Tag Archives: Waples H. Bull

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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1889: Arthur Bull requests another pension increase

Sepia Saturday 422: First in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s final years as a U.S. Civil War pensioner.

Recent retirement from my job got me thinking once again about my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull — and how vital his military pension was to sustaining his family at the end of his work life.

May 2018: Artillery detail on the facade of the U.S. Pension Office building (now the National Building Museum). My great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull received a U.S. Civil War pension for his 1864-65 service in the Union Army’s 6th NY Heavy Artillery. Photo by Molly Charboneau

When I last wrote about Arthur, he was living in Salamanca in Western New York’s Cattaraugus County and, in February 1889, had just been approved for a pension for war-related heart disease.

This brought a much-needed bump in household income from a retroactive pension payment, and regular monthly income going forward.

Yet this was still not enough for Arthur to support himself, his wife Mary Elizabeth and their two minor children Alice 13, and Waples, 11, once he could no longer work in the tannery trade.

So on 23 Feb. 1889, Arthur applied for a second pension increase based on a separate, war-related injury to his shoulder that was causing disability as he aged.

Arthur’s court appearance

With his attorney Willam H. Peck, Arthur appeared before a Cattaraugus County judge, as required by the pension law, and signed an additional declaration about his shoulder.  The declaration from his pension file states:

He contracted rheumatism of right shoulder and arm from exposure and hard marching, having to carry his knapsack and other accouterments, bearing more especially from straps placed over right shoulder.

Said rheumatism has continue to the present, at times more or less aggrevated. Whenever he attempts to labor with his right arm, the pain in right shoulder and arm is so intense that he has to stop labor. This claimant is now drawing a pension Cert. No. 315.208 on account of “heart disease.”

The declaration concludes,”That he is now Entirely disabled from obtaining his subsistence by manual labor by reason of his injuries above described.”

Killer knapsack

With backpacks so prevalent in everyday use today, it is hard to imagine how a military knapsack could cause severe shoulder injury to Arthur or any soldier.

Recommended placement of knapsacks, gear and weapons by Union soldiers to avoid injury and illness. Source: MSHWR

However, their potential to cause injury and illness is documented in the Medical and Surgical History of the War of Rebellion (1861-65), a multi-volume compendium of cases and observations reported by the U.S. medical corps to the Surgeon General — which includes illustrations (above) of ergonomic knapsack protocols.

The packs and gear — which could weigh 40-50 pounds — were especially taxing on the double-quick marches often required of Arthur and other Army of the Potomac troops during the grueling Overland Campaign of 1864.

A lasting injury

As described in Killer knapsack, veteran Union soldiers on the march had learned to jettison their heavy knapsacks and accoutrements — traveling light with just a rifle and ammo, weighing about 10 pounds, and some undergarments rolled into a blanket slung over the shoulder.

But Arthur, when new to the army, may not have known to do this — and appears to have sustained a lasting shoulder injury as a result.

Decades later, this injury required him to submit an additional pension declaration since he could no longer work — then wait for another ruling from the U.S. Pension Board.

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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