1856: Wedding bells in Brookdale, Penna.

Sepia Saturday 466. Ninth and last in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.

Sometime circa 1852-55 my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee met and got engaged to my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull.

Soon wedding bells rang in Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna., as they said their vows and pledged a life together on 11 Aug. 1856. Mary was 18 and Arthur was 22 when they wed.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004672387/
Women’s fashions (1856). My great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee married Arthur T. Bull on 11 Aug. 1856, This photo evokes Mary, her sister Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney, her mother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — and perhaps a young cousin who  may have attended the Presbyterian  wedding ceremony in Boorkdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna. Source: Library of Congress

News of their marriage reached me more than a century later — prompting a 1995 genealogy road trip with my dad to Binghamton, N.Y., to learn more about these ancestors.

In The Tiny Road Map I describe how that journey led to the astonishing discovery that Arthur was a U.S. Civil War veteran.

So I hold a special fondness for the Blakeslee-Bull wedding because it provided my first research clue about these family lines.

A wedding announcement

An announcement of Mary and Arthur’s wedding appeared in 14 Aug. 1856 issue of The Montrose Democrat — a newspaper serving Susquehanna County, Penna.

https://www.susqcohistsoc.org
The Blakeslee-Bull wedding announcement (1856). The 11 Aug. 1856 marriage of Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee and Arthur T. Bull was announced in The Montrose Democrat, a newspaper serving Susquehanna Co., Penna. Image courtesy of the Susquehanna County Historical Society

Although Arthur is listed as “Mr. T. Ball, of Corbettsville, N.Y.” there is no doubt that this is my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull.

The Susquehanna County Historical Society listed him as Arthur T. Bull when adding this item to their card catalog — which is what led me to the news clip.

Even better, I have direct testimony supporting the newspaper’s details from two wedding witnesses — Mary’s sister Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney and her husband William.

Witnesses to a wedding

More then three decades after her 1856 marriage, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth had to prove to the U.S. Pension Board that she was entitled to Civil War widow’s benefits from her late husband Arthur’s service in the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

To verify her marriage Mary relied on an affidavit (excerpted below) from Rhoda Ann and William Whitney of Binghamton, N.Y. — her sister and brother-in-law, who attended the wedding.

On this 26th day of February, 1890, before me, a notary public within and for the county and state aforesaid, duly authorized to administer oaths, personally appeared William Whitney, aged 71 years and Rhoda A. Whitney, aged 59 years, who being by me severally and duly sworn, say:

That they reside at No. 179 43 South Street, in the city of Binghamton, Broome County, New York; that they were present at the  marriage of Arthur T. Bull to Mary E. Blakslee; and that the said Arthur T. Bull and Mary E. Blakslee were united in marriage at Bookdale, in the Town of Liberty and state of Pennsylvania, on the 11th, Day of August, 1856, by the Reverend Willard Richardson, a Presbyterian clergyman.

Signatures of my great-great grandaunt Rhoda A. Whitney and her husband William (1890). The Whitneys provided details of my great-great grandmother Mary’s 1856 marriage to Arthur T. Bull to support her application for Civil War widow’s benefits. Rhoda was Mary’s sister. Photo by Molly Charboneau

No marriage record

That there is no public or private record of said marriage as deponents verily believe; that as deponents are informed and believe it was not then customary among people of said county, at the time of said marriage, to record marriages in town or county records nor required by the laws of said county or state; and that the present whereabouts of said Willard Richardson who married said parties is unknown to deponents and whether he is alive or not is to them unknown.

Deponents further swear that they derive the facts of the said marriage and the time when it took place and where it was performed from a distinct remembrance of the same, said Mary E. being a sister of the deponent Rhoda A. Whitney, and deponent William Whitney being the husband of said Rhoda A.

Starting a life together

My great-great grandmother Mary, 18, was younger than the typical bride of that era when she wed my great-great grandfather Arthur, 22. According to theclassroom.com:

Between 1800 and 1900, women generally married for the first time between the ages of 20 and 22. Less is known about the average age of first marriages for men during the 19th century.

Nevertheless, Mary does not appear to have looked back once they wed. Together she and Arthur weathered separation during the U.S. Civil War, raised nine children, moved around New York State for his job, and persevered in later years as Arthur’s health declined and he applied for his Civil War pension.

Perhaps one day I will locate a photo of my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull —  if some generous Bull or Blakeslee cousin comes forward. But until then, I hope I have done justice to the story of her early years along the New York-Pennsylvania border.

Up next: Fifth Blogiversary for Molly’s Canopy! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

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14 thoughts on “1856: Wedding bells in Brookdale, Penna.”

  1. I found your post on the Spring Fever genealogy blog party, and enjoyed it! Newsclips are such great resources and always exciting to find. Now to go read more of your blog!

    1. Hey, Kim. Welcome to Molly’s Canopy! I so agree about news clips. The are invaluable for adding detail to a family’s story. Will be over to check your blog soon and thanks for your visit.

      1. I couldn’t find a place to comment on your Baltimore trip, so am chiming in here. I loved reading about your planning and the trip itself. All very similar to my own. And my great great grandparents, Nicholas Snowden Hill and Mary (Cocke) Hill, as well as my great grandfather (their son-in-law), James Mills, were also buried in the New Cathedral Cemetery. Interesting journeys.

        1. Totally! As a young woman, my paternal Welsh-Irish grandmother Mary (Owen) Chaboneau relocated to New York State where I grew up, so researching her Baltimore background was a rewarding challenge. Interesting that we both have ancestors buried in New Cathedral Cemetery — and fortunate too, because they keep excellent records.

  2. It was interesting to find your post on your great great grandmother’s marriage. I posted about my great great grandmother’s marriage this month too. She was also a civil war widow. I found her just recently through a pension file I happened to look at on 3fold just because her husband was in the same Company and Reg. as the Cleages I am researching. I recognized her son-in-law’s name as that of my great grand mother’s second husband. Before finding this file I did not know her name, nor about her other children or anything about her life. Pension files are wonderful and also those blogging spurs that help us find new information.
    Here’s a link if you are interested. http://findingeliza.com/archives/28663

  3. We each finish a series on the same day. I have enjoyed reading yours! Not sure where I will go next.

    One little scrap of paper or a small notation can lead us to something much bigger. Love that about family history! I also enjoy collection the signatures of my ancestors and you have two good ones here.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. Yes, those signatures are priceless. In the case of my Blakeslee, Bull and Whitney families they are the only tangible record I have of them, since I inherited no photos.

  4. I hope you do come across a photo of your great great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth, some day. You never know. If you put the word out there, some relative may see it and bingo! Might as well try. 🙂

    1. That is my hope! I have had cousins from other family lines get in touch over the years — so fingers crossed, maybe a Blakeslee or Bull cousin will step forward.

  5. It’s been a delight to read both of your series on Arthur and now Mary Elizabeth. As Americans we are still trying to understand this turbulent period in our nation’s history. Discovering details in the ordinary lives of our ancestors really helps to humanize the challenges they faced and to map their view of the world. The notion of recording events with names and dates was clearly one of the important innovations of mid-19th century life.

    1. Thanks, Mike. This Blakeslee series on Mary Elizabeth has been particularly gratifying. I started it with very little info on her or her parents, and in the researching and writing learned so much. A copy of the 1856 news clip on her marriage to Arthur arrived by snail mail just a week before I wrote that post — proof once again that blogging spurs the genealogy research along.

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