The Tener Family

This is a journal kept by Dennis Holmes and friends concerning the Tener Family.
The links below will take you to the "Tener Blue Book" - "TENER: A History of the Family in France, Ireland and America"; and to a Finding Aid.

NEW! Tener Eckelberry: A Life
NEW! The Art of Renee Duke, Tener Eckelberry's First Wife
The Tener Book Site
The Tener Book
Finding Aid
Tener Family Photos
Previous Updates

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


By Virginia “Jean” Bofman, nee TENER

In my quest for genealogical information I made the acquaintance of a descendant of the branch of the Tener family noted on page 77 – Gordon Frye. Gordon’s mother Grace was one of the genealogical hobbyists that I have learned about: I am thinking that with that background, when he heard that another branch of the Tener Family was reaching out, his door was open! My wife and I were invited to a soon to be held reunion of this branch.

At that Reunion we met some great folks. I was offered access to “The Various Tener’s" - a family history book, by Virginia’s daughter. It was not until much later that I asked for permission to share the contents: and was granted permission to do so by the daughter of the author.

Virginia Tener is mentioned in the Tener family history book on page 77. She was the second born, of six children, of Encell and Helen Black TENER noted in the book as residing in Ripon, California.

Like many of the Tener family, she was something of a family historian and at one point she began to write some biographical material about her branch of the family. Virginia, or "Jean", began to organize her ideas, and the task of putting “pen to paper”. She wrote:


Every story has a beginning, a middle and an ending. My story will have an "open" ending in the hope that at some future time, a younger, more energetic relative with a craving for immortality will pick up the threads and continue the weaving.

The Various Teners is an account of one branch of a north of Ireland family whose traits, customs and demeanor were more English than those of the fun-loving Irish (as portrayed by the movies). One of our more recent, illustrious relatives, Hampden Evans Tener, II (1865-1948) of Montclair, New Jersey, had a continued interest in genealogical history. At his request, a small book of data and general information was prepared, printed and distributed. From this, I learned that cousins were raised in England by uncles and aunts while their counterparts were sent to Ireland under reciprocal arrangements. Could this account for many of the mixed traditions?

More importantly, the Teners were Episcopalians who were not in total agreement with their faith. As early at 1825, one devout elder supported the views of a then, little-known preacher, Alexander Campbell of Bethany, West Virginia. Bethany College was established as a theological seminary and presided over by Campbell who advocated Biblical interpretations rather than formal religion, per se. In 1842, the family contributed to the Church of Christ and immediately sent two sons to the small village near Wheeling. They were among the earliest graduates, returning to County Kildaire in 1849.

The ramifications involved in the transplanting of the Teners to the New World is too complex for one person to put on paper; however, it is safe to say that essentially, the influence of Bethany College was primarily responsible.

My history is an informal writing of the family of Dr. Robert William Tener (b. Ireland, 1860-1942) and his wife, Ellen Mendel Tener (b. Kentucky, 1871-1946). Both were undergraduates at Bethany College when they met.

Dr. Tener, a financially successful dentist, was a large, handsome, dark-haired man with a tall, dignified, well-educated wife. Their family was raised in an upper class neighborhood on Park View, in Wheeling, West Virginia. Wife Ellen was ahead of her time, active in politics, women's right to vote, and other popular or unpopular causes. She had a box camera and was taking snapshots of her babies and developing her own pictures long before 1900. A disciplinarian, she possessed an indomitable spirit. She was her own person at a time when wives were not their own persons. She never changed.
The oldest son, John Kinley (1893-1979), was a handsome, brilliant, young man who graduated from Bethany at the age of seventeen, at which time he was a candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship. Roberta (1895-1993), no middle name, was the only girl in the family. Early snapshots show a slim, attractive young woman, known to be somewhat shy but recognized for her artistic bent as well as writing and linguistic abilities. A 1917 Bethany College graduate, she was their oldest living alumna when she passed away in June, 1993.

Encell Mendel Tener (1897-1972) was my father. Tall, thin-faced, quiet, I think he may have been an enigma to his parents: He preferred agricultural and all things mechanical to intellectual pursuit. He departed Bethany before graduating so he could join the Navy. Robert Evans (1903-1950) trailed along as the youngest sibling a typical, spoiled brat. He had a penchant for getting into trouble, or "mischief" as his mother and Roberta would say. He always led a colorful life, much of which I learned as I progressed in his story. He had a good sense of humor and was quite intelligent, unfortunately, not in the fields his mother preferred.

May I give a little briefing here in names?
John Kinley was "Kin" to family and "John" to friends and others.
Roberta's brothers called her "Sis" and friends called her "Bob."
Encell turned into "Ence" then "Ed" after he moved to California.
Robert Evans was always "Evans" to his mother but eventually became
"Bob" to everyone else.
Ellen was "Nellie" to her husband, "Muz, Muzzie, Mother" to her children
but always "Muz" to her grandchildren.

At the start of World I in April, 1917, Kin was in California and dreading the prospects of duty overseas in the Army. Ence, a Chief Petty Officer, USN, aboard the battleship New Jersey, seemed mainly concerned in writing letters to Helen in Brooklyn and about Helen to his mother. Roberta, about to graduate from College, was anticipating a teaching position in Ohio. Fifteen year old Bob was attending Kentucky Military Institute.

Probably not any of these players anticipated the great changes about to take place in their lives.


In clearing Aunt Roberta's home in November, 1989, she requested that family history papers and pictures were to be given to my sister. Grace Frye, our family genealogist. These included The Box in which Grandmother Muz saved letters as did her mother, "Mama" Mendel. All correspondence received was folded, returned to its envelope, secured in little, string-tied bundles with the writer's name indicated, then stored in The Box. Some letters date back to the Spanish American War when Muz' brother Dan dutifully wrote to his mother. Some are to Muz from Grandad when he was in Philadelphia Dental College in 1887. Some, I haven't touched yet.

Through the years. The Box was in its resting place in the old Mendel house in Bethany, West Virginia. In 1951, when Roberta settled into her new home in Modesto, California, she asked her son, Tom Stimmel, who was working in nearby Martins Ferry, Ohio, to catalog the contents and ship The Box to her. Tom did a thorough job: he typed a list of the writers of each unopened packet, nailed the wooden top down, bound everything with metal bands and sent it off to his mother. Forty years later, when it was moved from Roberta's garage to Grace's home in Stockton, the bands were still in place.

In early 1990, when we were finally able to explore, Grace and I gingerly removed the contents. The Box was packed so fully and sealed so well that it was virtually airtight. Even letters written in pencil were still legible and we were continually amazed at how well preserved we found the contents. And there were all those fat, little bundles marked "Kinley", "Encell", "Roberta" and "Evans." We could hardly wait to read them.

I cannot imagine what an incomplete story all of this would have been without the letters. By sorting each writer's stack into chronological order, reading and rereading, then relating the details, I believe the biographies to be accurate. It was impossible to copy everything and much of the content was repetitious, therefore, I culled that which I thought made for fluid reading and reflected a life story. Also, this was a period of great mobility among all the family members, with constant coming and going, from West Virginia to Puerto Rico, France, New York, California, Alaska, Oregon and points en route. My biggest difficulty was to keep track of everyone. In quoting, I have retained any unusual spelling or grammatical flaws and expressions that sometimes seemed puzzling. For the most part, the letters are all well written and the penmanship much better than we would find today.”

What will follow, in future postings, under the Title The Various Teners will be the stories written by Virginia “Jean” Bofman, Nee TENER.