MARY ANN WARTHEN
PHOEBE BLACKWELL (1799-1845), was born in
Gloucestershire, England, and had emigrated with her family, as a child,
to Pennsylvania. Phoebe's father was Enoch Blackwell (abt. 1763-1816),
and her mother was Hannah Perrine (1762- ?). Her mother died in England,
and apparently her father had remarried before bringing his family to
America. He died in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania in 1816.
Not much is known of the Blackwell family, but some members of the
family -- possibly distant cousins -- achieved a degree of fame. According
to the World Book Encyclopedia,
"Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910), was the first woman in the United
States to receive a medical degree. She helped break down prejudice
against women in medicine. Blackwell graduated from medical school in 1849.
In 1857 she and her sister Emily Blackwell, also a doctor, opened their own
hospital in New York City. The hospital, called the New York Infirmary for
Women and Children, primarily served the poor.
The sisters later expanded the hospital to include a medical school for
women. Blackwell was born in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England (the
same area of England which our Blackwell family came from), and came to
New York with her family at the age of 11. In 1847, she began her medical
studies at Geneva College in Geneva, N.Y., after 29 other medical schools
had denied her admission because of her sex ... She encountered much
prejudice as a woman physician ... Eventually, however, Blackwell earned
the respect of the medical community and the public. She returned to
England in 1869, where she spent the rest of her life working to open the
medical profession to women. Blackwell wrote several books and lectured
widely. She helped introduce the belief that sanitation and personal
hygiene played major roles in the prevention of disease. In 1949, the
American Medical Women's Association established the
medal to honor her achievements. The medal is awarded each year to a
woman who has made important contributions in advancing the role of women
It is not known how closely related these famous women were to our
ancestor Phoebe Blackwell, but they were probably cousins to some degree,
since the name Blackwell is not too common. The Blackwell family roots
were in Gloucestershire, England. Phoebe's family had come to America
when Phoebe was a child (in the early 1800's).
Elizabeth and her parents didn't emigrate until 1832. This was after
Phoebe was grown and married and had children of her own. Elizabeth was
quite close to the age of Phoebe's daughter Lutitia.
Another famous Blackwell was Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825-1921).
"Antoinette Brown Blackwell was the first ordained woman minister in the
United States. She worked to promote civil rights for blacks and women's
right to vote.
Blackwell was born in Henrietta, N.Y., near Rochester. She finished her
religious studies at Oberlin College in 1850. However, the college did
not permit her to graduate because it opposed women's becoming ordained
ministers. For the next three years, Blackwell lectured against
slavery and in favor of women's rights and efforts to outlaw alcoholic
beverages. She also preached at any church that accepted her. In 1853,
Blackwell was ordained a minister of a Congregational church in Wayne
County, New York. She resigned in 1854 because she considered many of
the church's doctrines too strict. Blackwell then joined a Unitarian
church, where she occasionally preached. Blackwell wrote many books,
including The Sexes Throughout Nature (1875). In this book,
she criticized the famous British scientist Charles R. Darwin, who had
become known for his theory of evolution. Blackwell accused Darwin of
using his theory to try to prove that women were inferior to men."
Joel Shearer and Phoebe Blackwell were married in Lycoming County,
Pennsylvania around 1819, when he was 27 and she was 19 years old.
Lutitia Shearer was the oldest of her parents' children, except for one
older brother, John, who had died at the age of 20 months shortly after
Lutitia was born.
There were twelve children in the family:
John Shearer (1820-1822)
Lutitia Shearer (1822-1903)
Sarah Shearer (1823-1846)
Mary Ann Shearer (1825-1893)
Phebe Blackwell Shearer (1827-1898)
Harriet Perrine Shearer (1828-1900)
William Henry Shearer (1830-1853)
Daniel Shearer (1832-1842)
Thomas Jefferson Shearer (1834-abt.1860)
George Washington Shearer (1836-1891)
Maria Jane Shearer (1839-1860)
James Alfred Shearer (1842-1898)
At the time the Shearers joined the LDS
Church in 1830, their family consisted of Lutitia (8), Sarah (7),
Mary Ann (5), Phebe (3), Harriet (2), and the baby, William (6 months).
In 1830, the year the Church was organized, the Shearer family
heard of the "strange Mormon religion." When they went to hear the
Prophet Joseph Smith, Lutitia's baby brother William was cutting teeth.
He was feverish and cross, so Lutitia (who was then 8 years old), could
not sit down and listen to the Prophet, as she had to stand or walk with
the baby around the outside of the crowd, for it was an outside bowery.
She could see the Prophet, but only caught a word now and then. Her
parents joined the Church in November of 1830."
Since the children
born between 1825 and 1832 were born in Bradford County, Pennsylvania,
it is supposed that the family was baptized there, and thus belonged to
the branch Brigham Young visited while investigating the Church in 1831
or 1832. (Apparently around 1824 or 1825, the Shearers had moved from
Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles north to Bradford County,
Pennsylvania). They lived there until after 1832, when they moved west
to gather with the Saints. The Susquehanna River runs right through
Bradford County; this county is along the boundary with the state of
New York, and just west of Susquehanna County, where the translation of
the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the priesthood had taken
place in 1829. Joseph Smith lived in Harmony, Pennsylvania from December
1827 to June 1829, about 60 miles east of where the Shearer family
"They loved the Gospel, for it brought joy into their lives.
Grandma would tell of how her father would read a chapter from the
scriptures every morning, then the family would sing a hymn, as her mother
was a very pretty singer. After this they would have their family
prayer. They found time for such a wonderful devotion every day.
Apparently the Joel Shearer
family settled in Pike County, Illinois when they were driven from
Missouri along with the Saints in early 1839, and they stayed there
instead of moving to Nauvoo, which was upriver about 60 miles to the
north. Two more children, Maria Jane Shearer and her brother James Alfred
Shearer were born in Pike County in May 1839 and March 1842.
Phoebe Blackwell Shearer died in 1845 in
Pike County, Illinois.
by Karen Bray Keeley
by Sandra S. Bray