Category Archives: Whitney

1856: Wedding bells in Brookdale, Penna.

Sepia Saturday 466. Ninth and last in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.

Sometime circa 1852-55 my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee met and got engaged to my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull.

Soon wedding bells rang in Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna., as they said their vows and pledged a life together on 11 Aug. 1856. Mary was 18 and Arthur was 22 when they wed.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004672387/
Women’s fashions (1856). My great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee married Arthur T. Bull on 11 Aug. 1856, This photo evokes Mary, her sister Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney, her mother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — and perhaps a young cousin who  may have attended the Presbyterian  wedding ceremony in Boorkdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna. Source: Library of Congress

News of their marriage reached me more than a century later — prompting a 1995 genealogy road trip with my dad to Binghamton, N.Y., to learn more about these ancestors.

In The Tiny Road Map I describe how that journey led to the astonishing discovery that Arthur was a U.S. Civil War veteran.

So I hold a special fondness for the Blakeslee-Bull wedding because it provided my first research clue about these family lines.

A wedding announcement

An announcement of Mary and Arthur’s wedding appeared in 14 Aug. 1856 issue of The Montrose Democrat — a newspaper serving Susquehanna County, Penna.

https://www.susqcohistsoc.org
The Blakeslee-Bull wedding announcement (1856). The 11 Aug. 1856 marriage of Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee and Arthur T. Bull was announced in The Montrose Democrat, a newspaper serving Susquehanna Co., Penna. Image courtesy of the Susquehanna County Historical Society

Although Arthur is listed as “Mr. T. Ball, of Corbettsville, N.Y.” there is no doubt that this is my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull.

The Susquehanna County Historical Society listed him as Arthur T. Bull when adding this item to their card catalog — which is what led me to the news clip.

Even better, I have direct testimony supporting the newspaper’s details from two wedding witnesses — Mary’s sister Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney and her husband William.

Witnesses to a wedding

More then three decades after her 1856 marriage, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth had to prove to the U.S. Pension Board that she was entitled to Civil War widow’s benefits from her late husband Arthur’s service in the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

To verify her marriage Mary relied on an affidavit (excerpted below) from Rhoda Ann and William Whitney of Binghamton, N.Y. — her sister and brother-in-law, who attended the wedding.

On this 26th day of February, 1890, before me, a notary public within and for the county and state aforesaid, duly authorized to administer oaths, personally appeared William Whitney, aged 71 years and Rhoda A. Whitney, aged 59 years, who being by me severally and duly sworn, say:

That they reside at No. 179 43 South Street, in the city of Binghamton, Broome County, New York; that they were present at the  marriage of Arthur T. Bull to Mary E. Blakslee; and that the said Arthur T. Bull and Mary E. Blakslee were united in marriage at Bookdale, in the Town of Liberty and state of Pennsylvania, on the 11th, Day of August, 1856, by the Reverend Willard Richardson, a Presbyterian clergyman.

Signatures of my great-great grandaunt Rhoda A. Whitney and her husband William (1890). The Whitneys provided details of my great-great grandmother Mary’s 1856 marriage to Arthur T. Bull to support her application for Civil War widow’s benefits. Rhoda was Mary’s sister. Photo by Molly Charboneau

No marriage record

That there is no public or private record of said marriage as deponents verily believe; that as deponents are informed and believe it was not then customary among people of said county, at the time of said marriage, to record marriages in town or county records nor required by the laws of said county or state; and that the present whereabouts of said Willard Richardson who married said parties is unknown to deponents and whether he is alive or not is to them unknown.

Deponents further swear that they derive the facts of the said marriage and the time when it took place and where it was performed from a distinct remembrance of the same, said Mary E. being a sister of the deponent Rhoda A. Whitney, and deponent William Whitney being the husband of said Rhoda A.

Starting a life together

My great-great grandmother Mary, 18, was younger than the typical bride of that era when she wed my great-great grandfather Arthur, 22. According to theclassroom.com:

Between 1800 and 1900, women generally married for the first time between the ages of 20 and 22. Less is known about the average age of first marriages for men during the 19th century.

Nevertheless, Mary does not appear to have looked back once they wed. Together she and Arthur weathered separation during the U.S. Civil War, raised nine children, moved around New York State for his job, and persevered in later years as Arthur’s health declined and he applied for his Civil War pension.

Perhaps one day I will locate a photo of my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull —  if some generous Bull or Blakeslee cousin comes forward. But until then, I hope I have done justice to the story of her early years along the New York-Pennsylvania border.

Up next: Fifth Blogiversary for Molly’s Canopy! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1854: The Blakeslees move to Brookdale, Penna.

Sepia Saturday 464. Seventh in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.

Around 1854 my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, 16, said goodbye to her school chums and neighbors in Conklin Centre, N.Y., and moved six miles south with her parents to Brookdale, Penna.

Not a distant move by today’s standards — but it must have seemed a world away to a teenager in the 1850s.

https://ancestortracks.com/Susquehanna%20Co.%201858/LibertyTwp.jpg
Liberty Township in Susquehanna Co., Penna. (circa 1858). CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. In the upper right is Brookdale P.O., where my Blakeslee ancestors moved circa 1854. Two appearances of the name Z. Blakeslee mark their home and my ggg grandfather Zebulon’s nearby store, which may also have served as the post office. Mary probably attended the school (noted as Schl.) down the block from their residence. Their former home in Concklin Centre, N.Y., is located just above the Pennsylvania border. Source: ancestortracks.com

Why her parents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee chose to leave their Conklin farm is unclear. But move they did — because around 1854 Zebulon began to show up in records related to Brookdale, Penna.

A traveling postmaster

When the family relocated, Mary’s dad took at least one of his jobs with him — that of rural postmaster.

According to the U.S. Post Office Dept.’s Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-19711 Zebulon Blakeslee was appointed postmaster of Brookdale, Susquehanna, Penna. on 16 July 1854 — and reappointed the following year.

That Zebulon would continue as a postmaster is not surprising, since he was previously postmaster of Conklin Centre N.Y. from 1851-53. And prior to that he was postmaster in neighboring Shawsville, N.Y. from 1846-49.2

So this was a decade-long career for Zebulon — and all the better for Mary, since she could easily get stamps to correspond with her Conklin Centre friends and with her married older sister Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney, who stayed behind.

A Brookdale merchant

Zebulon’s post office position was also referenced in a Centennial History of Susquehanna County, published in 1887 — in a passage that  describes a new calling for him: Brookdale merchant.

This is consistent with a letter I received from a Susquehanna County Historical Society researcher confirming that she found Zebulon Blakeslee on the Liberty Township tax rolls in 1857 (merchant $25) and 1858 (merchant $25, real+acre $30).

https://archive.org/details/cu31924028854689/page/n767
Source: Internet Archive/Centennial History of Susquehanna County (1887)

Back with family

I read the above passage with interest, because the name Anson A. Beeman rang a bell. A quick look at previous research confirmed that he was the husband of Rachel (Hance) Beeman — an older sister of Mary’s mother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee.3

The map above also shows a property in the upper right marked “I. Hance” likely owned by another relative — Hannah’s older brother Issac.4

So my teenage great-great grandmother Mary may have left her sister, friends, acquaintances and neighbors behind, but she was back with family in Brookdale — where she had a whole host of Hance-Beeman cousins, judging by the 1850 federal census returns for the nearby households of her uncles Anson A. Beeman,5an innkeeper, and Issac Hance,6a farmer.

And in Brookdale, before long, Mary would be starting a family of her own.

Up next: My great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull meets her husband. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A bewildering Blakeslee saga

Sepia Saturday 458. First in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.

Researching distant female ancestors can be challenging because at one time women accumulated few records in their own name.

In addition, women who lived in rural areas — like my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — lacked city directories and local newspapers where their personal details might appear.

So I do not know as much about Mary Elizabeth as I do about her husband — my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, a veteran of the Union Army’s 6th N.Y. Heavy Artillery. Yet I long to know more.

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-1be4-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. (1876). The Conklin countryside where my Blakeslee ancestors lived forms the backdrop to these early lithographs.. As a young woman coming of age in a rural setting, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull accumulated few records in her own name. Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections

In this new blog series, I hope to review what my past research has revealed about Mary — and to identify what more is needed to paint a fuller picture of her life.

First federal census

Mary’s parents were Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee (who I have written about on Molly’s Canopy) and Zebulon Blakeslee (whose given name I love, but about whom I know far less).

The bewildering Blakeslee saga begins with Mary at age 12 in the 1850 U.S. Census of Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y. — the first in which she appears by name — to see what her family’s enumeration reveals.

1850 U.S. Population Census – Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. – Aug. 6, 1850 – Source: FamilySearch7
Family Dwell Name Age Job Property Birth School
230 231 Z. Blakesley 42 Farmer $2,000 CT
Hannah Blakesley 37 PA
Mary E. Blakesley 12 NY X
231 232 Wm. Whitney 31 Farmer $1,000 NY
Rhoda Ann Whitney 19 PA
John Stevens 14 NY

For starters, this census indicates Mary’s parents were born at a geographic remove from one another: her father in Connecticut and her mother in Pennsylvania.

Mary had an older sister Rhoda Ann (who has also appeared previously on this blog). In 1850, Rhoda was living next door with husband William Whitney and a young man, John Stevens, whose relationship is not stated.

The census says Rhoda was born in Pennsylvania (circa 1831) while Mary was born in New York (circa 1838).

Conklin is just north of the Pennsylvania border, so it’s not unusual that the sisters were born in different states. However, if accurate, their differing birth locations are a clue that the Blakeslee family likely moved sometime in the mid-1830s.

Adjoining family farms

Zebulon’s farm in Conklin was valued at $2,000 (equivalent to about $64,542 in today’s dollars) — a respectable spread. The neighboring farm of his son-in-law William Whitney was worth $1,000 (or about $32,271 in today’s dollars).

Both families were apparently doing well, because their farms were comparable in value to those of nearby neighbors.

Mary’s sister Rhoda, 19, was newly married — having wed William on 9 Dec. 1849, according to a transcribed wedding announcement in Maurice R. Hitt’s Genealogical gleanings from early Broome County, New York newspapers (1812-1880). And Mary, 12, was attending school — a positive sign that she was not needed at home to help with the workload.

Up next: What more could I learn about the Blakeslee family farm where Mary lived in 1850? Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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