Friday, 3 April 2015

Sarah Catherine Bullen (1838-1933) (52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks # 14) Theme: "Favourite Photo"

Sarah Catherine (Bullen) Wescott was my great great grandmother and another link in the chain of mitochondrial DNA passed down my maternal line. She is not central to my favourite photo but I like this picture so much because of the unusual posing of the family group.

Family of George Garner Wescott and Sarah Catherine Bullen circa 1895
Photograph believed to have been taken in front of the Wescott home in Eau Pleine, Marathon County, Wisconsin
In the above photo, Sarah Catherine is in the centre of the group on the right with some of her daughters-in-law and grandchildren. The photo was obviously intended as a posed photograph of her children who are arranged more formally on the left side of the photo. I always find it a bit strange but also rather charming. The photographer couldn't leave out half the group even though they weren't posed with the others. What it says about the family dynamic could be the subject of much speculation.
  • Front row, left to right: Stephen, Idella, my great grandmother Mary-Jane ("Mayme"), Eugene
  • Back row, left to right: Fred, Harvey, George, William Wallace Wescott
  • Sarah's group on the right side of the picture, left to right: Matt Carpenter, Harry Miller, Clara Miller Wescott (William Wallace's 2nd wife), Sarah Catherine (Bullen) Wescott, unknown child and Eva (Bullen) Wescott holding young Ross Wescott 
There is someone obviously missing from this photograph: the patriarch of the family. Sarah's husband George Garner Wescott was quite possibly the photographer of this picture. March 2020 Update: I no longer believe that George is missing from this photograph nor that he was the photographer. A closer inspection reveals a man on the far left in the background of the picture who appears to be a man of about the right age and appearance to be George Garner Wescott. I am tentatively identifying him as such.

Enlarged segment of my favourite photo reveals a man seated on the left -  quite possibly George Garner Wescott 

Sarah Catherine was the daughter of Jane Murdy and David Bullen; her father David was the son of John Bullen. She was born 1 September 1838 in Clinton, New York but the family soon moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin. Sarah's uncle John Bullen had been instrumental in opening the area to settlement. Shortly before her 21st birthday she married George Garner Wescott on 23 July 1859 in Trenton, Washington County, Wisconsin.

Marriage Certificate for George and Sarah

The couple had eight children born between 1860 and 1875.  George served as a private in the American Civil War in Company D, 12th Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. At the time of his enlistment, he was described as 27 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, dark complexion, black hair and blue eyes. (We don't know how tall Sarah was or what colour her eyes were.) Although George's health suffered as a result of his war experience, I am very grateful that he survived the Civil War since I descend from his daughter Mary-Jane ("Mayme") who was born about 5 years after his discharge from the army.

Sarah Catherine (Bullen) Wescott, unknown year

The family was a musical family, playing for many local dances. Father George conducted a singing school as well as being a carpenter and farmer.

Circa 1902, George Garner and Sarah Catherine Wescott family at the farm in Wisconsin: Back Row left to right:  my great grandmother Mayme Wescott Edwards, Mayme Dunlop, Harry Wescott, Eva Bullen Wescott, Harvey Wescott, Josie Wescott, Fred Wescott, Idella Wescott Wicker, Frank Wicker; Front Row left to right: Mayme's children including my grandmother Idella, Everett, Marion and Ora Edwards, 5th child unknown, Glen and Ross Wescott, Earle Wescott, Margaret Wescott, Lyda Wescott, Garn Wescott and the 4 Wicker children Harold, Vernon, Kenneth and Mildred. Both George and Sarah are missing from this photo.
After George died in 1916, Sarah received a widow's pension for his service in the Civil War which was increased to $50 per month in 1926. Bureaucracy was obviously as frustrating to deal with then as now. See the note below that Sarah wrote asking what the Pension Bureau expected her to do to meet the requirements for qualifying for that pension increase.

At the time of the 1930 US census, she was living with son George Wescott and daughter-in-law Anna in Marathon, Wisconsin. Sarah was 91 years old by then.

Sarah Catherine (Bullen) Wescott 1931, age 92

She died on 5 January 1933. Her obituary indicated that she died at age 94 after just two days' illness and that she had been active all her life. She is buried beside her husband George in Colby Memorial Cemetery, Colby, Wisconsin.

Headstone for Sarah Bullen Wescott - no explanation available for the misspelling of her name.
Photo provided courtesy Theoline Ludwig, Colby, WI


  • Civil War Pension File 949967 for (George) Garner Wescott
  • Anderson, Idella, handwritten memoir circa 1965
  • Nelson, Myrtle Bullen and Dunlop, Ruth, "Source Book for the Bullen Family" collected and compiled in the 1930's
  • Train, May Philips, "Samuel Bullen and Some of His Descendants", Privately printed 1941

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Joanne for your extensive work in posting this. I have some of these same pictures! Yes we are 3rd cousins or something like that. Looking forward to reading more.