Arthur Bull: The Cattaraugus County years

Sepia Saturday 401: First in a new series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull and his final years in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, N.Y.

When I last wrote about my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull, a Union Army veteran, he had finally received a military pension in 1885 for partial disability from his Civil War service. He was 51 years old.
A river-crossing float on the Allegheny River at Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y. (undated). This is where my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull, a Union Army pensioner, spent the last years of his life. Image: Salamanca Historical Society & Museum

A tanner by profession, Arthur had also relocated  from the Adirondack foothills to Salamanca in Western New York’s Cattaraugus County — which is where his story now resumes.

An ideal tannery environment

The Historical gazetteer and biographical memorial of Cattaraugus County, N.Y., edited by William Adams and published in 1893, describes an area that was ideal for the leather tanning industry — with tree bark for tannin and an ample water supply. Shipping finished leather was also easy since Salamanca was a railroad hub.

Before departing the Adirondacks, Arthur worked as a tannery foreman — his stated occupation in the 1880 U.S. Census of Lyonsdale, Lewis Co., N.Y. He probably had to continue working, at least part time, since his Civil War pension was for one-half disability. So he appears to have moved to Western New York in search of tannery work.

Salamanca’s unique history

When Arthur and his wife Mary (Blakeslee) Bull relocated to Salamanca they were among an influx of people moving there (see Table 1).

Table 1. Population of Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y. (1855-1890) Source:  Historical gazetteer and biographical memorial of Cattaraugus County, N.Y. (Adams: 1893)

Year Population
1855 453
1870 1,881
1880 3,498
1890 4,572

According to Adams’ gazetteer, Salamanca, N.Y.,  was well equipped to handle residential newcomers.

The principal streets have sufficient sewers to afford good drainage, an adequate water system is in operation, and electricity is employed for lighting.

The city was also unique in one other respect. Salamanca was, and still is, located entirely within the Allegheny Reservation of the sovereign Seneca Nation and the land is leased from the Seneca people.

Moving as a family

My paternal great-great grandparents Arthur and Mary Bull moved to Cattaraugus County during the hard-to-document period after the 1880 U.S. Census. Nevertheless, there is some evidence — from his Civil War pension file, later censuses and other sources — that they did not relocate alone.

When the Bulls set out for Western New York in 1885, their younger children Jessie (16), Fred (13), William (11), Alice (8) and Waples (2) were still young enough to be living with their parents and likely moved with them. Some of them show up there as adults in later censuses.

Two older, married daughters — Carrie and Emma — appear to have relocated to Western New York as well, since they were also enumerated there in later censuses.

In addition, I have found evidence that Mary (Blakeslee) Bull’s mother — Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — lived in Arthur and Mary’s Salamanca household at the end of her life.

Thus, as with previous moves, the Bulls appear to have relocated with family to Cattaraugus County — maintaining an extended support system in their new Salamanca, N.Y., home that would sustain them as they aged.

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

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12 thoughts on “Arthur Bull: The Cattaraugus County years”

  1. Cousin Molly~
    Could be just another coincidence, but we parked our travel trailer on property owned by the Bull family in Cattaraugus County near the town of Delevan. I don’t remember the father’s name, but the son was Richard Bull.

  2. It was good that so much good infrastructure was already in place before your family moved in.
    So often (in England at least) when migration occured, that was not the case & the community had to play ‘catch-up’ on poor sanitation etc.
    Work such as tanning would have needed good water supply ?
    A fascinating glimpse of both your own family & that period of time.

  3. I like the information you gathered to show us the place and times of your ancestor. I need to do more of that with my own blog.

    1. Thanks, Wendy. I find it helps me understand more about my ancestors’ lives if I gather information about their communities during the time they lived there.

  4. It’s quite a challenge to work out the families, occupations, and residences of people who lived during the 20 years after the 1880 census. I discovered a government handbook used by the census takers with all the possible occupations. It’s on Google books:

    There was a tannery on the river here in Asheville NC which took advantage of the abundant water and tree bark in the region. It was messy and smelly work. The hides were prepared by hand, scrapping off the unwanted fats, etc. (which were recycled as oil for other industries) Leather was used for shoes or course, but it was mainly used for machinery belts until synthetic plastics/rubber replaced leather as an industrial material.

    1. Thanks for the handbook link. Nice to have those occupations in one place for reference! Yes, tanning — particularly the manual type of the nineteenth century — was pretty arduous. I suspect my great-great grandfather needed his pension sooner than others because it was just too difficult to continue in his physically taxing profession as his war-related respiratory and heart conditions worsened.

    1. Yes, city residents must lease the land from the Seneca Nation. Lease rates were below market value for nearly a century. However, this was rectified with back payments to the Senecas in 1991 and a new agreement that assessed 8 percent of the land’s value in future leases (which were converted to 80-year leases in 2012).

  5. Tanning was a good profession back then, but hard work! Fortunate for your GGGrandfather to have settled in a place helpful to his profession. When the Civil War ended, my great grandfather came west and settled in the San Francisco Bay Area going to work for the U.S. Postal Service.

    1. I have long suspected that working as a tanner may have exacerbated the ill effects Arthur suffered from his Civil War service. Good the your ancestor ended up in the U.S. Postal Service after the war.

  6. How interesting! I had some ancestors who did tanning, and some who made shoes…leather-work is impressive. I am glad to hear about how you read the details of censuses, and thus figure out who moved where and when. It’s a fun job to do genealogy!

    1. Tanning appears to have been a huge profession back in the 19th Century. And yes, figuring out the Bull family’s diaspora has provided me with hundreds of hours of gratifying detective work!

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