Tag Archives: Otter Lake NY

Mapping Moose River

A newspaper announcement about the death of my great, great, great grandmother Mary Bull provided the first clue that my Bull ancestors lived for a time in Moose River Settlement, in the Town of Lyonsdale, Lewis County, N.Y.

I remembered seeing Moose River during a road trip in the North County with my dad, so I decided to look for some historic maps to pinpoint the exact location where the settlement had once stood.

Was I ever surprised to discover just how close it was to where Dad grew up in Otter Lake, in the Town of Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y.

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~26296~1110059:Lewis,-Oneida-counties-?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:Lewis%2BCounty;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=10&trs=128
1895 maps of New York’s Lewis County (left) and Oneida County (right). To enlarge the maps, click here. My Civil War ancestor Arthur Bull and his family lived for several years in Lewis County’s Moose River Settlement — just north of my dad’s Oneida County hometown of Otter Lake. Yet my dad knew nothing about this until we began researching our family together.  Image: David Rumsey Map Collection

The maps posted here show Moose River Settlement in the lower right corner of Lewis County (left image) — just north of the Oneida County border.

Carefully examining the Oneida County map (right image), I found Otter Lake in the upper right corner — almost within shouting distance of Moose River Settlement, when the two county maps are joined.

Charboneau connection

Why is all of this important? Because it was in this general geographic area, where New York’s Oneida and Lewis counties meet, that my Bull ancestors connected with the Charboneau branch of my family — early residents of the Adirondacks foothills.

And because — although he grew up right near the site of Moose River Settlement where the Bulls once lived — even my closest Charboneau ancestor (my dad, Norm Charboneau) did now know about any of this until we went looking!

Examining the 1895 maps above, I could clearly see the towns and villages that corresponded with my family history research findings — Lyonsdale and Moose River, where the Bulls lived; Port Leyden, where Arthur Bull saw a doctor when he first applied for his Civil War pension; Hawkinsville, Otter Lake, Forestport and Boonville, where the Charboneaus lived — all geographically located nearby one another.

And once again I was amazed that the details of my paternal ancestral history in and around this Adirondacks region failed to make it down to my generation — either in story or papers — requiring me to research and document from the other direction.

Which brings us back to Moose River Settlement. Although it no longer exists — and in fact was pretty much gone when my dad was a child — it was once a bustling hamlet when my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull and his family arrived there in 1875.

So what more can I find out about the area and my Bull ancestors’ time in Moose River? We will start that search together,  beginning with the Black River Canal.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Moose River and Otter Lake

When Dad and I made our first family history trip together in August 1992, we knew next to nothing about the family of our ancestor Arthur Bull — the father of Eva (Bull) Charboneau, my dad’s paternal grandmother. In fact, we didn’t even know he had fought with the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War.

DadOtterLakeAug1992img093(2)_2
Aug. 1992: Norman J. Charboneau in his Otter Lake home town. Dad is standing at the edge of Otter Lake, in Town of Forestport, Oneida Co., N.Y., during our first family history trip together. The group of pines in the background was planted decades before by my grandfather, William Ray Charboneau. Photo by Molly Charboneau

All we had in hand was a copy of the 1880 U.S. Census showing that the Bull family, with Arthur at its head, lived in the Town of Lyondsale, Lewis County, N.Y. where he worked as a tannery foreman.

One of our goals, besides visiting where Dad grew up, was to find out more about Arthur and our other Bull ancestors. And it was on that trip that I first saw Moose River.

Driving north on Route 28, Dad initially passed right through his hometown of Otter Lake (in Town of Forestport, Oneida Co., N.Y.) because — as official tour guide for the trip — he wanted to start our journey at the old McKeever train station.

Dad pulled the car onto a sun dappled forest ledge with a clear view of the vacant station below — a lovely building that is now a renovated stop on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. There, he gave me a lively rundown on how McKeever bustled with passengers during his youth.

Then the problem arose of how to get the car off the overlook and back onto the road — and I was suddenly transported back to my childhood and our family road trips with Dad behind the wheel.

He nearly pitched us over the edge trying to do a k-turn in the narrow space — his face reddening by the minute. Glancing over the precipice, I had a fleeting thought that our family history trip might end right there.

But much like the dodgy car maneuvers I remembered from years before, Dad somehow managed to turn the car and, sending an avalanche of dirt from the soft shoulder down toward the station below, headed us safely south to Otter Lake.

First view of Moose River

Back on the road, Dad calmed down and at one point cocked his head and said, “That’s Moose River over there.” I looked out the window at the narrow river, with its gravelly shoreline bordered by trees and no evidence of habitation or industry. It seemed like a place that time forgot, yet it was still touched by world events.

“My mother was riding in the car heading north from Moose River to Otter Lake when she heard the start of World War II announced on the radio,” Dad added, another of the spontaneous tidbits he regularly shared about my paternal grandmother.

Because of his brief comment, Moose River stuck in my mind — and the memory came back when I later discovered that Arthur Bull and his family once lived in Moose River Settlement.

“Exactly how close was it to Otter Lake?” I wondered. And I was very surprised by what I found when I went looking for historic maps.

More in the next post.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Uncle Fred’s letters

I have no memory of meeting my Uncle Fred — Frederic Mason Charboneau — who was born on 3 March 1918.  Yet I found myself thinking about him this holiday season.

He was the youngest of my dad’s four older brothers and died after an illness on 12 Dec. 1952 when I was just a toddler.

Family photo circa 1946 of Frederic Mason Charboneau, 28, in his U.S. Army uniform. Scan by Molly Charboneau
Family photo circa 1946 of Frederic Mason Charboneau, 28, in his U.S. Army uniform. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Growing up, I remember hearing that Uncle Fred was a U.S. Army veteran who received a Purple Heart for an injury during WW II. He married Jean Bastow, but they had no children.

That was about it — until 1992 when Dad and I began exploring our roots together and went on a two-day genealogy trip to Otter Lake, Dad’s hometown, in Forestport, Oneida Co., N.Y.

We stayed overnight with my Aunt Aline who still lived in the area. She was French-Canadian and the widow of my dad’s oldest brother Owen Albert Charboneau. We all called her “Gig.”

After wise-cracking around her kitchen table over a Pitch card game — which Aunt Gig won as usual — we got talking about family history. Aline and Dad shared stories about their youth in Otter Lake and fondly reminisced about our mutual ancestors.

Something about that visit must have touched them both — because the next time Dad went to see Aunt Gig, she gave him a cardboard box containing a treasure trove of family photos and documents.

Among the items in the box was a stack of Uncle Fred’s letters — written to his mother (my grandmother) during the war — along with some photos of him and his obituary.

When I read his letters for the first time I was struck by two things. Uncle Fred’s handwriting was amazingly like my dad’s. And much of his writing was not about the war but about family events back home.

Somewhere in England, October 21, 1942: Dear Mom, …You should be getting my allotment some time the first of next month, which will be $40.00 per month so I should have a nice bank account by the time I get out of the Army. By the way I want you to take some of this money and buy everyone a Christmas present. Even if I can’t be there, I want to keep up the family tradition of everyone exchanging presents. I will collect mine at some future date….Your loving son, Fred

In the spirit of the holiday season, I take a moment today to remember Uncle Fred and to express my gratitude for his letters from the front — which are helping me better understand the life of my dad’s family of origin.

I will share more about Uncle Fred, along with excerpts from his letters, in future posts.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

 

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Dad joins the journey

This Memorial Day, I’ll be remembering my dad Norm Charboneau — a WW II veteran and my enthusiastic travel partner on many family history road trips.

“Where are we going this time, Mol?” he would quip when I visited him and Mom each summer.

Norm Charboneau USN
Family photo circa 1946 of Norm Charboneau, 22, a U.S. Navy ETM3c. Scan by Molly Charboneau.

Dad joined the journey in 1992, and for years we combed upstate New York together, or strategized by phone, in search of our elusive ancestors. But it wasn’t always that way.

Dad grew up in the small Adirondack town of Otter Lake in Forestport, Oneida Co., N.Y., where he admired those in uniform — postal workers, bus drivers, train conductors — who saw more of the world than he did.

The first in his family to go to college, Dad interrupted his engineering studies at Clarkson University in 1944 to enlist in the U.S. Navy. He served in the Pacific until  1946 as an Electronics Technician Mate, Third Class (ETM3c) — in the wider world he longed for.

My college years in the 1960s were interrupted in a different way when I gave up my studies and joined the peace movement to end the Vietnam  War. I was not sure I could ever heal the rift that caused with Dad.

But as years passed, we both mellowed. I eventually finished college and began researching our family. One day I realized that our time together was slipping away, so I called Dad.

“What would you say to a trip to Otter Lake, so you can show me everything and tell me all about it?” I asked him.

Dad — who inherited the gift of gab from his mother’s Welsh-Irish side — loved the idea. And with that trip, the first of many,  he and I finally moved beyond what divided us and started enjoying the legacy we shared: family, ancestors, heritage.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.