MARY ANN WARTHEN
(1791-1859), was born "to Revolutionary parentage" in
Stillwater, Saratoga County, New York -- north of Albany. Joel's father
was William Shearer (1752-1847), a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and
his mother was Lutitia Langdon (1751-1812). Both were from Dutchess County, New York -- William Shearer probably of German ancestry, and Lutitia Langdon of mixed Dutch and English ancestry. William and Lutitia were married 18 May 1773 in the Dutch Reformed Church in Dutchess County, New York, and soon afterwards they moved to Stillwater, about 150 miles to the north, where William enlisted as a soldier in the Revolution. Joel was the 11th of his parents' 12
children; 9 boys (including two sets of twins) and 3 girls. Joel had a
twin brother named Daniel, and these two and their families were apparently
the only Shearers who joined the LDS Church among their immediate family.
Born and raised in northern New York state, after reaching manhood,
Joel and some of his brothers moved to Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.
His parents remained in New York for the remainder of their lives.
Joel's father, William Shearer, died at age 95, in 1847, in Crown Point,
Essex County, northern N.Y. state. This is near Fort Ticonderoga, just
north of Lake George, near the Vermont border. This region of New York
state (where the Shearers and also the Tanners lived) had been strategically
significant in many battles. During the French and Indian wars (1689-1763);
the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), and again in the war of 1812 (1812-1815),
major battles were fought at Lake George, Lake Champlain, Crown Point, and
Joel Shearer married Phoebe Blackwell (1799-1845) in Lycoming County,
Pennsylvania around 1819, when he was 27 and she was 19 years old.
Joel was a school teacher. He taught school six miles from their
home (in Bradford County, Pennsylvania).
In 1830, the year the Church was organized, the Shearer family
heard of the "strange Mormon religion."
They went to hear the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the 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.
"Four years after the Church was organized, in 1834, Joel Shearer
started for Missouri with Zion's Camp, and went as far as Indiana. It
was here that seven of the brethren took sick with cholera, so they
remained there for five weeks, living in their wagons and tents."
(There is no mention in Church History books of cholera striking Zion's
Camp in Indiana, so it is not clear whether the author of this sketch was
accurate ... but perhaps this happened like she said, and these seven men
dropped out of Zion's Camp; Joel Shearer among them. Alternatively, if
she was mistaken in the details, perhaps Joel Shearer marched all the
way to Missouri, where, in the end of June 1834, cholera struck about
68 members of the camp, killing 14 of them, after they had reacted in
anger to the commandment which the Lord gave to Zion's Camp through
Joseph Smith, that after their long march they should not fight their
enemies after all, but were to disband peacefully and seek other solutions
to recover their lands in Jackson County).
"Being unable to
reach Jackson County, Joel Shearer settled (with his family) in Indiana,
where they remained for two and a half years (Lutitia's brother
Thomas Jefferson Shearer was born in Vigo County, Indiana in April of
1834. Vigo County is on Indiana's western boundary, near the Wabash
River); then they started again for Missouri. They reached there just
as the mob was driving the Saints out of Clay County (in the summer of
1836). They camped for weeks, waiting for the committee to come and
tell them where to go."
According to Church history books, after the Saints had been driven
out of Jackson County, Missouri, in late 1833, they lived in relative
peace in Clay County for two and a half years, during which time they
continued to petition government authorities for assistance to re-enter
Jackson County and regain their property, but all of their attempts
proved futile. The Saints intended their stay in Clay County to be only
temporary, but when they were unable to recover their lands in Jackson
County, and their numbers kept increasing because of immigrating
Saints who continued to arrive, a crisis again developed. Clay County
residents began to be alarmed, and to fear that the Mormons would settle
in their county permanently.
On 29 June 1836, a mass meeting was
held in the Clay County courthouse in Liberty, to discuss objections to
the Mormons remaining in the area. They feared that the crisis would
erupt into a civil war, and at this meeting the Missouri citizens
discussed and spelled out their objections to the Mormons:
They were poor
Their religious differences stirred up prejudice
Their Eastern customs and dialect were alien to the Missourians
They opposed slavery
They believed that the Indians were God's chosen people,
destined to inherit the land of Missouri with them.
After the meeting, the leaders presented a petition to the Mormons
suggesting that they move to Wisconsin, and promising to control any
violence until they could leave the area. The Church leaders in Missouri
had already sent two exploring expeditions in the spring of 1836
to northern Ray County, which was mostly uninhabited, and they began
purchasing land along Shoal Creek, where a church member named Jacob
Haun had already built a mill and started a small settlement in the
summer of 1835. In July 1836 Joseph Smith and the leaders in Kirtland,
when they learned of the situation in Missouri, sent letters urging members
of the Church to preserve the peace and leave Clay County, but not
to settle in Wisconsin; and in a letter to the Clay County committee,
they said that they had advised the Saints to avoid bloodshed and to
move from the county.
But as soon as citizens in Ray County learned
that the Saints intended to move there, opposition began to surface in
that county also. The Saints proposed to move only to the uninhabited
prairies to the north, and to apply for their own county, with a six-
mile buffer zone between the counties as a "no-man's land" where neither
Mormon nor non-Mormon could settle. For a time it was not certain whether
their proposals would be accepted, and meanwhile many Saints were
already camped along the Crooked River in lower Ray County, waiting for
directions from their leaders on where they should go. The Shearers
were probably among this group. The Church History manual says that
many of these people were ill, and most of them were without funds to
purchase either provisions or land. Citizens in Ray County threatened
them with violence if they did not leave.
After an emergency high
council meeting on 25 July 1836, direction was given for the Saints who
were camping along the river to scatter among the people in the settlements
of Missouri and find temporary lodgings and work. About a week
later, W.W. Phelps and John Whitmer located a site for a city twelve
miles west of Haun's Mill, which they called Far West. As soon as the
Saints heard this news they began flocking there. Lutitia's brother
George Washington Shearer was born 15 Oct 1836 in the area of Far West,
in what was to become Caldwell County, Missouri.
In the December 1836
session of the Missouri State Legislature, Alexander W. Doniphan, a
friend to the Saints, introduced a bill to create two small counties,
Daviess and Caldwell, out of the northern part of Ray County. Caldwell
County, the location of Far West and the Shoal Creek settlements, was
to be exclusively for Mormons, and they would be allowed to send
representatives to the state legislature. This segregation of the
Latter Day Saints was considered an excellent solution to the "Mormon
problem," and the newly elected Governor, Lilburn W. Boggs, signed the
bill creating the two new counties on 29 December 1836.)
According to the
biography of Lutitia Shearer written by her granddaughter, Lutitia's family
and Eleazer Miller's family were the first two families to move
into Caldwell County, Missouri, but this is doubtful, since Haun's Mill
had been established in 1835, and several Mormon families had settled there
independently even before the Church leaders scouted out the location.
The Shearer family was driven out of Missouri during the winter of
1838-1839, along with the rest of the Saints, and they suffered much.
The Prophet Joseph Smith encouraged all of the Saints who had lost
property in Missouri to petition the government for redress, and among
those who did were Joel Shearer and his twin brother Daniel Shearer.
On p. 535 of MORMON REDRESS PETITIONS: DOCUMENTS OF THE 1833-1838 MISSOURI
CONFLICT (1992, Religious Studies Center, BYU; vol. 16 in the Religious
Studies Center Monograph Series, edited by Clark V. Johnson) is
a petition reading:
"January the ninth ano Domini one thousand Eight hundred and forty
personally came Joel Shearer before me Elisha Petty one of the
Justices of the peace in and for the County of Pike in the State
of Illinois and being by me Sworn, Deposeth and Saith that he
the Said Shearer Suffered loss and Damage in the State of Missouri
in the years ano Domini one thousand eight hundred and thirty eight
and nine that he being a Resident of the State of Missouri in
Caldwell County was ordered by the Authorities of Said State
to leave Said State within Six months on pain of Death and that
he Said Shearer was not individually accused of any neither
collectively Accused of any misdemeanor against the Laws of Said
State and he the Said Shearer further Saith that he is not Conscious
of ever having offended against the laws of the State of Missouri
or these United States and that he is a Natural Born Citizen of
the State of New York and being compeled to sell his Real and
part of his personal estate at a Reduced price Viz one hundred
and Seventy Acres of land lying in Caldwell County on which he
the Said Shearer Suffered loss according to the best of his
k(n)owledge and belief eight hundred Dollars.
the above land he Says was Entered and partly improved by himself
for his own use.
he further says he thinks he Suffered one hundred and fifty
Dollars loss on personal property including time and Expence &C
of leaving the State of Missouri.
Loss on land $800.00
on personal property 150.00
(signed) JOEL SHEARER
(Sworn to before E. Petty, J.P., Pike Co., Ill. 9 January 1840)
(Note: This petition was one of those submitted with the Saints' second
appeal to Congress, in December of 1840. The original petitions are
in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.)
On p. 336-337 of the same book is Daniel Shearer's petition:
Quincy Ill May the 7th 1839
The State of Missouri to Daniel Shearer Dr.
To mooving from New York to Missouri $150.00
" " " Missouri to Illinois 50.00
loss on lands 300.00
loss on town property 500.00
in time & months & Board 240.00
for unlawful & false imprisonment (of self) 150.00
" " " " " of my Son N.B. SHEARER
(detaind in the jail at Richmond Ray County
and one half of the time in the dungeon
five months & 24 dayes at $100.00 per month) 585.00
Damiges of Vienna Jakes* now my wife in being driven from
Jackson County in the State of Missouri & Mooving from
the State of Massa(c)husetts to Missouri 250.00
for being forced out of the State of Missouri Contrary to
law, to the Constitution of the United States, & Justice 1000.00
1 pr. pistols taken from my house by a man Calling himself
Colonel Jones 4.50
I herby Certify the above to be a true coppy of the Damiges Sustaind
by me in the State of Missourie
(signed) DANIEL SHEARER
(Sworn to before C.M. Woods, C.C.C., Adams Co., Ill 7 May 1839)
(Note: This petition was one of those submitted with the Saints' first
appeal to Congress, in Nov-Dec 1839, in which Joseph Smith personally
led the delegation to Washington D.C. and presented the petition before
Congress and to the President of the United States. The original petitions
are now in the LDS Historical Dept. in Salt Lake City.)
The "Vienna Jakes, now my wife" mentioned in Daniel Shearer's petition
was the same as Vienna Jaques, mentioned in D&C 90:28-31. She was
born June 10, 1787 in Beverly, Essex, Massachusetts, and joined the
Church near Boston in July 1832, at the age of 45 (she was an older,
unmarried woman). She arrived in Kirtland in 1833 with $1400, and
worked for the Prophet Joseph Smith for a short time. On March 8,
1833, the Prophet received a revelation directing her to consecrate all
she had, and to receive money to bear her expenses to go up to the land
of Zion (Jackson County, Missouri), where she was to receive an inheritance.
She was obedient to this commandment, and traveled to Jackson
County, experiencing much tribulation on her journey and also after she
arrived in Zion. She wrote a letter to the Prophet Joseph detailing
her experiences. He wrote a letter back, dated 4 Sep 1833 in Kirtland,
Ohio, giving her words of comfort and counsel (Teachings of the Prophet
Joseph Smith, p. 26-27, also Documentary History of the Church, p. 407-409).
Apparently Vienna Jacques married Daniel Shearer sometime between
late December 1833, when she was driven out of Jackson County,
and early 1839, when he made his petition. She would have been nearly
50 when she married him, so they had no children. It is not certain
how long their marriage lasted. Vienna received her endowment in the
Nauvoo Temple on Jan. 22, 1846 (Daniel Shearer received his on Feb. 3,
Vienna came to Salt Lake City in one of the pioneer companies
of 1847, and on March 28, 1858 in Salt Lake City she was sealed to the
Prophet Joseph Smith by proxy, so apparently she and Daniel Shearer had
been divorced by then, since he had more or less left the Church. During
the summer of 1876 it is mentioned that Pres. Wilford Woodruff
"assisted in blessing Vienna Jacques, who is spoken of in the Doctrine
and Covenants. At that time she was ninety years old." She died 7 Feb
1884 in Salt Lake City, at the age of 96.
Daniel Shearer (twin brother of our ancester Joel Shearer) was four
years younger than Vienna Jacques. He earlier had married
(1) MARY WILKIE (who apparently died young), and
(2) JANE McCUTCHEON in 1818 in Saratoga County, New York.
Daniel and Jane had two children,
JANE MARIA, b. 12 Feb 1819,
NORMAN BARBER SHEARER, b. 10 Apr 1821,
both in Luzerne, Saratoga County, New York.
Jane McCutcheon died in 1823.
It is not certain, but perhaps Daniel Shearer took his two young
children and moved to Pennsylvania, near where his twin brother Joel
lived. It is not certain just where or when he joined the Church, but
both brothers came to Missouri with their families and settled near Far
West. Daniel Shearer and his son Norman B. Shearer are prominently
mentioned in Church records in Missouri during the Far West period.
Joel Shearer had joined the Church in 1830, had served in Zion's Camp,
and had been taken prisoner by the mobs in Missouri. But he
later apostatized or became disaffected from the Church (during the 1840's
in Illinois). From the family's history, it appears that he did not have
a firm testimony of the restored gospel -- at least three different times
he had gathered with the Saints for a few years, then separated himself
and his family again, settling a distance away from the church members.
He did not come to Salt Lake City with the Saints.
In the book DIVERGENT PATHS OF THE RESTORATION, it is
mentioned that Joel Shearer was second in
command of a church which split off from the LDS Church under the leadership
of a man named Francis Gladden Bishop. The headquarters of this church
was located in Iowa, near Council Bluffs. In 1856 Joel Shearer was
living in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and wrote a 30-page pamphlet entitled,
"The Mysteries of Godliness." He sent a copy to Heber C. Kimball and
other church leaders in Salt Lake, and a copy was preserved in the
Church Historical Department.
Joel Shearer died in 1859 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. His daughter Lutitia
Shearer Warthen Curtis was apparently the only member of her family who
stayed active in the Church.
by Karen Bray Keeley
by Sandra S. Bray