1850-58: The later married years of Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee

Sepia Saturday 494: Third in a new series on why my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee may have left her marriage in 1858.

Nothing in her early married years (1840-50) appears to explain why my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee left her husband in 1858. So I examined her later married years (1850-58) for possible clues.

http://www.victoriana.com/Fashion/1850sfashion/victorianfashionhistory1850.htm
Women’s fashion in 1850. The later years of my third great-grandmother Hannah’s marriage brought many changes. Could the pace of events have created rifts in her marriage? Photo: victoriana.com

Hannah and Zebulon Blakeslee lived on a farm in 1850 with their younger daughter Mary Elizabeth, 12. Their older daughter Rhoda Ann, 19, lived on the farm next door with her husband William Whitney.

Their situation appeared stable, with both farms depicted as comparable to those of their neighbors in the 1850 U.S. census. Yet the ensuing eight years brought many changes for Hannah, as summarized in the timeline below.

Timeline: Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee’s Later Married Years (1850-58)
Year Location Event
1850 & 1852 Conklin, Broome, NY Birth of Grandsons Duane & Albert Whitney1
1851-1854 Conklin Centre, Broome, NY Farmer Zebulon was also a postmaster and offered therapy for stuttering from their home
1854 Brookdale, Susquehanna, PA Hannah & Zebulon move there; he was postmaster until 1855
1855 Conklin, Broome, NY William & Rhoda Ann Whitney remained on their farm2
1856 Brookdale, Susquehanna, PA Daughter Mary Elizabeth wed tanner Arthur T. Bull
1857-1858 Brookdale, Susquehanna, PA Store owner Zebulon paid merchant and “real/acre” taxes
1858 Brookdale, Susquehanna, PA Birth of granddaughter Emma Eulalie Bull

Mother, grandmother, empty nest

With the birth of Duane Whitney in 1850, Hannah became a grandmother at the relatively young age of 38 — while her younger daughter Mary, 12, was still at home. Two years later her second grandchild, Albert Whitney, was born.

From 1850-54, the Blakeslees and Whitneys lived next to each other in Conklin, N.Y. — which would have made for convenient grandmotherly visits by Hannah. Meanwhile, Zebulon cobbled together several jobs as a farmer, postmaster and folk cure practitioner to make ends meet.

But in 1854, Zebulon apparently gave up the farm — or left it to William and Rhoda Ann Whitney — because he moved with Hannah and Mary back across the border to Brookdale, PA. There he opened a country store near the local tannery — and Hannah no longer lived close to her grandsons.

Two years later, their daughter Mary Elizabeth and Arthur T. Bull (my great-great grandparents) got married — leaving Hannah with an empty nest at age 44.

In summary: many life changes over a short period of time.

Conklin and Brookdale: different as night and day

On a recent road trip to Binghamton, N.Y., I drove south through Conklin toward Brookdale to get a sense of the rural environment where the Blakeslees once lived.

Image by 12019 on Pixabay
A New York Farm. Conklin, N.Y., is sunny and bright with broad expanses of farmland stretching west from the Susquehanna River to meet distant, rolling hills. Was Hannah disappointed to relocate to forested Brookdale, Penna. in 1854 — leaving her young Whitney grandsons behind?

Much has changed in the 160 years since they resided there — and the Brookdale community as they knew it no longer exists. Yet the cross-border areas remain as different as night and day.

Conklin and nearby Corbettsville. N.Y. — where Hannah’s parents and other Hance relatives are buried — are sunny and bright with broad expanses of farmland stretching west from the Susquehanna River to meet distant, rolling hills.

But just across the Pennsylvania border the road to Brookdale darkens as it parallels the Snake Creek and enters forests that at times climb sharply up steep inclines.

Ancestors of those tannin-rich trees once fueled the Brookdale tannery whose workers shopped at Zebulon Blakeslee’s store. Yet I have to wonder: Did their shadows cast gloom over Hannah, who may have missed the young grandsons she had to leave behind?

A happy occasion capped off the eight years of change when Hannah’s first granddaughter Emona Eulalie Bull was born 1858. Yet that was the same year that Hannah left Zebulon for good. A coincidence? Or somehow connected to her bold action?

More in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

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4 thoughts on “1850-58: The later married years of Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee”

  1. That difference in landscape you noticed certainly might have been an irritating depressive element in Hannah’s life. Having moved to the mountains after living for a long time on the Atlantic coast, I know how the dark shadows in some valleys dramatically change a person’s emotions. It makes me miss how the ocean horizon meets the vast light of the sky.

    Following Gail’s thought about private lives. Maybe Hannah was not the victim of abuse, but someone else close to her was. Perhaps she learned or even witnessed something that turned her feelings against Zebulon. The skeletons in the closet come in many forms and some are too dark to see.

  2. They were married for 18 years, if my math is correct, and Hannah stuck with her husband through many changes. To leave him after all that time, as I see it, indicates the outside influences, while many and varied, wouldn’t be enough. Something was finally the ‘last straw’ and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that it was the way Zebulon treated her in private. Unfortunately, that’s something that can never be known. I have the same unanswerable questions about my great grandmother leaving my great grandfather as well as leaving some of her grown children behind as she put an ocean between them!

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