1866: The disappointing divorce deposition of Cordelia Snow

Sepia Saturday 489: Seventh in a series on the 1866 divorce of my third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — what the court records reveal.

The third and final deposition in the divorce case of my third great-grandparents Zebulon Blakeslee vs. Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee came from Cordelia Snow. She was married to Jehiel W. Snow who gave the second deposition — as detailed in the previous post.

Woman walking in the woods with a parasol (circa 1866). Cordelia Snow’s deposition in my third great-grandparents’ divorce case was disappointingly similar to  her husband’s. Which made me wonder: Did she genuinely express her own observations? Or was she testifying as she thought she was expected to?  Photo: NYPL Digital Collections

Perhaps because she was a woman, and also a wife and mother like Hannah, I had expectations that Cordelia Snow’s testimony might provide more insights into my ancestors’ divorce.

Surely she might have been in a position to know more about Hannah than the two male deponents — and to have been taken into confidence about why my third great-grandmother left her husband. Or so I hoped.

Cordelia Snow’s deposition

Alas, her testimony was much the same as her husband’s, and in some ways even more complimentary of my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee’s behavior — finding him “uniformly” kind to his wife.

Deposition taken in case of Zebulon Blakeslee vs. Hannah Blakeslee — Mrs. J. W. Snow sworn

Have been acquainted with Mr. Zebulon Blakeslee and his wife for 13 or 14 years. Know of them living together for six or seven years. Since which time she has not lived with him for six or seven years. Was frequently at Mr. Blakeslee’s house and had the opportunity of knowing that Mrs. Blakeslee was well provided for within relation to living and with better than average of people.

Have never seen any unkind treatment of Mr. Blakeslee toward his wife but always kind — uniformly so. Have never heard her assign any reason for leaving him and that she would not come back to him. I believe that she might have lived with him amicably if she had tried to do so. Am acquainted with his two daughters — known them for years — and he has the reputation in the community where he lived of being a good provider for his family and I believe his family was broken up by her leaving.

[Signature] Cordelia Snow

 Another side to Zebulon

Naturally, I wondered: Did Mrs. Snow genuinely express her own observations? Or was she testifying as she thought she was expected to?

Yet despite my reservations, her sworn statement — and those of her husband and James E. Whitney — appear to paint a consistent picture of my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee as a good provider who was publicly kind to his wife and family.

Orderly, well stocked country store, West Henrietta, NY, (1913). My third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee was a  postmaster and merchant, who operated a country store in Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna., in the 1850s-60s. Divorce witnesses claimed my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee was well provided for. So why did she leave him in 1858? Photo: NYS Archives Digital Collections

My own research supports the witnesses’ contentions that Zebulon did his best to earn a living in what had to be a challenging rural economy — working as a farmer, elocutionist, postmaster and tavern owner, sometimes simultaneously. And he was operating a country store in Brookdale, Penna., when Hannah left in 1858 — an occupation he kept at until after their 1866 divorce.

In fact, Cordelia Snow seemed incredulous that Hannah would leave him since, she claimed, “Mrs. Blakeslee was well provided for within relation to living and with better than average of people.”

The divorce moves forward

I was disappointed that Cordelia Snow was not able to shed light on Hannah’s reasons for leaving Zebulon. Without a witness, or direct testimony from Hannah, her exact motivations remain a mystery.

Yet I have my own theories of what may have occurred between my third great-grandparents — which will be the subject of future posts.

Meanwhile, Zebulon’s divorce petition moved forward once the witness testimony was filed — and on 16 Aug. 1866 he received a court decree dissolving his marriage to Hannah.

Up next: Zebulon Blakeslee’s divorce decree. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Please like and share:

1866: The illuminating divorce deposition of Jehiel W. Snow

Sepia Saturday 488: Sixth in a series on the 1866 divorce of my third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — what the court records reveal.

On 16 August 1866, three notarized depositions were submitted to the Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas in support of my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee’s divorce petition.

A previous post discussed the first intriguing deposition of James E. Whitney — who turned out to be an in-law of the Blakeslees.

The second deposition came from Jehiel W. Snow, a neighbor who lived near Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee in Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna., during the 1860s.

Country store and antiques. My third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee was a country store owner in Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna. when he filed for divorce in 1865 — charging my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee with desertion. Deponents in the case testified that she was well provided for — but apparently economics alone were not enough to maintain the Blakeslees’ marriage. Photo: RedStickM/Pixabay

The Snow deposition

J.W. Snow’s testimony opened with the following positive assessment of Zebulon.

Deposition taken in case of Zebulon Blakeslee vs. Hannah Blakeslee – J.W. Snow sworn

Am acquainted with Zebulon Blakeslee and his wife. Have known them 13 or 14 years. They were living in Brookdale. Think they lived together as man and wife for six or seven years and since that time she has not been with him.

Lived quite nearby them for six years and was frequently at his home and saw his table often and have the means of knowing he provided well for his family. Country store in connection with the tanning business. Had frequent opportunity to know that he provided well for his family. Could not say that I ever saw any ill treatment toward his wife or family.

When well-provided-for falls short

Snow emphasized Zebulon’s ability to provide for Hannah and the family — and corroborated my previous discovery that Zebulon operated a country store near the Brookdale tannery.

Then he shifted to discussing my third great-grandmother Hannah — claiming she actually said she would leave her marriage!

Have heard her say that she never would come back to live with him and heard her say that she should quit him there.[A]ccording to the best of my judgement, she was provided for as well as the people could possibly be under the same circumstances. I believe that she deserted him without just cause for anything that I ever see and believe that she might have lived amicably with Mr. Blakeslee if she had a mind to do so. They have two children two daughters and am acquainted with them both and Mr. Z. Blakeslee and wife being reputed as such as man & wife for years = ever since my knowledge.

[Signature] J.W. Snow

Bible. Deponent J.W. Snow was duly sworn and took an oath to tell the truth. If we assume that he kept his word and was accurate about what he observed, his testimony for the first time presented Hannah’s voice. Photo: Wendy van Zyl/pexels.com

Hannah’s voice at last

And there you have it. Another opinion by a witness that being well-provided-for should have been enough for Hannah to stay with Zebulon “if she had a mind to do so” — and that she “deserted him without just cause.”

Nevertheless, J.W. Snow took an oath and was duly sworn to tell the truth. So if we assume that he kept his word and was accurate about what he observed — then his testimony for the first time presented Hannah’s voice!

A firm and angry voice, too. Hannah was apparently open enough about her intentions to be overheard —  saying of Zebulon that she “should quit him there” and that she “never would come back to live with him.” Which has the ring of truth — since that is exactly what happened.

Up next: Mrs. Cordelia Snow weighs in with her own deposition. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Please like and share:

1865: Where in the world was Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee?

Sepia Saturday 487: Fifth in a series on the 1866 divorce of my third great-grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — what the court records reveal.

As part of his 1866 divorce case in Susquehanna County, Penna., my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee reached out to three witnesses to give depositions on his behalf.

The first deposition from James E. Whitney piqued my interest, and I discovered he was a collateral relative — a younger brother of William Whitney, husband of Zebulon’s older daughter Rhoda Ann.

Wondering where James Whitney lived when he gave his deposition, I found him enumerated the 1865 New York State Census for Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — but that’s not all I found!

https://cdm16694.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p261501coll8/id/93/rec/1
Nine women with rakes (circa 1890-1920). Hannah Hance was just 16 when she married Zebulon Blakeslee in 1828, By age 46, when she left him, she may have tired of rural life and wanted something else for her remaining years. But where did Hannah live from 1860-1873? Photo: Franck Taylor Bowers collection – Broome County Historical Society

A series of surprises

Surprise No. 1: The 1865 state census (excerpted below) revealed that both Blakeslee daughters and their families were back in Conklin, N.Y. — apparently having returned en mass from Walton, Delaware County, N.Y. where they lived in 1860.

Surprise No. 2: Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney lived right next door to her brother-in-law James when he gave his deposition in support of her father Zebulon’s divorce petition. And her sister — my  great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — lived close by.

1865 N.Y. State Census – Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. – Whitney and Bull Families – Source: FamilySearch
Dwell. Fam. Name Age Relation. Born County Job/Other
15 16 James E. Whitney 35 Head Chenango Farmer
Mary Whitney 79 Mother Columbia 13 living children
Pamelia Whitney 44 Sister Broome
John B. Whitney 39 Brother Chenango
16 17 William Whitney 40 Head Broome Farmer
Rhoda Ann [Blakeslee] Whitney 34 Wife Penna. Children Duane, 14 & Albert, 12
37 39 Arthur T. Bull 29 Head Greene Farmer
Mary Elizabeth [Blakeslee] Bull 27 Wife Broome Children Emona, 7, Carrie, 5 & Milo, 3

Surprise No. 3: Hannah was not living with either daughter! And so far I have found no trace of Hannah for a span of 13 years — from the 1860 federal census of Walton, N.Y. (when she lived with her daughter Rhoda Ann and son-in-law William Whitney) to her first appearance in an 1873 city directory for Binghamton, N.Y.

“It broke up his family”

In his 1866 deposition, James E. Whitney testified about my third great-grandparents’ breakup — precipitated by Hannah leaving Zebulon in 1858.

She left him about about seven years ago and has not lived with him since. Know of no reason for her leaving and in consequence of it it broke up his family. She went to live with her son in law and has remained away ever since.

There is some truth to what he says. Hannah went away, yes — and she did live with her son-in-law. She also apparently stayed away — and under the radar — as I found no record of her  from 1860-1873.

Maybe, maybe not

But did Hannah’s actions really break up the family? Maybe, maybe not. By 1865, both Blakeslee daughters had returned together from Walton, N.Y., to their Conklin, N.Y., hometown — along with their intact families.

They were then living within five miles of their father Zebulon — who, per his 1865 divorce filing, still resided just over the border in Brookdale, Penna.

Rhoda Ann lived next door to her brother-in-law James Whitney when he provided his deposition supporting Zebulon’s divorce petition — but apparently she did not hold this against him when she later moved into his household after her husband William died.

And after their parents’ divorce and Zebulon’s second marriage, the families of both Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull took turns housing their mother Hannah for the rest of her life — while supporting her public persona as a “widow.”

A modern family

Of course, census records, city directories and court documents cannot tell the whole story. But in some ways, the Blakeslees’ and their daughters appear to have handled the divorce much like families do today — by maintaining familial relationships as best they could while adjusting to the new situation.

Up next: Two more depositions in the Blakeslee divorce case. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Please like and share:

Growing family trees one leaf at a time