Friday, October 9, 2015

Who Was Great Grandma Callin?

Elizabeth Simon was born in Pennsylvania in November of 1780. The colonies were three years away from winning independence from Great Britain. It was a leap year.

When she was 21, in 1801, Elizabeth married John Callin, a son of a Revolutionary War solider named James Callin. Thomas Jefferson won election as the third U.S. President and succeeded John Adams.

15 years later, in 1816, John moved the family from Pennsylvania to Ohio, where he "settled on 60 acres of his brother James' farm who gave him a life lease of it." John and Elizabeth had 7 children by this point, and one on the way - a boy they would name Hugh, possibly to honor the Hugh Callen who later founded Callensburg, Pennsylvania in what is now Clarion county. James Monroe won election as the 5th President of the United States that year; it was also a leap year.

After 19 years on the farm in Milton township, Ohio, John died of tuberculosis in 1835. In January, the first assassination attempt against a U.S. President failed, and Andrew Jackson remained the 7th U.S. President. Mark Twain was born on 30 November of that year.

In 1860 a widowed and elderly Elizabeth lived with her daughter, Eliza Ferguson, in Auburn, Indiana. It was another leap year. Abraham Lincoln won the Presidency that November, and the following April saw the beginnings of a War that threatened to end a country that was three years younger than Elizabeth herself. She watched many grandsons and grandnephews leave to fight that War, and she died before it was over.

Elizabeth Callin died in Auburn, Indiana in November of 1864. The Union was half a year away from winning surrender from the Confederate states. Would you believe it was a leap year, too?

When you have so little information about a person, it helps to look at what went on around them. To see events that they saw, and think about how they might have felt about those events. We see wars that must have seemed endless and hopeless end; we see Presidents run for election; we are shocked by attempted assassinations, and dismayed by the brutality of politics. We see things built and things torn down. We see people die and people born.

We know as much as we do about Elizabeth because her name is recorded in the Callin Family History, and because she appears in that 1860 Census. Those two documents told us or confirmed every fact about Elizabeth that you see here - but there is so much we don't know.

We don't know where in Pennsylvania she was born, or who her parents were. We don't know where she went after John died in 1835; I haven't found her in the 1840 or 1850 Census records, so I don't know: was she in Ohio when her daughter Margret returned from Iowa, widowed and with two small sons? Did she follow her daughter Eliza when she and her husband, John Ferguson, moved to Indiana?

We do know that she and John were married in 1801, and that their son John was born in 1802. They had a child every even numbered year that they lived in Pennsylvania - John (1802), George (1804), Ann (1806), and Sarah (1808). We know from the stories about the Brothers Callin that this group moved to Milton township, Ohio, in 1816, following John's brother who moved in 1810. After 1810, the couple had a child in each odd-numbered year: Eliza (1811), William (1813), James (1815), Hugh (1817), and Margret (1819). (Margret's story was posted last week.)

We know that they lost their son, John, in 1825, but we don't know what caused his death.

There is a great deal I would love to learn about Elizabeth Simon Callin. I hold out some hope that somewhere in America, there is a box full of old papers that has letters to or from her children in Ohio and Illinois, or to her family back in Pennsylvania.

But until something like that surfaces, this is the best we can understand from two documents.

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