1890: Widow’s application reveals Bull family history

Sepia Saturday 427: Second 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.

When my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, 50, filed an 1890 Application for Accrued Pension after the death of her husband Arthur T. Bull, she had to prove several things.

First, she had to show that Arthur was a bona fide military pensioner from his Union service in the U.S. Civil War and that there was an accrued pension amount due.

An unidentified 1850 bride. In her application for a Civil War widow’s pension, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakesleee) Bull provided details of her 1856 marriage to Arthur T. Bull. Photo: George Eastman Museum

Then Mary had to verify that she was Arthur’s wife and therefore entitled to the accrued amount. This entailed providing the specifics of their marriage as excerpted below. (Handwritten entries are underlined; strikethroughs were manually entered.)

…that she was married to the said Arthur T. Bull on the Eleventh day of August, 1856, at Brookdale in the State of Pennsylvania; that her name before said marriage was Mary E. Blakslee (sic); that she had (or had not) been previously married; that her husband had (or had not) been previously married; that she hereby makes application for the pension which had accrued on aforesaid certificate to the date of death; that her residence is No. 82 W. State Street, City Village of Salamanca, County of Cattaraugus, State of New York, and her post office address is Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, N.Y.

A remarkable legacy

What a remarkable legacy with a few strokes of the pen!

Mary gave her maiden name, the exact date of her 11 Aug. 1856 marriage to Arthur and the  location of their ceremony in Brookdale, Pennsylvania — all of which backed up some of my earlier research.

In addition, Mary gave the address where she and Arthur lived in Salamanca, N.Y., pinpointing where he spent his final days — which was new information to me.

And her signature on this document was my first tangible memento of my great-great grandmother, since I have inherited no photos of her.

March 1, 1890: Widow’s signature of Mary E. Bull on form 3-560, Application for Accrued Pension. (Widows.). Her signature on this document was my first  tangible memento of my great-great grandmother, since I have inherited no photos of her. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Witnesses

Alas, the court and the Pension Board were not just going to take Mary’s word. They also required witnesses and whatever documentation could be pulled together — not an easy task for the years before state-wide vital records were kept in Pennsylvania and New York.

Accordingly, Mary did not go alone when she filed her claim with Cattaraugus County Judge O.S. Vreeland. Pension paperwork indicates that two “reputable persons” went along to serve as her witnesses.

Who were these witnesses and what were their statements? 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: Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull becomes a Civil War widow

Sepia Saturday 426: First in a series about my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a U.S. Civil War widow. She was the mother of my paternal great-grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

In January 1890, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, 50, became a Civil War widow following the death of her husband — Union Army pensioner Arthur T. Bull, 57, a veteran of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

May 4, 2014: A Union Army reenactor and his wife at Spotsylvania Court House, Va. In January 1890, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, 50, became a Civil War widow following the death of her husband — Union Army pensioner Arthur T. Bull, 57, a veteran of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Mary’s new persona was thrust upon her after two years of ups and downs in her Salamanca, Cattaragus Co., N.Y. household. Among the major events in her life during that time were:

A new round of paperwork

When Arthur died in early 1890, Mary was faced with a double loss. Not only was her beloved husband, and father of her nine children, gone from her life — but with him went the financial support of her household.

So with barely time to mourn, Mary began the difficult process of seeking an income by applying for a widow’s pension — with its own set of proofs and paperwork to be sent in to the U.S. Pension Board.

Application for accrued pension

On 1 March 1890, Mary appeared with her attorney William H. Peck before  Cattaraugus County Judge O. S. Vreeland and filed form 3-560 — Application for Accrued Pension. (Widows.).

The opening passage of her application is excerpted below, with handwritten portions underlined.

On this First day of March, 1890, personally appeared Mary E. Bull, who, being duly sworn, declares that she is the lawful widow of Arthur T. Bull, deceased; that he died on the 30th day of January, 1890; that he had been granted a pension by Certificate No. 315 208…; that he had been paid the pension by the Pension Agent at Buffalo, NY up to the 4th day of Dec–, 1889; after that date he had not been employed or paid in the Army, Navy, or Marine service of the United States…

A poignant bequest

Once she had established that her late husband had been granted a pension and there was likely an accrued, unpaid pension amount, Mary went on to provide other details required of Civil War widows.

And in so doing, my great-great grandmother Mary unknowingly created a rich source of family history and relationships — a poignant genealogical bequest to her descendants, which will unfold in this series.

More on Mary’s widow application 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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30 Jan. 1890: Arthur T. Bull RIP

Sepia Saturday 425: Fourth and last in this series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s final years as a U.S. Civil War pensioner.

Every family historian has that one ancestor whose story takes hold of them like no other — and the story of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull was the one that spoke to me. So it is understandably hard for me to bid him farewell after writing about his final days in the last post.

Arthur T. Bull Obituary (Cattaraugus Republican 31 Jan. 1890) — A.T. Bull died yesterday morning from the effects of pneumonia resulting from the grip. The funeral will occur to-morrow at 2 p.m. at the M.E. church.

From discovering his Union Army service on a road trip with my late dad and traveling to Washington, D.C., to obtain his pension file, to attending reenactments of the battles he fought in that prompted me to launch Molly’s Canopy — my ancestor Arthur T. Bull has been a game changer for me.

I’m proud to have brought Arthur’s story to light on Molly’s Canopy — something my great-great grandfather would never have imagined while taking life as it came more than a century ago.  But I did not do it alone.

It takes a village

Every genealogist knows that it takes a village of helping hands to find an ancestor and tease out the details of a forbear’s life — and so it was with Arthur.

Tombstone of Arthur T. Bull in Wildwood Cemetery, Salamanca, N.Y. (2005). Every family historian has that one ancestor whose story takes hold of them like no other — and the story of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull was the one that spoke to me. Photo courtesy of Wildwood Cemetery staff.

His pension file provided information about his military life, and the U.S. and New York State censuses helped me track his many moves around the state.

But it took the personal touch of city, library and cemetery workers to flesh out vital information about Arthur’s end of life, and I owe them my thanks. Among them:

  • The Salamanca City Clerk who sent me Arthur’s death certificate, indicating he was buried in Wildwood Cemetery in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, New York.
  • The Salamanca Public Library librarian who located and mailed me Arthur’s newspaper obituary, which is quoted above.
  • The Wildwood Cemetery worker who graciously took the above photo of Arthur’s tombstone, which has been framed on my desk for years.

Arthur revisited

For those of you who have grown to love Arthur as I have, take heart. There is still much of his backstory to uncover — including the details of his birth and early years — so he will reappear on Molly’s Canopy at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, the end of Arthur’s life brought a new set of circumstances for his immediate family — his widow Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, their two minor children Alice and Waples — as well as the extended Bull family who rallied to assist them.

And a new struggle unfolded as my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth applied for a Civil War widow’s pension — a process requiring its own set of forms, proofs and affidavits. In the next post, I will begin the story of the Bull family’s challenges in a post-Arthur world.

Up next: Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull files for a widow’s pension. 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: Arthur T. Bull, a soldier to the end

Sepia Saturday 424: Third in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s final years as a U.S. Civil War pensioner.

Documents approving a U.S. Civil War full-disability pension for my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull are the last ones pertaining directly to him in his pension file.

Sadly —  just seven months after his full military pension was approved — Arthur, 58, died on 30 January 1890 in Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y.

However, because my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull filed a claim for a widow’s pension, there is one more document that describes his final days.

Aug. 2014: Union Army encampment on Governors Island, N.Y. A soldier to the end, on 29. Jan. 1890 — despite his war-related rheumatism and heart disease — my ancestor Arthur T. Bull  made a final half-mile march  to the doctor’s office in freezing weather to be seen about a severe cold. Photo by Molly Charboneau

A pension bureau request

On 29 April 1892 a Bureau of Pensions commissioner wrote from Washington, D.C., to Dr. Abner P. Reeker of Salamanca — Arthur’s last physician — asking for clinical details of his final days as part of the verification process for Mary’s claim:

In the pension claim No. 427,089 of Mary E. Bull as widow of Arthur T. Bull, late of Col L. 6 N.Y. HA, will you please supplement your affidavit by a statement, giving a full and complete clinical history of the soldier’s last illness, its commencement and duration, which he suffered at that time, and the immediate cause of his death, and the direct pathological connection, if any, between the death cause and the disease of heart for which he was pensioned.

A doctor’s response

Dr. Reeker responded promptly by return post on 9 May 1892 with a moving portrayal of my ancestor’s final days:

Arthur T. Bull suffered from heart disease for 4 years before his death and dropsy [edema] of the lower extremities. He had an ulcer on one of his legs. He took a cold I think on the 28th day of Jan 1890 — I did not see him until Jan 29th 1890.

He walked to my office half a mile. Saw him last time on evening of the Jan 29th 1890. To the best of my knowledge he died or his death was caused from heart disease and dropsey [sic.], hastened by his taking a severe cold as he died on the morning of Jan 30th 1890. It has been 2 years since his death, and the above statement is as near the facts as I can recall.

A soldier to the end

As difficult as Dr. Reeker’s letter is to read, it also fills me with tremendous admiration for my great-great grandfather Arthur.

There he was, suffering from rheumatism with symptoms of advanced heart disease — yet, a soldier to the end, he made a final march of half a mile to the doctor’s office in freezing January weather to be seen for a severe cold!

And I can’t help but wonder whether Arthur had merely contracted a severe cold or something worse. The deadly 1889-1890 flu pandemic was then sweeping the globe, and its U.S. mortality rate peaked on 12 January 1890 — only a few weeks before Arthur’s final doctor visit.

More on the late Arthur Bull and his family 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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1889: A full disability pension for Arthur Bull

Sepia Saturday 423: Second in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s final years as a U.S. Civil War pensioner.

In February 1889 my great-grandfather Arthur Bull filed an additional declaration asking for a Civil War pension increase due to a war-related shoulder injury that rendered him unable to work — then waited to hear from the Pension Board.

Living History 2015: A U.S. Civil War veteran and his wife at the Violet Festival in Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., N.Y. Union veterans like my ancestor Arthur Bull worked and raised families after the war, but relied on military pensions for war-related infirmities as they aged. Above, a Civil War veteran (c.) speaks to factory owner Alfred Dolge (r.) during a portrayal of the town’s history. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Four months later, on 26 June 1889, Arthur was examined by a panel of U.S. Pension Board physicians in Jamestown, Chautauqua Co., N.Y. — about 33 miles west of his Salamanca home in western New York’s Cattaraugus County.

Sympathetic pension physicians

Although sworn to be impartial, the pension board physicians may have been sympathetic to my ancestor — a 57-year-old veteran struggling to support his family on an approved partial-disability pension of $17 a month.

According to the 1892 New York Sate census1 Dr. Thomas D. Strong, president, would have been 67 at the time — a mature physician with some awareness of the toll age can take.

Calculating from the same census2,Dr. William M. Bemus, secretary, would have been 33 . And based on a search of military pension records, he appears to have filed for his own invalid pension in January 1899 — having served as a Surgeon and Major in the 3rd N.Y. Infantry.

Together with the treasurer, whose name is hard to decipher, these physicians examined Arthur’s claim that he was suffering from “disease of the heart, rheumatism, of right shoulder and arm.”

The medical exam

1889: Surgeon’s Certificate in the case of Arthur Bull’s pension increase application. The examining physicians ruled in my great-grandfather’s favor and found him eligible for a full disability pension due to war-related injury and illness from his service in the 6th NY Heavy Artillery during the U.S. Civil War. Scan by Molly Charboneau

The surgeon’s certificate states that Arthur was 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighed 150 pounds and had a normal temperature of 98.5 degrees. The report continues:

He makes the following statement upon which he bases his claim for Inc. He had rheumatism and disease of the heart followed. Was sent [to] hospitals. Pt. of Rocks & Mt. Pleasant. Was discharged 1865 on gen. order.

Upon examination, we find the following objective conditions: Fairly nourished. Rheumatic creak in the right shoulder, and right knee. No deformity of joints, or contraction of tendons. Motion of right shoulder some what impaired. Heart, size is normal, and sounds clear. Has marked ascites [fluid retention] and anasarca [edema or swelling] of feet and legs. Heart feeble, and irritable.

Full-disability pension approved

Fortunately for Arthur, this team of pension physicians found in his favor. They concluded their report with the statement below, in which I have underlined the handwritten portions:

From the existing condition and the history of this claimant, as stated by himself, it is probable that the disability was incurred in the service as he claimed, and that it has not been prolonged or aggrevatedby vicious habits.

He is, in our opinion, entitled to a 18/18 [100%] rating for the disability caused by Disease of the heart & rheumatism.

This must have been bittersweet news to Arthur — a finding that brought increased income to his household, but at the price of his total disability due to war-related injury and illness.

Yet with his wife Mary Elizabeth and two minor children dependent on him, this was the best outcome that could be hoped for Arthur and the Bull family under difficult circumstances.

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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  2. Ibid.
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Growing family trees one leaf (and road trip) at a time