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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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1962: Liz (Stoutner) Laurence the fashionable photographer

Sepia Saturday 393: Tenth in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

Perfectly dressed for a picture or a picnic (1962). My fashionable maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence — in a crisp tailored dress, pumps, patterned apron and jewelry –adjusts her camera at an outdoor family picnic. Scan by Molly Charboneau

I am proud to descend from a long line of remarkable women. Among them was my maternal grandmother Liz (Stoutner) Laurence — who at age 57 decided to take up photography.

Until I was six years old, my family — Mom, Dad, two younger brothers and me — lived with my maternal grandparents in a large farmhouse called Whispering Chimneys in Altamont, Albany Co., New York.

When we first moved there, my grandmother Liz operated an antique shop down near Route 20, the busy highway that ran past our 10-acre farm. She also helped my mother out with us children.

A new midlife journey

But in the mid-1950s we relocated to the suburbs of Binghamton, N.Y., after my dad got a job transfer. Around the same time, my mom’s only sibling Aunt Rita made a similar career move to San Diego, Calif.

With her children getting on with their lives, Liz may have been at loose ends in the big farmhouse. She learned, and later taught, Early American Tole Painting in her studio at the farm — and created pieces for sale as gifts for weddings and other occasions.

Photo Class (Sept. 1963). At age 57, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence decided to take up photography — an unusual pursuit for a woman judging by this picture of her in photo class. Scan by Molly Charboneau

However, Liz apparently wanted an additional creative outlet — because at midlife she enrolled in photography classes. And from the looks of her class, this was an unusual pursuit for women at the time.

Moving with the times

The Kodak Instamatic camera was introduced in 1962, and I remember having one of those little cameras as a teenager. But my grandmother set her sights on more sophisticated photo taking.

Liz started with an SLR and later used a square format camera that required looking down through the lens from the top. With these she took umpteen family and still-life photos using color slide film to perfect her craft. Slides became her metier and I inherited several boxes of her work.

Naturally, Liz kept up appearances with crisp, tailored clothing — as shown here — whether in class or hosting a family picnic at the farm. In fact, she may have viewed her clothing as another form of artist expression — one she had cultivated since childhood that complemented the other art forms she learned as an adult.

Up next: My maternal grandmother in a dress to die for as mother of the bride at my parents’ wedding. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Reflections on Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood – #atozchallenge

Reflections:  Molly’s Canopy and the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood…where my genealogy journey began.

Now that Molly’s Canopy is proudly sporting a survivor badge, it’s time to kick back and reflect on my second April 2017 Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

A new game plan

In year two, I had a better idea what to expect — and this time did a Theme Reveal.  During the challenge, I worked from an outline and photo list — but did not prepare posts in advance, so the writing was as hectic as ever! Lesson learned: write ahead!

And then there were those pesky adjustments: No linky list of participants, no code to easily identify fellow family history/ genealogy bloggers, no AZChat on Twitter (where I met several bloggers last year), and learning to hyperlink my daily posts for the AZ Blog. Sigh.

So I needed a new game plan to maximize the challenge experience as I settled in for the blogging marathon on the theme Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood.

Building my own linky list

This involved: reconnecting with AtoZers I met last year; combing through the A to Z blog daily letter list to find new kindred spirits; visiting genealogy bloggers from last year to see who was in for 2017; regularly sharing posts with my subscribers — and throwing out the welcome mat for any new visitors who showed up.

It was a bit of work building my own personal linky list — but it paid off in blog traffic this year. I spent more time discovering, visiting and commenting on other blogs, and in turn I received more visits and quality feedback on my posts. This made the 2017 A to Z Challenge particularly gratifying and empowering — and also led to new connections and subscribers for the future.

Exploring memoir

Aerial view of Whispering Chimneys (early 1950s). This upstate New York farm was the setting for Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood as I blogged about the start of my genealogy journey. Scan: Molly Charboneau

Another plus for me was exploring memoir as a potential blog subject. I generally write about my ancestral journey in longer posts or series — with links to family history research discoveries.

But last year some A to Z genealogy bloggers pointed out that we owe it to posterity to include ourselves in the mix — to leave behind an online diary in our own voice like the ones we wish our ancestors had left.

This inspired me to go back to my childhood and explore how my interest in family, ancestors and heritage took root. As I rolled out my own story from A to Z this year, I was gratified by the positive feedback — with many readers sharing tales from their own childhoods that paralleled my experiences.

Many thanks to everyone who visited, subscribed, followed and commented on Molly’s Canopy. You  made my second A to Z Challenge so rewarding!

Hey, where’s the T-shirt?

That said, here are my thoughts on this year’s A to Z changes.
  • Quantity vs. quality. Last year, there were more than 1,000 bloggers who completed the challenge, and many more who started out. This year, there seemed to be about 300 or so posting their links on the A to Z blog/Facebook. That’s a significantly lower quantity — yet the quality of comments on my blog was higher and I had more repeat visitors.
  • Bring back the codes. I think subject codes would still work in this new format — and would be easier to search for on the A to Z blog/Facebook. Not hard to do: make a list (similar to the posting schedule), post it on the blog, and let us use them if we choose. And please add a Family History/Genealogy code.
  • Hey, where’s the T-shirt? I proudly wore my 2016 A to Z Challenge Survivor T-shirt all year — including to a huge NYC WordCamp packed with bloggers. I was looking forward to buying a new one  this year– but it looks like I’ll have to find a way to print my own. For 2018, maybe the A to Z team could arrange print-on-demand T-shirts/gear for those of us who want them.

Would I do it again? You bet!

Was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? You bet! Like any marathon, the A to Z Challenge was not easy — it was a long, sustained trek outside the comfort zone. But it was also an instructive, energizing and affirming journey through an enchanted forest of friendly fellow bloggers — and a great way to get a block of writing done.

So I’m already working on my list of 2018 A to Z blog posts — and planning to write some of them ahead of time. Next year, I’ll be ready! Here’s hoping you’ll join me! Until then, stop by any time — Molly’s Canopy will leave the comment box open for you.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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