1908: Albert Charboneau moves to Dolgeville, N.Y.

Sepia Saturday 526. Fourth in a series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. Scan by Molly Charboneau

My dad’s Uncle Albert — who died in the 1918 influenza epidemic — moved to Dolgeville in New York’s Mohawk Valley in 1908 as a young adult, along with his parents and three brothers.

Compared to their Adirondack hometown of Hawkinsville, N.Y. , the family must have felt like they had arrived in the big city.

Such was the level of industry in Dolgeville that by the time of the 1910 federal census, Albert and his brothers were all gainfully employed — and would soon set up households of their own.

So it’s worth pausing the family story to examine how the once-rural town they now called home came to be bustling with enterprise — as ably described by Eleanor Franz in her book Dolge 1and summarized in brief below.

https://www.loc.gov/item/75694816/
1890: A bird’s-eye-view of Dolgeville, N.Y., and the East Canada Creek. Compared to their Adirondack hometown of Hawkinsville, Dolgeville must have seemed like the big city to my dad’s Uncle Albert, his parents and younger  brothers. By 1910, Albert and his brothers were all gainfully employed in Dolgeville and would soon set up households of their own. Image: Library of Congress

Early history of Brockett’s Bridge

When Alfred Dolge arrived in 1874, the town that would later bear his name was a small rural hamlet called Brockett’s Bridge.2 However, the town with its landmark covered bridge, which appears right on the map above, was already steeped in history.

To indigenous inhabitants, the waterway that ran through the village was known as the Tegahuhharoughwe or Auskarada — the stream of many fishes.3 Alas, by the late 1700s the Native guardians of the land were displaced by settlers moving west from New England, who mainly took up farming.

Underground Railroad mural in the Dolgeville, N.Y., post office (2015). Painted by Works Progress Administration artists in the 1930s, this stunning mural is a tribute to abolitionism in Brockett’s Bridge (later Dolgeville), which was a stop on the Underground Railroad in the years before the U.S. Civil War. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Later, in the period leading up to the U.S. Civil War, a free church in Brockett’s Bridge became a stop on the Underground Railroad 4— as depicted in the mural above — offering refuge to African-Americans who had liberated themselves from slavery and were making their way to freedom.

Enter piano maker Alfred Dolge

A tannery had also once hummed away in Brockett’s Bridge, but closed in 1871. 5After that, the small village of about 300 might have declined but for the April 1874 arrival of Alfred Dolge — an immigrant from Germany’s Saxony region — who was looking for a place to manufacture felt for use in piano making.6

http://mshepherdpiano.com/antique-piano-tools/a-dolge/
Portrait of Alfred Dolge. Source: Martin Shepherd Piano Service

On a fateful return trip to his New York City office from the Adirondacks — where he had traveled to buy wood for piano sounding boards — Dolge stopped off in Brockett’s Bridge and was immediately taken with its manufacturing potential.7

With plentiful water to provide power, nearby forests to supply wood and a vacant tannery ready for occupancy — not to mention the area’s striking resemblance to his native Saxony — Brockett’s Bridge appeared to be the ideal location for the enterprise Dolge had in mind.8

Ten days later he bought the old tannery building — a move that changed the life of his family and my own.9

More on this in the next post. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1908: Albert Charboneau leaves Hawkinsville, N.Y.

Sepia Saturday 525. Third in a series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Available documentation indicates that my dad’s Uncle Albert — who died in the 1918 influenza epidemic — spent his childhood and early teen years in Hawkinsville, Oneida Co., N.Y.

He was born there in 1885 and enumerated there in the 1900 U.S. census at age 15, as described in the last post.

Yet Albert’s adult years were spent in Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., N.Y., where he moved circa 1908 with his parents and three brothers — among them my paternal grandfather William Ray Charboneau — in the search of a better life.


A Black River Canal boom town

In the mid 1800s, Hawkinsville (shown below) was a small boom town located on the Black River Canal, which ferried Adirondack lumber, wood products and other goods to the Erie Canal and thence to markets throughout New York State and beyond.

My paternal French-Canadian great-great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau moved there in the 1850s, working first in the lumber industry and later as a farmer. His German-Swiss wife Ursula Zinsk, her parents and brothers also immigrated to the area, where the nearby mountains probably reminded them of home.

A thriving Hawkinsville, N.Y., in 1855 from the Rome Daily Sentinel. Click to enlarge. Source: Old Fulton Post Cards

Hawkinsville’s sad decline

But by 1900 when their eldest grandson Albert appeared in his first census at age 15, Hawkinsville has fallen on hard times. An 11 Oct. 1939 article in the Rome, N.Y. Daily Sentinel titled “Bustling Village Fades To Hamlet With One Mill” summarizes the town’s decline.

A busy, thriving, industrial town, with prospects for a bright future was Hawkinsville, shown in the picture taken above about 1855, but the course of the Black River Railroad completely changed the picture.

Hawkinsville in the early days was larger than Boonville and had every prospect of growing steadily, until the railroad was built through Boonville, leaving Hawkinsville entirely off its course. Gradually the mills closed until the hamlet can now boast of but one mill.

The Dolgeville decision

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/39231713/lawrence-charbonneau
Lawrence (Laurent) Charbonneau’s  stone, Beechwood Cemetery, Forestport, Oneida County,  N.Y. Source: Find a Grave

Such an unfortunate demise for a village that once boasted three churches, two hotels, two saloons, a carpenter shop, four blacksmith shops, a wagon-shop, a cheese factory, a tannery, a millinery store — and so many mills that it was originally called Slab City for the slab wood turned out there, according to the same article.

Nevertheless, it may have been a sad family event that ultimately sealed the Charboneau family’s decision to leave Hawkinsville for good — the 1902 death of my great-great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau.

While Laurent was living, his home, land and farm may have anchored the family. But once the Charboneau family patriarch was gone, why not strike out for new opportunities? And those opportunities beckoned from the expanding Mohawk Valley town of Dolgeville in nearby Herkimer Co., N.Y.

There, German immigrant Alfred Dolge had set up a unique factory complex that drew thousands of workers from the U.S. and abroad — among them Uncle Albert, his parents and three brothers — and turned the sleepy town of Brockett’s Bridge into a bustling manufacturing center that was renamed Dolgeville in his honor.

More on this in the next post. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1885: First born son, Albert Barney Charboneau

Sepia Saturday 524Second in a series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

Studio portrait of Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. He often went by the nickname Bert. Scan by Molly Charboneau

My dad’s Uncle Albert, who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, was born on 17 Feb. 1885 in the small hamlet of Hawkinsville — located along the Black River east of Boonville in Oneida Co., New York.

Albert Barney Charboneau — who often went by the nickname Bert — was the first-born son of my paternal great grandparents Will and Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

A North Country childhood

Albert started his life in New York’s North Country — yet his birth year makes it difficult to learn more about his early childhood.

He was born five years after the 1880 U.S. census — and the next 1890 U.S. census was destroyed in a fire. New York State’s 1892 census is not much help, either, because records for Oneida County are missing.

So Albert first appears in the 1900 U.S. census at the age of 15 with the surname variant “Charbano.” He was living in the Town of Forestport  with his parents and three younger brothers — including my paternal grandfather W. Ray Charboneau.

Albert B. Charboneau and family – 1900 U.S. census – Town of Forestport, Oneida County, New York – Source: FamilySearch10
Name DOB Age Born in Father Born in Mother Born in Job/School
William L. Charbano May 1857 43 New York Canada Fr. Germany Stay. Engineer
Eva M. Charbano July 1867 32 New York New York New York
Albert D. Charbano
Feb. 1885 15 New York New York New York Laborer Sawmill
Ray M. Charbano April 1888 12 New York New York New York At School
Orville N. Charbano April 1892 8 New York New York New York At School
George D. Charbano June 1898 1 New York New York New York

An interesting heritage

This enumeration supports previous research on my Charboneau ancestors. Albert’s father Will Charboneau, a stationery engineer, was the son of immigrants.

Will’s father Laurent Charbonneau  immigrated from Quebec in the 1850s. Will’s mother Ursula Angeline Zinsk was a German-Swiss immigrant who arrived in New York State during the same time period. Both lived nearby2in 1900.

Albert’s mother, Eva May (Bull) Charboneau, was the daughter Arthur T. Bull (my Union Army great-great grandfather) and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — whose parents divorced in 1866.

Was Albert aware of his interesting family heritage? Hard to know — but I do hope his parents shared some oral history with him.

https://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hhh.ny1306.photos.124358p/
Vintage Sawmill in Warren County, N.Y. Albert’s 1900 U.S. census enumeration indicates that he was already at work, at just 15, as a laborer in a sawmill. Photo: Library of Congress

Albert’s lumber job

The other item that jumped out at me from Albert’s 1900 U.S. census entry was that he was already at work — at just 15 — as a laborer in a sawmill.

Lumber and its related products were big business in the Adirondack foothills — with loggers felling forest trees and sending  logs and finished lumber south on the Black River Canal, which fed into the Erie Canal.

At one time Albert’s Hawkinsville hometown had a saw mill, wood products firms and prospects for growth once a railroad line was established.

But those hopes were dashed when the railroad was built further west — and by 1910 the Charboneau family had moved south to up-and-coming Dolgeville in Herkimer County, N.Y.

More on this in the next post. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf at a time