Tag Archives: Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee

1850: A couple of Conklin clues

Sepia Saturday 460. Third in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.

Town of Conklin in Broome County, N.Y., was a predominantly rural area in 1850 when my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, 12, lived there with her parents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee.

Although there were some small employers in Conklin Center and  nearby hamlets (tanneries, acid works and the like), most of the population — including the Blakeslees — was still earning its primary income from farming.

https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~20037~510033:Broome-County-?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:Broome;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=2&trs=11
1829 Map of Broome County, N.Y., showing Town of Conklin at south center. [CLICK HERE for enlargeable map.] Town of Conklin, where Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull lived as a girl, is located just north of the Pennsylvania border. Source: David Rumsey Historical Map Collection
A couple of Conklin clues

In his Gazetteer of the State of New York (1860), J.H. French gives the following brief description of Conklin, N.Y. — which contains a couple of Blakeslee family history clues that I have highlighted below.1

CONKLIN—was formed from Chenango, March 29, 1824. A part of Windsor was taken off in 1831, and a part was annexed from Windsor in 1851. It lies upon the Susquehanna, s. of the center of the co. Its surface consists of the fine broad intervals of the river and high, broken uplands which rise upon each side…Little Snake Creek flows in an easterly direction through the s. w. part.

Kirkwood(p.v.) is situated on the E. bank of the Susquehanna, in the s. part of the town. It is a station on the Erie R. R. and contains 25 houses. Conklin Center and Corbettsville are p. offices, and Millburn and Conklin are hamlets. At Millburn are extensive pyroligneous acid works.

A post office connection

Rural mailboxes.  Mention of the Conklin Center post office in J.H. French’s 1860 “Gazetteer of the State of New York” helped me connect another family detail from my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull’s childhood. Image by werner22brigitte on Pixabay.

As I read French’s pastoral portrait of Conklin, I was struck by his mention of Conklin Center and Corbettsville as the town’s two post offices.

Wait. Hadn’t both hamlets shown up in past research on my great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull? Yes, I think so…

So I dug into my files — and sure enough, I found some information about Mary’s dad and his various jobs that could help connect a few more dots on the Blakeslees’ time in Conklin.

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

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1850: Zebulon Blakeslee’s farm

Sepia Saturday 459. Second in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.

The 1850 U.S. census for Conklin, Broome Co., New York shows my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Blakeslee, 12, attending school and living on a farm with her parents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee.

Alas, this federal census doesn’t contain addresses for rural properties — so I’m not sure exactly where the farm was located. And my first attempt at land research hasn’t turned up anything, either.

Image by 12019 on Pixabay
A New York  State farm. In 1850, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, 12, lived on a farm with her parents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee in Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y. — an area with rural landscapes similar to this. Image by 12019 (CC0) on Pixabay

However, an 1850 U.S. agricultural census was also conducted about a month after the population census. And I was thrilled to find the farm of “Z. Blakesley” on its roster — providing many details about the farm where Mary lived as a girl.2

Horses and milk cows and swine, oh my!

On 5 Aug. 1850, when the agricultural census taker came calling, the Blakeslee family was living on an 80-acre farm. Most of the land was productive — with 70 acres described as “improved.” Only 10 acres were “unimproved.” which could mean forested or rocky or in some other way un-farmable.

I spent my early childhood on a 10-acre farm in upstate New York, so the 80-acre Blakeslee farm seems large and impressive by comparison. Its cash value of $2,000 [equivalent to about $65,542 in today’s dollars] underscores this impression.

Although the Blakeslee farm was mostly geared to field production, there were a few farm animals — which may have fascinated my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth when she was growing up. Specifically:

  • Horses – 1
  • Milk cows – 3
  • Swine – 2
  • Value of Live Stock – $156 [about $5,034  today]
Image by VIVIANE6276 on Pixabay
A pair of swine. In the 1850 U.S. agricultural census, Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull’s father Zebulon Blakeslee reported owning two swine, three cows and a horse. Image by VIVIANE6276 (CC0) on Pixabay

There may also have been cats (typically kept on New York State farms to reduce the rodent population) and maybe even a dog — but these are not addressed in the census.

A productive spread

A second census page lists the agricultural production of Zebulon Blakeslee’s farm, indicating a focus on grains and hay — with the three milk cows contributing to substantial butter production and the swine, presumably, contributing to the slaughtered animals.

  • Indian corn – 100 bushels
  • Oats – 351 bushels
  • Buckwheat – 65 bushels
  • Butter – 300 pounds
  • Hay – 20 tons
  • Value of Animals Slaughtered – $40 [about $1,291 today]

For my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth, all of this might have formed more of a backdrop to her life as a pre-teen attending school.

Yet she may have had before- or after-school chores that the population census doesn’t tell us about — since  the report lists no boarders or farm hands living with the Blakeslee family.

Up next: What else can I learn about Mary Elizabeth’s early life in Conklin, N.Y.? Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A bewildering Blakeslee saga

Sepia Saturday 458. First in a series on the early life of my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a Union Civil War widow.

Researching distant female ancestors can be challenging because at one time women accumulated few records in their own name.

In addition, women who lived in rural areas — like my paternal great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — lacked city directories and local newspapers where their personal details might appear.

So I do not know as much about Mary Elizabeth as I do about her husband — my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, a veteran of the Union Army’s 6th N.Y. Heavy Artillery. Yet I long to know more.

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-1be4-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. (1876). The Conklin countryside where my Blakeslee ancestors lived forms the backdrop to these early lithographs.. As a young woman coming of age in a rural setting, my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull accumulated few records in her own name. Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections

In this new blog series, I hope to review what my past research has revealed about Mary — and to identify what more is needed to paint a fuller picture of her life.

First federal census

Mary’s parents were Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee (who I have written about on Molly’s Canopy) and Zebulon Blakeslee (whose given name I love, but about whom I know far less).

The bewildering Blakeslee saga begins with Mary at age 12 in the 1850 U.S. Census of Conklin, Broome Co., N.Y. — the first in which she appears by name — to see what her family’s enumeration reveals.

1850 U.S. Population Census – Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. – Aug. 6, 1850 – Source: FamilySearch2
Family Dwell Name Age Job Property Birth School
230 231 Z. Blakesley 42 Farmer $2,000 CT
Hannah Blakesley 37 PA
Mary E. Blakesley 12 NY X
231 232 Wm. Whitney 31 Farmer $1,000 NY
Rhoda Ann Whitney 19 PA
John Stevens 14 NY

For starters, this census indicates Mary’s parents were born at a geographic remove from one another: her father in Connecticut and her mother in Pennsylvania.

Mary had an older sister Rhoda Ann (who has also appeared previously on this blog). In 1850, Rhoda was living next door with husband William Whitney and a young man, John Stevens, whose relationship is not stated.

The census says Rhoda was born in Pennsylvania (circa 1831) while Mary was born in New York (circa 1838).

Conklin is just north of the Pennsylvania border, so it’s not unusual that the sisters were born in different states. However, if accurate, their differing birth locations are a clue that the Blakeslee family likely moved sometime in the mid-1830s.

Adjoining family farms

Zebulon’s farm in Conklin was valued at $2,000 (equivalent to about $64,542 in today’s dollars) — a respectable spread. The neighboring farm of his son-in-law William Whitney was worth $1,000 (or about $32,271 in today’s dollars).

Both families were apparently doing well, because their farms were comparable in value to those of nearby neighbors.

Mary’s sister Rhoda, 19, was newly married — having wed William on 9 Dec. 1849, according to a transcribed wedding announcement in Maurice R. Hitt’s Genealogical gleanings from early Broome County, New York newspapers (1812-1880). And Mary, 12, was attending school — a positive sign that she was not needed at home to help with the workload.

Up next: What more could I learn about the Blakeslee family farm where Mary lived in 1850? Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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