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Below is a family biography included in the Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania published in 1904 by T. S. Benham & Company and The Lewis Publishing Company; Elwood Roberts, Editor.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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B. PERCY CHAIN. The Chain family was established in America by John Chain, who settled on the west bank of Stony Creek in what is now Norristown. On September 5, 1770, he purchased of Mary Norris, for fifty pounds sterling, a farm of one hundred and seventy-six acres, on which a large part of West Norristown is now situated. A portion of the property, at Main and George streets, was in the possession of his descendant, James M. Chain (uncle) and his widow until her death a few years ago. The mansion, built in 1859 by Mr. Chain, and the grounds are now owned and occupied by Ellwood Roberts. The residence of Congressman Wanger at Main and Stanbridge streets, was the original Chain homestead. John Chain married Ann, a daughter of Edward Lane and Ann Richardson, the latter a daughter of Judge Samuel Richardson, of Philadelphia. He died September 9, 1800, in the eighty-fourth year of his age, and lies buried at Norriton and Lower Providence Presbyterian church cemetery.

Matthew Chain (great-grandfather) succeeded his father by will to the ownership of the farm. He died August 23, 1827, in his eightieth year. He married twice, and reared two children, one of whom, John Chain (grandfather), born December 16, 1781, lived on the homestead all his life. John Chain devoted his life to agricultural pursuits, and died April 9, 1829. He married October 24, 1808, Ann Evans, a sister of Benjamin Evans, one of the early eminent lawyers of the county, and a descendant of the founder of Evansburg in Lower Providence. They had a family of five children: Eleanor, who died unmarried; Hannah, who married John S. McFarland, of the Montgomery county bar; James, Mark, and Benjamin E., all now deceased.

Benjamin E. Chain (father) was born at Norristown, Pennsylvania, October 15, 1823, and was educated at Norristown Academy, Lawrenceville (New Jersey) Seminary, and Washington and Jefferson College, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, from which institution he graduated in 1842. He read law one year with the late Gilbert Rodman Fox, of Norristown, and completed his preparation for the bar under Hon. James N. Porter, of Easton. He was admitted in November, 1844, and began practice at Norristown. In 1850 he was elected district attorney, being the first to fill that office by the vote of the people under the constitution adopted in that year. He was connected with many noted cases, as counselor on one side or the other, and had a large practice in the orphan’s court. He died March 28, 1893, in the seventieth year of his age. In politics he was a Democrat, and took an active part in political affairs, though in later life his time was monopolized by business. He was one of the founders of the First National Bank of Norristown, and was a director in it. He was vice-president and solicitor of the Montgomery Insurance Trust & Safe Deposit Company, was the first president of the Norristown Gas Company, and was interested in other Norristown enterprises. During Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania he served in the emergency corps. He was a lifelong friend and the legal adviser of General Winfield Scott Hancock, who was frequently a guest at his home. Mr. Chain was devoted to Hancock’s interests, and did considerable campaign work for the Democratic ticket during the General’s candidacy for president of the United States in 1880. At General Hancock’s death in 1886, Mr. Chain attended to the details of his burial at Norristown.

Mr. Chain was a member of the Protestant Episcopal church, and for a period of twenty-five years occupied the position of vestryman and senior warden in St. John’s at Norristown. In 1845 he married Louisa Bean, of Norristown.

The couple had four children. Two died in infancy and two survive: a daughter, Mary Hamilton, widow of Francis D. Farnum, who was a prominent cotton manufacturer of Norristown; and a son, Benjamin Percy Chain, the last of the surname Chain of this branch of the family.

B. Percy Chain of the Norristown bar is the only son of Benjamin E. and Louisa B. Chain. He was born at Norristown, December 22, 1858. B. Percy Chain grew to manhood in Norristown. He graduated at Treemount Seminary and Lafayette College. He studied law with his father, and was admitted to the bar of the county in 1884. He has successfully practiced his profession ever since. Mr. Chain, like his father, is interested in business enterprises in and about Norristown. He is a director in the Montgomery Insurance Trust & Safe Deposit Company.

On August 30, 1893, Mr. Chain married Miss Bessie Brooke, youngest daughter of Lewis T. Brooke, of the firm of Lewis T. Brooke & Son, real estate dealers of Philadelphia. Mr. Chain is a Democrat, although taking little part in politics. He is a vestryman and the treasurer of St. John’s Episcopal church, Norristown. He is also a member of the Ersine Tennis Club, of which he was an incorporator in 1892, and is the president. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Chain is at the south corner of Jacoby and Arch streets. They have these children: Adelaide B., Harriet B. and John Chain.

On Benjamin E. Chain, during the latter part of his life time, and on B. Percy Chain, since the death of his father, has devolved the custody of the tomb of General Hancock in Montgomery county, it having been erected originally under General Hancock’s own supervision. On several occasions efforts have been made to have the remains of General Hancock removed to Arlington cemetery near Washington, but in deference to the wishes of the people of Norristown, and in accordance with the advice of Messrs. Chain, father and son, there has been no change in that respect.

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This family biography is one of more than 1,000 biographies included in the Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania published in 1904 by T. S. Benham & Company and The Lewis Publishing Company.  For the complete description, click here: Biographical Annals of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

View additional Montgomery County, Pennsylvania family biographies here: Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Biographies

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