Category Archives: Arthur Bull

The “widowhood” of Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee

Sepia Saturday 477: Sixth in a series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery.

After the 1866 divorce of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee, their lives took different paths.

Zebulon moved to a new town and married a younger second wife. But Hannah took a different route, characterizing herself as a “widow” until her dying day — a portrayal so convincing that it has taken me years to unravel what really happened with their marriage.

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e1-02f1-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Widow walking through a cemetery (1901). Rather than admit to being divorced at age 54, my ggg grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee portrayed herself as a “widow” for the rest of her life — a socially acceptable ruse that her family apparently went along with. Source: NYPL Digital Collections

How was Hannah so successful at recasting her life? Perhaps because the tenor of the times made her explanation plausible — and her family seems to have gone along with the socially-acceptable ruse.

A sea of war widows

When the Blakeslees separated circa 1860, the U.S. was undergoing a period of rapid change. Better transportation led to greater mobility, and women’s rights were also expanding — so moving to Delaware County with her daughters Mary and Rhoda to escape an unhappy marriage was a viable option for Hannah.

When Zebulon’s divorce petition was granted in 1866, the U.S. Civil War had recently ended — leaving in its wake a sea of bereaved war widows. By then, Hannah no longer lived where she had when married, and none but her family members knew about Zebulon — so why not become one more “widow” at a time when there were many?

Hannah’s daughters and their families appear to have concurred with her decision. For when the census takers called in subsequent years, she was consistently listed as “widowed” — even though Zebulon was still alive in Jessup, Susquehanna Co., Penna., according to his census returns.

1873-1886: Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee in New York and U.S. censuses & Binghamton, N.Y., city directories – Sources: FamilySearch/Ancestry
Year Record Name/Age Job/Status Household
1873 Binghamton, N.Y. city directory Hannah Blakesley, 61 Widow Zebulon, domestic 196 Court
1875 NYS Census, Binghamton 4th Ward, Broome, N.Y. Hannah Blakeslee, 65 (indexed as “Hannah B. Cackster”) Now a widow Son-in-law William W. Whitney
1880 US Census, Binghamton, Broome, N.Y. Hannah Blakesley, 68 Widowed/ Divorced (hashmark in column) Grandson Albert E. Whitney, 4 Butternut
1885 Binghamton, N.Y. city directory Hannah Blakeslee, 73 Widow Zebulon 4 Butternut
1886 Binghamton, N.Y. city directory Hannah Blakeslee, 74 Widow Zebulon 4 Butternut

Hannah’s tale turns true

I have not yet located a death record for Zebulon — or any record past his 1880 U.S. Census entry, at age 70, in Jessup Township, Susquehanna County, Penna. Nor do I know where he is buried.

Zebulon’s date of death is given as 5 Jan. 1880 in a multigenerational chart of Hannah’s Hance family — published in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record as “John Hance and Some of His Descendants.”1

However, Record articles at that time were not footnoted or sourced –and his date of death appears be inaccurate.

Zebulon was enumerated in the 1880 federal census and I have not found him in the 1880 mortality index — indicating he was likely still alive on 5 Jan. that year.

My ggg grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee’s stone in Shawsville Cemetery, Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y. When she died, Hannah was living with her daughter Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull and son-in-law Arthur Bull, a Union Army veteran,  in Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y. Although divorced from Zebulon since 1866, Hannah carried her public persona as his “widow” to the grave. Photo: Paul R. (Find a Grave)

Yet as the 1880s progressed Zebulon probably did pass away — lending credence to Hannah’s public persona as his “widow.”  And her family went along to the end — giving her marital status as  “widowed” on her death certificate and memorializing her as the “Wife of Zebulon Blakeslee” on her tombstone.

There will be more on the Blakeslees once I (hopefully!) obtain their divorce decree and related records. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1855: A Brookdale engagement

Sepia Saturday 465. Eighth in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.

The years 1854-56 were pivotal ones for my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull. In 1854, at 16, she moved with her family from New York’s Southern Tier to Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna.

There she came of age and got engaged to her future husband — my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, a tanner from nearby Corbettsville, Broome Co., N.Y.

https://www.artic.edu/artworks/180709/the-lovers
The Lovers by William Powell Firth (1855). Sometime between 1854-56, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee of Brookdale, Penna., became engaged to my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull of Corbettsville, N.Y. But where and how did they meet? Image: Art Institute Chicago

So how did my great-great grandparents meet — and how long had they known each other?

Geographic proximity

During the 1855 New York State census, my great-great grandfather Arthur, 21, was living in Town of Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y. — where my great-great grandmother Mary lived until about 1854.

According to the census, Arthur had lived in Conklin for only a year — which would place his arrival around 1854. However, another source suggests he may have arrived earlier.

A History of Broome County (1885) says Arthur’s father, Jeremiah Bull, took over a foundry in Corbettsville (in Town of Conklin) and turned it into a tannery two years earlier — in 1852.

Conklin Centre, where Mary lived in 1852, was about three miles north of Corbettsville — so she and Arthur could have met while they were living near one another. (See map above.)

Arthur was relatively new to the area — perhaps a welcome change for Mary from the local young men she had grown up with. And even after she moved to south Brookdale, Penna., Mary’s home was still just three miles from Corbettsville.

In addition, Mary undoubtedly returned to Conklin periodically to visit her sister Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney, who still lived there. So she may have met Arthur during one of her visits.

A Presbyterian connection

Since Arthur and Mary were married by a Presbyterian minister, there is also a good chance that they met at church.

According to J.H. French’s Gazetteer of the State of New York (1860), Town of Conklin had a Presbyterian church where they may have worshipped when they were both lived nearby.

As described below,  there was also Presbyterian church in Lawsville Centre, Penna. — built circa 1850 — which was about three miles south of Mary’s home in Brookdale, Penna. and six miles south of Arthur’s Corbettsville, N.Y., residence.

https://archive.org/details/cu31924028854689/page/n769
Source: Centennial history of Susquehanna County, Penna. (1887)

Other intriguing possibilities

As a tanner, Arthur may  have worked in the Conklin area where his father owned a tannery for a few years — or in Brookdale where a large tannery near the saw mill employed 25 men, which “gave the place a busy appearance” according to the Centennial History of Susquehanna County, Penna. (1887).

https://archive.org/details/cu31924028854689/page/n767
The Brookdale, Penna., tannery operated from 1851-1885. Could my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull have worked there? Source: Centennial History of Susquehanna Co., Penna. (1887)

Could Arthur and Mary have met when tannery work brought him to Brookdale? It’s hard to know without his employment details.

Of course it’s always possible they met by a more traditional route: through their families.

The Bulls and Blakeslees may have been acquainted — with Arthur’s father Jeremiah owning a business, Mary’s dad Zebulon working as a rural postmaster and both families possibly attending the same church. So maybe their parents had a hand in introducing their children in hopes of making a match.

However it happened, meet they did — and by 1856 wedding bells were ringing for my great-great grandparents Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee and Arthur T. Bull.

Up next: The Blakeslee-Bull wedding. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1890: Sureties for Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull’s administrator bond

Sepia Saturday 437: Fifth in a series on the settlement of my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull’s estate. A Union Army veteran of the U.S. Civil War, he was the father of my paternal great grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

On 13 Aug. 1890, two days before my great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull received her Letters of Administration to oversee disposition of her late husband Arthur  T. Bull’s estate, she signed a financial bond for $150 — a sum she would forfeit if she fell short on the job.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grand_Army_of_the_Republic_Home_Puyallup_WA_1922.jpg
GAR Widows Home in Puyallup, Wash. (1922). While lobbying for veteran and dependent pensions, Grand army members also took state and local action. They established homes for Union veterans and widows. And, as happened with my widowed great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull, they stepped up to help with probate when a veteran died intestate. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Two men co-signed as sureties to guarantee the bond — attorney Carey D. Davie (possibly her lawyer) and William H. Crandall (a Union cavalry veteran of the U.S. Civil War who belonged to Arthur’s Grand Army of the Republic lodge after the war).

Carey Davie’s assets were discussed in a previous post — but what did William H. Crandall have to offer as collateral?

Financial backing for a widow

When he generously signed Mary’s administrator bond in Aug. 1890, Willam Crandall provided the following notarized details of his assets. (Handwritten portions are underlined below.)

William Crandall of Salamanca N.Y. the surety named in the foregoing bond being duly sworn, deposes and says that he owns in his own right real estate in the town of Salamanca consisting of house and other building and that it is worth not less than the sum of one thousand dollars, and exclusive of property exempt by law from levy and sale under execution.

And that he owns personal estate in said town, and it is worth not less than the sum of five hundred dollars and that he is worth in good property not less than one thousand dollars over all debts and liabilities which he owes or has incurred and exclusive of property exempt by law from levy and sale under an execution.

In short, William Crandall’s assets — added to Carey Davie’s — were more than sufficient to back widow Mary Bull’s administrator bond and assure a smooth settlement of Arthur’s estate.

Nor is it any surprise that William Crandall stepped forward to do this for the widow of a fellow GAR member.

Union veteran solidarity

https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100552788/Home
Grand Army of the Republic. National Encampment. 24th, Boston, 1890 souvenir graphic. Souvenir 24th National Encampment, G. A. R., Boston, 1890. [Boston: Press of E. B. Stillings & Company, 1890.] Image: Hathi Trust Digital Library
From Aug. 11-15, 1890, the same week that Mary received her Letters of Administration, the Grand Amy of the Republic held its 24th annual encampment in Boston, Mass. — where veteran and dependent pensions were high on the agenda.

In addition to lobbying the federal government, GAR members acted at the state and local level to help widows and dependents where they could.

In some cases, the Grand army established homes for Union veterans and widows as shown in the photo above.

In others, like the case of my widowed great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull, members stepped up to help with probate when a veteran died intestate — showing camaraderie and solidarity long after the dusts of battle had settled.

Up next: A brief break for Molly’s Canopy until mid-October. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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