The Sarle family papers center on the experience of Rhobe Knight and Dorcas Arnold, the daughters of Joseph Sarle, who let their family in Rhode Island to move to New York State after they married, ca. 1805-1810. Both George and Rhobe Knight and Ichabod and Dorcas Arnold bought land to clear and farm near Ogdensburg in present-day St. Lawrence County. Knight also worked as a cooper, while Arnold operated a small-scale lumbering operation.
The Knights had five children: Luvana (b. 1814), Caroline, Emmeline and two others whose names are not mentioned. It appears that Caroline was the oldest, Luvana the youngest. The marriage was an unhappy one, and the difficulties began early on when George left his family and joined the army during the War of 1812. He seems never to have been a steady household presence after that, taking off for extended periods without making provision for Rhobe and the children, leaving legal and financial messes behind him. Parvis Round, a hired man who moved in during Knight's military service, eventually took over the property, as well as the role of father and husband, it would seem. He was at first a suitor of Rhobe's sister Luvana, but when George Knight died in 1826 there was speculation that his widow and Round, who had evidently cohabited all these years, would marry
Though both families were poor, the Arnolds seemed to have a better time of it, although Ichabod was frequently quite ill and bore up by dosing himself with opium. It is difficult to estimate how many children Dorcas Arnold bore, for there is not one year in the scope of the letters where a new baby (one a stillborn) does not arrive. Anna Arnold Cole was the oldest. Other children mentioned are Joseph (b. 1812) Nancy (b. 1817) and Rhobe. Anna's husband, Joseph Cole, was probably a cousin. They had at least two children: Polly Maria[h] (b. 1819) and a younger son, Joseph.
Dorcas Arnold was a fervent Methodist. Her religious enthusiasm was not shared by sister Rhobe, and this may have been the beginning of a rift between them which opened wider when their husbands began arguing over money and land titles and wound up in court over it. Dorcas blamed her sister for George's estrangement, and even went so far (according to Rhobe) as to accuse her of having children by men other than him, maintaining that Knight was physically unable to father a child. According to one of Rhobe's letters, the two sisters intended to make up, but it's not clear whether they ever became close again.