Bidding farewell to Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau…and series recap

Sepia Saturday 548Eighteenth and final 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

When my dad first told me about his Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau, who died at age 33 in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, he didn’t know any details.

“Well, it makes sense that the family wouldn’t talk about it,” I observed. “It must have been such a shock.”

“Oh, the family talked about Albert and what happened to him all the time,” Dad said. “I just can’t remember anything specific.” Dad was born six years after Albert died,  so what he knew came from family oral history.

An elder brother remembered

Yet the place first-born son Albert (b. 1885) held in the Charboneau family  of Dolgeville, N.Y., was acknowledged in loving acts by his three younger brothers — both during his lifetime and after.

Albert Barney Charboneau (1885-1918) looking dapper in Dolgeville, N.Y. (undated). Scan by Molly Charboneau

My paternal grandfather William Ray Charboneau (b. 1888) was the next brother in line after Uncle Albert. And when his first son (my dad’s oldest brother) was born in 1911, he named him Owen Albert. Owen was for the maiden name of his wife Mary Frances Owen and Albert was for his oldest brother.

The next Charboneau brother Orville Nile “Tom” (b. 1892) missed Albert’s 1918  funeral because he was serving on coastal defense during WWI. On 25 Oct. 1920, Uncle Tom married his first wife Lena — and when their son was born in 1922 they named him Albert Bernard Charboneau (who went by Bud) in honor of his late uncle.

Dolgeville Masons Lodge 796 photos of brothers Albert Barney Charboneau (in 1918) and George Dewey Charboneau (in 1930). The lighting was bad and the photos were behind glass, so this photo is not the best. But Uncle Albert is at upper left and Uncle Dewey is at lower right on the memorial wall to past lodge leaders. Photo by Molly Charboneau

George Dewey Charboneau (b. 1899), the youngest, paid his own unique tribute to his oldest brother. Like Albert, he became active in the Dolgeville Masons and worked his way up to Worshipful Master of the lodge — the same post his brother Albert held in 1918, the year he died.

Today, the brothers’ photographs hang near one another on Lodge 796’s memorial wall to past leaders.

Bidding farewell to Uncle Albert

And this year was my turn to honor my childless Granduncle Albert by chronicling his life and its untimely end during the 1918 influenza pandemic — and by letting his experience 102 years ago inform those of us going through the coronavirus pandemic today.

Molly’s Canopy will run a brief epilogue to his story, exploring the life of his widow Annie (Miller) Charboneau.

But for now, in tribute to Albert Barney “Bert” Charboneau, here in chronological sequence are the other posts in this series. Comments are still open on the later posts.

Intro and Albert’s childhood

Albert’s work, family and fraternal life

Albert and the Charboneau brothers in WWI

Albert succumbs in the 1918 influenza

Up next: The widowhood of Annie (Miller) Charboneau. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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The medical mystery of Uncle Albert and the 1918 pandemic

Sepia Saturday 547Seventeenth 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

When the 1918 influenza pandemic swept through Dolgeville, N.Y. — where my dad’s ancestors lived — only his Uncle Albert, 33, caught the dreaded virus and died.

“Nobody else in the family caught it, only Albert,” he told me — and I had to wonder why.

Of the four Charboneau brothers, Albert was the oldest and seemingly the most robust — with enough energy to hold a full-time job as foreman of woodwork in Julius Breckwoldt’s piano-related lumber works and be active in fraternal groups besides.

He was described as tall and stout when he registered for the WWI draft — and photos of Albert with his wife’s family, the Millers, bear out his stature.

The Charboneau brothers (circa 1910). From left, my paternal grandfather William Ray (b. 1888) and his brothers Albert Barney (b. 1885), George Dewey (b. 1899) and Orville Nile (b. 1892). Albert was the oldest and seemingly the most robust. Why did he catch and die from the 1918 influenza? Scan by Molly Charboneau

A medical mystery

As we have learned from the current COVID-19 pandemic, viruses behave in specific ways that provoke an immune response — sometimes so strong it overwhelms their human host.

Scientists have speculated that this may be why the 1918 influenza took a heavy toll among the young and robust — such as the WWI troops — many of whom did not survive their body’s strong immune response.

Perhaps that was the case with Albert. His Utica Herald-Dispatch obituary, on 24 Oct. 1918, said he died from pneumonia after contracting influenza — possibly brought on by a powerful immune response in the lungs.

Uncle Alert Charboneau with his in-laws (undated). From right, father-in-law Charles Miller, Albert, brother-in-law Arthur Miller, wife Annie Miller and mother-in-law Mary Miller. Albert towers over everyone in this photo — yet he was felled in 1918 by the pandemic flu. Scan by Molly Charboneau

An obituary clue

As with today’s coronavirus, those with pre-existing medical conditions also likely fared worse during the 1918 influenza pandemic. And according to Albert’s obituary in the Little Falls and Courier (29 Oct. 1918), he had a co-morbidity that made him vulnerable.

Albert B. Charbonneau passed away Wednesday afternoon at his home on State street, after making a valiant fight against Bright’s disease superceded [sic] by influenza.

Bright’s disease was a term used at that time to describe chronic inflammatory disease of the kidneys (today called nephritis) — often accompanied by high blood pressure, heart disease and excess weight.

Events and gatherings

Finally there was Albert’s role at work and in his fraternal groups — all of which required his presence at large gatherings where he could have caught the flu before social distancing was widely encouraged.

Adirondack lumber camp mess hall (1912). Crowded conditions in lumber camps could have spread the 1918 influenza. Was Uncle Albert exposed on trips to the camps? Photo: NYSA

The influenza was prevalent in the U.S. Navy during the fall of 1918, and Naval officers visited Julius Breckwoldt’s lumber company, where Albert worked, to select wood for seaplanes. Could they have exposed him to influenza?

As foreman of woodwork, Albert may also have visited Breckwoldt’s crowded lumber camps — with or without Naval officers — to see about wood supplies for the piano factory. Could he have caught it there?

Finally, as the head of the Dolgeville Mason’s lodge, Albert would have been in demand for ceremonies, member funerals and other gatherings — any of which could have been influenza-spreading events in the fall of 1918.

Many of these questions will remain unanswered. Yet however he caught the influenza, and whatever his risk factors, Uncle Albert’s death from the 1918 influenza left a hole in the Charboneau family of Dolgeville, N.Y. — and they never forgot him.

Next in this series: Bidding farewell to Uncle Albert. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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From the Archives: Union troops vote for Lincoln

Sepia Saturday 546. For Veterans Day 2020, here is an updated post from the archives about Union Army troops voting at the front in the pivotal 1864 presidential election — a timely offering in this presidential election year. 

On 23 Aug. 1864 — before the Union victories at Atlanta and Cedar Creek, Va., where my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was stationed — Pres. Abraham Lincoln asked members of his cabinet to sign a folded note. Then he tucked it away in his a desk drawer. It said this:

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probabl[e] that this Administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.

Oct. 1864: Pennsylvania soldiers in the Union Army of the James cast their ballots.
Oct. 1864: Pennsylvania soldiers in the Union’s Army of the James vote in the presidential election.  My ancestor’s state, New York, allowed Union troops to vote in the field and mail their ballots to their home county for tabulation. Photo: Library of Congress.

A wartime election

The pivotal 1864 election took place during the U.S. Civil War. There was war weariness in the North. Tremendous loss of life in the Union Army’s spring campaigns, which sent my great-great grandfather to the hospital, had not yielded victories. And in July 1864, the Confederates marched down the Shenandoah Valley and attacked Washington.

This was also the first wartime ballot since 1812. No president had won a second term since 1832. Yet the outcome of the U.S. Civil War, and the country’s future, hung in the balance — since Lincoln’s opponent, Union Gen. George B. McClellan, called for abandoning the fight to eliminate the brutal slavery system.

Allowing the troops to vote

Then the tide turned on the battlefield. Union forces took Atlanta in September 1864 and defeated the Confederates at Cedar Creek in October 1864 — and a new offensive began at the ballot box.

Here, too, Union combatants played a vital role — among them my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull of the 6th NY Heavy Artillery.

Arthur’s home state of New York adopted a law allowing soldiers to vote in the field — the result of a political struggle described in the Smithsonian Magazine article “The Debate Over Mail-In Voting Dates Back to the Civil War.”

Once the law passed, New York faced the daunting tactical challenge of delivering ballots to nearly 400,000 New York State combatants stationed throughout the South.

But delivered they were — giving my ancestor the amazing opportunity to vote for President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and mail his ballot back to Broome County, N.Y., where he lived.

Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011. If possible, citations should also include the URL for the NHGIS site: http://www.nhgis.org"
Votes by county in the 1864 U.S. presidential election. Lincoln won the vote by 60 percent in Broome County, N.Y., my ancestor Arthur’s home county, and received 78 percent of Union soldiers’ and sailors’ votes overall. In two close states, New York and Connecticut, it may have been the troops’ votes that pushed Lincoln to victory. Map: Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.

How did Arthur vote?

How did my great-great grandfather vote? I have no way of knowing for sure. Yet circumstantial evidence suggests that Arthur probably cast his ballot for “Old Abe,” as Union combatants affectionately called the president.

On 27 Oct, 1864, one of Arthur’s compatriots — Sgt. William Thistleton of 6th NY Heavy Artillery Co. I — wrote this in his diary:

Soldiers were busy sending off their votes. McClellan and Seymore are evidently not favorites with the soldiers.

Lincoln won the vote by 60 percent in Broome County, N.Y. (my ancestor’s home), and he received 78 percent of Union soldiers’ and sailors’ votes overall. In two close states — New York and Connecticut — it may have been the troops’ votes that pushed Lincoln to victory.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/00650938/
President Abraham Lincoln delivering his inaugural address on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol, March 4, 1865. Lincoln garnered 55 percent of the popular vote throughout the North and was reelected with 212 electoral votes against McClellan’s 21 electoral votes — a decisive mandate to press on with the fight to end the brutal slavery system and preserve the union. Photo: Library of Congress

Lincoln defeats McClellan

In the end, Lincoln garnered 55 percent of the popular vote throughout the North and was reelected with 212 electoral votes against McClellan’s 21 electoral votes — a decisive mandate to press on with the fight to eliminate the brutal slavery system and preserve the union.

I couldn’t be prouder that my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was a participant — at the front and at the ballot box — in that historic moment.

Up next: Resuming the series on my dad’s Uncle Albert, who died in the 1918 influenza pandemic. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of other participants in this week’s Sepia Saturday — and in this month’s Genealogy Blog Party honoring veteran and military ancestors.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf at a time