As a Bearss descendant, I was concerned about the controversy around the Indian ancestry of the Bearss descendants. Reading what is available, it seems that all these accounts stem are descendants of a manuscript written by Franklin BeArce sometime after 1930. This document has kindly been posted on the world wide web, and can be examined by anyone interested.
In order to make up my own mind on the matter, I thought to research what part of it I could, to gauge the accuracy of the author. I chose a portion that I thought was least controversial and most easily checked; the ancestry of Franklin's maternal grandfather, James Blaine, for whom he claims no Indian ancestry.
Also, numerous sources exist regarding the fascinating life of James Gillespie Blaine, and so I thought, I could at least test his reliability against the historical facts:
I. According to BeArce:
"My grandfather James G. Blaine, was a first cousin of Games G. Blaine, American diplomat, and Sec of State and one time canidate for President of this commonwealth; There (Their ?) fathers were brothers, and they were both named after their Grandfather, James Gillispe Blaine. "
"From out of the Past" by Frankin BeArce (unpublished)
The historical record:
Bearce's great grandfather John Blain was a half-brother to Ephraim Lyon Blain, (the father of James Gillespie Blain). Since it was Ephraim Blain who m. Maria Gillespie, neither the grandfather, the great grandfather, nor the great great grandfather (James Blain) of Franklin BeArce carried the name Gillespie. Still, he was related to the politician and statesman James G. Blaine, known as "The Plumed Knight". This is a minor mistake, I think,truthful, just a little inaccurate. But good reason to always check things yourself!
(Incidentally the United States are not a commonwealth! It is a republic.)
1. Biography of James G. Blaine (Norwich, Conn., 1895) by Mary Abigail Dodge
2."American Statesmen Series," James G. Blaine (Boston, 1905) by CE Stanwood
II. According to BeArce:
"My grandfather Blain was a studious man and a scholar; He was a slave owener at Preston,N.Carolina, and built wagons and gun carriages for the Confederate Govt, during the cival War. He was pauperized by the collaps of the Southern Confederacy, and come North, first to Whitly Co Indiana, where with several Negroes ex-slaves he bought land, and from there to Allegan Co Mich , where he lived for some years and lies sleeping.He married Nandachine Hoover at the Quaker settlement of West Milton,Miami Co Ohio. He was North Irish stock,-"
"From out of the Past" by Franklin BeArce (unpublished)
The historical record:
Bearce's grandfather James Blain was the son of John Blain, who came from West Brownfield, PA and was an early settler in Noble county, Indiana. James was from childhood a resident in Noble county. He was by trade a blacksmith, and at age 24, in 1855, married, in Whitley county, Nancy J. Hoover. He lived near his parents and brothers, and at the outbreak of the Civil War, the 1860 census shows him there, a blacksmith, his wife a "domestic" with a one year old daughter. There are no slaves or Negroes in the ennumeration district, and with an estate of $200, it's doubtful he could afford one, even with his wife working.
In 1860 that part of Noble County where the Blains resided seceded by petition of a few dozen of the voters and joined Whitley County. James Blain and his brothers all signed the petition. Later it was regretted, apparently, and they wished to belong to Noble County again. The new township was called Etna.
There is no indication he made wagons or cannons, either for the Union or the Confederacy, he was not a Quaker, never owned slaves, was never rich enough to become impoverished, was not married in West Milton, Miami, OH, and never lived in North Carolina. His quiet life in Noble County near his family is well accounted for. Eventually he moved to Allegan, Michigan. I would consider this a serious error.
BLAIN, James to Nancy Jane HOOVER on May 22, 1855 - Book 1:211
3 .Whitley County Indiana Marriages 1838-1910
"John Blain and his wife, Elizabeth Blain, are the oldest persons in the township. John Blain was born in Pennsylvania, February 29, 1792, and his wife was born January 29, 1791; they were married in Ohio, near Chillicothe 1816, and have lived together as husband and wife nearly sixty-six (66) years - two generations - on the farm where they settled with their little children in 1836 - forty-six years ago. They are truly old pioneers."
3a.History of Whitley and Noble Counties, Indiana, by Weston A. Goodspeed and Charles Blanchard
published in Chicago by F. A. Battey & Co., in 1882.
Here are James and his parents in 1850:
John Blain 58 farmer PA
Elizabeth 58 PA
Mary W 26 OH
Alexander H. 24 OH
Sarah E. 20 OH
John 16 OH
4. Federal Census 1850 IN Noble Washington p. 306
James is learning his trade a few miles away:
James Blaine 19, Blacksmith, OH
(in the household of Elkanah Hathaway, 37, Blacksmith, VA)
5. Fed Census 1850 IN Kosciusko County, Oswego p. 353
And here is James Blain and Nancy Hoover in 1860:
Blaine, James 29 Blacksmith OH
Nancy 23 domestic IN
Mary 1 IN
6. Fed Census 1860 IN Noble Washington Twnship p4 f26
Several of his brothers and he all moved to Allegan County, Michigan, and here is James with his family including his daughter, the future mother of Franklin BeArce, in 1870:
Blain James, 37, farm laborer IN
Blain, Nancy J. 35 IN
Samuel P. 19 IN
Mary E. 12 IN
Rebecca J. 6 IN
Lilly 3 IN
7. Fed Census 1870 MI Allegan Allegan p.
(apparently he recently arrived and hasn't set himself up in his own trade yet)
Finally, in 1880:
1880 Household:Allegan, Allegan, Michigan
James BLAINE Self M Male W 50 OH Blacksmith PA PA
Nancy BLAINE Wife M Female W 42 IN Keeping House PA NC
Samuel BLAINE Son S Male W 19 IN Works On R.R. OH IN
Elisabeth BLAINE Dau S Female W 16 IN Does Housework OH IN
Clarra BLAINE Dau S Female W 2 IN OH IN
8. Fed Census 1880 MI Allegan Allegan
From the above admittedly brief examination of documents readily to hand, I believe it is safe to say that a number of corrections must be made to Franklin Bearce's account of his ancestry, if it is to coincide with the available records. Thus, it would be unwise to accept any of his other assertions without personally investigating them.
Note: Some will immediately notice that Nancy Hoover Blaine gives her mother's birthplace in the above 1880 census as North Carolina. Perhaps this is the original source of the North Carolina dealings ascribed to James Blaine, hopelessly mixed up in the retelling, as is often the case in oral histories.
(Upon further examination of this angle it appears the entire account given by Bearce of Yaunt ca ha ha, or John Yaunts, equally as fascinating as his Bearss stories, is impertinent to his ancestry,whether true or not, as Bearce is clearly mistaken in his assertion that he is a descendant of Rebecca Yaunt and the Jesse Hoover who married her. It raises a serious question about Bearce's claim to received these stories as oral history, since it appears to have been partly taken from the ahnantafel of Herbert Hoover. Even some of the phrases are the same. I could post these notes as well if anyone is interested.)
It is hoped these notes will be of help to those who have not made up their minds on the matter.
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