Tag Archives: William Whitney

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.

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: FamilySearch[1]FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
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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1 FamilySearch requires free login to view records.

1890: Rhoda A.(Blakeslee) Whitney testifies to a wedding

Sepia Saturday 429: Fourth in a series about my great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull, a U.S. Civil War widow. Mary was the mother of my paternal great-grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

My great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull set sail, at 50, on the rocky seas of widowhood after the January 1890 death of her husband Arthur T. Bull, 57, a Union Army veteran.

Fortunately, she had relatives to help guide her to safe harbors — among them her sister Rhoda A. (Blakeslee) Whitney and husband William Whitney, then living in Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y.

Woman in mourning for her husband, whose photo she wears in a brooch (circa 1896). This photo appears to capture a certain strength that widows must muster to continue on after the death of their husbands. My great-great grandmother Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull likely drew on inner strength, as well as support of family, in her quest for Civil War widow’s benefits. Image: msu.edu

Testifying to a wedding

When Mary needed to prove the date and location of her wedding — as part of her application for Civil War widow’s benefits — she turned to the Whitneys for help. They obliged by providing a remarkable affidavit testifying to the details.

How did they know them? Because they had attended Mary and Arthur’s wedding! Their testimony from Mary’s widow application file follows. (The document was typewritten except for the underlined portions, which were handwritten.)

On this 26th day of February, 1890, before me, a notary public within and for the county and state aforesaid, duly authorized to administer oaths, personally appeared William Whitney, aged 71 years and Rhoda A. Whitney, aged 59 years, who being by me severally and duly sworn, say:

That they reside at No. 179 43 South Street, in the city of Binghamton, Broome County, New York; that they were present at the  marriage of Arthur T. Bull to Mary E. Blakslee; and that the said Arthur T. Bull and Mary E. Blakslee were united in marriage at Bookdale, in the Town of Liberty and state of Pennsylvania, on the 11th, Day of August, 1856, by the Reverend Willard Richardson, a Presbyterian clergyman.

Signatures of my great-great grandaunt Rhoda A. Whitney and her husband William (1890). The Whitneys provided details of my great-great grandmother Mary’s 1856 marriage to Arthur T. Bull to support her application for Civil War widow’s benefits. Rhoda was Mary’s sister. Photo by Molly Charboneau

No marriage record

That there is no public or private record of said marriage as deponents verily believe; that as deponents are informed and believe it was not then customary among people of said county, at the time of said marriage, to record marriages in town or county records nor required by the laws of said county or state; and that the present whereabouts of said Willard Richardson who married said parties is unknown to deponents and whether he is alive or not is to them unknown.

Deponents further swear that they derive the facts of the said marriage and the time when it took place and where it was performed from a distinct remembrance of the same, said Mary E. being a sister of the deponent Rhoda A. Whitney, and deponent William Whitney being the husband of said Rhoda A.

A sympathetic notary public

William Whitney and Rhoda A. Whitney then signed the document — as shown above — and it was witnessed by a notary public, who declared:

Subscribed and sworn before me this 26th day of February 1890; and I hereby certify that the said affiants are both reputable and credible persons; that the foregoing affidavit was read to and fully understood bey each of them before verification. and that I have no interest, direct or indirect, in the prosecution of this claim. — George Whitney, Notary Public

While I don’t yet know the exact relationship, I suspect that George Whitney was related in some way to William and Rhoda — as they would likely have turned to local family in their efforts to assist Rhoda’s sister Mary. And I’m glad they did — because this clearly-written document aided my family history research tremendously!

More on this in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

 © 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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A Delaware County detour

Between his marriage in 1856 and his enlistment in the Union Army in 1864, my ancestor Arthur Bull — a leather tanner who regularly relocated for work — took a Delaware County detour in his moves around New York State.

Township Valley in Delaware County, N.Y. At the time of the 1860 U.S. census, Arthur Bull, his wife Mary, their two daughters and their extended family — including my great-great-great grandmother Hannah Blakeslee — were living in the Catskills Town of Hancock, Delaware County, N.Y. (Walton Post Office). Photo by Andy Arthur

My great-great grandparents Arthur and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull were married in Bookdale, Susquehanna County, Pa. — the home of Mary’s family just south of New York’s southern border.

And at the time of Arthur’s military enlistment nine years later, they were back in nearby Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y., where they were counted in the 1865 state census.

But when the federal census taker called on 11 July 1860, Arthur, 27, and his family — wife Mary E., 22, and daughters Emma, 2, and Carrie, 7 months — were living in the Catskill Mountains foothills in the Town of Hancock, Delaware County, N.Y. (Walton Post Office).

Finding a great, great, great grandmother

Residing at the same address were Mary’s sister Rhoda. A (Blakeslee) Whitney, 29, her husband William Whitney, 47, and their sons Earl D., 10, and Albert J., 8.

And by one of those happy strokes of luck that sometimes happen in genealogy research, living with them was Hannah Blakesley [Blakeslee], 48 — likely Mary and Rhoda’s mother and my great-great-great grandmother, who I discovered for the first time through this census!

Arthur seemed to be doing well in 1860 — working as a foreman in a tannery with real estate valued at $1,000 or about $29,000 in today’s dollars (which may mean there are land records to search for) and personal property valued at half that much at $500.

His brother-in-law William Whitney was working as a “Hired man” with personal property worth $150 — about $4,400 today. Both Mary and  Rhoda were given their occupational due as “Housekeeper” by the census taker.

My great-great-great Hannah does not have an occupation listed, but she likely pitched in to help — particularly with four grandchildren in the household.

Adjoining census entries list neighbors employed in such occupations as teamster, blacksmith, domestic, tannery hand, night watchman — and, of course, housekeeper. Yet the the area also retained its agrarian character, with other neighbors working as farmers.

Taken together, this census information paints a picture of an extended family of three generations living together under one roof in a solidly working class community, which was nestled in productive, rural farm country along the Delaware River’s western branch.

In short, a worthwhile Delaware County detour for Arthur Bull and his family before their return to Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y., on the eve of the U.S. Civil War — and a beneficial one for me as it helped my find my great-great-great grandmother on my Blakeslee line.

So where will the Bull family’s tannery travels take us next? How about back to Broome County, N.Y. — where Arthur’s parents and sister were living in 1860 and where his father Jeremiah may have owned a tannery in the hamlet of Corbettsville. More in the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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