1854: The Blakeslees move to Brookdale, Penna.

Sepia Saturday 464. Seventh in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.

Around 1854 my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, 16, said goodbye to her school chums and neighbors in Conklin Centre, N.Y., and moved six miles south with her parents to Brookdale, Penna.

Not a distant move by today’s standards — but it must have seemed a world away to a teenager in the 1850s.

Liberty Township in Susquehanna Co., Penna. (circa 1858). CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. In the upper right is Brookdale P.O., where my Blakeslee ancestors moved circa 1854. Two appearances of the name Z. Blakeslee mark their home and my ggg grandfather Zebulon’s nearby store, which may also have served as the post office. Mary probably attended the school (noted as Schl.) down the block from their residence. Their former home in Concklin Centre, N.Y., is located just above the Pennsylvania border. Source: ancestortracks.com

Why her parents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee chose to leave their Conklin farm is unclear. But move they did — because around 1854 Zebulon began to show up in records related to Brookdale, Penna.

A traveling postmaster

When the family relocated, Mary’s dad took at least one of his jobs with him — that of rural postmaster.

According to the U.S. Post Office Dept.’s Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-19711 Zebulon Blakeslee was appointed postmaster of Brookdale, Susquehanna, Penna. on 16 July 1854 — and reappointed the following year.

That Zebulon would continue as a postmaster is not surprising, since he was previously postmaster of Conklin Centre N.Y. from 1851-53. And prior to that he was postmaster in neighboring Shawsville, N.Y. from 1846-49.2

So this was a decade-long career for Zebulon — and all the better for Mary, since she could easily get stamps to correspond with her Conklin Centre friends and with her married older sister Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney, who stayed behind.

A Brookdale merchant

Zebulon’s post office position was also referenced in a Centennial History of Susquehanna County, published in 1887 — in a passage that  describes a new calling for him: Brookdale merchant.

This is consistent with a letter I received from a Susquehanna County Historical Society researcher confirming that she found Zebulon Blakeslee on the Liberty Township tax rolls in 1857 (merchant $25) and 1858 (merchant $25, real+acre $30).

Source: Internet Archive/Centennial History of Susquehanna County (1887)

Back with family

I read the above passage with interest, because the name Anson A. Beeman rang a bell. A quick look at previous research confirmed that he was the husband of Rachel (Hance) Beeman — an older sister of Mary’s mother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee.3

The map above also shows a property in the upper right marked “I. Hance” likely owned by another relative — Hannah’s older brother Issac.4

So my teenage great-great grandmother Mary may have left her sister, friends, acquaintances and neighbors behind, but she was back with family in Brookdale — where she had a whole host of Hance-Beeman cousins, judging by the 1850 federal census returns for the nearby households of her uncles Anson A. Beeman,5an innkeeper, and Issac Hance,6a farmer.

And in Brookdale, before long, Mary would be starting a family of her own.

Up next: My great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull meets her husband. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

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9 thoughts on “1854: The Blakeslees move to Brookdale, Penna.”

  1. I wonder if six miles was such a great distance. In middle age I used to walk 4 miles in about 50 minutes so young people used to a more active lifestyle, could probably walk 6 miles in not much more more. Not everyday, but more than once a year, I’d think. In the pension files of the enslaved Cleages that I’m reading now, people sometimes mention walking 6 miles to visit their mother. Just a thought.

    1. You are probably right. Living in NYC, I routinely walk 4-5 miles per day. And there were horses and coaches as well. The fact that they met while living 3-6 miles apart seems to indicate there was some mobility.

  2. Thanks to all for your comments. Postmaster seems to have been a good, steady job in rural areas — and there were many more in the 1800s, when mail was a communication lifeline. The Liberty Township map was a great find: I’ve had a paper copy in my files for years, but this scalable web version is so much better! And it helped explain their move to be back near family in Brookdale, Penna.

  3. We can often find the Who, Where, and When of family history, but establishing Why is more problematical. But your determined research produced results. On Mary’s move. Her father’s Christian name of Zebulon I had not heard of before.

  4. It seems every time I think an ancestor moved AWAY, it turns out he moved TO something or someone. Digging and more digging usually turns up another member of the family.

  5. Always have been surprised how long it took my PA ancestors to from one side of PA to the other– over a 100 years. On the other side, my scots-Irish folks tended to leave the ship and head west — some farther and faster than others.

  6. It’s fascinating to see how detailed the map is. Having the names on the farms, and adding hotels, saw mills, wagon shops, etc. makes it almost like Google maps . I wonder who used it. Perhaps just the county recorders, realtors., and postmasters?

  7. My great grandfather worked for the U.S. Post Office in Oakland, Calif. in the latter part of the 1800s.

  8. I had relatives on my ancestry who also were postmasters…both where territories later became states. One Uncle was in St. Augustine FL, and another was in Huntsville, TX. The sad thing was that the young uncle in TX died and his father became the next postmaster. (It may have been after Texas joined the union, not sure.) There are fortunately some original records about these people!

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