Editor’s Note: The following article was submitted by the Marais des Cygnes Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Although military engineer and rebel are in her ancestral roots, they do not describe Ola May Earnest, a dainty, gracious and learned women whose many accomplishments in over 45 years as a historic preservationist and genealogist are too numerous to count. What distinguishes her from others in her field is her deep understanding of the intrinsic intertwining of history, genealogy and the arts which, when coupled with her passion to promote each, produce unmatched results.
One only has to take the “walking journey through time” at Pleasanton’s Linn County Museum’s more than 11,000-square-foot facility, literally chocked full from floor to ceiling with a rich array of prehistoric, early explorer, pre-Civil War, Civil War, early settler and turn of the century artifacts, to gain a sense of the priceless monument she and other Linn County residents have built for posterity. A glorious afternoon at the museum can be had by all as even car enthusiasts will find the museum’s automotive collection one to behold. The collection ranges from the earliest automotive models — a horseless carriage and Model-T’s — to an era many visitors will fondly remember as just yesterday — “muscle cars”.
Ola May has been the catalyst catapulting the museum from a lofty idea in 1971 to its present day predominance through not only leadership but cold hard cash! Of course, bake sales and auctions were initial fundraisers to get the museum started, but Ola May’s leadership in 1978’s publication of “100 Cemeteries and Burial Sites in Linn County Kansas”, generated thousands of copies sold, providing enough monies to quintuple the museum’s size.
Of course, no venture of this size and scope can be without a legion of loyal volunteers, such as Correen Basore, a 20-year veteran of the genealogy section, generous donors such as Waldo and Edwarda Cox, former owners of Pleasanton’s Ford dealership, and many others who volunteered their time and talent in areas such as carpentry and model building. To all, a hearty “Thank You” is due!
Now, to the question readers may have regarding the ancestral roots which may have led Ola May to a military engineer career with a rebellious soul! As a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she is aware her two most famous ancestors — Nicolas Martiau, her 10th great-grandfather, and George Washington, a distant cousin who was a third great-grandson of Martiau — both fit that description.
In what is so coincidental it defies logic, Nicolas Martiau was the military engineer who surveyed and laid patent to land which is now Yorktown, VA, in 1620, and, it was in this same city, Yorktown, some 146 years later, in 1781, George Washington, also a military engineer but then commander of the Continental Army, accepted the surrender of British General Lord Cornwallis, thus winning the American Revolutionary War. Interestingly, Martiau and Washington not only chose similar occupational paths but they also shared a deep rooted intolerance for autocratic rule. Martiau’s intolerance is less known but very consequential as his participation in America’s very first rebellion against British rule in 1635 resulted in the ouster of the current Virginia governor. It took his third great-grandson to fully end all British rule in the 13 colonies. Ola May took a more “genteel” path appropriate for women of her era — preserving rather than making history!