Tag Archives: Moose River Settlement NY

A decade in Moose River Settlement

After exploring how Moose River Settlement was established, I wanted to know more about the daily lives of my Bull ancestors after their 1875 move to the then-thriving hamlet.

http://digitalcollections.archives.nysed.gov/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/295
South Branch of the Moose River (1912). A man driving a horse drawn sled loaded with logs along Moose River in the Adirondack Mountains. Logs piled along the river, and in the distance is a man standing on a log bridge. From 1875-1885, my Bull ancestors lived on this river in Moose River Settlement — an area with sufficient forests, water and transportation for leather tanning. Photo: New York State Archives Digital Collections

That’s when I discovered author Judy Jones — who wrote about her own contemporary journey of discovery after she and her family bought a camp in the area and became curious about its history.

Early in her book Moose River Diary – In Search of The Settlement (2011) she sums up a quest that sounds very much like my own and provides many details I am grateful for:

Now we knew the origin of Moose River Settlement, but that was all. Then, in a series of minute snippets, we learned a little more. We learned that a village of three hundred citizens once bustled in a place called Moose River. There had been a sawmill and tanneries and a boarding house and private homes. There had been a general store and a schoolhouse and a post office and a fine hotel. But then what? And what became of the place?

One of those tanneries employed my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull (a tannery foreman) and his father — my ggg grandfather Jeremiah Bull (who returned to tannery work at age 70).

Perhaps it was Lyon and Snyder’s Mammoth Tannery — built in 1866 at Moose River Settlement and one of the largest in the Adirondack region. Such a substantial operation could certainly have enticed my Bull ancestors to leave the Southern Tier for the promise of steady work in the North Country — and for hundreds of others to join them as co-workers and neighbors.

And Moose River Settlement appears to have fulfilled some of my Bull ancestors’ expectations — because they remained there for a decade from 1875-1885.

Highlights of the Moose River years

During their time in Moose River, my great, great grandparents Arthur and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull saw their oldest children grow to adulthood, start work and begin families of their own. One of these was my great grandmother Eva May Bull who married a local lad — my great grandfather William Lawrence Charboneau.

And Arthur and Mary became the proud parents of two more children — daughter Alice I. Bull and son Waples H. Bull — who were both born at Moose River Settlement.

Yet my Bull ancestors were also growing older, and health issues began to arise during their Moose River years. Arthur’s heart and lung complaints — for which he was hospitalized during his Union Army service in the U.S. Civil War — reasserted themselves, making it harder for him to work.

So in 1880 — about five years after moving to Moose River Settlement — Arthur Bull filed for a veteran’s Invalid Pension from the federal government and began seeing local doctors in connection with his application.

There will be more details in future posts on this and other aspects of my Bull ancestors’ Moose River years.

But first I have news to share about my Irish ancestors — William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey — starting with the next post.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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The Bulls and the Black River Canal

During the time that we researched the family history of our Bull ancestors together — focusing on the 1860s-1880s — my dad could never get over how mobile they were.

“You don’t think about people moving around so much back then,” Dad told me more than once. “But the Bulls moved all over the place.”

http://digitalcollections.archives.nysed.gov/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/1622
Black River Canal and Delta Dam (1916). General view from below of the Gate House, locks of relocated Black River Canal, a tow and a change bridge located four miles north of Rome. The completion of this canal led to the development of Moose River Settlement, to which  my Bull ancestors moved in 1875. Image: New York State Archives Digital Collections

True enough. Starting in New York’s Catskill Mountains in the 1840s, my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull and his family of origin ended up in the Binghamton, N.Y., area by the time of the U.S. Civil War.

Ten years later — after briefly trying the Catskills one more time — Arthur, his wife Mary Elizabeth, their children and his parents pulled up stakes again, moving in 1875 to Moose River Settlement in the state’s Adirondack region.

I wondered: How was Moose River Settlement established? What was the community like? How was daily life for the Bull family while living there? And how did the once-vibrant settlement disappear?

My first answer came from the excellent book The Nature of New York: An Environmental History of the Empire State (Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London: 2010) — in which author David Stradling describes how New York’s canal system contributed to the development Moose River Settlement:

The completion of the Black River Canal in 1855 allowed Lewis County to diversify its economy. Tanneries sprang up along the Beaver, Moose and Oswegatchie rivers, often taking advantage of water power to crush the hemlock bark harvested in the Adirondack foothills.

Today, what remains of New York State’s Erie Canal system and its feeders is mainly used for recreation. So it is easy to forget the pivotal role canals once played in the economic, social and political development of the state. Yet here in my own family history is an example of how these canals shaped lives. David Stradling explains:

The canals transformed the state’s economy by connecting markets and creating opportunities in new lands, including those along the “feeder canals.”

My ancestor Arthur Bull, a tanner by trade, appears to have relocated so many times because his job required abundant forests and water power for leather production, along with transportation to bring in hides and ship out finished leather.

As these resources were used up in one place, my great, great grandfather was forced to move with his family to the next. In 1875, the next place for the Bull family was Moose River Settlement — brought into being by the construction of the Black River Canal.

What more could I find out about Moose River Settlement and my ancestors’ time there?  Stay tuned as the search continues.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Mapping Moose River

A newspaper announcement about the death of my great, great, great grandmother Mary Bull provided the first clue that my Bull ancestors lived for a time in Moose River Settlement, in the Town of Lyonsdale, Lewis County, N.Y.

I remembered seeing Moose River during a road trip in the North County with my dad, so I decided to look for some historic maps to pinpoint the exact location where the settlement had once stood.

Was I ever surprised to discover just how close it was to where Dad grew up in Otter Lake, in the Town of Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y.

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~26296~1110059:Lewis,-Oneida-counties-?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:Lewis%2BCounty;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=10&trs=128
1895 maps of New York’s Lewis County (left) and Oneida County (right). To enlarge the maps, click here. My Civil War ancestor Arthur Bull and his family lived for several years in Lewis County’s Moose River Settlement — just north of my dad’s Oneida County hometown of Otter Lake. Yet my dad knew nothing about this until we began researching our family together.  Image: David Rumsey Map Collection

The maps posted here show Moose River Settlement in the lower right corner of Lewis County (left image) — just north of the Oneida County border.

Carefully examining the Oneida County map (right image), I found Otter Lake in the upper right corner — almost within shouting distance of Moose River Settlement, when the two county maps are joined.

Charboneau connection

Why is all of this important? Because it was in this general geographic area, where New York’s Oneida and Lewis counties meet, that my Bull ancestors connected with the Charboneau branch of my family — early residents of the Adirondacks foothills.

And because — although he grew up right near the site of Moose River Settlement where the Bulls once lived — even my closest Charboneau ancestor (my dad, Norm Charboneau) did now know about any of this until we went looking!

Examining the 1895 maps above, I could clearly see the towns and villages that corresponded with my family history research findings — Lyonsdale and Moose River, where the Bulls lived; Port Leyden, where Arthur Bull saw a doctor when he first applied for his Civil War pension; Hawkinsville, Otter Lake, Forestport and Boonville, where the Charboneaus lived — all geographically located nearby one another.

And once again I was amazed that the details of my paternal ancestral history in and around this Adirondacks region failed to make it down to my generation — either in story or papers — requiring me to research and document from the other direction.

Which brings us back to Moose River Settlement. Although it no longer exists — and in fact was pretty much gone when my dad was a child — it was once a bustling hamlet when my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull and his family arrived there in 1875.

So what more can I find out about the area and my Bull ancestors’ time in Moose River? We will start that search together,  beginning with the Black River Canal.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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