Category Archives: Arthur Bull

NYS Archives discoveries: Arthur T. Bull and the GAR collection

Sepia Saturday 501: Launching a new round of posts based on recent research discoveries, starting with my U.S. Civil War ancestor Arthur T. Bull of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

In Nov. 2019, I went on a group research trip to the New York State Archives and Library in Albany, N.Y. — two repositories I had long wanted to visit.

While I didn’t have any major genealogy “brick walls” that I was hoping to resolve on the trip, I looked forward to researching in the NYSA’s Grand Army of the Republic New York Department collection.

Researching at the NYS Archives & Library. I was gratified to discover new information about my paternal and maternal ancestors, which will inform future blogs on Molly’s Canopy.

In his later years, my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull — a U.S. Civil War veteran of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery — was a member of the GAR’s Nathan Crosby Post 550 in Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y.

I have seen a digital image of his post’s Descriptive Book showing his enrollment — but I wanted to see the actual book in the state archives. I also hoped to get a better feel for the GAR through the other records, photos and artifacts in the collection.

Finding aids point the way

The trip organizer from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society recommended reviewing the NYSA’s online finding aids before the trip — always a good idea when visiting a new repository.

GAR Records at the NYS Archives. These are the  boxes I reviewed from the extensive collection of Grand Army of the Republic New York Department records, photos and artifacts that are housed in the New York State Archives. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Using the extensive GAR finding aid, I made a list of which of the 99 boxes in 14 sub-series I wanted to look at while in Albany.

My list included records of my ancestor’s GAR post, history interviews with 6th New York Heavy Artillery veterans, attendance rolls from GAR artillery encampments, unidentified veteran photos, GAR medals and even circulars and war songs.

Advance preparation was worthwhile, because the staff was able to quickly pull the items I requested — and soon I was delving into boxes of GAR materials piled high on a rolling cart (shown above).

Documents and interviews tell a tale

Of particular interest were written interviews with veterans of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery — my ancestor Arthur T. Bull’s unit — about their wartime experience and the battles they fought in. The GAR undertook these interviews in 1895 to contribute to a history of the U.S. Civil War while its veterans were still alive.

Example of a GAR member interview. To help compile a history of the U.S. Civil War, in 1895 the GAR conducted written interviews of its Union Army veteran members. In this archival document a veteran lists the battles of the 6th NY Heavy Artillery — the unit my ancestor Arthur T. Bull served in from 1864-65. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Alas, my great-great grandfather died in 1890 after suffering from lung and heart disease stemming from his military service. However, returns from surviving 6th NYHA veterans listing officers, battles fought in, and more were fascinating to read — and added to the wartime details I had already learned from my ancestor’s pension record.

Also impressive were the attendance records from GAR Artillery Encampments that took place in the decades following the end of the U.S. Civil War. I did not find my ancestor among these rosters — but I was moved by how consistently some of his fellow 6th NYHA veterans attended these national gatherings until their deaths sadly dwindled their numbers.

My ancestor’s GAR roster and more

Most moving of all was finally holding in my hands the Nathan Crosby Post 550 Descriptive Book listing my ancestor Arthur T. Bull’s enrollment in the GAR.

After researching for more than 25 years, I don’t often get emotional about new discoveries. Yet seeing my ancestor’s name in the roster of fellow Union Army veterans brought tears to my eyes — along with a feeling of deep satisfaction to have pursued my great-great grandfather’s history this far.

In the next post: Photos of the Descriptive Book and other GAR finds. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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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]Hance, Rev. William White, “John Hance and Some of His Descendants.” New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. XXXV, No. 2 (1904), p. 130.

However, Record articles at that time were not 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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References

References
1 Hance, Rev. William White, “John Hance and Some of His Descendants.” New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. XXXV, No. 2 (1904), p. 130.

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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