Category Archives: Zinsk

1908: Albert Charboneau leaves Hawkinsville, N.Y.

Sepia Saturday 525. Third in a series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Available documentation indicates that my dad’s Uncle Albert — who died in the 1918 influenza epidemic — spent his childhood and early teen years in Hawkinsville, Oneida Co., N.Y.

He was born there in 1885 and enumerated there in the 1900 U.S. census at age 15, as described in the last post.

Yet Albert’s adult years were spent in Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., N.Y., where he moved circa 1908 with his parents and three brothers — among them my paternal grandfather William Ray Charboneau — in the search of a better life.


A Black River Canal boom town

In the mid 1800s, Hawkinsville (shown below) was a small boom town located on the Black River Canal, which ferried Adirondack lumber, wood products and other goods to the Erie Canal and thence to markets throughout New York State and beyond.

My paternal French-Canadian great-great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau moved there in the 1850s, working first in the lumber industry and later as a farmer. His German-Swiss wife Ursula Zinsk, her parents and brothers also immigrated to the area, where the nearby mountains probably reminded them of home.

A thriving Hawkinsville, N.Y., in 1855 from the Rome Daily Sentinel. Click to enlarge. Source: Old Fulton Post Cards

Hawkinsville’s sad decline

But by 1900 when their eldest grandson Albert appeared in his first census at age 15, Hawkinsville has fallen on hard times. An 11 Oct. 1939 article in the Rome, N.Y. Daily Sentinel titled “Bustling Village Fades To Hamlet With One Mill” summarizes the town’s decline.

A busy, thriving, industrial town, with prospects for a bright future was Hawkinsville, shown in the picture taken above about 1855, but the course of the Black River Railroad completely changed the picture.

Hawkinsville in the early days was larger than Boonville and had every prospect of growing steadily, until the railroad was built through Boonville, leaving Hawkinsville entirely off its course. Gradually the mills closed until the hamlet can now boast of but one mill.

The Dolgeville decision

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/39231713/lawrence-charbonneau
Lawrence (Laurent) Charbonneau’s  stone, Beechwood Cemetery, Forestport, Oneida County,  N.Y. Source: Find a Grave

Such an unfortunate demise for a village that once boasted three churches, two hotels, two saloons, a carpenter shop, four blacksmith shops, a wagon-shop, a cheese factory, a tannery, a millinery store — and so many mills that it was originally called Slab City for the slab wood turned out there, according to the same article.

Nevertheless, it may have been a sad family event that ultimately sealed the Charboneau family’s decision to leave Hawkinsville for good — the 1902 death of my great-great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau.

While Laurent was living, his home, land and farm may have anchored the family. But once the Charboneau family patriarch was gone, why not strike out for new opportunities? And those opportunities beckoned from the expanding Mohawk Valley town of Dolgeville in nearby Herkimer Co., N.Y.

There, German immigrant Alfred Dolge had set up a unique factory complex that drew thousands of workers from the U.S. and abroad — among them Uncle Albert, his parents and three brothers — and turned the sleepy town of Brockett’s Bridge into a bustling manufacturing center that was renamed Dolgeville in his honor.

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

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1870: Laurent Charbonneau – from sawyer to farmer

Eighth and last in this series about my paternal Charbonneau and Zinsk ancestors in New York State’s Adirondack region during the 1800s.

The last few posts have outlined some of what I know about family of my great, great grandparents Laurent Charles and Ursula Angeline (Zinsk) Charbonneau — who lived in Hawkinsville, Oneida County, N.Y. from the mid-1850s. A brief look at Laurent’s occupational transition — from sawyer to farmer — seems like a good way to conclude this series.

Barn with rainbow. By 1870, my great, great grandfather had gone from laboring as a sawyer to working the 37-acre family farm he owned in Hawkinsville, Oneida County, N.Y. By: Mark Goebel

Laurent the lumberman

When my Quebecois immigrant great, great grandfather Laurent Charles Charbonneau, 33, was enumerated in the 1865 New York State census for Boonville, Oneida County, he was working as a sawyer — a common occupation with so many lumber mills operating in the forested Adirondack foothills.

He was married to my Swiss immigrant gg grandmother Ursula Angeline (Zinsk) Charbonneau, 30, and they had one son — my great grandfather Willard, 7.

Although they did not own land in 1865, they lived in a frame house and Laurent was working — so they were off to a respectable start after less than ten years of marriage.

Within a few years, their fortunes had improved. According to the Gazeteer and Business Directory of Oneida County for 1869, compiled and published by Hamilton Child, Laurent had become a farmer. Here is his listing, from page 159:

Charbonno, Lawrence, (Hawkinsville,) Lot 31, Farmer, 37.

At the start of the Business Directory there is a list of Explanations to Directory, which includes this important note:

Figures after the occupation of farmers, indicate the number of acres of land owned or leased by the parties.

A good sized farm

I was impressed to discover these details about my gg grandfather’s family farm. Whispering Chimneys, the farm where I spent my early childhood, covered 10 acres — which seemed pretty big to me at the time. The Business Directory indicates Laurent Charbonneau’s farm, at 37 acres, was nearly four times that size!

A year after the Business Directory was published, the 1870 U.S. census for Boonville, Oneida, N.Y., confirmed that Laurent was working as a farmer and indicated that he owned his land (rather than leased it) — making him the second agricultural ancestor I have documented.

Under the category “Value of Real Estate Owned,” the 1870 census reports the following about the Charbonneau family farm:

  • Ques. 8 – Value of Real Estate – $940 [about $16,500 today]
  • Ques. 9 – Value of Personal Estate – $265 [about $4,650 today]

Keeping up with the neighbors

Of course, Laurent may have continued sawing lumber on the side to bring in extra income — possibly during the fallow winter months. However, the value of the Charbonneau family’s land and personal property was in line with what most nearby families reported in the 1870 federal census — so my ancestors were doing as well as their neighbors.

These discoveries got me wondering: What were farming conditions like in Town of Boonville — which encompassed the Hawkinsville area where the Charbonneau farm was located? Were there maps of the area that might pinpoint the  farm’s location? And what was actually produced by my ancestors’ farm?

Which means I am off again on the research trail to see what else I can learn about my Charbonneau-Zinsk ancestors!

Meanwhile, St. Patrick’s Day is nearly here. Please stop back throughout March for posts about my Irish (Dempsey) and Welsh (Owen) ancestors in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Maryland.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1894: Hattie Charbonneau attends Sunday School

Seventh in a series about my paternal Charbonneau and Zinsk ancestors in New York State’s Adirondack region during the 1800s.

My great grandfather Will Charboneau’s younger sister Harriet — better known as Hattie — had the genealogical misfortune of coming of age in New York State’s Adirondack region during a period for which records are hard to come by.

https://www.google.com/search?q=Forestport+Presbyterian+Church&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjLscL0qu3RAhUG_IMKHT0VAysQ_AUICigD&biw=1168&bih=497#imgrc=8uE49rR_qw7UZM%3A
Presbyterian Church, Forestport, Oneida, N.Y., founded in 1839.  During a 1992 family history road trip, my dad and I discovered references to Hattie Charbonneau in this church’s Sunday School attendance records. Photo: Woodgate Library – Fallon Collection

Most of the 1890 U.S. census returns were destroyed in a fire, and the 1892 New York State census records for Oneida County are missing. By the next census, in 1900, she was married.

So I have little information about Hattie as a child or a single young woman beyond the 1880 U.S. census for Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y. — enumerated when she was just 4 years old.

Road trip with Dad yields clues

Nevertheless, armed with the evidence we had, my dad and I made a valuable discovery about Hattie on a family history road trip to Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y., in 1992.

From my great, great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau’s obituary, we knew his 1903 funeral was held at the Presbyterian Church in Forestport (pictured above). So we decided to stop at the church to see if they had any records.

Making a cold call at the church without advance notice was a long shot — but our effort was rewarded. The minister drove up just after we arrived, and she was happy to show us the few records they had.

Dad’s disillusioning discovery

Dad and I divided up the work: he reviewed the minutes of the Presbyterian Church meetings and I tackled the Sunday School attendance records.

Dad didn’t find any references to our family members in the minutes — but he did unearth something else.

“You know, I’ve lost respect for some of the prominent names in town based on their dismal meeting participation,” Dad remarked dryly when he finished his task.

He grew up in the area, so this disillusioning discovery tarnished his childhood image of the town — one of the pitfalls of family history research that fledgling genealogists are warned about.

Hattie’s attendance records

Fortunately, I did better with the Sunday School attendance records. Jotted here and there in the ledger books was Hattie Charbonneau’s name (with various spellings) — as summarized in the table below, with her age added as a point of reference.

Sunday School Attendance Records – Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y. Source: Transcript in author’s files
Year Page Name Age
1894 8 Hattie Charbonneau 18
1895 36 Hattie Charbono 19
1896 64 Halter Cherbono 20
1897 92 Hattie Charbonnos 21
1898 125 Hattie Charbonnos 22

There was no scanning or photocopy equipment available at the church, and our visit predated smartphones, tablets and portable scanning devices — so we could not copy the records. But Dad and I were still thrilled with this discovery.

While Dad chatted with a man who had popped by the church — someone he recognized from childhood — I carefully transcribed what we’d found.

From Lutheran to Presbyterian

Hattie’s presence in the Presbyterian Church records over a period of years seems to indicate that my Charbonneau ancestors had a longstanding relationship with this church.

They may have become Presbyterians after their previous German Evangelical Lutheran Church parish declined — a second transition for Laurent, who was raised Roman Catholic in Quebec.

The family’s change in church affiliation points to a possible new line of research into the lives of my immigrant great, great grandparents Laurent Charles and Ursula Angeline (Zinsk) Charbonneau and their three children — Will, Herbert and Harriet (Hattie) — in the late 1800s.

Please stop back next week when this series concludes with Laurent’s transition from lumberman to family farmer.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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