Tag Archives: Milo Bull

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.

© 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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Schoharie County serendipity

First in a series on searching for the birthplace of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull.

Lately when I fill a glass with New York City tap water, I marvel at a serendipitous connection to my family heritage — for a portion of my city’s drinking water comes from the upstate Schoharie Reservoir near where my paternal great, great grandfather Arthur Bull was born in 1834.

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nyschoha/map1895.html
Map of Schoharie, Greene and Delaware Co., N.Y.(1895). Preliminary family history research suggests my ancestor Arthur Bull was born in the area at the northern edge of the Catskill Mountains where these three counties meet. Image: Rootsweb

This water source is located at the northern edge of the Catskill Mountains, where Schoharie, Greene and Delaware Counties meet.The reservoir was created in the 1920s, requiring the village of Gilboa — its remnants still visible during droughts — to be moved to the west to make room.

My preliminary family history research suggests my ancestor Arthur was born in this general vicinity. The question is: Where?

Nine years before he joined the Union Army, Arthur, 21, was enumerated with his parents and two younger siblings in the 1855 New York State census for Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. 1 — a census that asked what county each person was born in.

Arthur’s birthplace was given as Greene County, N.Y. — the same birth location as his mother Mary, 46, his brother Milo, 19, and his sister M.E. [Mary Elizabeth], 15. Only his father Jeremiah Bull, 52, was enumerated with a Schoharie County, N.Y., birthplace.

Yet other sources — such as the New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900  — give Arthur’s birthplace as Schoharie County, N.Y.

Schoharie County’s name comes from a Mohawk word for driftwood — and that certainly seems to apply to Arthur’s birth location, which floats back and forth between the two Empire State counties over several decades depending on which records I reference.

Here is the genealogy challenge: How to account for this? And how to resolve it so I can determine where to search for more definitive primary records to verify Arthur’s date of birth and illuminate his childhood years?

My research trail through the Catskills begins with the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Footnotes

  1. 1855 New York State census, Broome County, N.Y., population schedule, Town of Conklin, p. 2, enumeration district (ED) 2 , swelling 9, family 11, line 13, A.T. Bull; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://interactive.ancestry.com/7181/005207111_00358?pid=1654594523&backurl=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ancestry.com%2f%2fcgi-bin%2fsse.dll%3fdb%3dGeneral-7181%26indiv%3dtry%26h%3d1654594523&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true : accessed 13 Aug 2015); citing Census of the state of New York, for 1855. Microfilm. New York State Archives, Albany, New York.