Apart from his work and family life, my dad’s uncle Albert B. Charboneau also got involved in local fraternal societies.
My research indicates that some time before 1915 he joined a couple of fraternal organizations then active in Dolgeville, N.Y. — the Freemasons and the International Order of Odd Fellows.
The fraternal society era
Albert became active toward the end of a 50-year period when U.S. social life centered around such clubs, according to a 2015 Detroit News article titled “Clubbing in days past: When fraternal societies ruled.”
The article sums up the sweep of these clubs from the 1870s to the 1920s:
In the 1870s men began founding and joining new clubs by the thousands from all levels of society. Immigrants organized clubs, as did African-Americans. Women would not be left out either and created auxiliaries of men’s clubs or founded major new sisterhoods. From 1870 to the end of the 1920s Americans’ social life centered on these clubs. Prior to the Civil War the U.S. had just two well-known fraternal societies: Freemasonry and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
The pitfalls of fraternalism
Yet Albert’s fraternal affiliations came with serious pitfalls. The elite exclusivity of the Masons and Odd Fellows, their whites-only policies and their refusal to admit women except to auxiliary organizations are a disturbing legacy.
These discriminatory practices set them apart from the more egalitarian Grand Army of the Republic — which Albert’s maternal grandfather, Union Army veteran Arthur T. Bull, belonged to. The GAR admitted African American Union veterans on an equal footing.
Some of these groups became more inclusive over time and, according to the Detroit News article, “Virtually all surviving clubs have community service as the linchpin of their organization.”
Unfortunately, I have no documentation to indicate why Albert joined. Was it for the networking these groups offered, as well the charitable and social programs they supported — or simply because they were the only shows in town? Was he on board with their biased elitism — or just enamored of the secret ceremonies and handshakes? The records are silent on this.
Rising in the ranks
What I can document is that Albert not only joined but rose in the ranks — particularly in Dolgeville Lodge 796 of the Masons.
According to a 21 Dec. 1915 article in the Little Falls Journal, Albert became the senior warden of the Dolgeville Masons that year — the second-highest rank in the lodge.
My dad told me that Albert had also been the “head Mason” of his lodge — an anecdote I finally confirmed during a 2015 trip to Dolgeville with my sister Amy for the town’s annual Violet Festival.
On that trip we visited the Mason’s hall shown above — which was open to the public for the festival flower show.
Learning that we were related to a Charboneau who was once the lodge’s “worshipful master,” a woman from the Order of the Eastern Star — the women’s auxiliary — took us to the photo display room.
And there on the wall was a photo of Albert, who had headed the lodge in 1918 — the same year he died in the Great Influenza Pandemic.
Albert’s story will resume after an August recess. Enjoy your summer and please stop back in September! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
Within four years of his 1908 arrival in Dolgeville, Herkimer County, N.Y., my dad’s Uncle Albert was embarking on a promising future — in his career, his personal life and his community.
According to Albert’s listing in the 1912 Dolgeville city directory, he was boarding at his parents’ home at 49 South Main Street not far from the Dolge Factory Complex.
Promoted to lumber foreman
However, the directory also indicates Albert had been promoted and was working as a foreman at Breckwoldt’s lumber — an increase in responsibility over his earlier lumber job as a planer in a sounding board factory.
Albert and Will Charboneau in 1912 Dolgeville, N.Y. City Directory
49 S. Main
William H. Charboneau
49 S. Main
According to Eleanor Franz in her book Dolge1Franz, Eleanor. Dolge. (Herkimer, New York: Herkimer County Historical Society, 1980)the lumber firm where Albert worked was founded by Julius Breckwoldt — a Danish immigrant born in Schleiswig-Holstein.
He was making piano moldings in New York City when Alfred Dolge convinced him to move Dolgeville to operate the Dolge piano factory’s lumber department. 2Franz, Dolge, 15
By the time Uncle Albert worked there, Breckwoldt had spun off the operation — which produced piano sounding boards, moldings and cases — into a separate industry.3Franz, Dolge, 15
A man of independent means
As satisfying as Uncle Albert’s career must have been, his new earning power probably meant even more for his personal life. Because now he could afford to propose to the love of his life — Annie E. Miller, also a factory worker — and they could begin their married life together.
When I began researching the Charboneau family in the 1990s, my dad and I made a trip to Dolgeville for a look around his birthplace — and to see what records we could find. One of our discoveries was the record (below) of Albert and Annie’s marriage in Dolgeville, N.Y., on 28 August 1912.
I have not been able to find a newspaper announcement about their wedding — which might have described the ceremony — so I am glad to have this document to fill in some of the details.
Albert and Annie: A unique marriage
Albert and Annie’s ceremony was conducted by Robert Jones, a clergyman. Albert’s witness was his younger brother Orville Nile Charboneau (who everyone called Tom, though my dad never knew why). Annie’s witness was Lucy M. Bidgood — possibly a friend.
They were both 27 years old when they married. So they did not follow the then-typical pattern of the husband being slightly older than the wife. And their ages were also higher than the estimated median age of first marriage at the time — which in 1910 was age 25.1 for men and age 21.6 for women.
Which makes me wonder: Did Annie and Albert delay marriage because they were each working and trying to establish themselves? Did the fact that they were the same age and both employed outside the home signal a more egalitarian partnership?
Recent immigrant heritage
I have previously discussed that Albert had immigrant paternal grandparents (Laurent Charbonneau from Quebec and his wife Ursula Zinsk from Switzerland). From their marriage record we learn that Annie’s parents were immigrants from Scotland. So Albert, born in Forestport, and Annie, born in Dolgeville, shared relatively recent immigration in their respective families.
And by 1914, when Albert next appeared in the Dolgeville city directory, he and Annie had set up their own household at 42 State Street — a bit removed from downtown, but still an easy walk to the Dolge factory complex.
They were still living there when the 1915 New York State census4FamilySearch requires free login to view records.was taken (indexed as Charaboncan). Both were age 32 and still at work — Albert in the sounding board factory and Annie continuing her job as a felt shoe stitcher even after their marriage.
More on this in the next post. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.