Friday, May 15, 2009


I have learned so much about my family as I transcribe letters. Most were written to Sarah Ann Camfield Carlisle who was called either Anna or Annie. While I'm learning about what is going on around her I'm not learning nearly enough about her.

She was born 5 August 1853, most likely in Onondaga County, NY. I have no idea at this point who her birth parents were, she was the foster or adopted daughter of Michael and Sarah Ann (Wisner) Camfield.

Her early years were spent in Onondaga County but I have not discovered how old she was before the family moved to Lake County, IL. By 1870 the family was living in Buchanan, Berrien County, MI. Letters written by her cousin, Ella Hall McKinnon, indicate that this move took place when Anna was 12 or c. 1865. Anna obtained her teaching certificate and taught school briefly.

After the family moved to Buchanan, Anna's brother, Joseph, met and became friends with Ashley Carlisle. Ashley persued Anna even after the Camfield family moved on to Burr Oak, St Joseph County, MI. Ashley and Anna married on 2 October 1876 in Buchanan, where Anna would reside for the remainder of her life except for a brief period in 1880.

It was sometime after her marraige to Ashley that Anna learned that she had been adopted and this knowledge troubled her.

Anna and Ashley were blessed with three children, Francis in 1878, Daniel in 1885, and Tamerson in 1887. They lived in the Carlisle family home with Ashley's step-mother Hannah. From the letters I've learned that Hannah could be quite demanding so I imagine that Anna looked forward to the freqent trips that Hannah took. After Anna's father died in 1899, her mother also moved in with the family for several months of the year.

Anna and Ashley never seemed to go without but they never seemed to have a surplus of anything either. Ashley worked as a stone mason and Anna found herself on her own with the children for weeks at a time. She was responsible for managing the family's money and did a wonderful job stretching every cent. She sewed most of the clothes the family wore and made the quilts that kept them warm. The garden was tended and food was put up to get the family through the winter months. I do not know if she learned nursing from her mother-in-law or if it came naturally to her but she was often called on to tend ill friends and neighbors.

Ashley was a Civil War veteran and "he" threw a party on his birthday every year for other veterans. I can only imagine the work that this was for Anna as it wasn't unusual for more that 100 to attend.

Anna was firm but loving to her children. The letters written by Daniel and Tamerson to her in 1899 were quite sweet. I hope to learn more of the family's dynamics as the letters continue.

Anna was certainly a devoted wife. In his later years Ashley developed Parkinson's disease and Anna devoted herself to caring for him. It is said that she knew she was ill herself but refused to seek treatment so she could care for Ashley. After his death she was taken to a doctor but the breast cancer was far too advanced and she died just 18 months after her husband.

I know so much more about Anna than I did a couple of years ago but I really wish I knew a bit more.

This was written for the 72nd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, Mothers!, to be hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene.


geneabloggers said...


Do you still have plans for a visit to Lake County, IL this summer? I'd love to see you in Chicago if you do!

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

I am hoping to get to Michigan and Illinois this summer but I'm not sure if I can swing it yet. I'd love to get together if I do but driving into Chicago is scary for this country girl. LOL

Jasia said...

Thanks for this post about Anna. She feels almost like family to me since I've been been devotedly following all the letters you've transcribed. It's all fascinating to me... the people, the times, the thoughts, the places. And speaking of places. I'm planning to take a drive over to Buchanan this summer, when I'm over in St. Joe. Is the house Anna lived in still standing?

Nikki - Notes of Life said...

I think we always wish to know more, especially in family history :)

Thanks for your thoughts... Granddad is back home now and hopefully on the mend.

Tipper said...

Nice to read the whole "background" on Anna-after reading the letters.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Jasia - I'm happy to share my family with you. I'm not certain exactly when the upkeep on the house in Buchanan became too much for my uncle but it was torn down years ago. We stayed in the house once and I still remember that trip. When I was there last year someone was just starting construction on a new home on the lot. Some of Ashley's stone work remains around town.

Nikki - I'm so glad your Granddad is doing better!

Tipper - I probably should have written about her before this. Then again I keep discovering more so her story isn't finished yet.

Judith Richards Shubert said...

Apple, what a delight to have the letters you have been transcribing. Your post about Anna is a wonderful background for them. Good job.

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