Sepia Saturday 482: A recap of the series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery.
Two months ago I began a quest to discover why my paternal third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee was living separately from his wife Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee at the time of the 1860 federal census.
That journey took me through census records, county histories and digital newspaper archives — and led to the surprise discovery that my Blakeslee third great-grandparents were divorced in 1866!
As each question about the Blakeslees was answered, new queries arose — and before long I was headed on a Genealogy Road Trip to the Susquehanna County seat in Montrose, Penna., to see what more I could learn about my third great-grandparents and their final rift.
I discovered a great deal on that trip — which will be the subject of future blogs. But for now, here’s a recap what I have learned about my Blakeslee ancestors so far.
Sepia Saturday 481: Tenth in a series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery.
After his 1866 divorce, my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee married Sarah Ann Sherman in 1867. She was the daughter of Abel Sherman of Jessup Township, Susquehanna Co., Penna., according to their wedding announcement in the Montrose Democrat.
So this summer, not only did I learn about my Blakeslee ancestors’ divorce — but I was also surprised to discover a whole new set of ancestors-in-law: the Shermans of Jessup Township!
I say ancestors-in-law because Zebulon and Sarah Ann, who married late in life, did not have children together.
Nevertheless, the extended Sherman family seems to have embraced Zebulon when he relocated to their part of Susquehanna County — so it seems fitting that I write a bit about them.
The Abel Sherman household in 1860
In the 1860 federal census1860 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records. for Jessup Township — enumerated seven years before Sarah Ann married Zebulon — I found her living with her parents and two younger brothers on her father Abel’s farm. Located next door was an unoccupied dwelling. (See Table 1.)
Table 1. Abel Sherman household – 1860 U.S. Census, Jessup Township, Susquehanna Co., Penna – Source: FamilySearchFamilySearch requires free login to view records.
Abel Sherman, Head of Household
Farmer; Real Estate: $2,000; Personal Prop: $821
Sarah A. Sherman
The Shermans in 1870-1880
Ten years later, there were significant changes for the Shermans. By the 1870 federal census1870 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records. of Jessup Township, Zebulon and Sarah Ann (Sherman) Blakeslee were married and living next door in the formerly “unoccupied” dwelling — and Zebulon was working as a “day hand,” possibly on his father-in-law Abel’s farm.
The year 1870 is also when my possible cousins-in-law appeared. For Sarah’s brother Charles Sherman had married and started a family — and by 1880 his family had grown. (See Table 2.)
18801880 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
Jessup, Susquehanna, Penna.
Charles Sherman, 43, Born in PA, Farm Labor
Hannah, 29, Born in NY, Keeping House
Son Fred, 11, and Dau. Gerty, 9. Both at school & born in PA
More to learn about the Sherman in-laws
Sarah Ann’s brother Jim Sherman, however, has been more elusive. In 1870, there was a Jesse Sherman, 35, with his presumed wife Ellen, 22, and children Emily, 4, and Lucy, 2, living in Abel and Louisa Sherman’s householdibid., 1870 U.S. census.. Was “Jesse” actually Sarah’s younger brother Jim, just enumerated with a different name — which could mean more possible cousins-in-law?
The 1860-1880 U.S. censuses for Jessup and neighboring townships show a number of other Shermans living in the vicinity of Abel’s farm — but it’s unclear how they were related to Sarah Ann or her family.
Since the Shermans are the newest additions to my family tree, I haven’t had time yet to do much research on them.
Suffice to say there is more to learn about the family that gave my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee a new late-in-life start after his 1866 divorce — and hopefully I will find out more about them through future research.
Up next: A one-stop summary of my Blakeslee ancestors’ story. After that, a new series focusing on my Blakeslee ancestors’ divorce. (Yes, I have located the records!) Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
Sepia Saturday 480: Ninth in a series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery.
After his second marriage to Sarah Ann Sherman, my third great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee, 56, recast his life yet again and took on a new career: shoemaker. I couldn’t help wondering how that came about.
As a younger man Zebulon had been a farmer, elocutionist, postmaster and tavern owner — and even a local merchant with his own store. But after divorcing my third great-grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee in 1866, he left all that behind — starting over in Jessup, Susquehanna Co., Pennsylvania where he married Sarah Ann in 1867.
A new career
Zebulon’s new challenge appeared to be how to earn a living in middle age in an area where he was unknown. In 1870, at 60, he was working as a “day hand” — possibly for Sarah Ann’s father, Abel Sherman, who owned the farm next door. But farm labor may not have been satisfying work for a man of his eclectic talents — and it may also have become more difficult as he aged.
Whatever the reasons, by 1873 Zebulon, 63, had found a new calling — and he began to appear in the Jessup Township tax rolls in the taxable occupation of “shoemaker.” In 1880, Zebulon was still working as a shoemaker during the federal census — the last one in which he was tallied at age 70.
Shoemaker: An essential profession
Zebulon appears to have had a knack for finding jobs that were essential to the communities in which he lived — and working as a shoemaker was no different.
Making and repairing shoes, whether for work or dress, required skill and a whole array of specific tools. And in the 1870s, before the mass production of footwear, a town’s shoemaker could count on a steady stream of customers.
Zebulon would have been familiar with the business end of the operation, too, since he owned and operated a store for many years in Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna. And shoemaking, which generally required sitting at a bench to do the work, was less physically taxing for an older worker than many of his previous occupations.
1880: RIP Zebulon Blakeslee
In the end, it appears that both his job and his second marriage brought stability that saw Zebulon through his senior years.
And on my recent research trip to Montrose, Penna., I finally learned when and where he died — breaking through a longstanding brick wall.
The Susquehanna County Historical Society card files contained an excerpted notice of his death at age 73 — on 16 Dec. 1880 in the hamlet of Fairdale, Jessup Township, Susquehanna Co., Penna. Thus I was able to obtain a printout of the newspaper announcement (below) from the 27 Dec. 1880 Montrose Democrat.
Although I have not yet found where Zebulon was buried, I am nevertheless gratified to have finally solved the mystery of what became of him after he and my third great-grandmother Hannah separated and divorced.
More to come…
Yet this is not end of the story of my Blakeslee third great-grandparents. During the writing of the last few posts, I continued pursuing the search for Hannah and Zebulon’s divorce records — and I may soon have them!
So more to come once the records and decree are in hand — and hopefully some clarity on what precipitated their separation and divorce.
Up next: Ancestors-in-law: The Shermans of Jessup, Susquehanna Co., Penna. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.