Anna Jane


 I begin this entry of my journal with a quote from a handwritten manuscript that contains beautiful ink illustrations along with the writer’s very unique style of poetry. Part of that quote is as follows: "You think raising nine children is an awesome job. Yes, it is, for there’s always much to do. But it’s also very rewarding, for they are a delight." I had the privilege recently to read bits and pieces of this lady’s work while browsing through a lifetime of recorded information she prepared. The manuscript was written and illustrated by Anna Jane (Barnes) Carr. Each of her children has one that she prepared especially for that son or daughter. The illustrations she did are remarkably lifelike. She was truly a very talented artist.

Clayton Carr

  Anna Jane’s story begins on the Cumberland Plateau where she was born. She was the second of eleven children whose parents were Charles and Mary (Spurrier) Barnes. When Anna Jane was nine, the Barnes family moved back to Overton County from the Crossville area, and lived on Rock Crusher Mountain. The Barnes children attended school and church at Fredonia, the very place a young fellow named Clayton Carlos Carr first set eyes on Anna Jane Barnes. Clayton’s parents were Shirley Carr and wife Earnel Carr. Even though Anna Jane was only a very young girl, Clayton later told her that he knew she would someday become his wife, and that’s exactly what happened. Anna Jane’s manuscript has an entry about how their courtship was mostly by mail because Clayton’s tour of duty with the Navy began around the time their courtship started. And just as Clayton predicted many years earlier, they became husband and wife in the state of Georgia on April 25, 1945. A description of what Anna Jane called "The Old Homeplace" reads as follows: "I remember well the old home place on the bench of Gullet Mountain where Clayton’s parents raised their family, and good times we had there beyond countin’. For we bought the old home place and there Sherril and Jeanette were born. And there we laughed and worked and struggled night and morn.
We carried water from the spring and in dry weather, and dried up it got. We had to carry it from the big spring near the old ‘Laborn’ lot. There was no thought of dieting for us to stay slim, for working hard and walking a mile to the mailbox kept us trim. And we’d walk to church or to town, or we’d ride on horses or a wagon that was drawn by Sally and Maud, of which Clayton was always braggin’. We didn’t have electricity, so we worked hard as a rule, We carried water from the spring and took milk and butter there to cool. The old oak tree that stood by the side of the front yard sheltered many activities, some were fun, but many were hard. There we, Mrs. Carr and I, washed clothes with a tub and an old wash board, then we boiled them good in a wash kettle, we weren’t unhappy or bored."
As the years passed, Clayton and Anna Jane’s family grew to include nine children whose names are: Sherril; Jeanette; Martha; Betty; Carlos; Esther; Blenda; Christina; and David. Anna Jane included some details about the births of each of her babies in her manuscript. One example tells about the day Christina Carol was born, which happened to be on Christmas. Anna Jane described the snow that had fallen the night before as being the prettiest she had ever seen, and what a wonderful Christmas present the family received that year with the birth of Christina. With the birth of each child, a special notation was made that often included details about what was happening in their family life when a new addition arrived.

Another of Anna Jane’s writings is called "Fredonia School." In it she says this: "I’ve many fond memories of the old Fredonia school house where we learned our lessons, but were seldom still as a mouse. Some mornings we’d come freezing, trudging through the snow and ice. We’d hover ‘round the old wood stove, and thought it was cozy and nice. And I remember well the old church yard where races were run, and we played town ball a lot. And sometimes we just sat around there in the shade and talked, or sometimes horseshoes and marbles we played. We always thought that Fridays were fine, for we’d put our books away and have a good time; sometimes we’d visit a neighboring school and compete in softball and other games as a rule. Sometimes we’d divide up and play games, have a spelling match or perchance, we’d push back the desks and have a square dance. Some of the teachers we had I remember very well, There was Fred Webb and Mr. Franklin who taught us how to spell. Then the Crabtree sisters we all liked a lot, and Miss Bernice and Opal Ledbetter, and probably some I forgot. I remember Clayton once coming to visit at school. But I was home sick, and he didn’t break the rule. He sat at my desk and there in my chair, he left me notes of love to say he’d been there. And it was there at a pie supper that we had our first date, He was going to the Navy, and time was getting late. He agreed to sell the pies, my number to get, But Mr. Stockton came, ‘twas a night we didn’t forget. Many years hence the old school house is torn down, and they bused all the children, and took them to town. And of course they’re better off, for they learn more I guess, And thought I don’t know how, but we learned like the rest."

The Carr family lived in Warren County for a while, and later moved back to Overton County where they made a living on a dairy farm. Each of the children was taught how important good work ethics are. Anna Jane described her children like this: "Sherril is the naturalist, Jeanette the cook, Martha, named for her great-grandmothers. Betty would never marry a farmer, and Esther, the antique freak, joins the others. Blenda can just walk through the house and it seems to straighten up behind her. Carlos, the joker, kept fun and peace in the home, and now spreads God’s love everywhere. Christina is kind and considerate, and with Blenda gone early, more of a loner. David has been thoughtful and of his truck the proud owner. Each has a place in my heart, one that no other could fill. I’m so proud of them each and all, that my heart can hardly stand still."

Life was not always easy for a family with nine children. They stood by each other through the loss of their home and all their worldly possessions one year because of a fire. Thanksgiving day would sometimes include gathering corn as well taking the time to share the traditional meal. Martha remembers that although the gifts they received at Christmas were not the most poplar brand-named toys, they could always count on lots of fruit, candy, nuts, and the holiday always included cracking open a fresh coconut. The children often received homemade gifts that some years included sock monkeys. Anna Jane’s manuscript includes this entry about a Christmas memory: "I treasure in my heart the sight of my children gathered around the Christmas tree." In another entry she says, "I remember Christmas best with Clayton and our children. We, of course, had to milk, and then eat breakfast, and then read the Christmas story from Luke before the presents could be opened. The children thought it was a long time - then laughter and enjoyment. And every time a new in-law was added to the family, just more fun!"

Sherril and Martha described their mother as being the most patient person they ever knew. They cannot remember an occasion when she ever raised her voice to any of them. Most of the time, she let the children settle any disagreements they had, and didn’t get involved when they were fighting about something. She was also very talented in sewing. She made clothes for all the girls without using a pattern. She could look at a dress in a catalogue and make one just like it.

The manuscript is filled with Anna Jane’s wonderful ink illustrations, her thoughts and religious beliefs, along with memories of growing up, details of special family events, or just everyday life, and of the life she and Clayton shared. But their life together ended tragically when Clayton was killed in a tractor accident on their farm on June 20, 1982, at only 58 years of age. The loss of their father is still evident in the lives of the family members even today.

After Clayton’s death, Esther persuaded her mother to pursue her interest in art by taking a painting class. Anna Jane tells how she accepted Esther’s offer to pay for the course before she really had time to consider it. She went on to explain that she had never driven very much at night, and that she certainly had never driven on snow, but after signing up for the art class, she learned to do both. With the art lessons, she found that she enjoyed putting her impressions down on canvas, and she also discovered that she could even better express herself through what she referred to as rhyme. Many of her entries in the manuscript are her own special kind of poetry.

Anna Jane died April 7, 2000, but her memory is very much alive in the lives of her children as well as the grandchildren in the family too. The treasure she left each one with those handwritten manuscripts is priceless, and is something that her thoughts and beliefs can be shared with others for many years to come. Her husband and children, her church and religious beliefs, family members and friends were so very precious to her, and were such an important part of her life. I am very glad to have had an opportunity to experience part of her life through her words and her art work, and to in turn be able to share it with others.



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