Tag Archives: Zebulon Blakeslee

My Blakeslee ancestors and the panic of 1857

Sepia Saturday 474: Third in a series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery.

After discovering that my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee were living apart during the 1860 U.S. Census, I wondered whether there was some major economic downturn that precipitated their separation.

Did hard times cause Hannah, her daughters Rhoda and Mary, and their families to relocate to Walton, Delaware Co., N.Y. — leaving Zebulon behind in Brookdale, Susquehanna Co., Penna. to mind the store while boarding with another household?

That’s when I learned about the Panic of 1857.

https://www.loc.gov/item/2014636144/

First worldwide economic crisis

The Panic of 1857 was precipitated by a downturn in the international economy and an over-expansion in the U.S. economy, which were interconnected by the 1850s — making it the first worldwide capitalist economic crisis.

It arrived in the years before the U.S. Civil War — as the Gold Rush, wild land speculation and the western expansion of railroads were winding down. And economic recovery did not come until the start of the war in 1861.

The panic also overlapped the period when Zeb and Hannah last lived together in Brookdale, Penna. (circa 1856) and when they lived separately (during the 1860 U.S. census). So could the 1857 economic crisis and the ensuing three-year depression have been factors in their separation?

Impact on workers, farmers, merchants

Economic times were tough in the years after the 1857 panic — there were runs on the banks, mortgage-holding insurance companies collapsed, grain prices plummeted and workers were laid off their jobs.

In 1850, Zebulon Blakeslee owned a family farm in Conklin, N.Y. just north of the Pennsylvania border — growing oats and other grains and producing butter — while working at other jobs and professions to make ends meet.

https://pixabay.com/photos/oats-collections-harvest-festival-1534513/
Ripening oats. Grain prices fell during the Panic of 1857, impacting family farmers and small merchants like my great-great-grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee and his son-in-law William Whitney. Did economic hardship precipitate my ggg grandparents’ 1860 separation? Photo: Arcaion/pixabay

Yet by 1858 — when Zeb lived in Brookdale, Penna., about six miles south — he had only a house in town and a store with no sign of a farm.

Possibly his daughter Rhoda Ann and her husband William Whitney took over his Conklin farm, located next door to theirs in 1850. William was listed as a farmer in the 1855 New York State census1— a year after the Blakeslees’ moved to Brookdale.

The 1860 move

But five years later, during the 1860 U.S. census, William, Rhoda and their children had left their Conklin farm behind and moved to Walton in Delaware County, N.Y. — where they lived in the home of Arthur T. and Mary E. (Blakeslee) Bull, Zeb’s other daughter and son-in-law, along with Zeb’s wife Hannah.

Arthur was working as a tannery foreman — a step up from his 1855 tanner job in Conklin, N.Y. But William’s occupation was “hired man” — an apparent step down from owning and running a family farm. Could the mortgage upheaval during and after 1857 have jeopardized the family farm?

And what about Zeb?

Zeb was still a merchant in 1860, so  he was presumably hanging onto his Brookdale, Penna. store — perhaps to send money to his wife and daughters and later join them? However, he was was boarding with another family —  implying that his house, which may have been mortgaged, was gone.

It’s hard not to conclude that the Panic of 1857 might have had an impact on my Blakeslee and Bull ancestors, as well as my Whitney collateral relatives. But where could I find more specifics about the effects of the panic on the local economy?

I turned to digitized Pennsylvania newspapers in search of answers — and that’s when I discovered the unexpected solution to the mystery of why my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee were living separately in 1860.

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

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1860: Census clues about my Blakeslee ancestors’ separation

Sepia Saturday 473: Second in a series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery.

When I first discovered that my great-great-great grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee was enumerated separately from husband Zebulon in the 1860 U.S. Census, I thought it might be a coincidence.

Maybe Hannah was making a summer visit to her daughters at census time — as a vacation or to help out with their children — and her entry just looked like she lived separately from Zebulon.

But a review of the instructions to the 1860 census takers made clear that there was likely more going on with the Blakeslees’ separation than mere chance.

https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2016827352/
A U.S. census taker queries a resident (1920). Was my ggg grandmother Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee really living separately from husband Zebulon in 1860 — or was she simply enumerated with her daughters’ families during a temporary summer stay? Photo: Library of Congress

Instructions to census takers

U.S. census takers in 1860 were either Marshals or Assistants who were carefully instructed on how to meticulously enter data on the forms. They had to be familiar with a long list of protocols for the federal population and non-population schedules — including the following guidance on collecting individual names:

8. Individual names. Under heading 3, entitled. “The name of every person whose usual place of abode is with this family,” insert the name of every free person in each family, of every age, including the names of those temporarily absent on a journey, visit, or for the purposes of education, as well as those that were at home on that day. [Our highlights.]

According to these instructions, if Hannah was spending temporary time with her daughters’ families, she should have been enumerated in her “usual place of abode” with her husband Zebulon — not separately as shown below.

1860 U.S. Census – Households where Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee were enumerated. Source: FamilySearch
Location Name Age Job Born Other Info.
Walton, Town of Hancock, Delaware Co., New York Arthur T. Bull 27 Tannery Foreman N.Y. Head
Mary E. Bull 22 House-keeper N.Y. Children: Emonia, 2, and Carrie, 7 Mos.
William Whitney 47 Hired Man N.Y.
Rhoda A. Whitney 29 House-keeper N.Y. Children: Earl D., 10, and Albert  J., 8.
Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee 48 N.Y. [Mother of Rhoda and Mary]
Brookdale, Liberty Twp. Susquehanna Co., Penna. Zebulon Blakeslee 48 Merchant Conn. Household of James Adams & family

Other 1860 census clues

Both Mary and Rhoda did have young children at the time and may have benefited from their mother Hannah’s help — particularly since both the Whitneys and the Bulls were transplants to Walton, N.Y., from the cross-border communities of Brookdale, Penna. and Conklin, N.Y. where they lived in 1856.

But what would necessitate a stay long enough to make this Hannah’s “usual place of abode” in 1860?

https://pixabay.com/photos/sign-sale-plot-ground-1279558/
A sign of hard economic times? Did an economic downturn around 1860 prompt the separation of my ggg grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee? Photo: brenkee/pixabay

Also puzzling is why my great-great-great grandfather Zebulon was boarding with another family rather than living in the house he owned as late as 1858 — which is shown, along with his store, on a map of Bookdale, Penna.

Might the couple have fallen on hard economic times — requiring sale of their home and Zebulon staying behind to run the store while Hannah went to live with their daughters’ families?

Maybe the same difficult circumstances and a search for work were what prompted the the Bulls and Whitneys to move to Delaware County in the first place.

Time to look into what was going on around 1860 that might explain some of these unusual developments.

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

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

1860: The odd separation of Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee

Sepia Saturday 472: First in a series on the odd 1860 separation of my great-great-great grandparents Zebulon and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee — a summertime census mystery. 

Summer is almost here — that wonderful season when census takers go house-to-house each decade, knocking on doors to compile the data that eventually leads many of us to our ancestors.

https://pixabay.com/photos/farmhouse-summer-holiday-vacations-1504163/
Farmhouse doorway. Summer is the season when census takers go house-to-house, knocking on doors to compile the data that eventually leads many of us to our ancestors Sometimes they reveal  family mysteries in the process. PIRO4D (CC0), Pixabay

Census returns usually help family history researchers discover where individuals and families lived at a particular time — and can also provide the names and relationships of previously unknown relatives.

Yet federal, state and local censuses can also reveal family mysteries — such as why my paternal great-great-great grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee was living separately from his wife Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee in 1860, as illustrated in the table below.

In this series, I hope to use census information and other research to try to figure out what was going on with the Blakeslees circa 1860 — something I have long wondered about.

U.S. Federal Censuses (1830-1880) for Zebulon Blakeslee and Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee. Source: FamilySearch
Year Location Zebulon Blakeslee Hannah (Hance) Blakeslee) Others in household
1830 Lawsville, Susquehanna, Penna. Free white male 20-29 (1) Free white female 20-29  (1) Free white male 20-49 (1)
1840 Chenango, Broome, New York Free white male 30-40 (1) Free white female 20-30 (1) Free white females under 5 (2); 5-10 (1); 40-50 (1); and a male 30-40 (1)
1850 Conklin, Broome, New York Age 42, Farmer, born in Conn. Age 37, born in Penna. Mary E. Blakeslee 12, born in New York
1860 Brookdale, Liberty Twp., Susquehanna, Penna. 48, Merchant, born in Conn.  Head of household: James Adams
1860 Walton, Town of Hancock, Delaware, New York Age 48, born in New York Head of Household: Son-in-law Arthur T. Bull
1880 Binghamton, Broome, New York Age 68, Widowed, born in New York Head of household: Grandson Albert E. Whitney

Happy times in Brookdale circa 1856

When we last encountered the Blakeslees, they were celebrating happy times in Brookdale, Susquehanna, Penna. — the 1856 marriage of their younger daughter Mary Elizabeth to my great-great grandfather Arthur T. Bull, my Union Army ancestor who was then a tanner from Corbettsville, Broome, N.Y.

https://pixabay.com/images/search/wedding/
Wedding bouquet. In 1856, the Blakeslees celebrated the Brookdale, Pa. marriage of their younger daughter Mary Elizabeth to my gg grandfather Arthur T. Bull. By 1860, the Blakeslee daughters had moved to Delaware Co., N.Y. with their families and mother Hannah — leaving father Zebulon behind. What caused this family diaspora?  Olessya (CC0), Pixabay

At the time, Zebulon was the Brookdale postmaster, a merchant with a store near the local tannery, and may have still been working a professional elocutionist dispensing therapy for stuttering or stammering. Hannah was keeping house. Their older daughter, Rhoda Anne (Blakeslee) Whitney lived in nearby Conklin, Broome, New York with her husband William.

What happened in 1860?

Yet by the summer of 1860 — just four years later — all of that had changed. Both my great-great grandmother Mary and her sister Rhoda Ann had relocated with their husbands and children to Delaware County, New York — taking Hannah with them. And Zebulon appeared to be living as a boarder in the household of James Adams.

So I can’t help but wonder: Was this upheaval precipitated by a personal or family crisis? Or had there been a downturn in the local economy? Or had some larger social, political or economic forces impacted my Blakeslee and Bull ancestors — prompting them to pull up stakes, leaving Zebulon behind?

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

© 2019 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin