Sepia Saturday 487: Fifth in a series on the 1866 divorce of my third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — what the court records reveal.
As part of his 1866 divorce case in Susquehanna County, Penna., my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee reached out to three witnesses to give depositions on his behalf.
The first deposition from James E. Whitney piqued my interest, and I discovered he was a collateral relative — a younger brother of William Whitney, husband of Zebulon’s older daughter Rhoda Ann.
Wondering where James Whitney lived when he gave his deposition, I found him enumerated the 1865 New York State Census for Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — but that’s not all I found!
A series of surprises
Surprise No. 1: The 1865 state census (excerpted below) revealed that both Blakeslee daughters and their families were back in Conklin, N.Y. — apparently having returned en mass from Walton, Delaware County, N.Y. where they lived in 1860.
Surprise No. 2: Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney lived right next door to her brother-in-law James when he gave his deposition in support of her father Zebulon’s divorce petition. And her sister — my great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — lived close by.
|1865 N.Y. State Census – Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. – Whitney and Bull Families – Source: FamilySearch|
|15||16||James E. Whitney||35||Head||Chenango||Farmer|
|Mary Whitney||79||Mother||Columbia||13 living children|
|John B. Whitney||39||Brother||Chenango|
|Rhoda Ann [Blakeslee] Whitney||34||Wife||Penna.||Children Duane, 14 & Albert, 12|
|37||39||Arthur T. Bull||29||Head||Greene||Farmer|
|Mary Elizabeth [Blakeslee] Bull||27||Wife||Broome||Children Emona, 7, Carrie, 5 & Milo, 3|
Surprise No. 3: Hannah was not living with either daughter! And so far I have found no trace of Hannah for a span of 13 years — from the 1860 federal census of Walton, N.Y. (when she lived with her daughter Rhoda Ann and son-in-law William Whitney) to her first appearance in an 1873 city directory for Binghamton, N.Y.
“It broke up his family”
In his 1866 deposition, James E. Whitney testified about my third great-grandparents’ breakup — precipitated by Hannah leaving Zebulon in 1858.
She left him about about seven years ago and has not lived with him since. Know of no reason for her leaving and in consequence of it it broke up his family. She went to live with her son in law and has remained away ever since.
There is some truth to what he says. Hannah went away, yes — and she did live with her son-in-law. She also apparently stayed away — and under the radar — as I found no record of her from 1860-1873.
Maybe, maybe not
But did Hannah’s actions really break up the family? Maybe, maybe not. By 1865, both Blakeslee daughters had returned together from Walton, N.Y., to their Conklin, N.Y., hometown — along with their intact families.
They were then living within five miles of their father Zebulon — who, per his 1865 divorce filing, still resided just over the border in Brookdale, Penna.
Rhoda Ann lived next door to her brother-in-law James Whitney when he provided his deposition supporting Zebulon’s divorce petition — but apparently she did not hold this against him when she later moved into his household after her husband William died.
And after their parents’ divorce and Zebulon’s second marriage, the families of both Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull took turns housing their mother Hannah for the rest of her life — while supporting her public persona as a “widow.”
A modern family
Of course, census records, city directories and court documents cannot tell the whole story. But in some ways, the Blakeslees’ and their daughters appear to have handled the divorce much like families do today — by maintaining familial relationships as best they could while adjusting to the new situation.
Up next: Two more depositions in the Blakeslee divorce case. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.