Perney pens book
about one of first families in area
family settled in
Jefferson County, Ind., in early 1800s
(July 2010) In 1812, pioneer John Bear decided
to buy a tract of wild, frontier land in Indiana, just inland from the
Ohio River on the Indian-Kentuck Creek. Problems with Indians, however,
kept him from actually settling the land with his family until 1814.
For the next century, that tract of land in the hills above what is
now Brooksburg, Ind., saw generations of Bears live and die.
Today, the Bear family remains a large presence in the area surrounding
what was once that little frontier farm. Throughout Jefferson County,
Ind., Trimble County, Ky., and all along the Ohio River in southern
Indiana, relatives of John Bear have worked hard to help their communities
thrive and prosper.
Author and genealogist Jean Wilson Perney has compiled an extensive
Bear family history, Bear Branches: Family History, that
chronicles the descendants of John Bear through the line of his son
Christian Bear and Christians wife, Nancy Hall. Nancy was the
daughter of William Hall, a Revolutionary soldier who built a cabin
and settled just up the river from Madison.
According to Perney, Bear was only one of the many spellings
the family used for its surname. Others included Bar, Baire,
Beare and Bare.
Some of the area families related to the Bear family include Atchison,
Brown, Conely, Imel, Johnson, Lockridge, Lodge, McWethy, Neal, Phillips,
Rogers, Thome and Webber.
Perneys great grandmother was Mary Bear Phillips, one of the descendants
of Christian Bear. Christian was the son of John Bear and his first
wife, Esther Newcomer. He was born in 1795 in what is now Henry County,
Ky. John and Esther had four children before Esther died sometime in
In 1803, John married his second wife, Mary Polly Kinder,
in Shelby County, Ky. They had eight children: Abner, Sophia, Catherine,
Solomon, Andrew, Nancy, Elizabeth and George W.
In order to put together the comprehensive genealogy, she spent thousands
of hours in libraries, cemeteries, and historical societies combing
through records. She also contacted Bear family members and started
collecting oral histories from them.
There are thousands of people listed in the book, but I am sure
there are more that I did not find. There are always people you wished
you could talk to and some you just cant reach, said Perney.
Whats fun about doing this type of research is learning
who is related to whom.
Perney is a native of Madison, Ind. She graduated from Madison High
School in 1943 and worked at the Jefferson Proving Ground during World
War II. She graduated from Hanover College in 1948 and later earned
her masters degree in 1967.
Her interest in genealogy began early in life, and by 1984, she had
published a biographical sketch of the life of her maternal grandmother,
Luella Morgan Phillips. In 1994, she and her husband, Warren W. Perney,
co-authored a book about his family history. She has also written several
other genealogy books about families in the area.
I think this is a great venture that brings our family back together
again and lets people know we are one of the first families of Jefferson
County and the Ohio River Valley, said Carol Crawford, a family
descendant. Its wonderful that we are still going strong
in the area today.
I thought it was very interesting to find out the names of my
great and great-great-great grandparents, said June Ritchie, also
a Bear family member.
I didnt realize my family history went back so far,
said Mark Bear, owner of Bears Furniture Gallery on Madisons hilltop.
It was a real eye-opener to realize my family has been here since
the early 1800s and helped settle the area. We are related to so many
other families around here.
Bear has a copy of the book and recently went to visit the former Bear
Farm and Bear Bridge near Brooksburg. Ive lived near the
family farm for years and didnt realize it, he said.
There is a Bear Family Reunion scheduled for noon on Sept. 18 at Clifty
Falls State Park, according to Valerie Strickland, another family relative.
She said there are still many family members in the area, including
prominent members of the community who are excited about the book and
the upcoming family reunion.Family members are encouraged to bring a
covered dish and join the clan for fun.
The book is available for reference at the Switzerland County Public
Library in Vevay, Ind., at the Scott County Genealogical Society Library
in Scottsburg, Ind., the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis, and
the Cincinnati Public Library.
In Jefferson County, there are two places, the Madison-Jefferson County
Public Library and the Jefferson County Historical Society Archives
on West First Street. Other counties in Indiana are Grant County Library
in Marion, Ind., and Hamilton East Public Library in Noblesville, Ind.
Books may be ordered by contacting Jean Wilson
Perney at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by calling (317) 846 7164.
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