The dozens of Reeds, Blackmers, and Pennells represented in this collection are too numerous to get specific mention. All three families had been early settlers of Richmond, in Ontario County, New York. The Reed patriarch, Wheeler, was born in Vermont in 1788, and moved with his brothers and father Phillip to Ontario County in 1795. Wheeler had four children by his first wife and fifteen by his second wife, Hannah Risdon Reed (1798-1877), whom he married about 1817. Although fellow settlers John Pennell and Levi Blackmer may not have been quite so prolific in their production of offspring, by the mid-19th century there was a boggling number of blood and marriage relations among the families.
Many of Wheeler Reed's children appear as correspondents. Lizzie Reed was a student in Canandaigua, and probably continued to live in New York after marrying a man named Chambers. Dudley Reed was married to Anna Short by 1852 and they probably remained in Ontario County. They were the exceptions, however, for many of the siblings moved westward. Several settled in Lenawee County, Michigan, in the 1850s. Anna Short Reed's brother, Orren L. Short, and his wife Sarah, Samuel P. Reed and his wife Rhoda, Byron Reed, George Reed, and Warren and Fitch (who might have been Reeds), all farmed in the county. The most prominent was Marshall Reed (1833-1891), who settled in Rome, Michigan in 1854, and moved to a farm in Cambridge, Michigan in 1866. He married Julia A. Barrus in 1855, and together they had three children. Marshall held several important local offices, including Justice of the Peace, and was elected to the State Legislature as a Republican in 1874.
Although the precise connection has not been unraveled, the Pennell family was related to the Reeds, and they followed a similar westward trajectory. George W. Pennell worked at a logging camp on the Black River in Wisconsin before settling down as a lumber man in Atchison, Kansas, with his wife Millie. By 1852, Delia Pennell Bartlett was living on the outskirts of Chicago with her husband John and child Cyrus. Wesley Pennell and his wife Celia, who might have been a Reed, were living in Grand Rapids, Michigan by the 1880s, with their children Hattie and Wettie. Wesley's sister Harriet Pennell, who remained in New York, is in some ways the focal point of this collection. She was the recipient of much of the correspondence, and through her marriage to Myron Blackmer on September 14, 1854, she linked the two families.
Harriet and Myron Blackmer had several children -- Frank P., John B., Carl, Bess S., Hattie, and twins, Tom and George. Frank drove a herd of sheep from Texas to San Diego in 1880, but ended up farming back home. Carl went to school briefly in Rochester and then returned to help on his father's farm, where he died while still a young man. John went to Kansas in 1881, where he worked as a sheep rancher, a book agent, and a walnut logger, before filing a claim in the Cherokee Strip in 1893. Their sister Bess Blackmer went to Ohio-Wesleyan University as a "senior prep" (1884-86) and married Spencer Sisson in 1889.