Tory Historian's blog: they were so unpredictable

Posted by Tory Historian Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A while ago Tory Historian blogged on the awesomeness of some Victorians, specifically, Captain Frederick Burnaby and his wife, then widow, Elizabeth Burnaby (subsequently Elizabeth Main and Elizabeth Le Blond, with an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography under the last name).

For various reasons TH looked up Mrs Le Blond again and found out some interesting things about her second husband, John Frederic Main (1854 - 1892). He was according to the DNB professor of engineering at the University College, Bristol, which eventually became the University of Bristol and at the Royal College of Science, which eventually merged into Imperial College London.

According to this excerpt from the obituary published by ICE (Institution of Civil Engineering) Professor Main had been born in Jamaica where his father was a civil engineer but was brought to England as a young child and went to a grammar school in Southsea, going to study Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge where he seems to have done well.

A further obituary tells us:

Dr. Main’s connection with University College, Bristol, lasted for four years, and proved one of importance in the history of that Institution. In the first year, his gifts as a lecturer and teacher were so signally demonstrated, that the Council of the College entrusted to him the arduous task of founding and organizing the School of Engineering, which he had induced them to try to establish, and appointed him Professor of Mathematics, Applied Mechanics and Engineering-an office he held for the following three years
In 1886 he married Elizabeth Burnaby, née Hawkins-Whitshed and in the following year abandoned his academic career to move to Denver, Colorado in order to become an investment banker, which adds an element of unpredictability to his biography, yet the death in 1892 is firmly fixed in Denver.

However, researching further TH found a picture, which is barely decipherable of Professor Main's tombstone with other names on it of people clearly related to him. Could other members of his family have gone to Colorado from Jamaica?


  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. Just for clarity the inscription Is :
    John Frederic Main M. A. D. Sc
    Born Jul 7, 1854 - Died May 10, 1892
    He Giveth His Beloved Sleep
    William E. Yorston
    Nov 1, 1849 - Feb 6, 1917
    Clarissa D. Main
    March 13, 1861 - July 21, 1919
    Sarah Ann Main
    June 29, 1830 - July 30, 1922
    Catherine M. Yorston
    Jan. 17, 1853 - Sept. 30, 1949

    Catherine Yorston was his sister who married William Edwin Yorston

    Sarah Ann appears to have been the wife of an uncle; and Clarissa the wife of a brother.

  3. Unknown Says:
  4. John Frederic Main was the son of Catherine née Knott (1826-1886) and David Main (c1820-c1856). Catherine's sister Sarah Ann (1830-1922) married David's brother Thomas (c1828-?).

    A third sister Ellen née Knott (1823-1869) married William James Dale (1817-1875), they had a daughter Clarissa née Dale known as Clarissa Dale Main (1861-1919).

    Clarissa went to the USA with her aunt Sarah Ann in the early 1880s; shortly thereafter she had a son David John Main (1882-1995). The father is not identified, but may have been Clarissa's cousin John Frederic Main.

  5. Bob Janes Says:
  6. Updating my previous comment. I have since found a newspaper report of Sarah Ann's divorce from Thomas Main (see which suggests that Thomas' son David by a previous marriage may have been the father of David John Main. The relevant extract is:

    "Main in his testimony said that he married Sarah Ann Knott in Loudon, England, on August 18. 18S0. He was then a resident of Grand View, New York, and had met Miss Knott in England. His son, Thomas J. Main, who was then about five years old. witnessed the ceremony.

    "After remaining in England they came back to the United States and resided at Grand View. Finally he urged his wife to move to either Philadelphia or Chester, as his business was
    in the latter place and it took too long to get to his home. She said she would go on condition that her niece, Clarissa Dale, who was then living with them, could live with them at Chester. This Main refused as Miss Dale in his opinion, was immoral and the mother of an illegitimate child for which he was compelled to turn his eldest son away from home, Miss Dale charging that he was the father of her child. After Mrs. Main’s refusal to remove to Chester unless this condition was complied with.

    "Mr. Main continued to live in Chester, and rented the Grand View House, Mrs. Main still living in it with the tenant until 1888. when she removed to Denver."

Powered by Blogger.




Blog Archive