Tag Archives: Conklin NY

A Corbettsville, N.Y. merchant

Second in a series on the occupations of my paternal great, great great grandfather Jeremiah Bull in the 1800s

A passage in a History of Broome County (1885) indicated that in 1852 my great, great, great grandfather Jeremiah Bull bought a foundry in Corbettsville, N.Y., and turned it into a tannery then sold it. A historic map shown in the last post supports this possibility.

The Tan Vats (1860-1920). My great, great, great grandfather Jeremiah Bull — listed as a merchant in the 1860 U.S. census — may have briefly owned a leather tannery similar to this in the Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. Photo: NYPL Digital Collections

From pervious research, I had some corroboration that Jeremiah lived in Corbettsville because my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull — his son — was living there at the time of his 1856 marriage.

My next plan of action was to examine census reports for more details — but right away I noticed that the timeline appeared to be off.

The 1855 N.Y. State census for Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — where Corbettsville was located — indicated that Jeremiah Bull and his family had lived in the town for only a year. I wrote about this in Tanners in my family tree, where you can see an image of the census.

That would place his arrival at about 1854 — two years after the History of Broome County said that he converted a local foundry into a tannery — assuming the census information on the Bull family was accurate.

Also, at the back of the same 1855 state census — in a section titled “Industry other than agriculture” for the Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. (enumerated on 11 July 1855) — Jeremiah Bull’s name does not appear, and there is also no mention of a foundry. But Julius Corbett is listed as a operating a tannery — which he should not be if Jeremiah took the facility over from him in 1852.

1860: A change for the better

However, fast forward five years and Jeremiah’s situation has changed for the better. In the 1860 U.S. Census for Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. (Kirkwood Post Office), Jeremiah Bull (enumerated correctly, but indexed under the name variant “Jeremiah Ball”) is listed as a “Merchant” in a household with wife Mary Elizabeth and daughter Mary.

That certainly would imply that he owned a business — most likely a tannery, since that was his trade at the time, had been for years and continued to be as indicated in earlier and later census reports.

And I also like to think that those who compiled the History of Broome County tried their best to paint a reasonably accurate historical picture based on their own research and oral history interviews — even if they ended up doing a rather broad sweep with the brush and being off by a few years here or there.

So for now, let’s say that it’s possible that my great, great, great grandfather Jeremiah Bull owned a tannery for a time before the U.S. Civil War — and that this premise provides a good starting point for further research into business or property records or even news articles from the area that might support this contention.

Meanwhile, the tanning trade was not my ancestor Jeremiah Bull’s sole occupation — for the agricultural section of the 1860 census revealed that he also resided with his family on a 113-acre working farm in Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y.

To be continued.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Did Jeremiah Bull own a tannery?

First in a series on the occupations of my paternal great, great great grandfather Jeremiah Bull in the mid-1800s.

Old county history books are not the most reliable source of definitive family history information. Nevertheless, I was pleased to find a reference to my great, great, great grandfather Jeremiah Bull in the History of Broome County, with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers (1885), edited by H.P. Smith.

Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. "Map of Windsor Township; Castle Creek, Chenango TP [Village]; Corbettsville, Conklin TP [Village]" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 26, 2015. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-1bf0-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Map of Corbettsville, N.Y. (at lower right) from an 1876 atlas. On our last genealogy trip together in 1995, my dad and I discovered this map of the town where our Bull ancestors lived — which shows some tannery owners’ names. Click on the map for a larger view. Image: NYPL Digital Collection 
A paragraph in the section on Corbettsville — a hamlet located in Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — mentions my ancestor in relation to a leather tannery located there:

The foundry was built by Sewell Corbett in 1845, who operated it until 1850, when he sold it to Sewell, jr., and Julius Corbett. In the year 1852 Jeremiah Bull took it and transformed it into a tannery and then sold it to Fred Burt. He transferred it to Geo. Belamy, who sold it to the present owner, John O. Porter. This tannery is a prosperous establishment, gives employment to sixteen or eighteen hands constantly and turns out from 18,000 to 20,000 sides of leather annually.

This passage piqued my interest. Did my ancestor really set up and own a tannery at some point? Where could I look for details?

I decided to start with the 1855 New York State Census for Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y.  — a source I already had in my records.

As I discussed in Tanners in my family tree, Jeremiah Bull’s occupation was given as “tanner” on this census — though not tannery owner or entrepreneur or anything along those lines.

However, being a tanner did place him in the leather-producing industry, where he likely learned the trade with the idea of moving up as his skills increased. So this did not rule out his owning a tannery at some point — and a prosperous one at that, if the description in the 1885 History of Broome County proves accurate.

Map evidence supports the county history

On our last family history trip together in August 1995, my dad and I traveled to Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y., and visited the public library in search of information about our Bull ancestors.

In those pre-digital days, we found a hard copy of Everts, Ensign and Everts’ Atlas Map of Broome County (1876) and photocopied the map of Corbettsville — now available online — because we knew our Bull forebears had lived there.

Studying the map again, I was encouraged to see a large building labeled “Parks & Porter Tannery”along with nearby buildings bearing the names “S. Corbett” and “J.S. Corbett.”

My ancestor Jeremiah Bull had left Corbettsville by 1876 when this atlas was created, so his name would not appear. But the map does contain the names of those who reportedly owned the tannery before and after him — lending credibility to the history book passage.

So far, so good. Now, where to look next?

To be continued.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Some Leatherstocking locales

The part of New York State popularly known as the Central-Leatherstocking Region encompasses several counties — Schoharie, Broome and Oneida — where my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull and my other Bull ancestors worked as leather tanners during the 19th century.

Open air tannery (1860-1920). My great, great grandfather Arthur Bull worked as a leather tanner before joining the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. He resumed this work at war’s end, and his family’s frequent moves appear to have been work-related. Photo: New York Public Library Digital Collections

This made me curious: What was the tanning industry like back then? And were there work-related reasons why Arthur Bull and his family relocated so frequently, both before and after the U.S. Civil War?

In the 1800s, the tanning trade required a location with adequate water power, good transportation to bring in animal hides, and enough hemlock and oak trees for the requisite tannin to process those hides into leather.

The Catskills area bordering New York’s Hudson River — where Arthur Bull learned the tanning trade — had all of these in abundance in the early 19th century, as outlined in Augustus Ostow’s excellent environmental blog post The Catskill Tanning Industry.

The work itself was a physically demanding, grisly business, with open vats of fermenting hides — as depicted in the photo above — sending up quite a stench. Yet the need for domestically produced leather kept most Catskills tanneries active until the mid 1800s.

Eventually, however, forests became depleted through overuse by the tanning industry. That and an economic recession from 1833-1840 — which caused leather prices to plummet — likely prompted some Catskills tanners to pick up and relocate.

Moving for work

Among those who moved was the family of origin of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull.  By 1855 they had left the Catskills area and settled in the Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — in the state’s Central-Leatherstocking Region — where Arthur, his father Jeremiah and brother Milo were listed as tanners in the 1855 New York State census.

This move was the first of many for Bull family members as they followed the booms and busts of the leather tanning trade to start over again and again in new, forested locations.

Judging by the birth locations and ages given for Arthur’s children in the 1865 New York State census for Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y, he and his wife Mary Elizbeth (Blakeslee) Bull lived in three different locations during the nine years between their 1856 marriage and the end of the U.S. Civil War:

  • Pennsylvania in 1858 [most likely in Susquehanna County just south of Broome County, N.Y.],
  • Delaware County, N.Y., in 1860, and then back to
  • Broome County, N.Y., until at least 1865.

Nor was that the end of their moves around the Empire State. More in the next post as I continue on the trail of my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull’s civilian life before and after the U.S. Civil War.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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