Phebe King illustrates the difficulty of identifying women in history, when much of the historical record focuses on men. A Phebe King, aged twenty-three, married Nestor Woodworth in the Town of Covert, Seneca County, in 1849 and died in 1863, aged thirty-six. Nothing else is known of her, however. Since no other known signers came from Covert, this Phebe King remains a mystery.
A second Phebe King was listed in the 1850 census for Waterloo, however. She was fifty-six years old, born in Connecticut, head of a household that included two younger women--Julia Drake, aged thirty-six, who was also a signer of the Declaration of Sentiments, and Eliza Lawton, aged twenty-seven--as well as Eliza's six-year-old daughter Florena. Were these Phebe King's daughters and grand-daughter, or were they simply boarders? Her residence in Waterloo, home of many other signers, and the presence in her household of Julia Drake, another signer, make it likely that this Phebe King was indeed the one who attended the women's rights convention. She may also have been related to other King families in the local area.
A William H. King was a prominent and wealthy merchant in Seneca Falls, 58 years old in 1850, an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and a signer of the 1850 anti-slavery petition from Seneca Falls. No Phebe appeared in his household in the 1850 census, however.
Yet another King, John G. King, lived in Seneca Falls in the 1840s and 1850s but was not listed in the 1850 census. In 1854, Dun and Bradstreet gave him a glowing recommendation. "In bus. 15 yrs." read the report, "never failed. Gd. char. & habs.--caref. & prudt. educates his famy. well. Owns a ho & lot & is w $2 m." In 1857, the agent noted that King was "one of the most enterprising thriving mechanics in this part of the Co." His abolitionist sympathies were clear as clear as his business reputation: he was a charter member and trustee of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, where the women's rights convention met, and he attended the Free Soil convention in Buffalo in 1848.
The abolitionist connections of both of these men might suggest their connection with a supporter for the women's rights convention. Since William H. King was 58 years old in 1850, and John G. King was forty-two, neither of them could have been Phebe's sons. Were they in fact her brothers-in-law? Without further evidence, Phebe King's family and
community connections remain lost.
- Files of Betty Auten.
- 1850 census
- Dun and Bradstreet credit ratings
- Antislavery petition, May 7, 1850
- Presbyterian Church records, SF
- Grips, 44. [WesleyanChurch]
- SenecaCounty Courier, August 4, 1848.
-Judith Wellman, Historian
Historical New York