First in a series on the occupations of my paternal great, great great grandfather Jeremiah Bull in the mid-1800s.
Old county history books are not the most reliable source of definitive family history information. Nevertheless, I was pleased to find a reference to my great, great, great grandfather Jeremiah Bull in the History of Broome County, with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers (1885), edited by H.P. Smith.A paragraph in the section on Corbettsville — a hamlet located in Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — mentions my ancestor in relation to a leather tannery located there:
The foundry was built by Sewell Corbett in 1845, who operated it until 1850, when he sold it to Sewell, jr., and Julius Corbett. In the year 1852 Jeremiah Bull took it and transformed it into a tannery and then sold it to Fred Burt. He transferred it to Geo. Belamy, who sold it to the present owner, John O. Porter. This tannery is a prosperous establishment, gives employment to sixteen or eighteen hands constantly and turns out from 18,000 to 20,000 sides of leather annually.
This passage piqued my interest. Did my ancestor really set up and own a tannery at some point? Where could I look for details?
I decided to start with the 1855 New York State Census for Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — a source I already had in my records.
As I discussed in Tanners in my family tree, Jeremiah Bull’s occupation was given as “tanner” on this census — though not tannery owner or entrepreneur or anything along those lines.
However, being a tanner did place him in the leather-producing industry, where he likely learned the trade with the idea of moving up as his skills increased. So this did not rule out his owning a tannery at some point — and a prosperous one at that, if the description in the 1885 History of Broome County proves accurate.
Map evidence supports the county history
On our last family history trip together in August 1995, my dad and I traveled to Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y., and visited the public library in search of information about our Bull ancestors.
In those pre-digital days, we found a hard copy of Everts, Ensign and Everts’ Atlas Map of Broome County (1876) and photocopied the map of Corbettsville — now available online — because we knew our Bull forebears had lived there.
Studying the map again, I was encouraged to see a large building labeled “Parks & Porter Tannery”along with nearby buildings bearing the names “S. Corbett” and “J.S. Corbett.”
My ancestor Jeremiah Bull had left Corbettsville by 1876 when this atlas was created, so his name would not appear. But the map does contain the names of those who reportedly owned the tannery before and after him — lending credibility to the history book passage.
So far, so good. Now, where to look next?
To be continued.
© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.