Thursday, January 01, 2009

Tales from the Past No 3 - Sarah Stapleton

My grea-grandmother, Sarah Stapleton, lived a hand-to-mouth existence typical of that of many women of the time, but she must have been a toughie, as she managed to survive to the age of 75.

She was born on 7 Novemeber 1837, the daughter of William and Ann of Norwood, St Mellion, and was baptised in the village church. It's possible that the Rector mis-recorded the name of her father, as she appears in the 1841 Census with a couple called John and Ann. He was no different to most of the rest of my ancestors, being recorded as an 'Agri Lab', but by 1851 he had become a delightfully-named 'Poper'(so much better than the correct spelling). He died in December 1856, aged 65, and was buried at the Parish Church.

Sarah continued to live at Norwood and in 1861 she was with her widowed mother and older sister in the next household to her future in-laws, who were living at Thrustles Nest which was also near Amy Tree in St Mellion. Her mother died the following year, by which time Sarah had given birth to her son, Lewis. His father is unknown, but he lived with my great-grandparents, Stephen and Sarah Barrett, as their son for several years. There might be a clue in the fact that he was baptised in South Hill on 12 May 1861, at which time Stephen was a carter for the Symons family in that Parish. The couple must have known each other since childhood.

Stephen had grown up at Thrustles Nest, which is now in ruin. The small cottage(s) must have been both isolated and over-crowded, as two large families lived there for several years.

Sarah married Stephen at Liskeard Register Office on 15 August 1863, at which time she was living as a domestic servant at Cadson, near Callington. It's likely that a church wedding had been refused!

The marriage lasted under 16 years, during which time the growing family moved to Todsworthy in Calstock, home to several agricultural labourers and where Stephen died of pneumonia in March 1879. Sarah was left with a young family including my grandfather, William, aged just two. It's hardly surprising that some of the children moved away. Son Lewis went 'up country' (could mean anything to a Cornishman!) and his brother John ('Jack') ended up in Negaunee, Michigan, along with many other Cornishmen and where he died in a mine accident in 1914. He had survived his mother by less than a year, as Sarah died on 1 May 1913.

John had remained in contact with his family and they received photographs of his children and ultimately his grave, presumably sent by his wife, Mary Louisa, who survived until 1945.

Between the death of her husband and her own, Sarah moved to wherever a member of her family could find work, including living briefly in Plymouth. However, she had returned to Albaston, of which Todsworthy forms a part, by 1909 and was one of the first recipients of the five shillings a week Old Age Pension. (Photograph attached, Sarah is seated second from left. Click to enlarge)

I wonder what she'd think of her great-grand-daughter's comparatively easy life?

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