MARY ANN WARTHEN
was born February 9, 1822 in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.
Lutitia 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. She was followed by four sisters:
SARAH SHEARER (1823-1846)
MARY ANN SHEARER (1825-1893)
PHEBE BLACKWELL SHEARER (1827-1898)
HARRIET PERRINE SHEARER (1828-1900)
and then four brothers:
WILLIAM HENRY SHEARER (1830-1853)
DANIEL SHEARER (1832-1842)
THOMAS JEFFERSON SHEARER (1834-abt.1860)
GEORGE WASHINGTON SHEARER (1836-1891)
and finally another sister and brother:
MARIA JANE SHEARER (1839-1860)
JAMES ALFRED SHEARER (1842-1898)
making a total of twelve children in the family. At the time her parents
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).
According to Lutitia's granddaughter, the father of the family, Joel
Shearer was a school teacher.
"He taught school six miles from their home
(in Bradford County, Pennsylvania). Grandma (Lutitia) would do up the work
each morning, then walk this distance to attend school. Since none of the
older children were boys, Lutitia often had to help with the outside work.
Her father and his brothers owned a big plantation of logging timber
and their own sawmill on their land. It often fell to her to get a
load of wood, and many times the hungry wolves would follow the wagon,
causing her to drive very rapidly, as she was very frightened. Her father
had poor health, so one of his brothers hauled logs for him and
piled them to be made into a fence. Lutitia was quite robust, so she
was set to work making the fence around the 160 acres that belonged to
her father. It wasn't so hard to put up the bottom logs which were not
very high, but it was very hard for her to put on the top ones. I
don't know whether she told me or not how long it took her to make that
(This actually might have occurred later, when the family lived
in Indiana, when Lutitia was a little older).
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), 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.
"Grandmother (Lutitia) was baptized in the Church when she was 16, the
same year the mobbing and persecution broke out, 1838. She tells how the
mob were all around. They didn't know what night their homes might be
burned. They slept with their clothes and shoes on, to be ready to run
any moment. Her father was taken prisoner by the mob for one week with
other of the Saints. Many experiences of interest she has told of how
they had to hide from the mobs for safety. At the time of the burning
and mobbing, Joseph Smith counseled the people to hide stashes of food
and clothing as much as possible. Many did store them away in various
places for emergencies. At one time when they received word to get
clean clothing to the men, it fell to Grandma and Sarah Parker to go to
the cornfield to get it from the hiding place. Since the mob was
around, they disguised themselves by wearing long black capes and pulling
black caps over their heads, and took a lantern under their capes.
When they got to the cornfield, they had to count the rows of corn so
as to know which one to go down. They found the clothes and managed to
get them, but right as they emerged from the corn they saw a man with
coat collar turned up and cap pulled over his face. The girls drew
close together in fear. You can imagine how frightened they were,
thinking it was one of the mob. But as the man drew near, he spoke
quietly, calling Sarah by name, and they knew then it was one of their
men. He told them where to leave the clothes as he passed by, and
quickly went on his way, so as to not attract any attention in case the
mob was nearby."
Lutitia Shearer was married to Joseph Warthen on March
11, 1841, in Atlas, Pike County, Illinois, when she was nineteen years
of age and her husband was 29.
Lutitia's husband Joseph Warthen had been born 1 Dec 1811 in
Washington, Licking Co., Ohio, the son of Alban (or Albert) S. Warthen
(1788-1833), an innkeeper and farmer, who was born in Maryland, and
Elizabeth Vance (1793-1884) from Rockingham Co., Virginia.
son was born about a year later in Atlas, Pike County, Illinois.
ALBERT BURGESS WARTHEN (b. 31 March 1842)
Some time after this they moved to Nauvoo. The
persecution still went on, and they endured very much. When her first
little boy (the biography written by her granddaughter says "girl," but
she had no girls until after they left Nauvoo) was two years old, he
wandered out into the street one day. Grandma ran after him as quickly
as she could, but just then one of the mob came riding up on a horse and
stated he would kill the little Mormon. He would have run him down but
the horse refused, spreading his front feet over the child just as Grandma
snatched him away to safety. The man rode on cursing. "It surely
looked like the hand of Providence protected the child."
Lutitia and Joseph Warthen's second child was born in Nauvoo.
BRIGHAM HEBER WARTHEN (b. 27 May 1845)
It was apparently around this same time,
that her 3-year-old, Albert, wandered away one day, following the cows
into the woods.
"As soon as his mother missed him, they and the neighbors began
to search, and even the Militia was called out. They looked all day
but were unable to find any trace of him. They tried to get Grandma to
return home, as she was ill at the time (in pioneer accounts, when they say
that a woman was "ill" or "sick", it usually means that she was expecting
a baby soon or was going into labor, or laid up after the birth
of a baby). She sat down on a log to rest for a few moments, for it
had been a long and discouraging search, and she feared that the wolves
had eaten the child, but she was still pleading earnestly to the Lord
to spare her child and protect him. As she sat there, she thought she
heard a faint little cry in the distance wailing, "Mother, where are
you?" This gave her renewed hope, for she was given an assurance that
the Lord would protect her child. They continued their search all
night, and at 11 o'clock the next morning they found him where he had
crawled beside a big log and was asleep, with his hands full of hazelnuts.
She thanked her Heavenly Father for protecting the child. She
never lost faith in her Father in Heaven."
"Grandma was living close to the place where the martyrdom of the
Prophet Joseph Smith took place. She tells what a terrible trying ordeal
it was, and also the sad condition the Mormon people were left in until
Brigham Young stepped forward telling them he would lead them by
God's direction and inspiration. She heard his voice and testified of
the power and influence that came upon him. Everyone who heard him
said that the power of God was with him and he was transfigured as he
spoke, so that for a few moments he spoke just like the Prophet Joseph,
looked just like him, and it seemed like Joseph was with them again. This
was the testimony that gave them the assurance that Brigham Young was to
be their next leader, and they sustained him unanimously over the rival
claimants. Often have I heard her tell of the wonderful manifestation of
the power of God on this occasion."
After leaving Nauvoo, they stayed in Council Bluffs for four
years, where two more children were born:
HARRIET LUTITIA WARTHEN (b. 1 May 1847)
MARY ANN OLIVE WARTHEN (b. 23 Mar 1849)
They came on to Salt Lake in 1850. They lived in Salt Lake for a time,
where another son was born:
WILLIAM HENRY JOSEPH WARTHEN (b. 2 Oct 1851)
Joseph Warthen had been ordained a Seventy in Nauvoo and
endowed in the Nauvoo Endowment House 20 January 1846, but hadn't been
sealed to his wife Lutitia. Apparently his faith had faltered somewhat.
"Lutitia had been given a blessing saying that she would be a
savior of her father's family. Since they had strayed from the Church,
it was up to her to do the temple sealings for her relatives. She
didn't know how this would come about, since her husband did not ever
consent to take her to get her endowments and have her sealed to him,
and the children sealed to them.
In 1852 they moved to Provo. Soon after locating in Provo, her
husband Joseph began talking of moving his family to the west coast and
going to sea. He wanted to take his oldest son, who was then 10 years old,
and teach him to be a sailor. This was a great trial to Lutitia.
She had come to Zion for
the Gospel's sake; she had suffered and endured so much. She could
hardly stand the thought of leaving the Saints again. Her husband
seemed determined, but "God moves in a mysterious way." Grandma and
her children were permitted to stay among the Saints, but she was
called to experience a very sad trial, that of losing her husband. He
was shot in bed beside her, soon after they had gone to bed, about 11:00
o'clock at night. Perhaps it would be of interest to learn of the
circumstances that would lead up to such an act.
"In the neighborhood lived a man by the name of Hicks, who was going
to move his family to California. There was one in his family who
did not want to go. She was keeping company with a young man who was a
Mormon. She desired to remain with him, even though her father would
not consent. Mr. Warthen was a kind, generous hearted man who owned
several teams and carriages, or operated a livery stable of sorts. All
who knew him felt free in asking a favor of him, so the young man came,
asking to borrow a horse and buggy, telling Joseph that he had no money,
but needed to go south to Nephi, to visit some relatives. Joseph
Warthen, favoring all men alike, would have gladly done the same and
more for anybody, as he never refused a favor to any man. Questioning
the young man no further, he loaned him the team and carriage, and the
young man and his sweetheart eloped that night.
Warthen knew nothing
of the family row, but the father of the girl, upon discovering the
next day that Joseph Warthen's carriage disappeared the same time as
his daughter, was convinced that Joseph had helped the young man in his
plan to elope. Mr. Hicks came to Joseph Warthen's home, and hot words
were exchanged, but Joseph invited him inside, saying they shouldn't
quarrel, but that he would help find the girl. From the time the man
entered the house until after he left, Joseph's wife Lutitia had cold
chills and a horrid feeling pass over her, "even to the extent that the
hand of the destroyer seemed present." She saw that the man looked
around and took note of the position and situation of everything in the
room before leaving, and he turned to Grandpa and said, "I will have
revenge for what you have done."
"It was a very small house, and all of the family, the parents and
five children, slept in one room. The children were Albert (10),
Brigham (6), Harriet (4), Mary Ann (3), and William (6 months). At night
they would spread quilts on the floor for the children to sleep on, close
to their own bed, and the baby William Joseph slept between them. Every
evening, before going to bed, they threw a log on the fire, as this
gave them both light and warmth. About eleven someone came to the window
and called Mr. Warthen. He raised on his elbow answering, "Hello,
come in, my friends," just as a shot was fired through the window. He
fell back in bed by the side of his wife and child.
The doctor lived
about twelve miles away. Grandma tried to get the hired man to go for
help, but he was so frightened and overcome that she had to go herself
for the doctor. Joseph Warthen lived three days after he was shot, but
he died 28 April 1852.
Evidence that Hicks was there was found, and he
was arrested and tried in Salt Lake City. The day after the murder, he
had been caught by a posse north of the point of the mountain, and his
horse was very tired and sweaty. However, his brother swore that Hicks
had been at his house in Salt Lake on the night of the murder, and had
been hurrying to return to Provo when he was caught, so Hicks was given
"Grandma sold her home and property, and her husband's business on
State Street in Provo, which was a butcher shop. She married again and
became the second wife of David Avery Curtis, August 28, 1852. They
lived in Springville and were in very humble circumstances when she
went into his family, so Grandma divided all her comforts with them,
being left a well-to-do widow. She was kind-hearted with her means and
of a very peaceful disposition. With the money from the businesses she
had sold, they bought a farm and built a four room log cabin, which was
considered a large house at that time. Lutitia had another daughter,
MARIA JANE CURTIS, 23 September 1853.
Grandfather Curtis married again
to a third wife, after which he was called on a mission to England.
"It was the spring of 1855 that he left on his mission. Grandma
was left with six children, three boys and three girls, the oldest being
twelve years old. This was the year that the grasshoppers were so
bad. She went with her children to help fight the hoppers off the
wheat. She helped them water and take care of the crops. Sometimes
she could hire help, sometimes she couldn't, because everyone was so
busy with their own farm. That year she sold everything about the
house, such as articles used at the shop, etc., in order to buy corn
and bread for her dear ones. Often did she say that the Lord was very
kind to her, for during these perilous times, during the grasshopper
period, her family had bread once a day, also plenty of milk, butter,
"On July 28th she put on a pair of boots, and although she was ill
(expecting a baby any time) she watered all night, because she could
get no help so it was up to her. The next day her second Curtis child
was born, a little girl who she named
PHOEBE ELIZABETH, born 29 July 1855.
When Grandma was again strong enough to resume her daily tasks,
she took her children and went in the field to glean wheat. There was
such a large family of wives and children that Grandma had to keep!
She often sat at the spinning all day from early until late. Three
years later, after her husband had returned from his mission, she gave
birth to a boy who was named after his father,
DAVID AVERY CURTIS, Jr., born 29 July 1858.
Her health broke down because of all her hard work,
and for two years she lay on her back very ill (apparently this was not
just a physical but a nervous breakdown also); but by the hand of
Providence her life was spared to raise her children.
"She had great faith in her Redeemer and was a faithful Latter-day
Saint. She had great faith in paying an honest tithing, right to the
cent. She also paid donations to help build each of the temples in
Utah, also took great pleasure in going to her meetings and assisting
in all good causes, and taught her children to do the same."
Remember Lutitia had been told in her blessing that she would be a
savior of her father's family? When she married David Avery Curtis,
they were sealed 28 August 1852, in the Endowment House in Salt Lake
(unfortunately, they later separated -- she felt that Mr. Curtis had
married her only because she was a well-to-do widow, and that he later
basically abandoned her and her children when she became ill). However,
the Lord healed her and she was blessed to do the temple work for
her parents; also her brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts
and cousins. She outlived them all, although she was the oldest of her
parents' children. Lutitia Shearer Warthen Curtis had 8 children, 50
grandchildren, 220 great-grandchildren, and over 500 great great
grandchildren at the time this was written. These are her own words taken
from a short sketch of her life, found in a box with other valuable papers:
"I have passed through many mobbings and persecutions and trials of
many kinds, but the Lord has sustained me and guided me through the
rough places. I have been sick, nigh unto death three times, but
by my faith and prayers and the power of the Lord and Priesthood,
my life was spared to raise my family and do the work of my father's
She passed away September 19, 1903, age 81, at the home of her
daughter Mary Ann Olive Warthen Davis Shuler, at Payson, Utah County, Utah.
She is buried in the Springville Cemetery, near her first husband,
Joseph Warthen, and their son William Joseph Warthen (1851-1880).
The first husband of their daughter Mary Ann, William W. Davis (1834-1869)
is also buried there.
"If we could partly understand the great trials our fathers and mothers
were called to pass through, it would help us to appreciate the
wonderful opportunities we have at present. It is through their
strength and bravery under the hand of God that we are surrounded by
the comforts of this life."
by Karen Bray Keeley
by Sandra S. Bray