1890: Settling Arthur T. Bull’s estate

Sepia Saturday 433: First in a new series on the settlement of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull’s estate. He was the father of my paternal great grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

When my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, 57, died on 30 January 1890, he did not have a will.

Because he died intestate, his wife — my great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull, 50 — had to sign and file a number of documents in New York State Surrogate Court to become administratrix of his estate. In so doing, she unknowingly created more family history records of interest.

Park Square in Franklinville, N.Y. (undated). In this town my gg grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull was named administratrix on 15 August 1890  of  the estate of her late husband, my gg grandfather Arthur T. Bull. Image: Historic Path of Cattauraugus County

Mary had to do this while simultaneously applying for U.S. Civil War widow’s benefits from her late husband’s Union Army service. And it appears that at least one of her attorneys from her widow’s application, Carey D. Davie,  rendered services in the probate process, too.

Mary named administratrix

My Bull great-great grandparents lived in Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., in western New York at the time of Arthur’s death. However, Mary had to travel to the county surrogate court in Franklinville, about 50 miles south of Buffalo, to file the estate documents.

Map of Cattaraugus County, N.Y. (1897). Salamanca, where the Bulls lived, is south-center at the bend in the Allegheny River. Franklinville (shown as Franklin V.), where the surrogate court was located, is at the upper right. The county was criss-crossed with railroad lines, which might be how my gg grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull traveled to court to settle husband Arthur T. Bull’s estate. Map: www.mygenealogyhound.com

On 15 Aug. 1890, almost seven months after he died, Mary was granted letters of administration naming her “administratrix of all the singular goods, chattels and credits which were of the said Arthur T. Bull, deceased.”

She was directed to execute an accurate inventory of Arthur’s estate “to exhibit, or cause to be exhibited, in the office of the Surrogate of the County of Cattaraugus, at or before the expiration of three calendar months from the date thereof.”

After that, the document was witnessed and signed. (Handwriting underlined below.)

Witness: Alfred Spring, Surrogate of said County at Franklinville the fifteenth day of August in the year of our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred and eighty ninety.

More work for a grieving widow

Being named administratrix was just the beginning of the estate-settlement process for my grieving great-grandmother. She then had three months to tally up all of Arthur’s holdings and report back to the court. Alas, more work for a grieving widow.

Maybe this activity distracted Mary from waiting to hear about her Union Army widow’s pension — and the dependent pensions for her two minor children.

Or perhaps it was a burden that her nearby married daughters and their husbands helped her with. Either way, there was also the matter of an administration bond — which is the next record that will be reviewed in this series.

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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6 thoughts on “1890: Settling Arthur T. Bull’s estate”

  1. All I can say is “Poor Mary!” What an awful burden to put on a woman trying to deal with the death of her husband. Some might say it would distract her from her grieving, but somehow I don’t think so. If anything it would most likely add to her already anxious feelings about everything! What a bummer!!!

    1. I know what you mean. Not only had she lost her husband, but she still had two minor children at home to care for and usher into independence. Certainly a challenging time for my great-great grandmother.

  2. I wonder how many widows were unable or unwilling to go to that much trouble to settle the estate of their deceased spouse? I suppose a county court might even appoint a non-family member to handle probate which could result in all kinds of disputes or abuses over property. I recall that the author Samuel Clemens had trouble with his brother over settling their father’s estate which was around this era too.

    1. Yes, probate is a tricky business. And Arthur and Mary Bull had 9 children, so there were many potential heirs. Perhaps Mary was the only one who could step into the administratrix role given the family size and geographic distribution.

  3. An extra burden for her but, as you say, one that provided extra detail for the future.
    Also , the activity might have channelled Mary’s emotion as she grieved?

    1. We all react to loss of a loved one differently — some people withdraw while others find work and activity with the mourning process. I am wondering if Mary was in the latter category because — as other have pointed out here — many widows might not have taken on the administratrix duties.

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