Picture of Clara Stahler

Clara M. Stahler Tillotson

The photograph above shows my great-grandmother, Clara M. Stahler Tillotson (b 1852, d 1925), wife of James Francis Tillotson. The note accompanying this picture says Clara was 52 years old at the time it was taken. She looks much younger to me.

Clara was the daughter of Jacob Stahler and Catharine Turk.

Clara Stahler was born August 6, 1852, probably in Saukville or Fredonia, Wisconsin. While 1853 is the date my grandparents used, her baptismal certificate states she was born in 1852, and several later census record also give 1852 as the birth year. Clara was baptized at Mater Dolorosa Church in Little Kohler within the town of Fredonia, Wisconsin.

While Clara was working as a maid in the transit house at the Chicago Stock Yards, she met James Francis Tillotson. They fell in love, and were married in Chicago, Illinois on March 5, 1878 (see their marriage certificate (80K)). No one from either of their families attended the wedding. James was a Protestant, and Clara was a Catholic. This did not set well with the parents of James, especially his mother, Jane Ann Sexton Tillotson. Clara's family was likewise not impressed with James at first. They had expected Clara to marry someone from the local German community back in her home town in Wisconsin.

Clara and James had five children.

Clara had a great deal of trouble giving birth. She lay ill for months after each of her children was born. The last two, May and Milo, died in infancy. James named them after his brother and sister who had died as children in Elsie, Michigan.

James's mother Jane Ann, who possessed a robust constitution, was not impressed by Clara's fragility. She sent James's younger sisters in shifts from Crete to help take care of the children during periods when Clara was laid up, a welcome relief.

Clara's husband James died on June 11, 1893 at the relatively young age of 43. She never married again, and supported her family by taking in washing. Her daughter Eva, my grandmother, left school early to work odd jobs to help support the family as well.

My aunts remembered Clara as a very calm and soft-spoken woman. She taught them how to bake pies.

Clara M. Stahler Tillotson died in Chicago on December 14, 1925 at the home of my grandparents. She is buried in Mt. Olivet cemetery. See Clara's death certificate (95k) for more information.

My father Robert Burns was present when his grandmother Clara died. As she passed, her false teeth dropped out of her mouth. For years thereafter my father thought everyone's teeth fell out when they died.

Clara Stahler Tillotson

Clara Stahler Tillotson.

Clara Stahler Tillotson in old age on the farm

Clara Stahler Tillotson in old age on a farm in Wisconsin.

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Last modified by pib on August 2, 2010.