The Adventures Of A Photo Sleuth: The Minor Family Album

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Minor Photo Album Latch

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.

For the next little while I will be writing about my discoveries: the mysteries solved, the wild goose chases, and the tips and tricks collected along the way. Join me as I unlock the secrets of the Minor Family Album.

1.  Provenance

2. Page One: Mr. Chin Whiskers

3. Mr. Chin Whiskers, continued

4. Pages two, three and four

5. Page five: The marriage of Robert and May

6. Crossing Paths With More Strangers

7. Windows to My Past

8. Women Folk I Know

9. Taylor is the New Greene

10. For Marion

11. On Court Avenue

12. Resembling the Past

 

 

Resembling the Past

I have stared at the last half of the Minor Family Album for a month now, confounded by more than one photograph.  None are annotated with given names, or family names, or even a hint of a date.  I look at the next cabinet card with a hand lens. I scan it into my hard drive, enhance the clarity and then look again, with the computer as hand lens.  The paper photo drops crumbs of information, which I collect and line up, willing a trail to appear.

tw rogers trademark back 1870 est

The photograph was produced by Thomas W. Rogers of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, on ivory colored cardstock with rounded corners, and the simple, red-ink trademark on the back.  The photograph, whether original or a copy, was made most likely between the late 1860s and early 1870s, early in TW Rogers photographic career.

Mr. Clean-shaven is between 50-65 years old, with thick wavy hair worn in a conservative above-the-collar fashion.  The white mane sweeps from right to left above his bushy salt-and-pepper eyebrows. Puffy half-moons beneath  light-colored eyes cushion his intensity; this is a busy man with little patience for sleep.  The gaze, the wavy hair, the Roman nose, the bushy brow…features shared with other Minor family members.

My wavy-haired gentleman is wearing a starched white shirt, with a heavily starched, detachable collar. He has tied a black silk cravat into a flat bow tie at his throat.  Over this he wears a black, collarless, single-breasted vest, trimmed in braid fashionable in the late 1860s. All of the buttons are fastened, without any evidence of a watchchain. The double-breasted sack coat is also made of black wool and trimmed in braid.  The buttons and button holes go very high into the lapel, which is notched quite deeply, the lower portion much wider than the upper portion at the neck.  The fit is quite generous, particularly at the sleeves, which sit on the shoulder, a style worn in the late 1860s-early 1870s.

Crumbs…crumbs…leading me to a tentative set of conclusions. Maybe, just maybe, this is a photograph of my great-great-grandfather’s brother.  Abia (a-BYE-ya) Minor was born in 1815, and would have been about 55 at the time this photograph was taken between 1866-1873.  Like this man, Abia was a no-nonsense kind of guy, a progressive farmer first in West Virginia, then Illinois, then Kansas.  Big brother Minor had uncommon business sense, getting farm equipment patented and establishing a strong reputation as a cattle dealer.  Abia would have been the kind of man to take time to arrange a portrait, in his good suit, and share it with his far-flung family.

I gaze at these eyes as I type, and see myself, my intensity, staring back. I wonder…are there others of you who resemble this past?

Abia Minor, cabinet card 1866-1873

 

 

 

Sunshine On My Shoulder (Wing Patches) Makes Me Happy

Widow Skimmer warms in morning sun.

The morning’s light builds heat in the goldenrod field, a thicket of last year’s woody stems and this year’s giant St. John’s wort, morning glory, and lanced leaf goldenrod flowers.  A Widow Skimmer extends his wings, warming his night-chilled blood.  Soon he will bob and weave his way onward.

 

Chase the Man. Chase the City.

Today’s NY Times Opinionator piece discusses the history between Abe Lincoln and Salmon P. Chase, an earnest, no nonsense man who was both a fabulous Secretary of the Treasury and Lincoln’s arch rival.

Why care about this troublemaker?

Because the dude had a fan club among the founders of a little town in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Christiansville was a backwater village when George Endley and John Boyd rode in, buying up land on the cheap in 1868-1874. They held big plans for this area, recruiting northern colonists and railroad lines (that never quite materialized) to build a grand town–and in 1873 they approached fellow Ohioan, great banker, former US Senator and Ohio Governor, Secretary of the Treasury and US Supreme Court Justice. Your Honor, may we use your name for our grand Southside town?

Thus was born little ol’ Chase City, home of my beloved father, Norman S. Strickland.

This article details Salmon Chase’s political aspirations and his personal idiosyncracies. Thankfully, the nation was able to profit from his zealous anti-slavery and radical reconstruction ideas–a federal banking system was created, including the greenback demand note which was the first federal currency. His system also made it possible to fund the war effort with government bonds.

Salmon Chase, though an excellent financial administrator, was a pugnacious political fighter, with no sense of humor or understanding of human nature.  He aspired to the presidency himself and used his cabinet post to his own advantage, accumulating favors, names and cash–a fact overlooked by Lincoln because Chase was so good at his job. Salmon Chase overplayed his hand, however. Posturing for a particular political outcome, the Secretary offered his resignation.  Lincoln, weary of the man, accepted the letter. A surprised and humbled Chase did not seek the presidency. That year.

Lincoln, however crazy Chase made him feel, recognized the man’s intellect and within a few months of the resignation appointed Salmon Chase to the Supreme Court.

During 1872-1873 George Endley and John Boyd led the Southside Board of Settlers’ effort to incorporate their growing town as “Chase City”.  In April 1873 a delegation met with the Chief Justice in Richmond, Virginia to formally advise him of the town’s name, and to invite him to be an honorary member of their board.  By all accounts, Salmon Chase cordially received this news.

Date: Friday, April 11, 1873   Paper: Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, VA)   Volume: LXXIV   Issue: 81   Page: 2; accessed from Genealogy Bank, genealogybank.com, (http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/newspapers/doc/v2:109C88C3000E7338@GBNEWS-1311C15624D3B048@2405260-130F20A3672B8AC8@1-13C9BD412BA945A4@%22Chase+City.%22/?search_terms=christiansville%7Cchase&s_dlid=DL0114070315453127032&s_ecproduct=SUB-Y-6995-R.IO-30&s_ecprodtype=RENEW-A-R&s_trackval=&s_siteloc=&s_referrer=&s_subterm=Subscription%20until%3A%2004%2F21%2F2015&s_docsbal=%20&s_subexpires=04%2F21%2F2015&s_docstart=&s_docsleft=&s_docsread=&s_username=dkstrickland43@gmail.com&s_accountid=AC0110012820154827911&s_upgradeable=no) on July 3, 2014.

Date: Friday, April 11, 1873 Paper: Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, VA) Volume: LXXIV Issue: 81 Page: 2; accessed from  http://www.genealogybank.com,July 3, 2014.

I have always wondered whether Endley and Boyd knew Salmon Chase personally, or if they had ever contributed to one of his political campaigns, or been the recipient of his patronage.  No matter.  Their admiration for their Buckeye buddy lives on, in the little town of Chase City.

 

Update:  The original post of July 3, 2014 stated that Salmon Chase never sought political office after Lincoln accepted his June 1864 resignation as Secretary of the Treasury.  That setback only affected the ’64 election.   Chase attempted to win the nomination in 1868 and 1872, unsuccessful in both attempts.

 

On Court Avenue

The cabinet card is not quite as sturdy as one would expect from an established photographer like Benjamin E. Goldsberry, and his studio logo was stamped in haste across the bottom, leaving the green-inked words crookedly confirming the man’s location–Court Avenue in Bedford, the county seat of Taylor County, Iowa. Ben Goldsberry operated cameras like an artist and had a strong reputation in the region, training other aspiring photographers like Matthew G. Maxwell.

page 13 blogThe young couple wear clothes that are simple and traditional, probably made of worsted wool.  The woman’s bodice is plain with no inlays, embroidery or ruffles, and the buttons appear to be made of bone.  She dresses the outfit up with a starched undercollar and a beautiful oval broach at the throat.  Her hair is divided in three pieces; the bottom strands are pulled to the back and twisted into a bun, which is then wound with the two upper pieces for an 1880s finishing touch.  The man wears a jacket and vest made of matching plaid fabric, and a long flowing beard with trimmed sideburns and mustache–a style considered old-fashioned back east.  Mr. Goldsberry operated his Bedford studio from 1880-1890, and these internal clues suggest that the couple posed on Court Avenue between 1884-1889.

I have uncovered six Minor family members living in Iowa’s southcentral counties during the latter decades of the 19th century so far, and only one would fit the description above.

140627-164834John Pierson and Minnie B. Norton Keenan

John P. Keenan was born on a farm near Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, son of Hugh and Isabella Minor Keenan. An adventurous person, John left Greene County in 1875, and as an eighteen year old made his way to Taylor County, Iowa, where he herded other people’s cattle for a living.  He was an enterprising man known as a progressive farmer.  By 1881 John was acting as the legal agent for his Uncle Marion Minor, collecting “judgements” from other Greene County residents who had borrowed money to establish their Iowa roots.  During this same time period, John had made enough money to purchase his own farm in the neighboring Ringgold County. There he met, courted and married Minnie Norton in 1884.

By 1887 John and Minnie had the opportunity to purchase 300 acres of fine farming land south of Mormontown (Blockton), Jefferson Township, Taylor County.  Their lives were turned topsy-turvy when son Hugh was born the summer of 1887.  Unfortunately the following year was filled with grief, as they lost first Minnie’s father, Martin, and then their little boy.

Perhaps later that fall the young farmers headed to town, purchasing winter supplies, tying up financial matters, posting letters before the winter storms set in,  and stopping by Court Avenue to document their resilience for posterity.

page 13 blog