Blackwell Genealogy

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Overview of the English Blackwell Family and finding their way to North America.

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The more recent members of the Blackwell Family have long held certain views of the history of their family.  Primarily, they are correct in the facts that we have on the North American Blackwells of our family, but they have very little knowledge of the ancestral English Blackwells.  A prime example of this, and a considerable concern, is that belief that John Blackwell was the man who left England with his sons and came over to Canada and Minnesota.  The only part of this statement that is correct is the locations mentioned in North America.  When I ventured the thought of starting my own website based on an expansion of the Lois Twichell Blackwell memoirs, I noted that the Memoirs contained the information necessary to inform the reader that what had previously been believed, could not be correct.  In fact, I found that the Memoirs opened the door for a fresh look at the family.  Keeping in mind that the days of the internet was not upon us at the time, it is easy to see how our early search for our history could not be pressed for more information.  With this in mind, my quest started.  I eventually put out a few pages on the web, and some family members contacted me.  I also began to find out more information about our history in England.  It now seemed clear that the long held view of John Blackwell of England as the man who moved our Family from Gloucester to North America was a false statement.  It was the main goal of the website to find the facts before any worthy website could be produced or even be expanded upon.

The Memoirs listed the Father-in-Law of Lois Twichell as George Blackwell (10.2) and her husband was George Blackwell (Jr) (10.2.4)  It was Lois's Father -in-Law that moved the family out of England.  More then once did the reference to Lois's Father-in-law come up, and the name George was used, not John.   After much research, I did find an obituary notice that referred to him as John Blackwell, while all other obits referred to him as George.  This was very strange as his tombstone (sighted) has him listed as George.  Back in England in 1851 when the Census was taken, it also listed him as George.  Then, the deeds, and citizenship papers for his entry into the United States showed him as George.  He sighed his own name as George Blackwell.  Obviously, the name John Blackwell was an error, however, it was a legitimate error.  As it turns out, the people who called him John did so only a few short years after his obituary was reprinted in a Newspaper's promotion many years later.  Unfortunately, of all the obituary notices, they happened to reprint the one with the incorrect information.  This was in the year 1927, and in 1935 we find a letter from Lucy Keller stating some information that does not appear to be accurate.  Firstly, she states the John Jr., George and Henry came over together.  In fact, Henry was in England until the following year as he is listed in the 1851 Census as 11 years of age.  It also refers to the father as John Sr. who came over to Canada with the two sons as mentioned.  In fact, the father was also in England during the Census.  In actual fact, he went to New York with young Henry after leaving England later that year after the Census, and shortly after arriving, he left Henry in New York while he went to join his two sons, John and George Jr. in Canada.  Lucy mentioned that they all went to Minnesota in 1857.  This is correct.  As a matter of interest, Lucy was the Librarian in Grand Marais.  The Library was a popular place in those days to start on your family research.  I am not suggesting that Lucy Keller started the errors in our genealogy.  I am suggesting that she was as much of a victim of the wrong information as we where when the website started.  Lucy's letter has provided good information for us.  This is how the error occurred, I believe.

Recap the Newspaper Error
One newspaper celebrated 50 years of production and ran some copies of the paper from one issue released 50 years earlier.  This promotion took place in 1927.  It so happened that the improper obituary of John Blackwell (should have been George Blackwell) was posted in this 50 year old reprint of the original 1877 issue. (The Year of George's Death)  The next thing we see is an ancestor's comment in 1935 about John Blackwell.  I can only assume they got this information from local sources, using the reprinted newspaper from 50 years ago as their source.  Had they walked into VanLoon Cemetery in Holmes City, MN., they would have found his tombstone that read, George Blackwell.  However, they did not have that information.  The dates on the Tombstone match exactly with those in the 1851 Census.  There is more then one obituary printed for George Blackwell, but only one called him John, and unfortunately, it was the one that was reprinted.  The family picked up on this a few years later and took it as fact.  This is my only explanation as no other sources refer him as John Blackwell.  Further searches show Parish registers in England also refer to him as George Blackwell.  It should be noted that the father of the first George Blackwell was named John Blackwell. (1775)  This also could be a point of confusion when the incorrect obituary was being printed.  Another possibility, and far more likely, is that John Blackwell (10.2.3) the son of George Blackwell (10.2) had died just two years earlier.  Possibly the writer used his name in error rather than that of the recently deceased father.  In any event, once the website started, the truth came through the efforts of research by the webmaster, a couple of John Blackwell's (10.2.3) descendants, and the Lois Clarinda Blackwell - nee Twichell, Memoirs.  Now, the website could move on.

When the discovery of George Blackwell in England with a wife by the name of Mary Barradell came to our attention, along with a list of the children, we immediately noticed two important facts that were missing.  These facts are that John Blackwell (10.2.3) and George Blackwell (Jr) (10.2.4) are not listed in the 1851 Census.  The reason is because they left in either 1849 or 1850 for Canada and landed in Montreal.  (Confirmed by Memoirs and Family Letters)  The 1851 Gloucester Census was taken early that year, so almost immediately after, George Blackwell (Sr) (10.2) and his younger son, Henry (10.2.5) left for America and arrived in New York.  George Sr. did not stay in New York long.  He headed for Canada to join his two sons (who arrived earlier) in Montreal.  Henry remained in New York until 1854 when he finally came to Canada.  At that time they all headed for Ontario and purchased timber land.  Following this, they all decided to go to Minnesota.  We thought they all left at once, but a letter written by Lucy Keller indicates that John (10.2.3) and brother George (Jr) (10.2.4) took a steamboat part of the way and then walked the balance.  (View this letter)  In any event, they all ended up in Minnesota in 1857. 
Another important point that I am guessing at is the possibility of a related Blackwell Family in New York prior to the emigration of our Blackwell Family.  I say this because I note that when George Sr. and young Henry landed in New York, Henry would only have been 11 years old.  I can't see his father leaving him on his own at that age.  Therefore, there must have been some family present that took him in.  Another possibility is that Henry was put into a boarding school.  In any event, the possibility of more family in New York at that time leads to another direction of research. 

In is now 1857 and we see the father, George Blackwell (10.2) and the two sons, John (10.2.3) and Henry (10.2.5) buying land.  We think young George (10.2.4) also bought land in Minnesota but we do know he had land in Ontario that he sold but had not been able to get his money for the land.  Eventually, he had to take it back.  This, we are told in the Memoirs, is why he returned to Canada in 1864, a year after he married Lois Twichell in Anoka, MN. (1863)  It has been suggested by Lois that some thought he went back to Canada to escape fighting in the Civil War.  This is false.  The reason he went back to Canada was to try to get his money, and save his land.  Besides, he was a loyal Englishman, and was not an American Citizen.  Canada was his country of choice.  In any event, in 1864, George Blackwell, and Lois Twichell moved to Canada permanently.  They only returned to the United States for visits.  George Blackwell (10.2.4) never became an American Citizen, the only child to make that choice.

To Confirm the above information, read Compendium of Northern Minnesota re: Henry Blackwell and you will see the story as spoken by Henry.

During all of this activity of coming to the New World and building a new life in America, was at the expense of a lot of loneliness and heartbreak.  George Blackwell (Sr) (10.2) had left his wife in England with their eldest daughter, Elizabeth and next eldest daughter, Sophia.  William (James W. Blackwell) also remained in England as he was only 6 years of age in 1851.  Mary Barradell, the wife of George (Sr) (10.2) became quite ill and was not able to make the voyage to America.  The family were all going to come over to America earlier but the Indian Uprising put a stop to this plan.  With the uprising over, Mary was so ill that a trip across the ocean would have been unbearable for her.  Conditions on some of the old ships were deplorable, and many did not survive the trip.  However, Mary died in November of 1864 and about a year later, Elizabeth also passed away.  That left Sophia, and William in England.  They came out to Minnesota after George (Jr) (10.2.4) and Lois went to Canada (1864) so they did not get to see them.  Sophia arrived in Minnesota and married Mr. George W. Frost, a civil war veteran that was one of the men that captured Jefferson Davis.  William, who came with Sophia, started using the name James W. Blackwell upon his arrival to Minnesota.  He eventually married a woman by the name of Emma Hill who was previously married to Stephen VanLoon who died in Pocket Lake by drowning.  Married in Alexandria, MN., Emma and James eventually moved to Washington State.  William died there in 1917.  John (10.2.3) married Mary Jane McGannon, and resided in Ripley, now Litchfield, MN.  Henry, (10.2.5) became a prominent citizen in Douglas County, and was the first surveyor for the Government of the time.  Blackwell Lake is named after the Blackwell Family of George and Henry Blackwell.  However, it was likely named after Henry Blackwell (10.2.5) for his survey work.

The website is based on the children of George Blackwell (Sr) (10.2)  That is why it was so critical to be sure that our Blackwell that led us from England was identified correctly.  Once done, we knew the rest of the family could be confirmed.   The website has linked the family members that joined through marriage as well.  They also offered an abundance of information as well as a wonderful history.  Some of these names are Twichell / Twitchell; Seaver; McGannon; Downing; VanLoon, and Mackenzie.  In later years, names like Switzer, Byford, King, Larkey and Wright have joined in the family history.  This, of course, only represents a few of the surnames we find in the website.


To read about those past days, you can view the words of Henry Blackwell in the Compendium of Northern Minnesota - Click Here  To read the Memoirs of Lois Twichell - Blackwell, Click Here.  (Interesting History for anyone who had family in early Minnesota)  The Memoirs have their own Surname Page.  To view this Memoir Surname Page - Click Here  They were written by Lois for her family to maintain knowledge of their history.  It was her wish.  I have tried to fulfil that wish by reprinting the Memoirs exactly as written.  I did add some photos to make it more interesting.  It is not a masterpiece, but rather a true representation of the people of that time who have been called "The Greatest Generation".  I concur.

Have a look at the tombstone of George Blackwell who came from England, was married to Mary Barradell and had two daughters, Elizabeth, and Sophia and four sons, - John, George Jr., Henry and William (adopted)  The Tombstone of George Blackwell Sr. (10.2) is in VanLoon Cemetery near Holmes City, MN.  as are the Tombstones of Henry Blackwell and his wife, Amanda VanLoon; Sophia Blackwell and her husband George Frost, and numerous other Blackwells and VanLoons as well as other related family members.  Douglas County, and in particularly, Holmes City was the centre of our Blackwell Family at that time.  John Blackwell married Mary Jane McGannon and he is buried in Litchfield, MN.

The Inscription on his Tombstone says

In Memory of our loving father
George Blackwell
Died Mar 1, 1877 - Age 76 Years 2Mos.

Click to Enlarge


View the Incorrect Obituary Notice for the death of George Blackwell 10.2
The Alexandria Post, Alexandria, Douglas County, Minnesota
Friday, March 16, 1877, page 4, col. 4
BLACKWELL - On the second of March, at the residence of his son Henry, in Holmes City, John W. Blackwell, at a very advanced age.  The deceased was a most estimable citizen and one of the earliest settlers in the country.  Funeral services by Rev. Wm. M. Wells.

Transcribed from microfilm copy of newspaper at Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN.   (See Below)

Important Information about the Incorrect Obituary of George Blackwell 10.2
He died on March 1, not March 2.  His name was George, not John.
It is true he died at the home of Henry Blackwell, his son.  The reason for this is
simply he continually lived with Henry and Amanda since he arrived in Minnesota
so in fact, he died at home.  The Newspaper made a series of errors in this report.

                CHELTENHAM 1851 CENSUS
NAME                        Age    Occupation.       Birth Place
George Blackwell        51      GARDNER         BRIMSFIELD     
Mary                         53      MILLINER         WITHINGTON    
Elizabeth                   24      MILLINER         BROCKWORTH   
Sophia                      22      MILLINER         BADGWORTH    
Henry                        11     SCHOLAR          LECKHAMPTON    
William                       6      SCHOLAR         CHARLTON KINGS  

Missing in the Census is John - age 17 and George Jr.- age 15    They left for Canada one year before the Census. 

It is strongly suggested that Blackwells and Relatives take the time to read the Lois Twichell Memoirs and then review the website in general.  Even those who are not Blackwells or related families, will get a lot of good information from the Memoirs.  They offer an excellent first hand view of what life was like in the early days of Minnesota.    View Memoirs

The Next Step
The next step in the Blackwell Genealogy is to go back into the era prior to John Blackwell of 1775.  John married Hannah Cook in Cowley, Gloucester, England in 1800.  That is all we know at this time.  They are the parents of George Blackwell of 1801, the man responsible for our Blackwells finding their way to Canada and the United States.  We have recently learned that the Blackwell Family prior to John and Hannah are possibly John Blackwell and Jane Brown.  We are looking at this seriously but can not confirm anything at this time. (Mar 2007)  We want to expand the website back and beyond John of 1775.  This will be Phase 2 of our website.  We have started a simple page showing the next step.  View 
Click Here

Ron Blackwell
 ( Great Grandson of George Blackwell and Lois Clarinda Twichell     
Contact Me

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