Robert Shearer, of Paola, began his life in Kansas, fifty-six years ago, when eighteen years of age, and in that more than half century he has helped as a pioneer settler, a soldier, a man of business interests and a minister of the Gospel, to make its history and to assist in its rapid commercial growth and its progress toward ideal, moral and civic conditions. He was born Sept. 23, 1837, in Franklin county, New York, a son of Caleb Shearer, who was a native of Ireland, born in 1811. The family is of English descent. Captain Shearer, the paternal grandfather of our subject, was a British army officer and fought in the battle of Waterloo. He was given a grant of 200 acres of land near Cork, Ireland, but being ambitious to try his fortunes in the New World, he immigrated to America and settled in the State of New York. Robert Shearer's mother, who was a Miss Ann Moore prior to her marriage to Caleb Shearer, was born in Ireland, of Scotch-Irish descent, and was a devout Christian woman, and a member of the Methodist Episcopal church. These parents were blessed with eight childrenfour sons and four daughters. The family came to Kansas in 1855, settling in what is now Miami county, and were among the earliest pioneers of the state. The father took an active part in the early political affairs of Kansas and was a member of the state militia during the Civil war. After a useful and busy career he passed away in 1872, and the mother also entered into rest the same year. Reverend Shearer was reared to the age of seventeen in Illinois, and received his education in the excellent schools of Freeport, and at Cherry Valley. In 1855 he accompanied his parents to Kansas, where he entered into agricultural pursuits with his father. In the following year of 1856 he joined John Brown's forces at Osawatomie, consisting of thirty-five men, with which he took part in the engagements of Black Jack, Middle Creek and Osawatomie, and was identified with all of Brown's operations until the latter's departure for Virginia. During one of the border fights our subject received a buckshot wound in the forehead. He was well acquainted with John Brown, under whom he received his military discipline, serving as a corporal under him and being later offered a commission as colonel in a Virginia regiment, if he would go South. At a later time Rev. Mr. Shearer preached the funeral sermon of one of the men who had escaped from Harper's Ferry and came to Kansas, locating at Paola, where his death occurred. In 1859 Mr. Shearer was united in marriage to Miss Maggie Downen; a daughter of Job and Alabama (Williams) Downen. Mr. Downen was a native of Illinois, and died in De Witt county, deeply mourned as a highly respected and valued citizen of that county. Mrs. Downen was a native of Kentucky, and after her husband's death remarried and came to Kansas in 1855. Mrs. Shearer was born in De Witt county, Illinois, Sept. 23, 1840, where she was reared and educated. After his marriage Mr. Shearer went to Pike's Peak and was for a short time employed in the gold mines there but returned home the same year, and located on a farm in Stanton township, Miami county, becoming a pioneer settler in a locality in which the surrounding country, at that time, was wild and unimproved, retaining the appearance of primeval nature. At the outbreak of the Civil war in 1861, he raised a company of state militia, of which he was made first lieutenant, the company being known as the Stanton Guards and attached to Colonel Colton's regiment. He participated in the engagement at Morristown, Mo., and remained with his company until 1863, when he was mustered out. He immediately reënlisted and was actively engaged in the numerous sharp encounters of the border warfare between Missouri and Kansas, for five months. Mr. Shearer knew Quantrill personally and upon one occasion, when visiting Stanton on business, he found Quantrill, when about to fall into the hands of Captain Snider and four men who had their guns leveled at him, determined to kill. By dexterous movements Mr. Shearer threw up their guns and placing himself between Quantrill and the five men, hurried Quantrill into the store. Once safely inside Quantrill ascended the ladder to the upper floor and Mr. Shearer followed with a cocked pistol in his hand stating that he would shoot the first man who dared to put his head above the opening. He finally succeeded in putting Quantrill safely into the hands of the sheriff of Miami county, who took him to the jail at Paola, where he was kept until the following day, when he was released.
After five months' service on the border Mr. Shearer reënlisted in Company I, Sixteenth Kansas cavalry, and was made an orderly sergeant, serving with his company until mustered out on July 24, 1865. He participated in the engagements at Camden and Westport, Mo., and later was sent to Nashville, Tenn., where he fought under General Thomas in the battle against the forces of Hood. He was then sent back to Fort Leavenworth and from there to New Mexico. With his regiment he was engaged in a fight with the Indians at Salt Bottom, near Cimarron Bottom on the Arkansas river, and in a second fight with them at Pawnee Rock, where Mr. Shearer found his scalp in great danger, but fortunately escaped. Their third engagement with the Indians occurred at Little Rock and not long afterward the regiment was mustered out at Fort Leavenworth. In that day the buffalo still roamed the plains and Mr. Shearer has had many exciting experiences while hunting them. Returning from the war, he settled on his farm in Miami county, where he remained until his removal to Paola, in 1910.
In 1868 Mr. Shearer became a convert and a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, and six years later became an ordained minister of that denomination. He served twenty-three years as pastor of a church in Richland township, Miami county, and for ten years was in charge of a church in Rantoul. There is no profession or occupation affording a wider field for usefulness than the ministry, and Reverend Shearer's earnest labors in behalf of the church and his influence in the community have ever been a potent element for good.
Through splendid business ability he has enjoyed financial prosperity and owns over a thousand acres of land besides much other town and city property. He was elected president of the Miami Mutual Insurance Company upon its organization in 1910, and still retains that position.
To' Mr. and Mrs. Shearer have been born seven children: Lillie Ann, who married Elijah Freeman; Minnie, the wife of Joseph Price; Elmer; Harrison; Miles (deceased); Robert and Otis. All were the recipients of good educational advantages and both daughters were teachers prior to their marriage.
Reverend Shearer was a member of the board of education seventeen years and has always lent his influence toward securing greater efficency in the public schools. Politically, he is a strong Republican but has never sought official preferment. He is a member and was one of the organizers of the Anti-Horse Thief Association and took an active part in running down the criminals which infested the country in an early day. He is also a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen and of the Grand Army of the Republic, and is the chaplain of McCaslin Post, No. 143.
Reverend Shearer was essentially a frontiersman and stands today a link between the old Kansas and the new. Associated with the business, social and religious life of his community for over half a century, he is well known to the citizens of Miami county, and of that section of the state, where his public acts, his interest in affairs, his deeds of charity and religious teachings, and his loyalty as a soldier have made him a citizen honored and esteemed by all who know him. He takes just pride in comparing Kansas of today with the Kansas of frontier days, and Kansas will ever honor these strong pioneer characters for their part in making possible and in building this great commonwealth.Pages 163-165 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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