Our Family Legacy
Cornelia Schnack Staker was born in Claverack, New York November 6, 1783 just after the Revolutionary War. Her parents, Martinus (Martin) Schnack and Elizabeth Schauerman, were Loyalist and the Rebels or Patriots made it so disagreeable for all Loyalists that the King of England gave them a grant of land in Canada just across Lake Ontario.
Her parents settled in Kingston, Ontario, Canada at the east end of the lake. They took Cornelia with them. She grew up in Kingston, or Cataraqui as Kingston was first called. It was a wild country heavily wooded with a lot of lakes and streams where fishing was good in the summer and skating was the principal means of transportation in the winter.
She married Conrad Staker probably in 1800 as their first child, Nathan, was born November 28, 1801. They were farmers. Eleven children blessed their union, two of them died in early childhood.
Conrad was an alcoholic, which did not add to the joy of his wife. Cornelia's son Nathan said he would never touch a drop of liquor, he had seen his mother suffer too much over the effect of drink on his father.
The Mormon Elders came into Canada and converted three of her married children: Nathan, Cornelia Hart, and Elizabeth Draper. This may have added to her worries.
She was living in Pickering, Canada in 1843 as Nathan went on a mission to Pickering to try to convert his relatives and his son Aaron was born while he was there.
After Cornelia's husband Conrad died in 1843, she moved to Illinois and lived with her son Conrad. When he died, his wife put Cornelia in the poorhouse. Her granddaughter Martha Staker Rice Campbell rescued her and cared for her until Nathan and Eliza sent for her.
She lived with Nathan and Eliza until she died September 29, 1884.
When the Mormon missionaries, including Brigham Young, labored in Canada, they converted some members of this family, who joined the Church and came to the states to live. Cornelia remained a Methodist. After the death of her husband in 1848, she too came to the United States with her son Conrad, and family. At this time she was sixty five years old. She lived with Conrad until he passed away, then with her grandchildren. Her granddaughter, Martha Snook Rice, of Plainville, Adams County, Illinois, took care of her for several years after she lost her eyesight when she was eighty years of age. Four of her children joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and came to Utah. She corresponded with them until she became blind and after that she had to depend on others to write for her.
The following letter was sent by Cornelia from Richfield, Illinois, dated April 3, 1873, to her son Nathan who was then residing in Utah:
"It is through the goodness of God that I am spared and able to converse with you through the silent medium of the pen; although if it was God's will I would rather it be face to face, but as he has decreed it otherwise I must be content and trust in His holy name that if we ever meet on earth may we meet around our Father's throne there to sing and praise His adorable name to all eternity.
"I often think of my children. All except you and Elizabeth are beneath the sod. Their souls I hope are with their God. No more on earth I shall see them. Yes, dear children, God is our preserver. In Him alone I trust. He is my comfort by day and my song in the night. I seldom close my eyes without praying for you all.
"Do you ever think of your mother now feeble and old, her locks intermingle with gray, her footsteps once fearless now are feeble and old. It would be a great pleasure to me if I could spend the remainder of my days with you and Elizabeth. I think so long as parents live it is the children's duty to take care of them, especially when they are so old and helpless as I am. I would feel more at home and not so depending if I was with my children for I was once their supporter when they were more helpless than myself. I am now living with one of my grandchildren who saved me from a loathsome and miserable death in the poor house. Her family is large and she has more to do than she is able without me. I have been here over a year and have not been out of the house since I came.
"I would like to see all of your family, give them a grandmother's best love and tell your children to be good children and write to me."
Cornelia was ninety years old when this letter was written. She came to Utah five years later, in July, 1878, with a niece Sophronia Draper. The remainder of her life was spent in the home of Nathan, in Mt. Pleasant, Utah. Though blind, she was very little trouble. She took care of herself most of the time, and for one of her age, had very good health. She loved to sew rugs and spent hours doing it. A cane was used to feel her way around the house. When she wasn't able to sleep at night, or wanted to take a nap, she often took a sip of laudanum from a bottle which she kept handy. When she first came to Utah and one day she accidentally set her dress on fire. This frightened her so terribly that she decided because of her blindness, she must quit smoking, which she did. At her funeral services, Edward Cluff, who baptized her, said: "Sister Cornelia Staker was a truly remarkable woman. Her memory was very good, enabling her to tell of events which occurred ninety five years ago. She was married to Conrad Staker and became the mother of eleven children, all of whom are dead. Her oldest son, Nathan, died of old age May 30, 1884, in his eighty third year. It was quite a novelty to see the old gentleman going around leaning upon his staff with old age, and to know that his mother was still living. He was the last of her children. She outlived them all."
Cornelia died September 29, 1884, less than six months before her 101st birthday, and was buried in the Mt. Pleasant cemetery.
Cornelia Schnack was born November 6, 1783 and was christened January 4,1784, in the Reformed Dutch Church at Claverack, Columbia, New York. She was the daughter of Martinus (Martin) Schnack and Elizabeth Schauerman.
Note: the surname Schnack is also spelled Snack, Snook, and Schunk and the surname Schauerman was also spelled Showerman, Schourmans. The above spellings are as they appeared in Cornelia's christening records.
The Schnack family moved from New York to Cataraqui, Canada when Cornelia was only two years old. Cataraqui later became Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Cornelia married Conrad Staker February 21, 1801. Conrad died in Canada.
Cornelia Schnack Staker left Canada with most, if not all, of her family and went to Illinois in the early history of the L.D.S. Church. She lived with her son Conrad Staker at Clayton, Illinois. They first went to Nauvoo, Illinois. Her son Nathan had joined the Mormon Church and had then come back to Canada on a mission and converted some members of his family. When the church moved from Nauvoo, Nathan went to Salt Lake City, but Conrad [the son] went to Clayton, Illinois and there he made his home.
Cornelia was one hundred years, ten months, and twenty-seven days old when she died. She had moved to Utah to live with her son Nathan Staker when she was ninety-three years old and had joined the Mormon Church when she was ninety-five years old. She outlived all of her children. She died September 29, 1884.
Cornelia was a quaint little Dutch woman, totally blind for the last fifteen years of her life. She used to tell hair-raising stories of things that happened in her girlhood. The one most vividly recollected was a harrowing story about the "Painter" (with her pronounced Dutch accent she could not say panther). Her picture shows a quaint little shawl covering her shoulders. She wore broad flat shoes, a relic of her wooden footwear, but oddly enough she had laid down her pipe, which she had smoked quite regularly.
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