All posts by Molly C.

1915: Uncle Albert joins the Masons and the Odd Fellows

Sepia Saturday 530. Eighth 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

Apart from his work and family life, my dad’s uncle Albert B. Charboneau also got involved in local fraternal societies.

My research indicates that some time before 1915 he joined a couple of fraternal organizations then active in Dolgeville, N.Y. — the Freemasons and the International Order of Odd Fellows.

The fraternal society era

Albert became active toward the end of a 50-year period when U.S. social life centered around such clubs, according to a 2015 Detroit News article titled “Clubbing in days past: When fraternal societies ruled.”

Dolgeville Masonic Lodge 796 (2105). My dad’s Uncle Albert was an officer of this lodge circa 1915-1918. Yet his affiliation with the Masons and the Odd Fellows came with serious pitfalls. Photo by Molly Charboneau

The article sums up the sweep of these clubs from the 1870s to the 1920s:

In the 1870s men began founding and joining new clubs by the thousands from all levels of society. Immigrants organized clubs, as did African-Americans. Women would not be left out either and created auxiliaries of men’s clubs or founded major new sisterhoods. From 1870 to the end of the 1920s Americans’ social life centered on these clubs. Prior to the Civil War the U.S. had just two well-known fraternal societies: Freemasonry and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

The pitfalls of fraternalism

Yet Albert’s fraternal affiliations came with serious pitfalls. The elite exclusivity of the Masons and Odd Fellows, their whites-only policies and their refusal to admit women except to auxiliary organizations are a disturbing legacy.

These discriminatory practices set them apart from the more egalitarian Grand Army of the Republic — which Albert’s maternal grandfather, Union Army veteran Arthur T. Bull, belonged to. The GAR admitted African American Union veterans on an equal footing.

Dolgeville column of the Little Falls Journal (21 Dec. 1915). In 1915, Albert became senior warden of the Dolgeville Lodge — the second-ranking post. Source: fultonhistory.com

Some of these groups became more inclusive over time and, according to the Detroit News article, “Virtually all surviving clubs have community service as the linchpin of their organization.”

Unfortunately, I have no documentation to indicate why Albert joined. Was it for the networking these groups offered, as well the charitable and social programs they supported — or simply because they were the only shows in town? Was he on board with their biased elitism — or  just enamored of the secret ceremonies and handshakes? The records are silent on this.

Rising in the ranks

What I can document is that Albert not only joined but rose in the ranks — particularly in Dolgeville Lodge 796 of the Masons.

According to a 21 Dec. 1915 article in the Little Falls Journal, Albert became the senior warden of the Dolgeville Masons that year — the second-highest rank in the lodge.

Dolgeville Masonic Lodge 796 photo of Albert “Burt” Charboneau. My dad’s Uncle Albert was the head of the Dolgeville lodge in 1918 — the same year he died in the Great Influenza Pandemic. Re-photo by Molly Charboneau

My dad told me that Albert had also been the “head Mason” of his lodge — an anecdote I finally confirmed during a 2015 trip to Dolgeville with my sister Amy for the town’s annual Violet Festival.

On that trip we visited the Mason’s hall shown above — which was open to the public for the festival flower show.

Learning that we were related to a Charboneau who was once the lodge’s “worshipful master,” a woman from the Order of the Eastern Star — the women’s auxiliary — took us to the photo display room.

And there on the wall was a photo of Albert, who had headed the lodge in 1918 — the same year he died in the Great Influenza Pandemic.

Albert’s story will resume after an August recess. Enjoy your summer and please stop back in September! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1912: Wedding bells for Albert and Annie (Miller) Charboneau

Sepia Saturday 529Seventh 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

Within four years of his 1908 arrival in Dolgeville, Herkimer County, N.Y., my dad’s Uncle Albert was embarking on a promising future — in his career, his personal life and his community.

According to Albert’s listing in the 1912 Dolgeville city directory, he was boarding at his parents’ home at 49 South Main Street not far from the Dolge Factory Complex.

Promoted to lumber foreman

However, the directory also indicates Albert had been promoted and was working as a foreman at Breckwoldt’s lumber — an increase in responsibility over his earlier lumber job as a planer in a sounding board factory.

Albert and Will Charboneau in 1912 Dolgeville, N.Y. City Directory 
Name Job Firm Home Address
Albert Charboneau Foreman Breckwoldt’s Boards 49 S. Main
William H. Charboneau Engineer House 49 S. Main

According to Eleanor Franz in her book Dolge1the lumber firm where Albert worked was founded by Julius Breckwoldt — a Danish immigrant born in Schleiswig-Holstein.

He was making piano moldings in New York City when Alfred Dolge convinced him to move Dolgeville to operate the Dolge piano factory’s lumber department. 2

By the time Uncle Albert worked there, Breckwoldt had spun off the operation — which produced piano sounding boards, moldings and cases — into a separate industry.3

A man of independent means

As satisfying as Uncle Albert’s career must have been, his new earning power probably meant even more for his personal life. Because now he could afford to propose to the love of his life — Annie E. Miller, also a factory worker — and they could begin their married life together.

Albert B. and Annie E. (Miller) Charboneau circa 1912. I love this photo of Albert and Annie — they look so young, industrious and optimistic as they embark on their life together. Scan by Molly Charboneau

When I began researching the Charboneau family in the 1990s, my dad and I made a trip to Dolgeville for a look around his birthplace — and to see what records we could find. One of our discoveries was the record (below) of Albert and Annie’s marriage in Dolgeville, N.Y., on 28 August 1912.

Marriage record of Albert B. and Annie E. (Miller) Charboneau in Dolgeville, N.Y. on 28 Aug. 1912. Scan by Molly Charboneau

I have not been able to find a newspaper announcement about their wedding — which might have described the ceremony — so I am glad to have this document to fill in some of the details.

Albert and Annie: A unique marriage

Albert and Annie’s ceremony was conducted by Robert Jones, a clergyman. Albert’s witness was his younger brother Orville Nile Charboneau (who everyone called Tom, though my dad never knew why). Annie’s witness was Lucy M. Bidgood — possibly a friend.

They were both 27 years old when they married. So they did not follow the then-typical pattern of the husband being slightly older than the wife. And their ages were also higher than the estimated median age of first marriage at the time — which in 1910 was age 25.1 for men and age 21.6 for women.

Which makes me wonder: Did Annie and Albert delay marriage because they were each working and trying to establish themselves? Did the fact that they were the same age and both employed outside the home signal a more egalitarian partnership?

Recent immigrant heritage

I have previously discussed that Albert had immigrant paternal grandparents (Laurent Charbonneau from Quebec and his wife Ursula Zinsk from Switzerland). From their marriage record we learn that Annie’s parents were immigrants from Scotland. So Albert, born in Forestport, and Annie, born in Dolgeville, shared relatively recent immigration in their respective families.

And by 1914, when Albert next appeared in the Dolgeville city directory, he and Annie had set up their own household at 42 State Street — a bit removed from downtown, but still an easy walk to the Dolge factory complex.

They were still living there when the 1915 New York State census4was taken (indexed as Charaboncan). Both were age 32 and still at work — Albert in the sounding board factory and Annie continuing her job as a felt shoe stitcher even after their marriage.

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

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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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 Dolge5.

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.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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