The leather is cracking, and the gold flecking off of its pages. The images inside are time capsules. Staring at their faces I search for some resemblance that reappears in my mother or my brothers or me or my children. Someone on Ceylon Lane, Post Office Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, bought this richly tooled leather album in the late 1800s. Its heavy card stock pages were cut precisely to hold 4½ by 6½ cabinet card photographs. She–and I only say she because it is this she who constructs family albums today–she did not do me the favor of identifying these people. I just have clues in the photographers’ names and studio locations. Hairstyles and jewelry, the cut of a bodice, the width of a lapel, all hint at a timeframe. Then, like a sleuthhound, I pick up the scent, looking through all the shoots and roots and leaves of my family tree. Because I do believe that these men, women and children are my family.
The branch of the Minor family from which I spring left New Jersey in the late 1790s and settled along Big Whitely Creek, Greene County, Pennsylvania. Abia and Margaret (Pearson) did not homestead in isolation, and may well have lived within the fortified structures that uncles John and William Minor had built in the area. By 1803, Abia and Margaret aspired to their own farm along the waters of Big Whitely, and on 2 February Uncle William Minor and his wife, Hannah, conveyed title to 150 acres of “Race Ground”, for the sum of $1,700 “of lawful money of the United States”. The oak studded hills had been conveyed or patented to William from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1789. In 1803 the creek-side land became the childhood home of my patriarch–John Pearson (Pierson) Minor.
You can read the text of the deed below: