by Bill Olan
In the 1850's, Benjamin Franklin Olin travelled from upstate New York and settled in the hamlet of Kendal located in what was called Upper Canada at the time. Ben met and married a local girl, Mary Jane Davis, and they had six children. This was the beginning of the Olan family in Canada. Today there are thousands of Ben’s and Mary Jane’s relatives living in Canada. The spelling of the name was changed from Olin to Olan with the first generation born in Canada. For many years, the Olan family were told that the name was changed for religious reasons. The connection with the Olin family in the United States doesn’t bear credence to this theory. The most logical reason for the name change seems to be illiteracy at the time.
The first weekend of this month, August 5th to 7th, the Olin and Olan families celebrated their common family heritage at the Fourth International Olin/Olan family Reunion held in Peterborough, ON. The Olin/Olan International Reunions are sponsored by the Olin Family Society, an organization of the descendants of John OLIN, who came to Rhode Island around 1678, and Susannah SPENCER. It was founded in April 1992. The Reunion is held every five years and this is the first time it had been held outside of the United States. This past weekend, family travelled from California, Florida, North Carolina, Minnesota, North Dakota and other states, as well as from local areas such as Millbrook, Peterborough and Lindsay, to attend this memorable event.
The theme for this year’s International Reunion was “North of the Border” and was designed to highlight the family branch that moved to Canada and their connection with their relatives in the United States. The weekend activities included an Ice Cream Social, a Talent Show, an auction sale of articles made by Olans or Olins or of significance to them. A children’s program was held for the youngsters in the gathering. Food was one of the highlights of the reunion with a delicious luncheon on Saturday, a full course beef and chicken dinner Saturday evening and a full-featured Sunday morning Brunch. As the Olans are noted for their cooking skills, most items on the menus were homemade by Olans.
We were pleased that two of our second generations Olans to be born in Canada were in attendance. They were 98-year-old Stella (Olan) Kennedy of Millbrook as well as Jean (Gillis) Olan of Millbrook. Stella Kennedy was the eldest representative of five generations in her line. The others were Marion Glanville, Dan Glanville, Kim Glanville, and Jack Martin.
125 people attended all or a portion of the weekend activities. Those attending renewed their relationship with relatives they hadn’t seen for several years and they became acquainted with others that they hadn’t previously met. Overall it was a very successful weekend. The Olans now have to wait five years for the next Olin International Reunion.