Albert Charboneau: A lumberman in love

Sepia Saturday 528. Sixth in a series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. Scan by Molly Charboneau

My dad’s Uncle Albert was a young man of 23 when he moved with his parents and younger brothers to Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., New York. A couple of years later, he and the family were enumerated there in the 1910 U.S. census.

In the previous 1900 federal census, Albert — then just 15 — was already employed as a laborer in an Adirondack sawmill in Hawkinsville, N.Y. This was not unusual for children in that period, according to Eleanor Franz in her book Dolge1.

Children went to work at the age of twelve or fourteen both in factories and on the farms, and their earnings went to feed the rest of their families….Clothes were rough and homemade. Schooling stopped at the sixth grade.2

A better lumber job

After the move to Dolgeville, Albert continued his lumber career as a planer at a piano sounding board factory, but under more hospitable conditions — presumably with better income, hopes of a pension and in a town with modern amenities like electricity and spacious public parks.

Contemporary photo of the Steinway Piano factory in Queens, New York. On arrival in Dolgeville, N.Y., Uncle Albert, his father and two brothers got jobs at a piano sounding board factory — which is where they were working during the 1910 federal census. Source: Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Albert’s dad and two of his brothers, including my paternal grandfather W. Ray Carboneau, also got new jobs after the move — all at the piano sounding board factory.

Albert Barney Charboneau and Family – 1910 U.S. census – South Main Street, Dolgeville Village, Town of Manheim, Herkimer County, N.Y. Source: FamilySearch3
Name Relation Age Occupation Where Home
William M. Charbonneau Head 54 Engineer Sounding board factory Rented house
Eva M. Charbonneau Wife 44 None
Albert B. Charbonneau Son 25 Planer Sounding board factory
W. Raymond Charbonneau (my paternal grandfather) Son 23 Gluer Sounding board factory
Orvil Charbonneau Son 18 Laborer Sounding board factory
George D. Charbonneau Son 11 None

When Albert met Annie

For Albert and his brothers, another benefit of moving to a larger, bustling village was the chance to meet a life partner. At the time, Dolgeville offered many ways for young people to socialize — at banquets, balls, concerts and athletic events, not to mention church functions.

Yet it appears that Albert may have met his future wife Annie E. Miller by a more traditional route — a family introduction. In 1910, Annie’s father Charles Miller4was also working as a planer at the Dolgeville sounding board factory.

Dolgeville, NY: Albert B. and Annie E. (Miller) Charboneau, seated, with her parents Mary and Charles Miller (circa 1912). In 1910, my dad’s Uncle Albert (l.) and Annie’s father Charles (r.) both worked as planers in a piano sounding board factory in Dolgeville. Did Albert meet Annie through a family introduction? Scan by Molly Charboneau

Regardless of how the two young people met, by 1912 Annie and Albert were smitten and ready to settle down together — and that meant a wedding that would leave a trail of genealogy details for me to find more than a century later.

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

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12 thoughts on “Albert Charboneau: A lumberman in love”

    1. Thanks! When I began researching my family, I was mainly focused on amassing records and filing them away — but it’s the details the contain that really tell the ancestral story.

  1. As I am a woodworker as well as a musician, I’ve always marveled at the skillful artisans who make musical instruments like pianos, organs, and string instruments. Both pianos and violins depend on selecting the best seasoned spruce for a sounding board, so workers at the Dolgeville factory must have been well trained.

    1. A couple of summers ago, I took a tour of the Steinway piano factory — located not far from where I live in New York City’s borough of Queens — to get a feel for my ancestors’ occupations. You are so right about the skill required to produce pianos — and Albert’s knowledge of Adirondack wood was undoubtedly helpful in his sounding board factory job.

    1. Totally! Occupation helps reveal how one’s ancestors fit into the local economy — and in Albert’s case, how his childhood job at a sawmill helped prepare him for a career in lumber and woodworking.

  2. Interesting that with two light or fairly light-haired parents, Annie had such dark hair – or perhaps that’s just the camera? You never know, though. Hair and eye color can skip generations and then suddenly show up. 🙂

    1. Interesting observation. Her mother appears to have grey hair in this photo, so maybe it was darker in her youth. I also believe her dad’s hair is dark — it just looks light here because it’s catching the sunlight.

    1. Didn’t realize I had that photo until I delved into my family collection to see if I could find any pictures of Albert — yet another benefit of blogging 🙂

    1. Thanks, Alex. I was particularly pleased to find the piano factory photo because it showed gluing, which is what my paternal grandfather did at the Dolgeville sounding board factory.

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