Norris C. Bull: Wagon & carriage maker

Third in a series on my ancestor Arthur Bull’s parents and siblings at the end of the US Civil War (1865).

Norris C. Bull — the older brother of my ancestor Arthur Bull –appears to have stayed behind when the rest of his family left the Catskills and relocated to Town of Conklin on New York’s Southern Tier.

For on 29 June 1855, Norris, 26, was enumerated in the New York State Census with his wife Sabra Ann (Howland), 21, and their child Hanford, 2, in the Town of Delhi, Delaware County, N.Y. — about 68 miles northeast of Binghamton. He had lived in the town for six years, so he must have left home around the age of 20.

Dec. 2015: Wagon at Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum in Madison County, N.Y. Norris C. Bull, my ancestor Arthur’s older brother, started out making wagons like this one, but moved up to making carriages by 1865. Photo by Molly Charboneau

A wagon maker and land owner

Like his siblings, Norris was born in Greene County, New York — while his wife and son were born in Delaware County. But unlike the his father Jeremiah and younger brothers Arthur and Milo, Norris was not a tanner. His trade was wagon maker.

Norris was also a land owner with a frame house and lived near others engaged in similar professions: blacksmith, carpenter, mason, tanner, merchant, manufacturer.

For the 1860 US Census, Norris, 32, was still in Delaware County, N.Y. — but now in Town of Colchester — living with wife Sabra, 29 (housekeeper), son Hanford, 7, and a daughter Ada, 3.

Norris was still working as a wagon maker. But also living in their household was Charles Warren, 18, an apprentice — an indication of a growing business. Indeed, Norris had real estate valued at $1,000 (about $29, 400 today) and personal property worth $700 (about $20,600 today).

A move up to carriage maker

By the time of the US Civil War, Norris, 37, was still a landowner but had moved up to carriage maker. His frame house alone was valued at $1,000 (about $15,000 today due to a drop in the dollar’s value during the Civil War).

According to the 1865 New York State census for First E.D., Town of Colchester, Delaware County, N.Y., he had also added to his family. He and his wife Sabra A., 33, now had three children — James H., 12 [likely son Hanford from 1860], Ada A., 8, and a new daughter Nancy A., age 3 years and 7 months.

Taking in a Union soldier’s family

Interestingly, another family also lived in their household:  Marcus Hunter, 36 (a tanner) and his wife Cordelia, 26 — both born in Delaware County — along with their daughters Frances E., 10, (born in Illinois) and Ester C., 7 (born in Delaware County).

The Hunters are not listed with the impersonal term “boarder,” nor was Marcus in the wagon business. This made me wonder: Were they somehow related to or close personal associates of the Bulls?

At the back of the 1865 state census record, on page 36, are Marcus Hunter’s military details (next to “page 35, line 24”). He enlisted in the 101st Regiment, New York Infantry on 8 Nov. 1861, served as a Private for 40 months and was discharged at the expiration of his term — so he was not long out of the army when the census was taken on 13 June 1865.

While in service, Marcus was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps (VRC) — where partially disabled or otherwise infirm veterans performed light-duty tasks freeing able-bodied soldiers for battle.

Marcus is listed in “good” health and “without wounds” on the census — so was he transferred to the VRC due to wartime disease or illness? Had Norris C. Bull taken in Marcus Hunter’s family while he was in the Union Army during the US Civil War?

Further research is needed to answer these questions and identify a family or personal relationship. But either way, the details speak highly of Norris C.  and Sabra A. (Howland) Bull for providing housing to a Union veteran and his family.

And Norris certainly had the means — for by 1870 he was also a prosperous Delaware County, New York farmer. More on this in the next post.

To be continued.

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