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2019: Season’s Greetings from Molly’s Canopy

Winter snow scene. Photo: Pixabay/gamagapix

Sepia Saturday 500: The holiday season is upon us — and that’s when Molly’s Canopy traditionally takes a break for the festive month of December so I can relax, kick back and recharge.

When I began the year blogging about my Blakeslee ancestors I had no idea that the writing would lead to new research, a road trip to Pennsylvania and an unfolding family saga that took the entire year to tell!

Many thanks to my readers and relatives who followed along and shared valuable observations (among them the Sepia Saturday regulars). You made this a magical year of blogging for Molly’s Canopy — and renewed my hope that the New Year will be just as fulfilling.

Happy Holidays to you and yours from Molly’s Canopy! Please stop back in January 2020 when regular blogging resumes.

Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of other Sepia Saturday participants here to celebrate 10 years and 500 posts since Sepia Saturday’s founding in 2009.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Blakeslee Series Summary: Exploring why Hannah left Zebulon in 1858

Sepia Saturday 496: A recap of the series on why my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee may have left her marriage in 1858.

In court records of my third great-grandparents’ 1866 divorce proceedings, no direct evidence was submitted by my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee to explain why she left her marriage — never to return.

In my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee’s divorce petition, he said Hannah left on 1 Nov. 1858 — just two-and-a-half weeks before their 30th wedding anniversary on 19 Nov. 1858. But what prompted her departure?

1882: Going into the World by Evert Jan Boks (1838-1914). Circumstantial evidence points to a possible reason why my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee left her marriage in 1858. Image:

Having examined the court papers, reviewed a timeline of Hannah’s early and later married life, and chronicled what I know of her post-divorce years, I formed a theory of why she left Zebulon — and it flowed from her relationship with her daughters and grandchildren.

Here is a summary of the posts from this series (best read in order).

Thus ends my exploration of the separation and divorce of my third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee, which were chronicled in earlier posts.

The winding path of genealogy research

When I began writing about my Blakeslee ancestors 10 months ago, in A bewildering Blakeslee saga, I knew little about them and expected to simply write a post or two with what sources I had.

Yet as their stories unfolded and I carefully re-examined my past research, I noticed previously overlooked evidence — and whole new avenues of exploration unfolded.

Within six months I was traveling to Montrose, Penna., to obtain the Blakeslees’ divorce, tax and land records along with newspaper notices about them — a trip I never would have imagined when I first sat down to write their stories.

Writers talk about being the vehicle for a story that seems to write itself, as if guided by an unseen hand. I don’t know about that.

What I do know is that giving voice to an ancestor’s history — sitting down to write about them in a focused way with whatever sources you have — spurs further research that can dramatically move your family’s history forward. And I have my Blakeslee ancestors to thank for that discovery.

Up next: A fall break for Molly’s Canopy to relax and recharge. Please stop back when blogging resumes after the holiday season.  Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1889: A full disability pension for Arthur Bull

Sepia Saturday 423: Second in a series on my Union Army great-great grandfather Arthur Bull’s final years as a U.S. Civil War pensioner.

In February 1889 my great-grandfather Arthur Bull filed an additional declaration asking for a Civil War pension increase due to a war-related shoulder injury that rendered him unable to work — then waited to hear from the Pension Board.

Living History 2015: A U.S. Civil War veteran and his wife at the Violet Festival in Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., N.Y. Union veterans like my ancestor Arthur Bull worked and raised families after the war, but relied on military pensions for war-related infirmities as they aged. Above, a Civil War veteran (c.) speaks to factory owner Alfred Dolge (r.) during a portrayal of the town’s history. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Four months later, on 26 June 1889, Arthur was examined by a panel of U.S. Pension Board physicians in Jamestown, Chautauqua Co., N.Y. — about 33 miles west of his Salamanca home in western New York’s Cattaraugus County.

Sympathetic pension physicians

Although sworn to be impartial, the pension board physicians may have been sympathetic to my ancestor — a 57-year-old veteran struggling to support his family on an approved partial-disability pension of $17 a month.

According to the 1892 New York Sate census[1. Free login required by FamilySearch to view the document image.] Dr. Thomas D. Strong, president, would have been 67 at the time — a mature physician with some awareness of the toll age can take.

Calculating from the same census[2. Ibid.],Dr. William M. Bemus, secretary, would have been 33 . And based on a search of military pension records, he appears to have filed for his own invalid pension in January 1899 — having served as a Surgeon and Major in the 3rd N.Y. Infantry.

Together with the treasurer, whose name is hard to decipher, these physicians examined Arthur’s claim that he was suffering from “disease of the heart, rheumatism, of right shoulder and arm.”

The medical exam

1889: Surgeon’s Certificate in the case of Arthur Bull’s pension increase application. The examining physicians ruled in my great-grandfather’s favor and found him eligible for a full disability pension due to war-related injury and illness from his service in the 6th NY Heavy Artillery during the U.S. Civil War. Scan by Molly Charboneau

The surgeon’s certificate states that Arthur was 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighed 150 pounds and had a normal temperature of 98.5 degrees. The report continues:

He makes the following statement upon which he bases his claim for Inc. He had rheumatism and disease of the heart followed. Was sent [to] hospitals. Pt. of Rocks & Mt. Pleasant. Was discharged 1865 on gen. order.

Upon examination, we find the following objective conditions: Fairly nourished. Rheumatic creak in the right shoulder, and right knee. No deformity of joints, or contraction of tendons. Motion of right shoulder some what impaired. Heart, size is normal, and sounds clear. Has marked ascites [fluid retention] and anasarca [edema or swelling] of feet and legs. Heart feeble, and irritable.

Full-disability pension approved

Fortunately for Arthur, this team of pension physicians found in his favor. They concluded their report with the statement below, in which I have underlined the handwritten portions:

From the existing condition and the history of this claimant, as stated by himself, it is probable that the disability was incurred in the service as he claimed, and that it has not been prolonged or aggrevatedby vicious habits.

He is, in our opinion, entitled to a 18/18 [100%] rating for the disability caused by Disease of the heart & rheumatism.

This must have been bittersweet news to Arthur — a finding that brought increased income to his household, but at the price of his total disability due to war-related injury and illness.

Yet with his wife Mary Elizabeth and two minor children dependent on him, this was the best outcome that could be hoped for Arthur and the Bull family under difficult circumstances.

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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