On July 17, I spent a wonderful day with an incredible family of relatives that can trace their roots back six generations.
The day began when I met with a member of the Jenkins family, a great guy named James Scott, in East Liberty at 9 a.m., to go to South Park Township where the Jenkins Family 80th Reunion would take place. We were one of the earliest members to arrive at the main cottage lodge and be greeted by “Auntie” Barbara Jean Minor, who also was a very pleasant lady to know and spend the day with.
|OLDEST FAMILY MEMBER—“Momma” Marian Jenkins-DeVaughn, front left, with Barbara Jean Minor and Dorothy Jones. Back, from left: Celeste Jenkins, Carolyn Davis, Leslie Jenkins, and Juanita Jenkins hold quilt with family history and photos on it.
As we waited for the others to arrive, some of the early arrivals played toss with footballs and softballs in the parking area, a warm-up for the annual softball game to be played later. Meanwhile several of the other cousins and aunts started to prepare the food for the day in the lodge’s kitchen. The Jenkins family’s family tree extends as far south as Mississippi, Florida and Virginia, and north, ranging from Ohio to New York, with Pittsburgh right in the middle.
The Jenkins family present numbered at approximately 150, with all working as one unit with the preparations and activities, from the youngest to the oldest. The youngest of the sixth generation of Jenkins’ was a six-month-old boy, Emanuel Staple. As the day progressed and the temperature climbed well over 80 degrees in the shade, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the matriarch of the family, “Momma” Marian Jenkins- DeVaughn, 81. A sound, strong, slight of build, fair skinned African-American woman with a joyful smile and a pleasant disposition.
“My grandmother was a runaway slave from the south in the late 1800s and came to Ohio and her name was Florence Pauls,” said, Momma Jenkins. “It was there Florence Pauls had a daughter in October of 1889 and named her Katie. Meanwhile, in a little town not far from Ohio, in a place once called Alleghany City, in March 1880, John Jenkins was born. The two met in Ohio and in 1907 John and Katie were married. They later moved from Ohio to Pittsburgh, in a place called East Liberty, on Shetland Avenue in a 13- room house.”
In 1929, “Momma” Marian Jenkins was born in a family with with 13 other siblings. “Thirteen rooms for 13 kids,” she said. “We had baloney and bread sandwiches, with cheese. Lettuce was a luxury to eat for lunch at school.”
School was Lincoln Elementary and high school was Westinghouse where she graduated. Her three brothers also went to Westinghouse High School and played on the football team. After high school, she married and moved to Homewood.
These days Marian Jenkins-DeVaughn takes great pride in her family and her heritage. Many of her family members are educators, nurses, a Broadway singer- performer, athletes and a commercial airline pilot.
Many thanks to the Jenkins family for the hospitality and warmth the showed to me.