The Monroe Bean's
It only happens every other year. Those “odd-numbered” ones. And so, the biennial family reunion rolled around on August 8th this year.
Our family holds its roots in the mountains of West Virginia. It was here, sometime in the 1790’s that the Bean family came to settle. From William Bean [b. 1792, d. 1864] and Rachel Wiseman [b. 1790, d. 1856] comes the group of descendants who fall upon the tiny town of Waiteville in Monroe County. William and Rachel were the parents of thirteen children. Never have all thirteen lines been represented in a single family reunion.
This year I was the first to arrive at the old Waiteville school house, which is now known as the “Community Center”. At one time, the old block building held four classrooms, a kitchen, rest rooms and a basement. Today, the top floor is converted into two large spacious meeting rooms, a small gym, a kitchen and two restrooms. The basement is no longer used. It was here that my Dad went to school as a boy. It was open as a school until about 1968. It sat empty for many years until the community purchased it.
I arrived at 8:30 Saturday morning. I’ve been planning the event for several years now. [I say “planning” rather loosely, as the family members use this event as a chance to get together, eat a meal, get a door prize, and then leave. Nope, they aren’t very interactive!] My cousin, Betty, arrived only minutes after I did. And we began to set up.
We chose the smaller of the two meeting rooms to set up displays, books and mementos. I also sat up my laptop so that I could access files in a jiffy.
Next we sat up buffet tables for the meal. And family members began to dwindle in as we worked.
The heat was horrendous this summer! The temperature soared into the 90’s well before noon, and the old schoolhouse is not air-conditioned. We turned on fans, and opened doors to let the breezes hopefully cool the old building somewhat. [Note to self: next reunion, I plan to order Chinese fans to distribute to everyone!]
At a desk sat up by the front entrance, I sat Betty with a guest book, nametags, a roll of raffle tickets, and my camera. She was to get everyone to sign in [making sure to get updated addresses, phone numbers and email addresses], give them a nametag, a raffle ticket, and take their photograph. This way we have a record, in photo, of everyone who comes to our reunion. [I take the photographs and make them into a printed photo book through Lulu.com which is available to everyone then.]
By noon, everyone had assembled and mingled for at least an hour. We all gathered together in the main room and had Uncle Bill [92 years young!] ask the blessing over the meal. At our last reunion we did not get a group photo, so this year, after the blessing was given for the meal, I had everyone file outside onto the front steps of the building to pose for a group snapshot before we would begin to serve the meal. There were a couple of people who grumbled, but the majority felt it was a good idea. This way we caught just about everyone who attended.
Every reunion I am known for my “exotic” dishes. And this year was no different. This year I made barbecued bear haunch. Yep. I cooked a bear haunch then shredded it and smothered it in homemade barbecue sauce, made with tomatoes from my Dad’s garden. And my dessert was a green tomato cake, thanks to a wonderful recipe from Paula Deen! [No one is told what my curious dishes are, until after the meal.]
Following the meal comes our business meeting. It is here that a report is given on our genealogy, which I cover. The highlight this year was an update on our DNA project. [We’ve had absolutely no luck with our DNA testing so far. We had 3 individuals test. And our only matches have been with those 3. While all major Bean lines have tested in the US, we have not matched with any of them. Nor have we had any matches with others without the name. So, for our family, it’s been a bit of a let down.]
A report was given on the Clan MacBean, through which we associate ourselves. My cousin, Phillip, is the Vice-President of Clan MacBean. So, we always have the best reports on the Clan’s progress!
We then brought up the possibility of having our reunion last for an entire weekend. It was met with overwhelming approval! So, for the first time, our 2011 reunion will be a weekend long event!
Next, we acknowledge the oldest, youngest, and the ones who have traveled the farthest to attend our reunion. Our oldest was Aunt Margaret, at 95. Our youngest was 4 weeks old. And the one who traveled the farthest was my cousins’ daughter, Angela, who traveled all the way from London, England to attend!
This year I presented certificates and gifts for the Family Matriarch [Aunt Margaret – 95 years young!]; Family Patriarch [Uncle Bill – 92 years young!]; and Perpetuator of the Bean Name [Jidaya Beane – born 4 weeks earlier]. Yeah, just a little twist on the old acknowledgments.
Lastly we nominated and elected new officers. My cousin Phillip became Vice-President. My aunt, Vivian, was re-elected as Secretary/ Treasurer, and I was elected as the first female President of our Bean Family Reunion Committee; a post for which I am honored to hold.
I presented two door prizes this year. One was a “Remembrance Book” for a person to fill out and give to their family. It was won by very special aunt, Mildred, who is 85. I was so glad to see her win this book. The other prize was a family genealogy book, for an individual to fill out all of their genealogy. My cousin Darrell’s wife, Robin, won this prize. [Robin is never seen without a smile for everyone! If she’s ever down, in over 30 years, I’ve never seen it!]
After the meeting, we all broke off into little groups and mingled.
Attending for the first time were descendants of our Sarah Bean line. Four sisters, with whom I’ve been corresponding with, attended from Utah, Colorado, and two were from New Mexico. [On Sunday, Dad and I gave them a tour of Monroe County, so that they could get a feel for the area, and see some of the highlights for our family.]
Also attending was one descendant from Archibald Bean’s line. And the remainder of the group, including me, were from the William Bean, Jr. and Margaret Smith Perkins line.
All total, we had 64 attendees. That’s 10 more than our last reunion. [My goal had been 75. We compromised with “almost” reaching that amount.]
Since I have been planning the event, I have tried to integrate games and a party atmosphere. It’s gone nowhere. But I’m hoping with our weekend long event that I can actually get people to participate!
The group began to dissipate about 5p.m. And I hated to see everyone leave. For me, it had been like Christmas! I had anticipated the event for months. And I was certainly not let down!
And you can bet, I’m already at work planning the next reunion! I can’t wait for 2011 to get here!!!