Category Archives: Graff

1890: Widow Mary E.(Blakeslee) Bull’s minor children

Sepia Saturday 431: Sixth in a series about my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a U.S. Civil War widow. Mary was the mother of my paternal great-grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

As the surviving spouse of U.S. Civil War veteran Arthur T. Bull, Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull was entitled to a widow’s pension – which she applied for shortly after his January 1890 death.

However, minor children of deceased veterans were entitled to pension benefits as well. Since Mary’s two youngest children — daughter Alice, 13, and son Waples, 11 — were still living at home, her widow’s pension file also includes paperwork on their behalf.
Daguerreotype of a young mother with children (circa1850s). When my great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull was widowed in 1890, her two youngest children, daughter Alice and son Waples,, still lived at home. As dependent children of a deceased U.S. Civil War veteran, they were also entitled to pension benefits. Image:

As with Mary’s marriage details, the birth dates of her minor children had to be verified for years when New York State did not require statewide vital records registration. So yet another Bull family member stepped up to help.

Birth details from an older sibling

In June 1891 Carrie A. (Bull) Graff, 31 appeared as a witness before Cattaraugus County Justice of the Peace T. H. Dowd. She stated she was present in the home for the births of her youngest siblings Alice and Waples Bull.

A General Affidavit submitted to the Pension Board sums up Carrie’s testimony about the births of her youngest siblings. (Handwritten portions are underlined below.)

State of New York, County of Cattaraugus, ss: In the matter of Claim for pension No. 427.089. of Mary E. Bull, widow of Arthur T. Bull Co. L. 6” Regt. N.Y.H.A. Vols.

On this 20th Day of June A.D. 1891 personally appeared before me a Justice of the Peace in and for the aforesaid County duly authorized to administer oaths, Carrie A. Graff aged 31 years, a resident of Salamanca in the County of Cattaraugus and State of New York whose Post Office address is Salamanca well known to me to be reputable and entitled to credit, and who, being duly sworn, declared in relation to aforesaid case as follows.

I am a daughter of the above named claimant and was at home with my mother at the time of the birth of her two children Alice I. Bull, who was born at Moose River, Lewis County, N.Y. on the 29th day of September 1876 and at the time of the birth of Waples H. Bull who was born at Moose River, Lewis County, N.Y. on the 12th day of April 1878.

Affiant further says that she was well and personally acquainted with the midwife who attended the claimant at the times and she knows said midwife has since died.

I further declare that I have no interest in said case and that I am not concerned in its prosecution. [Signature of Affiants.] Mrs. Carrie A. Graff

Some Bull family history

Each time I read this affidavit I am amazed at how much I learned from it. Not only did Carrie identify herself as Mary’s daughter, but I learned that Graff was surname of her first husband.

I also learned the exact dates and locations of Alice and Waples’ births — and that they were delivered by a midwife. And Waples’ 1878 birth in Moose River helped me establish that Arthur and Mary Bull remained in Lewis County at least until April of that year.

Carrie also indicated that, like her parents, she lived in Salamanca, Cattaraugus Co., N.Y. — opening up new research questions. Did she move there along with them? Did they decide to relocate to Western New York because daughter Carrie and her husband already lived there? Or did Carrie and her spouse move to Salamanca later, in order to assist her mother after Arthur’s death?

Whatever the sequence, Carrie’s testimony, received at the pension  office on 25 June 1891, surely helped verify her siblings’ claims for dependent pension coverage — while providing valuable Bull family history in the process.

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

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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An enlightening envelope

Fifth in a series on how I found my Civil War ancestor Arthur Bull.

In early February 1996, I opened my mailbox to discover an envelope from the National Archives and Records Administration.

“At last!” I thought. I had waited two months for copies of documents from the pension file of my Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull.

NARA Pension Info
This pension document sent by the National Archives identified a new residence for Arthur Bull. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Carefully unsealing the envelope, I took out the papers — eight pages in all — and studied each new nugget of information about my great, great grandfather and his family.

The first document was pure gold: an 1883 report from the War Department Adjutant General’s office listing Private Arthur Bull’s presence, or absence due to illness, during his Civil War service with 6th New York Heavy Artillery.

There was also an 1888 declaration, completed when Arthur applied for a pension increase due to war-related debility, giving his residence as Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, N. Y. — an entirely new location.

“How did he end up in western New York?” I wondered.

An application for a widow’s pension by Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull said she married Arthur on 11 August 1856 in Brookdale, Pennsylvania — cornfirming earlier research.  Sadly, she also provided the date of Arthur’s death — 30 January 1890.

A general affidavit signed by Mary in 1890 said she had two children under age 16, both born in Moose River, Lewis County, N.Y. — Alice I. Bull in 1876 and Waples H. Bull in 1878. A “family record is hereto attached,” she said, but there was no copy of it.

Mrs. Carrie A. Graff, identifying herself as “a daughter” of Mary, signed a supporting affidavit saying she was present at the birth of her two young siblings — they were delivered by a midwife who had since passed away.

I spread the contents of the enlightening envelope across my kitchen table and sat back to absorb their message.

They outlined Arthur’s Union Army service in the Civil War, his wartime illness, his declining health, and his death at age 56 — leaving Mary a widow with two minor children.

But they also spoke of happier times — my ancestors’ marriage, the growth of their family — as well as their geographic mobility.

Wouldn’t Arthur’s complete Civil War pension file tell me even more? There was only one way to find out. I would have to travel to the National Archives and see it for myself.

To be continued.

© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved. 


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