Descendents of John Strain assert that he was born 17 November 1754 in Ireland. He was married to Eleanor McGavin, (sister of Patrick McGavin), and they immigrated as a married couple in 1794. The first record for him in the United States appears in 1799 in Augusta County, VA, when he served as surety for the marriage of Mary Strain, daughter of deceased James Strain, to David Conneley. John and Eleanor Strain's names appear in a court case involving slander in 1800 with William McGavin and his wife Polly, and again in 1802 with Matthew Burnett / Barnett. They left Augusta County, went through Kentucky, and by 1810 had settled in Washington County, Indiana, where they bought a tract of land about 10 miles south of Salem.
John died 17 February 1823, age 68 years, three months, and his will was proved on 16 June 1823. He left his farm to his oldest son, Robert Strain. John was a Protestant, and is buried in the Sheppard-Strain Cemetery. Eleanor died ca. 1830, and family legend is that she was a devoted Catholic, who chose to be buried in a Catholic cemetery. A priest came from Louisville to administer last rites. Eight children were listed in the 1823 will of John Strain: Robert, Barnett, Rosanna, William, Jane, Anna, Hanna, and Mary Ann Strain.