Category Archives: Charboneau

Delaware County diaspora

First in a series tracking my ancestor Arthur Bull’s family from the Catskills to the Adirondack foothills (1870-1875).

For the New Year we embark on a new trajectory with my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull — Union Army veteran, tannery foreman and head of a growing family. This path leads to the foothills of New York’s Adirondack Mountains, where one of his daughters — my great grandmother Eva May Bull — will marry into the Charboneau family.

But first the family of Arthur and Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull made one more Delaware County detour back to Town of Hancock (Hancock Post Office) in the Catskills foothills — which is where the U.S. Census taker found them living on 27 Aug. 1870.

By: Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County
Tannery workers in 1870.  My ancestor Arthur Bull and his fellow tanners were having a tough time earning a living in the Catskills in 1870. They became part of a widespread migration to forested areas further north. By: Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County

The family had grown since the end of the US Civil War — with the addition of my great grandmother Eva May, born in 1866 in Pennsylvania, and another daughter, Jessie Ann, born in 1869 in Delaware County, N.Y.

So at the time of the 1870 US Census, the Bulls had five children living at home in Hancock: Emma, 12, Carrie, 11, Milo, 8, Eva, 4 and Jessie, 1 [incorrectly identified as “Lewis” and “male” by the census taker].

Arthur, 36, was still working as a tanner and Mary, 29, was keeping house — but their census entry implies that they may have been experiencing hard times.

No value is listed for real estate on their census entry, and their personal property only amounted to $200 (about $3,700 today) — much less than what they reported 10 years earlier when they last lived in Delaware County.

The decline in the family’s fortunes may have been due to the scarcity of tanbark in the depleted forests of the Catskills foothills, making it more difficult to earn a living there as a tanner. They were also now supporting a larger family.

A nearby cousin?

Nevertheless, they do not appear to have been alone in their struggles. For nearby lived another Bull family — John Bull, 34, a laborer; his wife, Eliza, 32, a housekeeper; and their son Daniel, 16, also a laborer — with personal property valued at just $100 (about $1,850 today).

Arthur’s father — my ggg grandfather Jeremiah Bull — came from a large Catskills family, and John may have been the son of one of Jeremiah’s brothers. More research is needed to verify an exact relationship, which I have found hints of online (albeit unsourced).

Yet I can’t help but think that Arthur and Mary would have drawn some support from having relatives as neighbors, if indeed they were cousins.

Catskills tanners in general were having a tough time — and they became part of a widespread migration to forested areas further north. Arthur Bull and his family joined this Delaware County diaspora some time before 1875.

However, as we will learn in the next post, the Bulls appear to have made one more stop in the Southern Tier first.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A holiday gift: My grandmother’s voice

My parents named me after my paternal grandmother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau, whose nickname was “Molly.” A large Welsh-Irish woman from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Md., she stood over six feet tall — as did her many sisters.

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My Welsh-Irish paternal grandmother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau in the early years of her marriage (circa 1910). I met her in the 1950s when I was a toddler, but did not get to know her until I inherited her diary. Scan by: Molly Charboneau

According to my dad, she met my grandfather, William Raymond Charboneau — who went by “Ray” — while she was working as a nanny for a Baltimore family that spent summers in the Adirondacks.

In those days before supermarkets, my grandfather delivered groceries to their house. My grandmother answered the door — and before you know it she had turned her back on the hot, teeming city for the handsome young man from Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y.

My dad’s recollections

I met Grandma Charboneau when I was a toddler — and still retain a vague image of her towering figure descending the central staircase during a visit to our farm in Albany County, N.Y. To my great regret,  she died when I was just 4, so I never really go to know her except through my dad’s sporadic recollections.

“My mother used to say if she could operate a sewing machine, she ought to be able to drive a car,” Dad would declare out of the blue — a prelude to a tale about her frustration that she never did get behind the wheel.

I could sense her presence in these fleeting anecdotes — animated by my dad’s sense of humor, which he picked up from her. (How I wish I had jotted some of those anecdotes down!) But it was not until I inherited her diary that I first heard my paternal grandmother’s voice.

Grandma Charboneau’s diary

In 1933,  Grandma Charboneau received a leather-covered Five-Year Diary — complete with a lock and key — as a holiday gift from her middle son. “Hubert gave me this diary for Xmas. Wet & cold today,” she wrote on 1 January 1934.

Family photo of the Ray and Molly (Owen) Charboneau Christmas tree, in the cottage at Otter Lake, Oneida, N.Y. (1942). Scan: Molly Charboneau
December 1942: Christmas tree in the cottage of Ray and Mary Charboneau in Otter Lake, Oneida Co., N.Y. My grandparents and their sons lived in this small, lakeside cottage when the Otter Lake Hotel they owned and operated was closed for the winter. Photo by Norman J. Charboneau

Dad told me Grandma C. was a great storyteller. But like most diarists just starting out, she seemed unsure what to put down when faced with the blank page.

So her early entries pretty much catalog the weather — and some bitter cold weather it was up there in New York’s North Country.

But by the time the 1934 holiday season rolled around, my grandmother, 45, had warmed to the task of expressing herself and reflecting in small snippets on her life and her family members who still lived at home — my Uncles Hube, 19, and Fred, 16; my dad Norman, 9; and my grandfather Ray, 46.

Dec. 22, 1934:  Married 24 years today. Time flies, but we have lots to be thankful for.

Dec. 24, 1934:  Went to midnight mass at Forestport. Then to Desjardins. Had a nice party. Home at 4:30 am. Trimmed the tree before we left. [Her oldest son, my Uncle Owen, was married to Aline “Gig” Desjardins.]

Dec 25, 1934: Didn’t get much sleep. Boys were up at 5:30 am. Had a lovely Christmas. Was well remembered. Chair & clock from R & boys.

Dec. 26, 1934: Can’t hardly get around the place. Christmas tree and presents all over the place. Boys have their toys everywhere.

I particularly love that last entry because I can almost see Grandma Charboneau standing there — hands on her hips — surveying the post-holiday wreckage in the small, lakeside cabin where the family  lived when the Otter Lake Hotel they owned and operated was closed for the winter. And her expression “well remembered” to describe pleasure with her Christmas gifts seemed to hint at her heritage.

My grandmother closed out the old year with one last entry:

Dec. 31, 1934: Fred, Hubert, Norman, Ray and myself had a little New Year’s party. Toasted the New Year with a glass of wine and heard it on [the] radio.

So let’s raise a glass and join them! Happy Holidays to you and yours from Molly’s Canopy — and best wishes for the New Year!

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Hidden hometown heritage

Fifth and last in a series on my ancestor Arthur Bull’s parents and siblings at the end of the US Civil War (1865).

At the end of the US Civil War — when my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull returned home to his wife and children after mustering out of the Union Army — his parents, siblings and their families all lived and worked within 60 miles of Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y.

http://www.loc.gov/item/91680390/
Bird’s eye view of Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y. (1882). In 1865, my Bull ancestors lived within 60 miles of Binghamton — something my family was unaware of when we lived in the same area 100 years later. Image: Library of Congress
  • Arthur and Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull resided in Town of Conklin, just 13 miles south of Binghamton.
  • Parents Jeremiah and Mary Bull also lived in Conklin — in the household of Arthur’s sister, Mary E. (Bull) Tamkins and her husband, Edward.
  • Younger brother Milo Bull, and his wife Catherine (Hinman) Bull, lived in Town of Triangle, Broome County, N.Y. — 19 miles north of Binghamton.
  • Older brother Norris C. Bull, and his wife Sabra Ann (Howland) Bull, lived the furthest away in Town of Colchester, Delaware County, N.Y. — about 59 miles northeast of Binghamton.

Surprise family ties

Why is this important? Because 100 years later, in 1965, my own family of origin lived in Town of Union — about 9 miles west of Binghamton — and we were completely unaware we had any family connection to the Southern Tier! Nor were the Bulls the only ancestors who were part of our hidden hometown heritage.

As I will discuss in future posts, the Blakeslee family of Arthur’s wife Mary Elizabeth (and the Hance family of her mother) also lived in Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — and just over the border in Town of Liberty, Susquehanna County, Pa.

All I can say is: Amazing!

My dad, Norm Charboneau, may have had an inkling about our Southern Tier family ties. But he never mentioned anything until we went back to Binghamton on a family history road trip in 1995 — decades after our family had left the area.  In some ways, I wish I had known sooner.

A Southern Tier connection

My family moved to the Binghamton area from Albany County — where we shared a farmhouse with my maternal grandparents — after my dad got a promotion at his job with General Electric in the late 1950s. I was just starting second grade.

Growing up, I thought it was odd that we had no family members nearby. Most of my friends from the neighborhood, and at school, seemed to have loads of local  relatives — grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, big extended families.

My local family — on the other hand — consisted of me, my parents, two younger brothers and two younger sisters. If we wanted to see our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins we had to pile into the car and drive for up to four hours.

How I envied my classmates and the kids on my street — with their hordes of relatives within shouting distance!

Yet today I sometimes wonder: Was it because I lacked nearby relatives as a child that I developed an interest in my family’s history? Did isolation from my extended family become a wellspring for genealogy research?

Maybe so. But this much I know for sure: Finding and writing about my Bull ancestors living near Binghamton in 1865 has deepened my connection to the area where I grew up — and genealogy research has finally provided me with those long hoped for hometown family ties.

In the next post: Holiday greetings from my paternal grandmother Mary Frances “Molly” (Owen) Charboneau.

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