Return to site

The Carr Family:

Separate Lives and Tacoma Reunion

by Mary Bowlby

Originally publish in the Eureka Times, 2015 Summer issue

broken image

Job Carr

Job’s ancestors were traveling people, who arrived from England on some of the earliest boats to sail to North America. They left Massachusetts Colony with Roger Smith to help form the colony of Rhode Island (his great-grandfather was Colonial Governor in 1695). Job’s grandfather – also named Caleb – served on Gen. George Washington’s staff. His family had been Quaker for many generations, and he was raised in that faith. By the time he was born in 1813, the family was living in Egg Harbor, New Jersey. Then, they moved to Ohio when he was 12 years old. Finally, they moved to Indiana, where Job met Rebecca Vail Pitman. They were married in 1840. As a staunch Abolitionist, he fought for the Union in the Civil War as part of the Indiana 36th Volunteer Regiment. Job survived two injuries and mustered out in 1864 after three years of service. With such an adventurous heritage, it is no wonder that he set out in response to the call of Manifest Destiny.

A family man with four grown children, Job and his wife, Rebecca, separated after 24 years of marriage, when he decided to make the journey west to seek new opportunities on the frontier. Job was 51 years old when he arrived on Commencement Bay in 1864. Late in his life, Job authored an account of his journey to Washington Territory and some of his reasons for choosing this area for his claim, including the following: “On Christmas day of 1864 in company with Mr. Billings (then farmer on the Indian Reservation, and now Sheriff of Thurston County) and three or four others, I went over to Gig Harbor fishing Mr. Billings telling me there were several nice places along the shore of the Bay, as we went along in our canoe, when we came opposite where Tacoma now stands, I raised on my feet and exclaimed Eureka, Eureka and told my companions there was my claim… I procured a canoe and spent five months in exploring up and down the [Sound] every bay and nook from Olympia to the Snohomish river… When becoming fully satisfied that Commencement bay (sic) was the best Harbor on the Sound, had the best supply of freshwater and by far the best approaches and surrounding, and from twenty to twenty-five miles the best Geographical position, I felt certain it must become the terminus of the railroad.” Though the true terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad’s transcontinental line would be located 2.5 miles to the south, Carr was sure his “Tacoma” would become a world-famous port – and it did!

Job moved onto his claim and began building his log cabin home. Job built his home to be a comfortable, welcoming place believing others would soon share his vision. His home was spacious with amenities such as semi-private sleeping spaces and interior walls with wallpaper. As Tacoma began to grow, Job served the community in many capacities. He was the first Justice of the Peace, first Notary Public, was appointed to be first Postmaster by President U. S. Grant in 1869 (and his cabin was designated the first Post Office). When “Tacoma City” was incorporated in 1875, Job Carr served as the town’s first mayor. In 1878, he co-authored a petition to the Washington Territory Constitutional Convention, supporting woman suffrage for the new territorial constitution. He was a man of strong convictions, but seldom argued his case. He simply took action when he thought it was necessary.

All of Job Carr’s children (and his ex-wife) eventually lived in Tacoma, but he longed for a companion or possibly a caregiver in those late years. So, in 1884, Job “met” Addie Emory via a correspondence bureau; he was 71 when they married on September 25, 1884. Addie came from New York. It was a short marriage, as Job died on August 10, 1887.

Not long before his death, Job was asked to help drive the final spike in the east-west line of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Though his beloved “Tacoma City” was not the center of town, there was still the satisfaction that he had chosen well. His eulogist stated, “he never faltered in his devotion to Tacoma.

broken image

Rebecca Vail Pitman Carr Staley

Rebecca Carr Staley was born in Ohio in 1822. Her family moved to southeastern Indiana, where she met and married Job Carr in 1840. They settled in Richmond, Indiana, where their 4 children – Anthony, Howard, Marietta and Margaret – were born. Rebecca, too, was raised as a Quaker. The Spiritualist Movement, however, was very strong in mid-19th century America. Rebecca became deeply involved in Spiritualist practices, finding she had a special talent as a “seeress.” She was competent enough to be able to charge for her services. She was also actively involved in the Women’s Suffrage movement.

Shortly after the Civil War started, the men in Rebecca’s life all felt the call to fight for the Union and help abolish slavery. When her eldest son Anthony and husband Job enlisted in 1861, Rebecca decided to answer the call as well. She became a field hospital nurse, and followed Job’s regiment as they moved from one battlefield to another. Late in her life, Rebecca was awarded a pension for her service. At times, her younger son, Howard, would join her and help as he could in the makeshift “hospitals.” When Job was injured seriously enough to be mustered out, Rebecca returned to Richmond and nursed him back to health.

Soon, Rebecca faced another decision. Job had learned of the new transcontinental railroad that would cross the northern part of the country, ending on Puget Sound in Washington Territory. Job wanted to be the first to stake a claim in the most likely place for the railroad’s terminus. Though Rebecca helped Job in his time of need, they were estranged. She had become increasingly independent as her success in Spiritualism had grown. Job had even moved to Iowa for a short period and established a fruit nursery there. Rebecca decided not to join Job, so he went west without her. She remained in Richmond with her daughters, and when Howard was released from a prisoner-of-war camp in the South, she nursed him back to health. Howard, too, left her for the West in 1866. The following year, Howard returned and talked his oldest sister, Marietta, into coming to the Puget Sound.

Following this, Rebecca & Job’s youngest daughter, Margaret, married Allen Wentworth and moved with him to California. Sometime before 1870, Rebecca married Albert Staley; they lived in Clinton, Iowa. In the 1880 census, she was widowed and living in California. Margaret had moved to Tacoma in the 1870’s, so Rebecca decided to join her children and grandchildren there.

She lived in Tacoma the rest of her life. Rebecca was an eccentric, known around town as “Grandma Staley.” Still an active seeress, many young women visited her to seek help with the all-important decision of whom they should marry. At the time of the 1900 census, both Anthony and Margaret were living with her. Rebecca Carr Staley died on December 12, 1908.

broken image

Anthony Pitman Carr

Anthony Carr was born on June 8, 1841. In August 1861, he enlisted with the Indiana 19th Volunteer Regiment and went to war. While serving on the battlefield of Hall’s Hill in Virginia, he was chosen to carry a dispatch to President Lincoln. It was a difficult, dangerous journey. To stay concealed, he traveled cross-country, avoiding the roads. He was exhausted and muddy when he arrived at the White House with the precious documents. Guards were dubious, but he insisted his orders were to deliver the package directly to the President. And so, he stood before Lincoln, dripping with mud, and handed him the documents – for which he received gratitude from his Commander in Chief and a very special memory.

Anthony fought several battles in the Civil War, including the last battle, which was fought in Texas as part of the 34th Indiana Regiment. He was captured and taken prisoner, but the War soon ended and his captors abandoned their posts. The prisoners simply walked away.

While serving in the Union Army, Anthony learned the art and science of photography. Upon arrival in this region (in the fall of 1865), he met a man in Steilacoom who had purchased camera equipment, but didn’t know how to use it. Anthony took over and opened a photographic studio in Steilacoom. It is because of his considerable skill with a camera that we have such a good record of the early settlement years of Tacoma’s history.

Anthony arrived just in time to help Job with the completion of the cabin roof. In one newspaper account, he recalls having shot wild game – wild turkey and pheasant – for their first Thanksgiving in their new home. Over the next few years, he split his time between Steilacoom and Tacoma (or “Eureka” as Job called it), including building his own home in Tacoma. When it came time to establish Tacoma, Anthony drew up a plat map that consisted of about four blocks of today’s “Old Town” and delivered it to the land office in Olympia in 1868. He used the name “Tacoma” for the first time, officially. He also built a log cabin for General McCarver and his family in 1868.

1869 was an important year for Anthony. In May, he married Josephine Byrd of Steilacoom. Her father owned the Byrd Mill on American Lake, where Job would occasionally provide a service, dressing the burrs of the flour grinder. They had two daughters who died in infancy and one son, Edward.

Also in 1869, the residents of Tacoma petitioned President U. S. Grant for a Post Office. He granted the request and appointed Job Carr to be the Postmaster. Job, in turn, appointed Anthony to be Tacoma’s first Postal Carrier. It was a challenging task, with the nearest postal hub at Steilacoom. Though Anthony traveled to Steilacoom regularly, it still took a minimum of three hours to make the trip – one way. He either walked the trail or (when weather was calm and the tides were flowing in the right direction) would use their canoe – the “Red, White & Blue” – to make the trip.

The first sign that the railroad was truly coming to Puget Sound was the arrival of the telegraph in Tacoma in 1873. Anthony assisted with its installation and sent the first telegraph. It was a message to Seattle, requesting the tugboat BLAKELY be sent to Tacoma. It was not common knowledge that Tacoma had a telegraph, and the recipient required several more messages to be convinced the request was authentic!

In 1891, Anthony’s son Edward fell ill when he returned from a hunting trip on the Olympic Peninsula. The illness turned to pneumonia, which caused his death at the age of 19. Anthony eventually settled on Spanaway Lake, where he lived until his death at the age of 82. His wife, Josephine, had preceded him in death.

broken image

Francis Howard Carr

Francis Howard Carr was born on November 25, 1846, the second of Job and Rebecca Carr’s four children. Beginning in June 1861, Howard was faithful at keeping his diary. He wrote short entries, but had a knack for conveying an image or a thought in those pithy phrases.

That year, Howard was selling stationary door-to-door, traveling in a loop from one community to another, covering over 200 miles from Richmond, IN to Fort Wayne, IN to Dayton, OH and back home again. He sometimes recorded miles traveled, but always included sales totals for each day. Later that summer, both his brother and his father enlisted in the Union Army. His mother, too, left Richmond to serve as a nurse in a field hospital. It was a difficult time for Howard. Sometimes, he went to help at the hospital. Other times, he worked for relatives and neighbors nearer Richmond. His sisters were staying with neighbors, but he was the independent sort.

Most of all, Howard wanted to join the fight. His diary entry on April 16, 1864 states, “Blue as indigo; everybody gone to war or somewhere.” When he turned 17, he figured he was old enough. He tried to enlist in Richmond, but was turned away. Undaunted, he travel 850 miles to Boston.

As he tells the story: “April 4, 1864: … enlisted for three years… during the war in the 19th Massachusetts Regiment… but had to do some “tall swearing” to get in. Failed first time as Howard Carr, then wet to another office and swore in as John Jackson.”

Howard’s time in the War was short, but eventful. In early June, he fought in the Cold Harbor battle.

“Henry W. Wheeler & myself are all the recruits left in Col. 1 and one hundred gone out of the regiment at “Cold harbor” out of 280, a heavy tax.”

On June 22, 1864 he was captured at the siege of Petersburg and taken to Andersonville Prison. After three months, he escaped, but was recaptured. Finally, Howard was included in a prisoner swap nearly eight months after he had enlisted. Now free, he showed up at Rebecca Carr’s door (she now lived in Cincinnati) looking like little more than a skeleton – he only weighed 92 pounds. Once again, Rebecca became a nurse. Howard never really recovered from the poor treatment and starvation of the prison camps – and never forgave the enemy.

Howard came to Tacoma in a roundabout way. He drove a mule team for a Mormon wagon train from Atchison, Kansas to the Great Salt Lake. Then, he tried his hand at silver mining, but decided he’d rather be a cook above-ground. All this time, he had been corresponding with Job and Anthony, and knew they were living in Washington Territory. He set out to join them, stopping to work on a farm in Sacramento long enough to earn passage on a steamship to Portland. At last, in November 1866, he walked from the Columbia River to Steilacoom!

All along the way, he pined for female companionship – especially for “Lizzie.” She was back east, and was the subject of many comments in his journal. However, there were also entries about Kate, Libbie and Anna, as well as the young women on the wagon train and a daughter of the farmer in Sacramento – after all, he was only a teenager!

A year after arriving in Tacoma, Howard’s loneliness became unbearable. He headed back to Indiana to propose to Lizzie. Unfortunately, she refused him. Devastated, he asked his sister, Marietta, to come back to Tacoma with him.

Once home on Puget Sound, Howard found work in Steilacoom, running a hotel. Five years later, he married Jane Bradley; he worked for her brother. Her family did not approve of Howard, so they eloped on the Steamer North Pacific, getting married on the “high seas” just out of Port Townsend on February 5, 1872.


Howard served Tacoma City as its Marshall for three non-consecutive terms, between the town’s incorporation in 1875 and the merger with “New Tacoma” in 1884. He was also known to work in real estate. Mostly, though, he prospected. He spent a lot of time near Yakima and around Mt. Rainier. He once found a promising location, but left the area and never found it again.


Howard and Jane had six children who grew to adulthood. He is, in fact, the only one of Job & Rebecca’s children to do so, and is grandfather to all Carr family members today, who are descended from Job. Sadly, Howard died at the young age of 45 – never fully healthy after being imprisoned during the War.


Howard Carr’s journals are quite a legacy. They reveal a life of adventure, sorrow and joy. They give us a glimpse of life in early Tacoma from the perspective of a settler. They have been loaned to us by Carr family members. We are grateful to have these wonderful resources to study at Job Carr Cabin Museum.

broken image

Marietta Carr

Marietta Carr was born on March 19, 1849. This would have made her 12 years old when her parents left for the battlefields. According to one of Howard Carr’s journal entries, one of the children’s grandmothers lived across the street in Richmond, Indiana. He doesn’t mention Marietta or her younger sister when he notes Job and Rebecca’s departure, but it could be concluded that the girls were left in their grandmother’s care. While Howard was fighting in the War, he received letters periodically from Marietta; he called her “Mettie.”

When Howard returned to Richmond after his release,” Went to our House. Mother gone – moved to Cincinatti… across the street to GrandMother’s. I like to scared her to death. They all thought me dead – and didn’t miss it much.” On to Cincinnati he went and notes, “Mettie, Maggie and I went out and bought a 26-lb turkey” for Christmas dinner.

After Howard was refused by Lizzie, he went to Marrietta and convinced her to move to Tacoma. Rebecca paid for their passage on a steamship. They arrived in Tacoma in the fall of 1867.
Once here, Marietta lived with Job in his log cabin and became known for her excellent cooking. She married William Mahon on January 17, 1869. They had a son – though we don’t have any record of his birth or name. The record of his existence, sadly, is included in the newspaper account of the sinking of the Steamship Pacific.

Marietta was on the ship to go to California and visit her sister. On November 4, 1875, the steamship collided with the Orpheus southwest of Cape Flattery and sank. Only two passengers survived. The report in an EXTRA from the Washington Standard reported, “The Pacific had the following passengers from the Sound: From Tacoma--J. Hellmute and wife, Mrs. Mahon and child. H. C. Victor, J. T. Vining, Fred D. Hard.” William Mahon never remarried. The 1890 census records him living with his parents.

broken image

Margaret Carr

Margaret (“Maggie”) Carr was born on November 3, 1850. We have few records about Margaret’s young life, except those that she would have shared with her sister, Marietta, which have already been stated.

She married Al Wentworth on October 1, 1868. She lived in California when Marietta sailed on the fateful voyage of the SS Pacific in 1875. Margaret came north to Tacoma sometime after this incident, having divorced her husband. She had one child, named Charles Wentworth. When Charles was grown, he left Puget Sound for Canada and was never heard from again.

Margaret married Herbert Conklin after her move to Tacoma. According to the 1890 census, she was living with her mother. There was no mention of Herbert.

Margaret Carr Conklin died on April 15, 1912 of complications from surgery.

Find out about the children of Job and Rebecca Carr in this museum video, as well as the important role of photos, journals, and letters for helping us to understand life in the past.