Sepia Saturday 480: Ninth in a series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery.
After his second marriage to Sarah Ann Sherman, my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee, 56, recast his life yet again and took on a new career: shoemaker. I couldn’t help wondering how that came about.
As a younger man Zebulon had been a farmer, elocutionist, postmaster and tavern owner — and even a local merchant with his own store. But after divorcing my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee in 1866, he left all that behind — starting over in Jessup, Susquehanna Co., Pennsylvania where he married Sarah Ann in 1867.
A new career
Zebulon’s new challenge appeared to be how to earn a living in middle age in an area where he was unknown. In 1870, at 60, he was working as a “day hand” — possibly for Sarah Ann’s father, Abel Sherman, who owned the farm next door. But farm labor may not have been satisfying work for a man of his eclectic talents — and it may also have become more difficult as he aged.
Whatever the reasons, by 1873 Zebulon, 63, had found a new calling — and he began to appear in the Jessup Township tax rolls in the taxable occupation of “shoemaker.” In 1880, Zebulon was still working as a shoemaker during the federal census — the last one in which he was tallied at age 70.
Shoemaker: An essential profession
Zebulon appears to have had a knack for finding jobs that were essential to the communities in which he lived — and working as a shoemaker was no different.
Making and repairing shoes, whether for work or dress, required skill and a whole array of specific tools. And in the 1870s, before the mass production of footwear, a town’s shoemaker could count on a steady stream of customers.
Zebulon would have been familiar with the business end of the operation, too, since he owned and operated a store for many years in Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna. And shoemaking, which generally required sitting at a bench to do the work, was less physically taxing for an older worker than many of his previous occupations.
1880: RIP Zebulon Blakeslee
In the end, it appears that both his job and his second marriage brought stability that saw Zebulon through his senior years.
And on my recent research trip to Montrose, Penna., I finally learned when and where he died — breaking through a longstanding brick wall.
The Susquehanna County Historical Society card files contained an excerpted notice of his death at age 73 — on 16 Dec. 1880 in the hamlet of Fairdale, Jessup Township, Susquehanna Co., Penna. Thus I was able to obtain a printout of the newspaper announcement (below) from the 27 Dec. 1880 Montrose Democrat.
Although I have not yet found where Zebulon was buried, I am nevertheless gratified to have finally solved the mystery of what became of him after he and my third great-grandmother Hannah separated and divorced.
More to come…
Yet this is not end of the story of my Blakeslee third great-grandparents. During the writing of the last few posts, I continued pursuing the search for Hannah and Zebulon’s divorce records — and I may soon have them!
So more to come once the records and decree are in hand — and hopefully some clarity on what precipitated their separation and divorce.
Up next: Ancestors-in-law: The Shermans of Jessup, Susquehanna Co., Penna. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.