Monday, September 01, 2008

Indiana Sisley Stem :: Show and Tell

The topic for the 55th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is Show and Tell. "Show us and tell us about an heirloom, a special photo, a valuable document, or a significant person that is a very special part of your family history." Ever since it was announced, I've been mulling it over as to what I should highlight. I've already shown some of the things that are special to me and told you about them - family photographs, reunion ledgers, old letters, my grandmother's autobiography - but, thankfully, there are still a few more things left to write about ;-)

My grandmother, Hazlette Brubaker Phend, put together what I call her genealogy book. Included within its pages are the standard pedigree charts (sadly, they are not documented) and family photographs (even more sadly, glued firmly to the pages). They are all precious to me, but there is one page that is extra special.

There are four items on the page, the first two are the topic of this post:
1. A picture of Indiana (Sisley) Stem, my 4th great grandmother! It is a copy, not the original. The quality isn't all that great, but I think it speaks volumes. I'd love to know if it still exists and, if so, who has the original.
2. The calling card of Mrs. Indiana Stem.
3. A photograph of a man with a child sitting on his lap. This too appears to be a copy of the original image. Grandma didn't identify it, perhaps she didn't know who it was, but it's possible that it is Conrad Stem, Indiana's husband, and their son Lewis Austin Stem.
4. A third picture, of the children of Austin Stemm: Earl, Charles, Ben, Hooper, Cresco, Clara, and Fern.

Indiana Sisley was born on May 18, 1809 in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. She was the eighth of ten children born to Margaret Ellis (1773-1870) and Lewis Sisley (1765-1826). I haven't found a marriage record yet for Indiana and Conrad Stem but when her father's estate was settled in 1834 they were named as "Conrad Stein and Indianee". (As an aside, the Stem surname has been difficult to research due primarily to bad penmanship and misinterpretation of that writing! Stem, Stemm, Stein, Stern, Stenn, etc. Their son, Lewis, adopted the Stemm spelling.)

About 1845, Conrad and Indiana had moved to Chester Township in Wayne County, Ohio. They were there only a few years, coming to Indiana about 1851 or early 1852. Their last child, Lewis, was born in Indiana in August 1852. They settled in the northern part of Whitley County, in Thorncreek Township, less than a mile from the southern border of Noble County. Their daughter and son-in-law, Malissa and Jacob Wise (my 3rd great grandparents) lived on the farm to the west.

From census records I know that Conrad Stem was a farmer. He died in Whitley County on July 25, 1882 at 5 1/2 pm, aged 78y 2m 9d (birth calculates to May 16, 1804 and matches the date on his tombstone).

No obituary has been found for either Conrad or Indiana. I really know very little about her. She was a farmer's wife. She was the mother of six children. Her first child, Malissa was born in 1833, followed by Amanda in 1837, Mary in 1841, Hester in 1844, Sarah in 1845, and, at the age of 43, her last child, Lewis was born in 1852. Her first grandchild, William P. Wise, was eight months old when Lewis was born. A child and grandchild born in the same year.

"Jarrad" studio was located at the "Cor. Berry & Calhoun Sts., Fort Wayne, Ind." A trip to Fort Wayne, 20 miles away, would have been a big deal back in those days, the 1880s. Was it a special occasion? Were pictures of other family members taken at the same time? I look in the mirror and see the "droopy" eyes and the cheek lines, though mine aren't quite as prominent. She looks a bit stern, but I see determination in her eyes.

The Calling Card with decorative embossing and fine lettering. To me, though worn and stained, it quite simply exudes style. Click on the image to view a larger version and you'll see exquisite details in the capital letters, including a stylized fish beneath the S in Stem. The sign of the fish, an ancient symbol of Christianity. Could that be a family bible she is holding in her portrait?

From the picture and calling card we can infer that Indiana Stem was literate. She's holding a book (a bible, maybe?) in her hands. Those are the hands of a farmer's wife, the years and arthritis have taken their toll. I do wish more detail showed, but doesn't that appear to be a lace shawl covering her head and flowing down the front of her dress? I don't have a date for the photograph but Indiana Sisley Stem passed away on Christmas Day in 1888. She is buried beside her husband Conrad in the Hively Corners Cemetery (now called St. Matthews Church Cemetery) in Thorncreek Township, less than a mile from their home.

It wasn't until I moved to the Tri-Lakes area in 1997 that I discovered where Indiana and Conrad had lived. Our new home was less than two miles away. Every time I go into Columbia City, I pass by their place and the cemetery, and I say a silent hello.

I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself, but this is a two-part post. In June of 2000 I was contacted by a descendant of Amberson Evans Sisley, brother of Indiana Sisley Stem. Please, click on through to discover the treasure I received from her. . .

This post was contributed to the 55th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Show and Tell


Lidian said...

What an amazing treasure - thank you so much for sharing this!

Janet Iles said...

You are fortunate to have not only her photograph but her calling card.

I wonder what book she is holding in her hand?