Bonnar Profile

From Stewart Bonar April 2023

Jane Hunter was born on the 30 January 1794 in the village of Kennet, Clackmannan, Scotland. She was baptised on the 2nd of February 1794 as Jean. Jean is the Scottish form of the name Jane and the different forms are used interchangeably. She mostly used Jane. Throughout her life she was inconsistent in stating her age and, though the headstone says she died in 1878 in her 87th year, she actually died just short of her 85th birthday.

Jane married William Bonnar on 2 June 1816 in Clackmannan. They had seven children. Jane was widowed soon after the birth of her last child, Robert. With no breadwinner and a very young family to feed, she would have fallen into poverty and be dependant on other family members and charity from the local church. She also tried to supplement that income by petty theft. On more than one occasion she served short sentences in prison.

The first of her family to emigrate from Scotland to Pennsylvania was Jean, also known mostly as Jane. She married Matthew Strachan in Carnock, Fife, Scotland on 20 May 1849. They had one child in Scotland, William, before emigrating in August 1851. Matthew died in 1879 and is buried in the grave next to his mother-in-law. His wife died in 1906 and is memorialised on the Strachan stone at the foot of her mother’s grave, but is actually buried in Mount Lebanon Cemetery. (Link to Strachan profile page)

Jane Bonnar’s eldest son, William, died in Carnock, Fife, Scotland in 1860. He suffered from poor health due to lung problems and was depressed. He committed suicide by cutting his throat. 

In 1868, two more of Jane Bonnar’s children, Robert and Mary, emigrated to join the Strachans.  Robert had been widowed in 1866 and travelled with his three children aboard the Steamship Iowa. Also on board was his sister Mary Snedden, with her three children. Mary had married Adam Snedden in 1843 in Clackmannan but was widowed in 1867. So the two recently widowed siblings decided to start a new life in Pennsylvania.

Mary, who died in 1902, and her two daughters, both of whom were born in Muiravonside, Falkirk, Scotland, are buried here. Margaret Snedden, who died in 1935, had married Robert Beadling, and her sister Mary, who died in 1882 without marrying. The headstone is a joint Beadling / Snedden one, with the surnames at the bottom. On the Snedden side, Mary Snedden nee Bonnar is memorialised as “Our Mother 1819-1902” and her daughter Mary is memorialised as “And Sister Mary 1859-1882”. On the Beadling side of the stone is memorialised “Husband Robert 1852-1930” and “His Wife Margaret 1856-1935”. (Link to Beadling profile page)

Also in 1868, Jane Bonnar applied for an increase in the money she was getting from the church parish under the Poor Laws. Her application was refused on the grounds that she could go into the Workhouse. It is unlikely that this happened though, because by the 1871 Scottish Census, she had been taken in by her youngest daughter, Ann Bonnar and her husband John Aitken. Soon after, the Aitken family and Jane emigrated and so reunited all the remaining family in Union Township, Pennsylvania. Both John (died 1890) and Ann (died 1893) are also buried in this cemetery. (Link to Aitken profile page)

Robert Bonnar survived until 1922 and is buried across the road in Mt Lebanon Cemetery.

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