Unlike many family associations that were established to coordinate reunions, the Blackburn Family Association was established with a much broader purpose in mind. With an eye toward preservation and restoration, the Association has pursued fundraising and grant-making in order to have a longer term impact on the communities where the Blackburns lived and worked. Because of that mission, the Association was granted 501(c)(3) status from the IRS, allowing all contributions to the Association to be tax deductible.
While the $15 membership fee covers the cost of publishing the quarterly newsletter, maintaining the database and doing an annual mailing, the organization depends on contributions above-and-beyond membership to pursue its work. The Patron Member level ($50) has provided a way for family members to give a little extra on an annual basis. The Association also pursues additional appeals for larger contributions for special projects from time-to-time, especially in conjunction with reunions.
Over the last 30 years, the Association has raised and given away more than $100,000. Some highlights over the years:
Menallen Friends Meeting – This small Quaker Meeting near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is now the caretaker of three historic meeting houses (each on the National Register) and five historic cemeteries. In 1986 the Association raised about $10,000 for the restoration and long-term protection of the old Menallen Friends (now known as Friends Grove) Burial Ground, the burial place of John Blackburn and his second wife, Rachel Morton. In 2012, the Association granted the organization $25,000 toward its efforts to raise over $500,000 for preservation work on the historic buildings. During the 2021 gathering at Menallen, a donation of $2,500 was given.
Spring Meadow Friends Burial Ground – This cemetery in Bedford County, Pennsylvania is the resting place for scores of Blackburn descendants. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, the Association provided about $15,000 in support for local historians who sought to restore and maintain this historic cemetery.
Money Burial Ground – This cemetery in County Armagh, Ireland, is the resting place of John and Elizabeth Blackburn and William and Elinor Morton, parents of immigrants John and Rachel (Morton) Blackburn. The Association worked directly with local historians to place a large historical marker at the entrance of the cemetery, recognizing our ancestors and other Quaker families buried in that cemetery.
Ballyhagan Friends Meeting – The Association worked with local historians in County Armagh, Ireland to place a permanent historical marker at the site of the original meeting house and school where the Blackburns were among the founding members. John Blackburn married here twice: 1701 to Mary Courtney and 1717 to Rachel Morton. Remnants of a building wall still remain at the site.
Arnold Cemetery – In 2018 the Association placed a monument in this cemetery in Chatham Township, Kent County, Ontario to mark the historic arrival, in 1796, of John and Mary (Mains) Blackburn. The couple moved there from western Pennsylvania and received tracts of land from the British Crown thanks to John’s service for the Crown in the Revolutionary War. The monument also lists the couple’s eight children, all of whom traveled with their parents to Canada at that time: Anthony; Joseph; Robert; William; James; Leonard; Isaac; and Rachel (m. Peter French).
Other projects have included local cemeteries and historical societies in Utah, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Iowa. The Association also made a significant donation to the Nevada Sesquicentennial Gold Discovery Committee in honor of Abner Blackburn (1827-1904) who is credited with the discovery of gold in that state.