The pioneering life and times of Rebecca Carr

May 1st, 2013 | By | Category: Everything Else

Of all the Carr family, Rebecca, Job Carr’s first wife, may be the most interesting. She was very secretive about her personal life but was known around the world. She refused to tell her age, but census records say she was born April 18, 1822 in St. Clairsville, Ohio. By most accounts, she was well-educated. She was divorced at a time when that was extremely unusual, but maintained a good relationship with her ex-husband, Job.
Job Carr, was born July 2, 1813 in Little Egg Harbor, N.J. He moved to Richmond, Ind., where he met Rebecca. They married on Jan 2, 1840.
Both were Quakers, and Job hated war, but he hated slavery more. Although he was 47 when the Civil War broke out, Job enlisted in the 26th Indiana Infantry Regiment. He was wounded at Battle of Corinth in October 1862 and at Battle of Chickamauga Creek in September 1863. Altogether, he served almost three years. Rebecca, in the meantime, was a hospital matron. It was she who nursed her husband back to health.
When Job was mustered out, he moved to Iowa, bought a nursery and sent for his wife. But they had become estranged, and Rebecca preferred to remain in Richmond to pursue her interest in spiritualism. They divorced, and Rebecca married a salesman named Staley. However, before that happened, she and Job had four children – Anthony, Howard, Margaret Ann, and Marietta.
When Job Carr read that the government authorized construction of a railroad to the Northwest, he sold his nursery and started west by ox team, reaching Puget Sound in late 1864. The Staleys, in the meantime, moved to San Francisco because Rebecca’s married daughter, Margaret Ann, lived there.
When the war was over and after his release from Andersonville Prison, Howard came west. Anthony soon followed, and they each took claims adjoining that of their father.
In February 1867, Howard left for California to prospect. After being thrown down a steep hill by a mule and injuring his ankle, Howard returned to the east to get married. He arrived broke, wired his mother for money, and then the girl turned him down. Instead of returning to Puget Sound with a wife, he returned with his sister, Marietta. With three of her four children here, most records say this is when Rebecca came to Tacoma to live.
Eighteen-year-old Marietta was a petite, dark-haired girl. Though adventuresome, she was considered delicate. She was a good cook and housekeeper, and could sing. Most of the family played instruments, so they often sang together in front of the fireplace, or read Shakespeare or went on boating picnics.
Mrs. Staley’s address initially was 2315 N. 30th St. Job’s was 2530 N. 30th St. Job was skilled in at least five trades – millwright, machinist, painter, paper hanger and nurseryman. And while Job was busy running the post office out of his cabin, which was also Old Tacoma’s first polling place, and acting as judge at the first election when 16 Democrats and 13 Republicans voted, Rebecca worked as a fortune teller.
A port town was a perfect place for a fortune teller, because sailors were superstitious. For example, few were brave enough to set sail on a Friday. When ships made port here, many seamen visited Grandma Staley, as she was known, to find out how their families back home were. The lovelorn visited her with questions about their romances. One of her clients was a well-to-do miner from Alaska. A Portland, Ore. woman wanted to know the whereabouts of her daughter, who had run away from home. Grandma Staley gave her the girl’s address, which proved to be correct.
Her reputation spread to places such as Japan and Australia. A beat cop told a reporter for the Seattle Times that it was no unusual thing for people to call on Grandma Staley at all hours of the day and night. She had no set fee; people paid what they wanted, and she made enough money to invest in real estate.
Her life, though, seems rather sad. Marietta married a man named William H. Mahon and had a son. The two died on Nov. 4, 1875, when the steamship Pacific, on which the two were passengers, collided with the Orpheus off Cape Flattery, Wash.
Howard, too, died young. He never recovered from being in Andersonville, and was taking “opiates for pain” when he accidentally overdosed.
Meanwhile, former husband Job Carr found a bride, Addie Emery, through a correspondence bureau, and they married in Olympia on Sept. 25, 1884. They were said to have been happily married, but when a family member became ill, Addie returned to New York. While there, she received word that Job was sick, and she came back to Tacoma. Job Carr died in 1887 at age 73. After his death, Addie went back east.
In 1907, when she was 76, Grandma Staley’s house on 30th Street (where she lived with 10 cats) had become so unsanitary, the Board of Health ordered its demolition. The Times described Grandma Staley as “wearing old, worn clothing and large copper rings in her wrists and ankles, and suffering from palsy.” She moved to 3006 Carr St. and died a year later.

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