arthur T. Bull and Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee married 100 years before. Image: Lakeside Outing Club, Inc.

Path to Page Lake

My parents grew up in the Adirondack foothills of northern New York — where everyone who could afford it had a lakeside camp where they went in the summer. So that’s how the next crossed path originated.

As children, my parents learned to swim, fish, boat and trek through woods filled with flora and fauna at their families’ camps — and they wanted the same for their children.

So my dad found an affordable lot and built a small lean-to on Page Lake in New Milford, Penna. (shown on the map above) — just 13 miles south of Brookdale where Arthur and Mary Bull were wed in 1856!

We spent most summer weekends at Page Lake throughout the 1950s-60s — commuting back and forth past Conklin and Corbettsville and Brookdale, yet never imagining our proximity to these family history landmarks from 100 years before.

By contrast, today it’s a genealogical treat for me to examine ancestral areas discovered through research — and trace my own family’s paths running through them.

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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1890: Rhoda A.(Blakeslee) Whitney testifies to a wedding

Sepia Saturday 429: Fourth in a series about my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a U.S. Civil War widow. Mary was the mother of my paternal great-grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

My great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull set sail, at 50, on the rocky seas of widowhood after the January 1890 death of her husband Arthur T. Bull, 57, a Union Army veteran.

Fortunately, she had relatives to help guide her to safe harbors — among them her sister Rhoda A. (Blakeslee) Whitney and husband William Whitney, then living in Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y.

https://msu.edu/user/beltranm/mourning/mourning.htm
Woman in mourning for her husband, whose photo she wears in a brooch (circa 1896). This photo appears to capture a certain strength that widows must muster to continue on after the death of their husbands. My great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull likely drew on inner strength, as well as support of family, in her quest for Civil War widow’s benefits. Image: msu.edu

Testifying to a wedding

When Mary needed to prove the date and location of her wedding — as part of her application for Civil War widow’s benefits — she turned to the Whitneys for help. They obliged by providing a remarkable affidavit testifying to the details.

How did they know them? Because they had attended Mary and Arthur’s wedding! Their testimony from Mary’s widow application file follows. (The document was typewritten except for the underlined portions, which were handwritten.)

On this 26th day of February, 1890, before me, a notary public within and for the county and state aforesaid, duly authorized to administer oaths, personally appeared William Whitney, aged 71 years and Rhoda A. Whitney, aged 59 years, who being by me severally and duly sworn, say:

That they reside at No. 179 43 South Street, in the city of Binghamton, Broome County, New York; that they were present at the  marriage of Arthur T. Bull to Mary E. Blakslee; and that the said Arthur T. Bull and Mary E. Blakslee were united in marriage at Bookdale, in the Town of Liberty and state of Pennsylvania, on the 11th, Day of August, 1856, by the Reverend Willard Richardson, a Presbyterian clergyman.

Signatures of my great-great grandaunt Rhoda A. Whitney and her husband William (1890). The Whitneys provided details of my great-great grandmother Mary’s 1856 marriage to Arthur T. Bull to support her application for Civil War widow’s benefits. Rhoda was Mary’s sister. Photo by Molly Charboneau

No marriage record

That there is no public or private record of said marriage as deponents verily believe; that as deponents are informed and believe it was not then customary among people of said county, at the time of said marriage, to record marriages in town or county records nor required by the laws of said county or state; and that the present whereabouts of said Willard Richardson who married said parties is unknown to deponents and whether he is alive or not is to them unknown.

Deponents further swear that they derive the facts of the said marriage and the time when it took place and where it was performed from a distinct remembrance of the same, said Mary E. being a sister of the deponent Rhoda A. Whitney, and deponent William Whitney being the husband of said Rhoda A.

A sympathetic notary public

William Whitney and Rhoda A. Whitney then signed the document — as shown above — and it was witnessed by a notary public, who declared:

Subscribed and sworn before me this 26th day of February 1890; and I hereby certify that the said affiants are both reputable and credible persons; that the foregoing affidavit was read to and fully understood bey each of them before verification. and that I have no interest, direct or indirect, in the prosecution of this claim. — George Whitney, Notary Public

While I don’t yet know the exact relationship, I suspect that George Whitney was related in some way to William and Rhoda — as they would likely have turned to local family in their efforts to assist Rhoda’s sister Mary. And I’m glad they did — because this clearly-written document aided my family history research tremendously!

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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1890: A widow’s witnesses

Sepia Saturday 428: Third in a series about my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a U.S. Civil War widow. Mary was the mother of my paternal great-grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

Widows of U.S. Civil War veterans — such as my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — were required by Acts of Congress to substantiate their marriages when applying for benefits.

So Mary had to produce witnesses and/or available documents to support her contention that she was indeed the wife of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, a Union Army pensioner.

https://msu.edu/user/beltranm/mourning/mourning.htm
Fashion illustration of a widow and a bride (circa 1896). In 1890, my widowed great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull needed witnesses to substantiate her marriage to Union pensioner Arthur T. Bull. One person she turned to was son-in-law Sidney Banton, who had married her daughter Jessie two years before. Image: msu.edu

Proof of a marriage

In a 2010 article “‘A Reasonable Degree of Promptitude’: Civil War Pension Application Processing, 1861-1885,”1 Claire Prechtel-Kluskens describes how proofs of marriage typically worked .

The pension office could allow a widow’s pension based on evidence of cohabitation but, ironically, could not legally terminate a widow’s pension because of cohabitation. Because marriage records had been created haphazardly in many places, or not at all, pension office custom was “to accept evidence of cohabitation and general recognition as husband and wife, as sufficient proof of marriage to entitle to pension in cases where it is clearly shown that more satisfactory proof cannot be furnished.”  The pension files are replete with affidavits of persons who may not have witnessed the marriage ceremony but who could testify that John Doe and Mary Doe held themselves out as being husband and wife and were so accepted in the community.

Mary Bull’s witnesses

In this, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull was no different from the mass of other Civil War widows filing pension claims.

Her Application for Accrued Pension. (Widows.) includes the following written testimony of two witnesses attesting to her marriage. (Handwritten entries are underlined; strikethroughs were manually entered.)

Also personally appeared Carey D. Davie, residing at Salamanca, N.Y., and Sidney S. Banton, residing at Salamanca, N.Y., who, being duly sworn, say that they were present and saw Mary E. Bull sign her name (make her mark) to the foregoing declaration; that they know her to be the lawful widow of Arthur T. Bull, who died on the 30th day of January, 1890; and that their means of knowledge that said parties were husband and wife, and that the husband died on said date, are as follows: from acquaintance with Mr. Bull and family and from general reputation and the annexed certificate of William Whitney and Rhoda A Whitney.

Carey D. Davie was a lawyer, according to the 1892 New York State census2. Judging by the penmanship, he appears to have completed the handwritten portions of Mary’s application.

Sidney S. Banton was Mary’s son-in-law, who had married her daughter Jessie Ann Bull just two years earlier. At the time, Mary was mourning the Jan. 1888 death of her mother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — so the above illustration of widow and bride echoes the ups and downs of Mary’s life during that period.

But what was the “annexed certificate of William and Rhoda A. Whitney”?

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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  1. Prechtel-Kluskens, Claire.  ‘A Reasonable Degree of Promptitude’: Civil War Pension Application Processing, 1861-1885. Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Admininstation, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Spring 2010). Website. Archives.gov (https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2010/spring/civilwarpension.html : accessed 19 July 2018.
  2. Free login required by FamilySearch to view the document image.
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Growing family trees one leaf (and road trip) at a time