Sepia Saturday 461. Fourth in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.
In 1850, my great-great-great grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee, 42, earned his primary living through farming. However, he apparently also engaged in other occupations — to support his wife Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee, 37, and daughter Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, 12.
First postmaster of Conklin Centre
One of Zebulon’s side jobs was serving as Postmaster of Conklin Centre (now Conklin Center) — a Broome Co., N.Y., hamlet that grew large enough for the U.S. Postal Service to establish a post office there on 15 Jan. 1851.
Postal records1and newspaper announcements2indicate that on 15 Jan. 1851 Zebulon Blakeslee was named the first postmaster of Conklin Centre. And he served in that capacity for three years until Sylvanus Judd replaced him on 31 March 1854.
During my pre-Internet childhood, the post office was a hub of activity for people of all ages. I had pen pals, belonged to fan clubs and sent away for offers from teen magazines — all requiring trips to the post office for stamps or to mail letters.
So I wonder how my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull felt about her postmaster dad being at the center of the hamlet’s communications hub. Probably proud, especially when his appointment appeared in the newspaper.
And one family history benefit of Zebulon’s post office job: it pinpoints Conklin Centre as the hamlet where the Blakeslees lived from circa 1851-54.
A clue to another of Zebulon’s possible occupations is a 22 Oct. 1909 article in The Binghamton Press. Titled “Binghamton and its people 50 years ago,” the article discusses business that operated there circa 1859.
One of the businesses mentioned (as excerpted below) was “Zebulon Blakeslee’s tavern at the foot of Carroll Street.”
More research would be needed to be sure this refers to my great-great-great grandfather and not some other Zebulon Blakeslee. But there is some circumstantial evidence that this could be the case.
Binghamton is about 11 miles north of Conklin Centre, where the Blakeslees lived from at least 1850 to 1854. So my great-great-great grandfather Zebulon could have made the commute — or hired others to operate the tavern in his absence.
In addition, the article says that the nearby Brandywine Hotel was owned by John Whitney — the same name as a Conklin neighbor who lived two farms away from the Blakeslees in 1850.
And Binghamton was the nearest city where a revenue-generating business would have a reasonable expectation of success. So it was likely to attract those like my great-great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee who were seeking additional occupations to supplement farm income.
More research to do! But not before a look at another of Zebulon’s side jobs operated from Conklin Centre.
Up next: Folk cure practitioner Zebulon Blakeslee. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
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