Family Stories

Bible with Mrs. & Mrs. Charles E. Pharis Printed on Front

My neighbor has introduced me to several auction sites in Michigan.  On one I have found several old books, but the most interesting find to date is that of an old bible.

This bible is large, 11”x7”x3.5”.  It weighs 6 pounds.  The front cover of the bible is very worn, in fact, it is almost broken away from the rest of the book.  The name – The Holy Bible Complete and How to Understand It is written in gold lettering – as well as the name of its owner – Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Pharis!

On the inside flap is written in black ink, then covered over in blue marker – property of Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Blackmer, 3200 N. Center Road, Flint, purchased on September 18, 1940.  The title page gives us the complete name – Hitchcock’s New and Complete Analysis of the Holy Bible, revised and edited by Rev. Roswell D. Hitchcock, D.D., published by A. J. Johnson, 11 Great Jones Street (near Broadway), New York, and the publish date of 1872.

Of the births listed in the bible, these are the three oldest:

Charles E. Pharis – January 23, 1817

Cynthia Ann Carpenter – November 17, 1826

Caroline Frances Stewart – April 24, 1830

Naturally I started my search with Charles E. Pharis.  Even though the bible was published in New York I thought I would find Charles Pharis in Michigan.  But no, that was not to be.  Charles Pharis was born January 23, 1817, in New York County, New York.  He was the son of Isaac Pharis, 1796-1845, and Lavina Root, 1799-1879. 

Page 1040 of Onondaga’s centennial: gleanings of a century.  Vol. II.  Chapter XLVII.  The town of Geedes, 1896:

‘Isaac Pharis came to Geddes in 1811 while young and afterwards married Lavina Root.  He subsequently bought a lot on Emerson Avenue (formerly Orchard Street), and spent his life there.  He died July 14, 1845, aged forty-nine years.  His sons were Charles E., Isaac R., Mills P. and Sheldon P.  The first three of these have been prominent in the history of Geddes.  Mills P. Pharis, who still lives there, was connected with the salt industry nearly forty years, during nineteen of which he was in the state employ as an inspector.  He manufactured quite largely and built blocks.  I. R. Pharis was also prominently identified with the industry and was a man of ability.  He died in October, 1889.  Charles E. was also in the salt business and one of the leading men in the American Dairy Salt Company.  He died September 13, 1877, aged fifty-eight.  Sheldon P. was engaged in boating a few years, when he went to California.

‘The Root family, into which Isaac Pharis married, had an eventful experience.  The father, with his family, started for the Western Reserve from Connecticut in 1810 with an ox team.  Reaching Buffalo, an acquaintance induced them to hire a farm and remain there.  Two years later, when the British came across and sacked Buffalo, the family fled to Batavia and Mr. Root soon returned to Connecticut.  He afterwards went west to the Reserve, but his sons, Jesse, Erastus, and daughters, Nancy, Lavina (who married Isaac Pharis), Sally and Maria settled at Geddes.’

Now that we have a background for the Pharis family, let’s see what the paper trail tells us.  Isaac and Lavina’s four sons are listed in the above history of Onondaga County, but they also had two daughters, Sarah and Mary.  In the 1840 Census of Onondaga County, we find Isaac Pharis listed as head of household with the following members enumerated by age – males:  2 (aged 10-15), 1 (aged 15-20), 1 (aged 20-30) and 1 (aged 40-50); females 2 (aged 5-10) and 1 (aged 40-50).  This gives an exact picture of the family unit.

January 30, 1849, Charles Pharis married Cynthia Ann Carpenter.  Their happiness was short lived.  Cynthia died May 30, 1850.  Could she have died in childbirth – as well as the baby?  Or perhaps another illness took her away at such a young age.

In the 1850 census of Geddes, Onondaga County, New York, we find Charles Pharis living alone, aged 31, a salt inspector, born in New York.  His mother and siblings lived next door (remember father Isaac died in 1845).

  • Pharis, Lavina, 51
  • Pharis, Mills, 24, salt manufacturer
  • Pharis, Sheldon, 22, salt manufacturer
  • Farrar, E. H., 23, potter
  • Pharis, Sarah, 20
  • Pharis, Mary, 17
  • Miller, N. J., 22, salt box manufacturer

In 1855 New York state took a census.  In one household were Charles, 36, saltmaker; Lavina, 56, born in  Connecticut, his mother; Sarah Farrar, 24, sister, married; Mary Pharis, 21, sister, music teacher; and Sara L. Farrar, 4, niece.

April 14, 1859, Charles married Caroline Frances Stewart.  In the 1860 census the couple were living in Geddes, Onondaga County.  Charles was 41, Caroline was 30.  They have a daughter, listed as infant, who was three months old (Addie Maria).  Charles’ mother, Lavina, also lived in the household.

I could not find Charles and his family in the 1870 census.  But I did find Charles Pharis was one of 36 trustees for the College of Missionaries in Syracuse, dated August 2, 1871. 

In the 1874 Directory for Syracuse, New York, we find:

  • Pharis, Charles E., salt manufacturer, home on Orchard, near 3rd North, Geddes
  • Pharis, Charles F., bookkeeper, Blast Furnace, boards Orchard, corner of 2nd North, Geddes
  • Pharis, Charles S., shipping clerk, Blast Furnace, boards Orchard, corner of 2nd North, Geddes
  • Pharis, Isaac R., salt manufacturer, home Orchard, corner of 2nd North, Geddes
  • Pharis, Lavina, widow of Isaac, home 2nd North, corner of Pharis St., Geddes
  • Pharis, Mills P., salt manufacturer, Chestnut, corner of School, Geddes

The two extra Charles are probably nephews, possibly a great-nephew to Charles E.

Charles died September 13, 1877.  He was buried in Myrtle Hill Cemetery in Onondaga County, Block 2, Section 33, Grave 5.  Most of the family seems to be buried in the general area of a large gravestone that lists names and dates for each.  As I have not visited this cemetery I have no photographs, but will share information in pictures taken by others. 

Side of gravestone marked S. P. Pharis at bottom:

  • Isaac Pharis, died July 11, 1845, aged 48 years
  • Lavina Pharis, his wife, died August 24, 1879, aged 80 years and 5 months
  • Sheldon P. Pharis, died March 1, 1884, aged 55 years and 11 months
  • Sarah Pharis Farrar, died May 6, 1886, aged 55 years

Side of gravestone marked C. E. Pharis at bottom:

  • Charles E. Pharis, died September 13, 1877, aged 58 years and 8 months
  • Cynthia A., wife of C. E. Pharis, died May 30, 1850, aged 28 years, 6 months
  • Caroline F. Stewart, his wife, 1830-1895
  • Addie M., daughter, 1860-1923

Side of gravestone marked I. R. Pharis:

  • Isaac R. Pharis, died October 7, 1889, aged 66 years and 4 months
  • Susan Case, his wife, 1828-1913

Side of gravestone marked M. P. Pharis:

  • Mills P. Pharis, died March 2, 1892, aged 66 years and 3 months
  • Ada D., wife of M. P. Pharis, died April 11, 1863, aged 33 years and 6 months
  • Eliza A. Webb, his wife, 1834-1926
  • Leroy Mills Pharis, 1857-1934
  • Mott Root Pharis, 1863-1927
  • Ida J. Pharis, 1866-1948

It would be interesting to know when this gravestone was purchased.  If you notice, there are very few birth dates for any of the older generations of this family. 

But even with all this information it doesn’t explain how this bible made it from New York to Michigan.  With a little more digging I found Charles and Caroline’s two children, Herbert Charles and Adeline Maria both moved to Michigan. 

The marriage license from Saginaw for Herbert reads as follows:  ‘January 10, 1894, Herbert C. Pharis, 24, residence Silver Springs, NY, a druggist, son of Charles E. Pharis and Caroline F. Stewart; married Ida Mae Hollister, 22, residence Saginaw, Michigan, daughter of Fred Hollister and Libbie Madison, were married in Saginaw by C. E. Bronson, Minister, witnesses Mar H. Purmost and John Tennant, both of Saginaw.’

His Michigan death certificate gives date of death as February 26, 1922, in Flint.  Herbert was a real estate agent.  His parents, Charles and Caroline, with birthplace of New York are listed on the death certificate.  He was buried in Grace Lawn Cemetery in Flint.

Herbert and Ida Mae had four children – Harry L., Adeline E., Stuart Holister and Dorothy M.  Since the name in the bible is Blackmer, I would suppose it would have to be a daughter that purchased it.  I know that daughter Adeline moved to Hennepin, Minnesota.  She married Bruce Martin.  Herbert died in 1922; Ida Mae lived another 18 years, passing away September 9, 1940 – in Minnesota.  If you remember the note on the inside flap says the bible was purchased by the Blackmer’s September 18, 1940.  Would this have been sold at her mother’s sale?  It is all very confusing.  To add to the confusion, Adeline Pharis Martin, who lived in Minnesota, died two months after her mother.

Births listed in the bible for the Blackmer family:

Carl A. Blackmer – September 2, 1899

Mildred H. Blackmer – October 2, 1897

Dorothy A. Blackmer – July 8, 1932

Robert S. Corum – July 10, 1924

Eileen Fay Blackmer – May 20, 1930

Sister – Emma Mae Blackmer Nagel, born January 21, 1891, Newago County, Minnesota, died March 1963, Ann Arbor

Brother – David Allen Blackmer, May 30, 1895

I could find nothing that would help in our search for the Blackmer family who purchased this bible.  I do find it interesting that the above Emma Mae Blackmer Nagel, who was born in 1891 in Minnesota, died in 1963 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  There must be a connection.  Do you know anything about this family and how the Pharis bible came to the possession of the Blackmer family?

5 replies »

  1. Never assume readers know what state you are talking about:
    Page 1040 of Onondaga’s centennial: gleanings of a century. Vol. II. Chapter XLVII. The town of Geedes, 1896
    Michigan or New York?

    • Good point, but I would have thought from the previous paragraph, and reference to New York, it would have been understood at that date and time, since son Charles was born in New York, that readers would have thought New York, rather than Michigan, at that point in the post. But I will take note for future reference.

  2. I know who Charles E Pharis was and the image of this Bible was posted on FamilySearch where it made me jump – how exciting! Charles’ younger brother Mills Pharis was my kin five generations back: my grandmother’s grandfather. The idea that family history is out there floating around at auction is both understandable and saddening to someone like me who collects and curates.

    I can fill in why you can’t find Charles in the 1870 census: he suffered from mental illness and was institutionalized at New York’s Lunatic Asylum in Utica at the time. He died by suicide there in 1877. I have more information about Charles E, his siblings and their time in Geddes NY if anyone’s interested.

      • I’ve been thinking about your offer more than my delayed response indicates. Family bibles are a tricky thing because they’re so dang unwieldy. The only parts that have any historical relevance are the pages with family information on them, but since Charles E isn’t in my line I’m trying to separate myself from my “obligation” to preserve it: a person can/should only have so many boxes of family history stacked in the living room, and I’m afraid I’ve got my hands full with all the stuff I’ve inherited from the Mills Pharis line. I do have a couple of salt-glazed ceramics that Charles produced during his short tenure as a potter in Geddes NY, so I think the Bible is too much for me.

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