Crossed Paths: Brookdale, Broome County and my Bull ancestors

Sepia Saturday 430: Fifth in a series about my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a U.S. Civil War widow. Mary was the mother of my paternal great-grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

At times during my genealogy research I have been surprised to learn that my life unknowingly crossed paths with areas where my ancestors lived — yet I was oblivious to the connection until I began exploring my family history.

In this context, I want to pause and examine the 1856 marriage of my paternal great-great grandparents Arthur T. Bull and Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee in Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna. — which was detailed in her 1890 application for Civil War widow’s benefits.
Valley of the Susquehanna River where New York and Pennsylvania meet (1912). Cross-border interactions were common, so it’s not unusual that my Bull great-great grandparents met and married in 1856, even though they were residents of different states. Image: psa.power

A cross-border courtship

Arthur T. Bull was raised in New York State’s Catskills region, where he learned the leather tanning trade. He later moved with his parents and siblings to Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y., where they were enumerated in the 1855 federal census.

Conklin is located along Little Snake Creek, west of the Susquehanna River and just north of the Pennsylvania border — about an eight-minute drive today from Brookdale, Penna.

Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee resided in Brookdale at the time of her 1856 marriage to Arthur — likely with her parents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee. An abstracted newspaper announcement of their wedding gives Arthur’s residence as Corbettsville, N.Y. — a bit closer to Brookdale.
Railroad map of Susquehanna County, Pa. (1895). Click map to enlarge. Brookdale in Liberty Township, where my great-great grandparents Arthur and Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull married in 1856, is at the center of the northern border. Broome County in New York’s Southern Tier lies just above that border.  Image:

Then, as now, cross-border interactions were common — with Broome County in New York’s Southern Tier just a stone’s throw from Susquehanna County, Penna. So it’s not unusual that my Bull great-great grandparents met and married while residing in different states.

Crossing paths with the Bulls

Fast forward a century to 1956, and it was my family of origin that was moving to Endwell in Broome County, N.Y. — just one block north of the Susquehanna River. Thus begins the study in similarities, contrasts and crossed paths with the Bulls.

Like Arthur’s father, my dad Norm Charboneau was relocating with our family for a new job — setting up house just 17 miles from where the Bull family lived in 1855. However, we had no idea the Bulls even existed — much less that they were paternal ancestors of ours!

Page Lake in New Milford, Penna. (1910). This vintage post card captures the summer pleasures my family of origin enjoyed at Page Lake in the 1950s-60s. I had no idea then that we were just a few miles from Brookdale, Penna., where my paternal gg grandparents Arthur T. Bull and Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee married 100 years before. Image: Lakeside Outing Club, Inc.

Path to Page Lake

My parents grew up in the Adirondack foothills of northern New York — where everyone who could afford it had a lakeside camp where they went in the summer. So that’s how the next crossed path originated.

As children, my parents learned to swim, fish, boat and trek through woods filled with flora and fauna at their families’ camps — and they wanted the same for their children.

So my dad found an affordable lot and built a small lean-to on Page Lake in New Milford, Penna. (shown on the map above) — just 13 miles south of Brookdale where Arthur and Mary Bull were wed in 1856!

We spent most summer weekends at Page Lake throughout the 1950s-60s — commuting back and forth past Conklin and Corbettsville and Brookdale, yet never imagining our proximity to these family history landmarks from 100 years before.

By contrast, today it’s a genealogical treat for me to examine ancestral areas discovered through research — and trace my own family’s paths running through them.

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 “Crossed Paths: Brookdale, Broome County and my Bull ancestors”

  1. I have no detailed knowledge of American states, so I enjoyed learning more through your post, especially with the lovely illustrations .

    1. Thanks, Sue. I have had similar comments about previous cross-border articles about my ancestors. Borders, and changes to them — whether national, state or local — pose ongoing challenges in tracking our ancestors’ lives.

  2. I’ve always been fascinated by how the Susquehanna River which flows down to the Chesapeake Bay became an important pathway for Native Americans and the first Europeans. But the river crossings were equally important. And it’s strange how America’s rivers defined some state borders and yet were ignored by other states like Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York which favored straight lines.

    1. So true. Southeast of Broome and Susquehanna counties — from Hancock, N.Y. south to Port Jervis, N.Y. — the New York and Pennsylvania borders track the Delaware River. But in the area I am writing about, the border is just a straight east-west line. The indigenous people who stewarded the land before the arrival of Europeans also left a rich heritage of place names — Susquehanna among them.

    1. Yes, I do have home addresses for some of them from censuses and other sources. However, Brookdale was rural in that period, so no street addresses there.

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