I always look forward to Saturday afternoons to find out what Randy’s weekly fun challenge might be. This week, I really, really wish I could travel back in time because I would love to lunch with, and mostly question, my 4X great grandmother, Catherine, wife of Loyalist Robert Carlisle, who served with the Royal Fencible Americans. Nothing is known of his life before his military service, either. She was definitely a brave woman, as she settled in Parr Town before it was a town (St. John, New Brunswick, today) and the Loyalist welcome was some rations and 500 pieces of timber to build a house. Even if she was afraid, she had to be fearless at the same time to face a new life. While today, we say “starting over from scratch,” that is literally what newlyweds Robert and Catherine Carlisle did.
Where would I take Catherine to lunch? I think I’d like to take her to a nice restaurant in the town where she lived just prior to the start of the American Revolution. Looking at the Carlisle FAN (friends, associates, neighbors) club, there have been no clues that have led to any kind of new information about the Carlisles’ siblings, parents or any other relatives. I think she might like to see how her old home town looks and perhaps even visit with some former friends who were patriots or Tories who didn’t leave for Canada after the war.
What would I ask her? It’s more like what wouldn’t I ask since I know so little about her. She left only one document, a tiny detail of her life, when she applied for a widow’s pension, based on Robert’s service, at St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, in the summer of 1840. However, I do know that she lied about her place of residence at that time. Catherine requested that her pension be paid to her son, James Carlisle, but stated that she was living in Kings County, New Brunswick, Canada. The 1840 census for Charlotte, Maine includes James Carlisle and his family, which shows one woman 80-89 years old living with them. Catherine stated that she was about eighty years old. Perhaps they suspected that the Canadian government might not be too keen to pay out a widow’s pension to someone who crossed back over to the former enemy and lived in the United States.
Questions for Catherine:
- The Royal Fencible American regiment formed from recruits in Boston, Massachusetts, Newfoundland and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Where did husband Robert join the regiment?
- When and where was Robert born?
- Who were his parents and siblings and did you ever meet any of them?
- The RFA Regiment was made up of full-time soldiers. In which battles did Robert take part? Was he ever wounded?
- When and where were you born?
- I know you married sometime between July 1784 and July 1785, but exactly when and where did you get married?
- Tell me about your parents and siblings.
- Have you kept in touch with any of your or Robert’s family since the war ended?
- Were any of your family members Patriots?
- What was your daily life like before the war began?
- Once it started, how did your life change?
- When you arrived in New Brunswick, were you fearful about your new life? It must have been a scary time with the threat of winter weather and having so few possessions.
- What was it like, literally building a home to live in, not only in St. John, but again when you moved to Sussex in Kings County?
- About 1820, your grown children began talking about leaving Canada and moving to Charlotte, Washington County, Maine. You actually moved to Maine with them. How did you and Robert feel about that?
- You and Robert were both entering your senior years when you move to Maine. He put his life on the line for the King. Had your feelings about the American Revolution changed by that time? Or were either of you unhappy about the prospect of moving into the United States?
- I have identified most of your children, but there are a few about which I am unsure. What were the names, birth dates and death dates for all of your children? Who did they marry?
- How had daily life changed from the time you were a young girl around 1770 compared to life in 1840?
- Your known children were baptized in the Anglican Church in Sussex. Which church did you attend, if any, while you lived in Maine?
- Robert died in 1834 in Charlotte. What was the exact date and where was he buried?
- If you had your life to do over, is there anything you would change?
Those questions, I think, would knock down much of my Carlisle brick wall. I have found no records in the Boston area that might seem to fit with a family for Robert Carlisle, but I have always suspected that he might have joined the Fencibles possibly in Newfoundland, but more likely in Nova Scotia.
If only Catherine could tell me!