John B. Carrin
Company E, 130th Illinois Infantry
War and tragedy dogged Marie until she found
Peace on the Suwannee River
By Charles Carrin
On the banks of the Suwannee River, near the crossing of the Florida Railroad where the woods overhang the stream, is the historic "Old Wilmarth" cemetery. Here among the stone-heaped mounds of other pioneers is the grave of Marie- Catherine de Mauline Carrin. This tiny woman whose search for meaningfulness in life forced her from France to America, and carried her to the edge of the Sioux Indian Wars in the West, finally found peace in Florida. And though she had but 12 years of it before her death in 1877, she was fully reconciled that the years of searching had been rewarded. In the wilderness of Suwannee County, Florida, she and others of her day fulfilled their quest. Whether with ax or stewpot, gun or sermon, these were the people who helped open up America.
Marie-Catherine was born in France in 1798, the year Napoleon was pillaging the Nile, and she grew up during the chaotic times of his reign. Jean-Baptiste Carrin, her husband, who was eight years older than she, and born during the violence of the revolution in which Marie Antoinette was beheaded, served in Emperor Napoleon's army until its collapse.
In 1834, four years after the rebellion in which Charles X was overthrown, Marie's family was complete. That year, Jean-Baptiste Jr. was born the last of three children. But the gap of several years between him and his older brother and sister, David and Lydia would later add to a tragedy that divided the family.
While they were not wealthy, her husband's business as jeweler and clockmaker provided Marie's home with adequate comforts and opportunities. Enough, at least that they could travel from there home at Valenciennes, near the Belgium border, to Paris To Marie this was the grand treat. The gentle flow of the Seine River, as it wound through the heart or the French capital, seemed to calm her fear of the political turmoil. To her, the Seine was Paris. And Paris was France. The river was the symbol of all treat was kind and gentle, loving and peaceable.
But when young Jean was 14 years old, in 1848, the nation was shaken again by revolution. And more than anything else Marie for peace. So in the spiritual pursuit of this, Oct. 11, 1948, Marie, her husband and young Jean-Baptiste left the Catholic faith. They became Huguenot. David and Lydia did not.
Two years later, though each side of the divided family had attempted a variety of solutions, they realized the religious controversy was destroying them. "There will be nothing left of us if we go on this way," Marie warned. "We're making frauds of ourselves, of our religions, and of God! I think that your father, Jean, and I should go America." In 1850 David and Lydia stood and watched as their parents and brother sailed from Le Havre. They never saw one another again. But the letters that followed proved Marie was right. Expressions of love and forgiveness later passed in both directions.
In America young Jean fell in love with Theresa Stanley and in July 1855, just a few months before his 21st birthday, they were married. Theresa was beautiful, energetic and eager for the travel that had become a part of his family's life. That she was strong was especially fortunate later, when her husband's life was dependent on it, she was able to endure the test of real womanhood.
In 1857 the four headed for the Northwest Territory in a train of covered wagons. In a surprise attack Sioux Indians marauded a settlement at Spirit Lake, Iowa, in a bloody massacre that sent the Carrins and other pioneers fleeing back to the safety of Illinois. And there, while they were considering their next move, Jean-Baptist Sr. died. Marie was left husbandless.
Then came talk of another threat - that of civil war between the North and South. Fighting, such as she had known in Europe, was something, which Marie did not wish to see again. She prevailed on her son and daughter-in-law to return with her to Iowa. They settled in an area less endangered by the Sioux-and hopefully removed from the Civil War threat, and Jean-Baptiste built a log house. Theresa bore him a son, Christophe-Colomb, the following January.
When Christophe-Colomb was 2 years old, the nation exploded in war, and too late, Marie realized she had underestimated the long reach of war. Iowa was not beyond its grasp. At least Jean-Baptiste was not. He returned to Illinois and enlisted.
As the war dragged on, with occasional letters telling of biter fighting along the Mississippi, Marie, who was declining in strength, waited daily with Theresa for Jean-Baptist's return. But when that moment arrived May 1865, he was not the, healthy young man who had left. His stride was slow, his shoulders stooped, and the handsome olive skin was undertoned in gray. There were no wounds except the ones within, and with his coughing he spat blood. He had tuberculosis.
As summer passed into autumn, Marie and Theresa worked to restore his health. But by the time of the first snowfall their only accomplishment was that each had become more haggard-and in midwinter Theresa became pregnant. The issue was no longer one of comfort; it became the question of survival. Something had to-be done.
It was under the pressure of it that Marie made another momentous decision: they would move to Florida. In spite of unbridged rivers, dirt roads, and the fact that she was nearing 70, with God's help they would make it.
As soon as the spring thaw of 1866 arrived, she had provisions ready, an ox-cart waiting, and had studied the routes. Traveling was painfully slow, particularly because of Theresa, but the following autumn, after six months on the trail, much of which carried them through the war-devastated South, they crossed the state line into Florida.
The new baby girl came on Oct. 2 1866, at Live Oak, Fla., and was named Lydia Rebecca Ellen Carrin "Lydia" for the daughter Marie had left in France.
In the wilderness west of Live Oak where they homesteaded new land near the Suwannee, Marie found her peace that was as real and warm as the Florida sunshine. For the first time since her feet left the soil of France she felt as if she were standing on familiar ground. It was a good feeling; a sense of empathy that she had known with her garden in Valenciennes. With the Suwannee at her door it was as if she were again beside the Seine. For this reason, she chose her grave site beside the river long before her death.
The next ten years were spent working in the garden and helping make a home for Jean-Baptiste and Theresa's growing family. To forget France was something, of course, which she could not do. Nor did she try. In all those years she did not abandon her native language. She spoke English if necessary-which wasn't often-for French was "more beautiful."
ON Dec. 11, 1877, just three weeks short of her 80th birthday, Marie died. Nine Grandchildren were about her, and Paul, who was only three months old, was beside her in the bed. Theresa and Jean-Baptiste, who had recovered from tuberculosis, stood by.
"Your papa's hymnbook is on the mantle, Jean," Marie said. "I want you to bring it and the letters from Lydia and David's children." He handed them to her. Taking the letters, she pushed them into the neck of her gown, leaving them upon her heart, and turned to a hymn,
" 'Cantique-Glorie de la Foi' is the one I want you to sing. It was a favorite of your father's." With emotion he stood at the foot of her bed and choked out the words:
"Adieu, Chretien! pour toi I'heure est venue (Farewell, Christian! For you the hour has come)... "
The next day, under a clear Florida sky, Marie's casket was carried down the wooded path that wound along the river mounds of the Suwannee. For nearly a century that is where she has remained, according to her wishes, resting where the flow of the Suwannee would be the unfailing reminder of the Seine.
The author got interested in his family's history when he began doing research for a novel about Southerners who fought for the North in the Civil War as some of his own ancestors in south Georgia and north Florida had done. Mr. Carrin is an Atlanta minister.
Thanks to Paul Carrin for submitting this wonderful information.
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