Phoebe Agnew (1797-1847)

Phoebe Agnew was born 12 Feb 1797, daughter of William Agnew and Margaret Brant. It is unclear where she was born, the child before her was baptized in Acquackanonck, NJ in 1792, but the family probably had moved to Ohio by 1797; and younger brother William is known (from the 1860 census) to have been born in Ohio in 1805. Phoebe is my son-in-law’s 5th great-grandaunt.

Phoebe married William Watkins McKee (who is my son-in-law’s 1st cousin 7x removed) in 1815 in Butler County, OH, and they have at least two children. Phoebe does not join her brother and mother into the Shaker community; but they maintain mostly friendly relations (although they seem to disagree on the subject of religion), and exchange letters. Some of the letters have been preserved , starting in 1830(1). The first one is dated 3 Feb 1830, and is in answer to one Phoebe sent, dated 16 Nov 1829. Her mother and two of her brothers (Brant and Joseph) each write a piece. Mother Margaret writes after some preliminary complaints about Phoebe not writing enough:

Joseph Boggett (Margaret’s 2nd husband) and myself live at the village. We have established where Wm. McCane lived. Our buildings are principally of logs except one brick building for the purpose of a meeting house two stories high 35 by 45 feet with a cellar under the whole. We own the land across the creek to young Aron Atherton’s — and have erected a sawmill just below where John Armstrong once lived which has been in operation almost a year and does the best business of any mill of the kind in the county and have a grist mill up and inclosed at the same place, which will be in operation in about a month. After this short digression I will return to my subject. Joseph and Hannah have the care of the School Family convened where Joseph and I lived consisting of between 40 & 50 persons. Wm. Allen had the misfortune to lose his right hand by a round saw which went by horsepower for the purpose of sawing broom handles and is also living at the school where he has the care and schooling of the little boys. Brant has sold his farm and joined his brethern in buying another below the village where Benjamin Atherton used to live and is now living there. Sarah McKee is living with him. Sarah’s children have all left us. David and Sinah lives in Cincinnati where David supports his family principally by working by the day.  Anthony and Nancy live on their own farm as usual. Wm and his family has moved near Stanton, high up on the great Maumee where we understand he has made a small purchase. James has moved his family to (–ks or —ke) Creek and on account of some family disturbance are parted. John (McKee) has married his second wife and is living on Blue River. Phebe and Jacob Hummer is living on the farm of the (– Thos. –) on the ridge above the Sharps and Boalses. Riley (McKee) is running footloose through the country. These are all that come within my knowledge at present or that I have any correct information of and these from the last accounting were all well. Since writing the above we received yours of the 16th Nov last which gives general satisfaction and is the first since January 1827 altho we have written since that time less or more. We are glad to hear from you and that you are well and we will be more pleased to see you and will look anxiously for you according to your own stated times. Therefore we hope you will not dissappoint our expectations. So I will close this short epistle with my best love to you and your little ones in union with all your relations that are with us. Farewell.

From brother Brant, we learn that Phoebe had lived in New Madrid, MO before they moved to where they are now (which is not stated, but was near Memphis, TN). Brother Joseph only writes about religious matters, he really seems to have been the instigator of the family’s conversion to Shakerism.

These letters touch on so many things, and paint a great picture of the family and the times. All of the letters originate in Whitewater village, the answers from family members apparently have not survived. Did they make duplicates, or was one of the family members particularly careful? But they definitely show how important letters are, with no birth and death registrations, and incomplete church records,we would ever have gotten this far without these letters

(1) Many, many thanks to Jeff Blakley, who sent me transcripts of the letters in 2008. These letters clarified many of the convoluted relationships.

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