Category Archives: Whitney

1858: Why did Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee leave her marriage?

Sepia Saturday 492: First in a new series on why my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee may have left her marriage in 1858.

Major personal crossroads are reached by a winding path extending back for years. Deciding how to move forward draws from the deep well of an individual’s life experience —  even when the choice of which path to take is spurred by an immediate event.

Such was the situation I believe my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee faced when, at 46, she left her husband — my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee — on 1 Nov. 1858, never to return.

Two previous series have examined the Blakeslees’ separation — and their ultimate divorce in 1866. Yet I have found no record giving Hannah’s motivation for taking the path she chose.

So this new series will endeavor to circumstantially answer the remaining mystery: Why did Hannah leave? And what better place to begin than with Hannah’s personal history.

1882: Going into the World by Evert Jan Boks (1838-1914). The decision by my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee to leave her husband in 1858 cannot have been easy. Yet apparently once she had made the tough choice, she never looked back. Image: mimimatthews.com

Hannah’s childhood

Hannah was born on 8 Feb. 1812, most likely in Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y.  She was the  fourth of six children — with three older siblings (brother Isaac and sisters Catherine and Rachel) and two younger (sister Lydia and brother Asher).

Her parents were my fourth great-grandparents — Waples Hance (1760-1843) from Shrewsbury, Monmouth Co., N.J., and his second wife Rachel Chapman (1784-1837) of the Conklin area.

Waples settled in Conklin circa 1788. However, allegedly due to a land dispute he moved just across the border into Pennsylvania — where from 1815 his farm, home and livestock appear on the tax rolls of Lawsville in Susquehanna County’s Liberty Township.

Hannah was three when her family moved to Lawsville —  where her father continued paying taxes until his death in 1843.

Image by 12019 on Pixabay
A New York Farm. The small, rural hamlet of Lawsville, Susquehanna Co., Penna., became Hannah’s childhood home — with her immediate world a sparsely populated agricultural expanse punctuated by forested hills straddling the New York-Pennsylvania border south of Binghamton, N.Y.

Thus small, rural Lawsville became Hannah’s childhood home — with her immediate world a sparsely populated agricultural expanse punctuated by forested hills straddling the New York-Pennsylvania border south of Binghamton, N.Y.

Early marriage and motherhood

Not surprising in these circumstances that Hannah married at age 16 — younger than the average marriage age of 20-22 for nineteenth century women — and chose a man who, like her father, was from elsewhere.

My third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee was born in Connecticut in 1807. In his divorce petition he stated that he and Hannah married on 19 Nov. 1828. He was 21 at the time — five years Hannah’s senior.

What were her hopes for marriage to Zebulon? A solid partnership with a good provider? A stable, hardworking father for her children? Or a chance to leave Lawsville and see a bit of the world? There is no way to know without direct testimony from Hannah.

Suffice to say that by the time of the 1830 U.S. census[1]1830 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records. Hannah and Zebulon were living in Lawsville a few houses down from her parents — where court records indicate Zebulon had bought land in 1827.

And on 7 Dec. 1830, at age 18, Hannah gave birth to their first daughter Rhoda Ann Blakeslee.[2]New York. Department of Health, transcribed certificate and record of death- Registered No. 194 (1902) Roda A. Whitney; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Albany. Names Zebulon and Hannah Blakeslee as her … Continue reading

Up next: Hannah’s early married life with Zebulon. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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References

References
1 1830 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
2 New York. Department of Health, transcribed certificate and record of death- Registered No. 194 (1902) Roda A. Whitney; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Albany. Names Zebulon and Hannah Blakeslee as her parents.

1866: Zebulon Blakeslee receives his divorce decree

Sepia Saturday 490: Eighth in a series on the 1866 divorce of my third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — what the court records reveal.

After my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee petitioned for divorce in 1865 — and subpoenas were issued and witnesses deposed — the Susquehanna County, Penna., Court of Common Pleas finally issued his divorce decree on 16 Aug. 1866.

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-cc8d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Calling the Friday Calendar (circa 1901-1910). Courts were a male-dominated affair in the nineteenth century. So is it any wonder that my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee moved out of the range of subpoena power when she left my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee? His petition for divorce on grounds of desertion was granted on 16 Aug. 1866 in Montrose, Susquehanna Co., Penna. Photo: NYPL Digital Collections

Zebulon contended that my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee deserted him in 1858 — and that she had not returned after an absence of seven years.

Meanwhile, according to court documents Hannah was living outside the court’s jurisdiction (likely in New York State where she resided in 1860) — and she did not receive/respond to subpoenas asking for her side of the story.

The Blakeslee divorce is finalized

Three witnesses — James E. Whitney, Jehiel W. Snow and Cordelia Snow — supported Zebulon’s version of events. After reviewing their testimony, the court issued the following decision summing up the case and granting my third great-grandfather the divorce he sought.

Decree in the case of Zebulon Blakeslee vs. Hannah Blakeslee – Libel for Divorce

December 14th 1865 on filing the petition of Libellant praying for the reasons therein set forth he may be divorced from the nuptialities and bonds of matrimony entered into with the defendant and from application of A.O. Warren Atty. for Libellant, the Hon. C.F. Read Judge of Chambers directed a Subpoena of Divorce to issue to the defendant [Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee] returnable to January term 1866 wherein a Subpoena issued accordingly and duly stamped according to law returned non est inventus[1]Miriam Webster: the return of a sheriff on a writ or process when the defendant or person to be served or arrested is not found in the jurisdiction. and from Jany 16th 1866 also sub to April term 1866 returned non est inventus[2]ibid., and now to wit April 9th 1866, court direct the Sheriff to make Proclamation in this case and appoint R. Kenyon J. Commissioner to take depositions in this case.

August 16th 1866 on motion of Libellant’s attorney and on reading of depositions the court upon due consideration of the [premises?][3]This word is hard to read. do order, [sentence?][4]This word is also hard to read. and decree a divorce and separation from the nuptial tie and bonds of matrimony entered into between the said Zebulon Blakeslee and the said Hannah Blakeslee and that all the rights and duties accruing to either of the said parties at any time heretofore in pursuance of said marriage shall cease and determines as fully and to all intents and purposes as though the said Zebulon Blakeslee and the said Hannah Blakeslee had never been married. Cert. copy.

As if they had never been married

Amazing that 37 years of marriage was ended by a decree consisting of two extremely long sentences — the court determining “as fully and to all intents and purposes as though the said Zebulon Blakeslee and the said Hannah Blakeslee had never been married.”

But there you have it. As of 16 Aug. 1866 my third great-grandparents — Zebulon, 59, and Hannah, 54 — were legally entitled to move on with their lives.

http://panewsarchive.psu.edu/lccn/sn84026112/1866-08-28/ed-1/seq-3/#city=Montrose&rows=20&proxtext=Zebulon+Blakeslee&searchType=basic&sequence=0&index=0&words=Blakeslee+Zebulon&page=1
Montrose Democrat, 28 Aug. 1866, p. 3. Source: panewsarchive.psu.edu

The Montrose Democrat included the Blakeslees’ divorce decree in a column on court proceedings in its 28 Aug. 1866 issue (above) — which is how I learned of it.

As a country store owner who served the public, Zebulon  may not have been totally pleased with the publicity — even though he initiated the divorce.

Because by 1870 he had relocated within Susquehanna County, Penna., from Brookdale in Liberty Twp. — where he lived for much of his first marriage — to Fairdale in Jessup Twp., where he married his second wife Sarah Ann Sherman.

And Hannah? She remained single and lived the rest of her life in New York State — avoiding social stigma by portraying herself as Zebulon’s widow.

Thus ends the story of the Blakeslees’ divorce case. Yet one mystery remains: Why did Hannah leave Zebulon, never to return? Some theories on this will begin after the next post.

Up next, Series summary: The 1866 divorce of Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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References

References
1 Miriam Webster: the return of a sheriff on a writ or process when the defendant or person to be served or arrested is not found in the jurisdiction.
2 ibid.
3 This word is hard to read.
4 This word is also hard to read.

1866: The disappointing divorce deposition of Cordelia Snow

Sepia Saturday 489: Seventh in a series on the 1866 divorce of my third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — what the court records reveal.

The third and final deposition in the divorce case of my third great-grandparents Zebulon Blakeslee vs. Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee came from Cordelia Snow. She was married to Jehiel W. Snow who gave the second deposition — as detailed in the previous post.

Woman walking in the woods with a parasol (circa 1866). Cordelia Snow’s deposition in my third great-grandparents’ divorce case was disappointingly similar to  her husband’s. Which made me wonder: Did she genuinely express her own observations? Or was she testifying as she thought she was expected to?  Photo: NYPL Digital Collections

Perhaps because she was a woman, and also a wife and mother like Hannah, I had expectations that Cordelia Snow’s testimony might provide more insights into my ancestors’ divorce.

Surely she might have been in a position to know more about Hannah than the two male deponents — and to have been taken into confidence about why my third great-grandmother left her husband. Or so I hoped.

Cordelia Snow’s deposition

Alas, her testimony was much the same as her husband’s, and in some ways even more complimentary of my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee’s behavior — finding him “uniformly” kind to his wife.

Deposition taken in case of Zebulon Blakeslee vs. Hannah Blakeslee — Mrs. J. W. Snow sworn

Have been acquainted with Mr. Zebulon Blakeslee and his wife for 13 or 14 years. Know of them living together for six or seven years. Since which time she has not lived with him for six or seven years. Was frequently at Mr. Blakeslee’s house and had the opportunity of knowing that Mrs. Blakeslee was well provided for within relation to living and with better than average of people.

Have never seen any unkind treatment of Mr. Blakeslee toward his wife but always kind — uniformly so. Have never heard her assign any reason for leaving him and that she would not come back to him. I believe that she might have lived with him amicably if she had tried to do so. Am acquainted with his two daughters — known them for years — and he has the reputation in the community where he lived of being a good provider for his family and I believe his family was broken up by her leaving.

[Signature] Cordelia Snow

 Another side to Zebulon

Naturally, I wondered: Did Mrs. Snow genuinely express her own observations? Or was she testifying as she thought she was expected to?

Yet despite my reservations, her sworn statement — and those of her husband and James E. Whitney — appear to paint a consistent picture of my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee as a good provider who was publicly kind to his wife and family.

Orderly, well stocked country store, West Henrietta, NY, (1913). My third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee was a  postmaster and merchant, who operated a country store in Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna., in the 1850s-60s. Divorce witnesses claimed my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee was well provided for. So why did she leave him in 1858? Photo: NYS Archives Digital Collections

My own research supports the witnesses’ contentions that Zebulon did his best to earn a living in what had to be a challenging rural economy — working as a farmer, elocutionist, postmaster and tavern owner, sometimes simultaneously. And he was operating a country store in Brookdale, Penna., when Hannah left in 1858 — an occupation he kept at until after their 1866 divorce.

In fact, Cordelia Snow seemed incredulous that Hannah would leave him since, she claimed, “Mrs. Blakeslee was well provided for within relation to living and with better than average of people.”

The divorce moves forward

I was disappointed that Cordelia Snow was not able to shed light on Hannah’s reasons for leaving Zebulon. Without a witness, or direct testimony from Hannah, her exact motivations remain a mystery.

Yet I have my own theories of what may have occurred between my third great-grandparents — which will be the subject of future posts.

Meanwhile, Zebulon’s divorce petition moved forward once the witness testimony was filed — and on 16 Aug. 1866 he received a court decree dissolving his marriage to Hannah.

Up next: Zebulon Blakeslee’s divorce decree. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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