14 April 2011

Mains Family Research Opens doors to Friends

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber 
April 2011
Those of us that live in Eastern Kentucky have rich histories from all corners of the world.  My maternal line has wonderful Quaker heritage dotted with great stories including the Mains, McGrew and Ong families.

Today there are three Friends Meeting Houses in Kentucky: Berea, Louisville and Lexington.  Least you think Kentucky does not have Quaker heritage let me remind you that Daniel Boone was a Quaker.  Dear Myrtle addressed migration of Quakers into Kentucky in her advise column which is very informative.

As I sat down to scan my Mains family materials I realized that I have not reviewed these treasured documents in some time.  I descend from Culbert Mains who died in 1761 in York County, Pennsylvania by his son Robert Mains.  

I joined the NSDAR, in the state of New Jersey, under Robert Mains in 1979 [#635867].  Robert was a Pvt. 8th Class in the Cumberland County Militia 6th Battalion. Looking at the application I am flooded with memories.  Both the Regent, Rowena Robinson Billos, and Registrar, Esther Adalaide Gerald,  dear friends, are now deceased as is one of the ladies that endorsed my papers.  My sons called her the "Cookie lady."  Kathryn Burkley never failed to give my sons healthy oatmeal cookies and was honored to get the name. Her friendship brings back many memories. The final endorsement was by my now lifelong close friend Denise Plested.

It is not just researching and learning about your ancestors but about the journey and the people and friends you make along the way.  When I started looking at the Mains family I was quickly told to contact a distant cousin in Cambridge, Ohio.  Little did I know how that journey would play out.

Mary Bernice Johns did not just hand me the genealogy I was seeking.  She rather gave me a treasured scavenger hunt.  It was the early 1970's and we resided in New Jersey.  I would ask a question and in return receive little cards and messages with rhymes saying "If you look for - such and such book - you might find a clue."  With little children under tow I would seek out the valued item or publication and then write her once again excited with my find.   I especially enjoyed a one line note that said simply "You know you have a link to Ong's Hat."  What fun!  Of course we visited Ong's Hat.  

Blessed living within proximity of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, Swarthmore, Rutgers and many other resources I began to put together the proper lineage.

Little did I know that in just a few years our relationship would grow and our lives would touch each others.  In time our personal lives took us back to beloved Ohio where I realized I was just a few short miles from Mary Johns home.  I could not wait to meet this lady who seemed to be such a character.  I carefully followed directions to her home.  It was not hard to find.

Mary Bernice Johns lived in a two story pink house - solid pink - really pink and not hard to find.  I was greeted with "If you want anything I have you must wait til I die."  I assured her I came to see her and was a bit confused by that first greeting.  But something told me this meeting was good for both of us.  I told her I had saved every note she had mailed me.  She cackled loudly and said "I was afraid you would not write any more if I gave it all to you at once."  I quickly realized she was lonely and I looked forward to our friendship.

Mary Bernice Johns  never married and spent her life teaching in Cambridge, Ohio.  She was devoted to her only brother Llewellyn James Johns [1899-2002].  As I crossed the threshold I entered a world of large floral pink everything.  She proudly told me she had even designed the carpet that matched the pink floral drapes.  
She had extraordinary ideas.  Besides teaching she created and patented several glass paperweights.  

Mary was born 20 March 1902 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.  She was the daughter of John Arthur Johns and Armintha Brown.  Her recall was wonderful and we had many chats about ancestors and her genealogy adventures.  Our visits eventually included trips to the doctors and dentist as she struggled to stay independent.  Finally one day she called and said she had checked herself into the nursing home.  

Visits in the nursing home were short as she declined and a guardianship auction was arranged.  True to her character instructions were carried out by her brother's caregiver and her Power of Attorney.  The auctioneer called stating that when they moved the items for auction there were instructions for boxes of genealogy that I was to share with another cousin on the Brown side.  At that time I had no idea that these materials would include correspondence beginning in 1925 that would become instrumental in my continued research.

Besides the materials that were set aside for us, I attended the auction.    The following describes some of her beloved belongings  from the letter I wrote the Brown cousin the following day.  "...the teddy bear brought $900.00 as did the carpet in the living room.  The corner cabinet brought $2,700.00.  One piece that drew my attention was a ...chest...that the auctioneer described as about 1810 made in western PA.  ...enclosed are the tin types ...two brown envelopes are stock pictures...majority ...are marked as McKeesport or the area...there were over seven whale oil lamps...None sold for less than $200.00...The only piece that you may be disappointed that I did not purchase was a stock photograph of a stage and team with a sign across the stage stating Arkansas Transport.  There were four or five in the open stage and the driver.  the back said simply "J. A. Brown."...it sold for $65.00...I purchased some of her original art for the paperweights, a piece of copper luster creamer and...Among her original art work [paper weight] were notarized statements  that these were her original designs ...I will place them in the Cambridge Museum..." 

I was also contacted by the real estate agent that needed books and left over papers cleared from the house.  I am so thankful for that call for we retrieved even more family history and donated historical books to the school library where she had taught.

Mary Bernice Johns died 4 March 1994.  As my husband and I walked into the funeral we thought we were in the wrong place.  Only two gentleman were in attendance: her brother and his caregiver.  Llewelyn hugged and thanked me for being her friend.  We quietly waited and not one single person attended this woman's final good byes.  I had no idea that besides being a distant cousin that I truly was the only friend she seemed to have in the end.  No matter what her life had been with others she had been a good mentor to me in many ways.   She is buried in Mt. Vernon Cemetery, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Among the correspondents and materials are letters from Scott Lee Boyd author of The Boyd Family and Leota Huemme Koontz author of the Koontz Family And Relatives. Photographs included a circa 1930's view of Finley Mains home in Sewickley Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.  Comparing with 1979 photographs provided by a fellow researcher the house had weathered well.

 Not only did this portion of my life journey teach me about my Quaker Friends heritage I acquired many new friends.

Often I think we pursue our genealogy quest and correspond with many, even more so, with internet technology, without really taking the time to get to know the people sharing the information. Every person mentioned has left me with a lesson in life and I am a better person for knowing each of them.

Mary Bernice Johns, Armintha Brown Johns, Nancy Mains Brown , Jacob Mains, Finley Mains & wife Jane Watson, James Mains & wife Rebecca McGrew, Robert Mains, Culbert Mains.

Teresa Lynn Martin, Mary Helen Feyler Martin, Howard Clayton Feyler, Dessie Mae Clayton Feyler, Anna Jane Graham Clayton, Mary Jane Mains Graham, Finley Mains & wife Jane Watson, James Mains & wife Rebecca McGrew, Robert Mains, Culbert Mains.