A couple of weeks ago I posted a bit of my family’s story, which explored the life of John Pearson Minor between the time he was a child of the Western Pennsylvania frontier and the time he became Pearson Minor, husband, father and Garard’s Fort community leader. In particular I wanted to know more about this ancestor’s military service during the War of 1812. Among the Minor documents in my possession is the 1871 Pension notification for Pearson, a corporal in Captain Seeley’s regiment. My request for a copy of this pension file was quickly filled by the folks at the National Archives, Washington, D.C.
Honestly, I had hoped for a few details that could fill out the sketchy family lore, and I wasn’t disappointed. As I pored over the contents, I sighed with delight; then I sucked in my breath and held it for as long as it took to read this genea-bomb.
War of 1812
DECLARATION OF SOLDIER FOR PENSION
to be executed before Judge or Clerk of Court
State of Pennsylvania
County of Greene
On this twenty sixth day of June , AD one thousand eight hundred and seventy one, personally appeared before me, H. H. Lindsey, Clerk of the Court of Common Please, a Court of Record within and for the county and State aforesaid, Pearson Minor aged seventy nine years, a resident of Greene Township , County of Greene State of Pennsylvania, who, being duly sworn according to law, declares that he is married; that his wife’s name was Isabella McClelland, to whom he was married at Greene Township, Greene Co. PA , on the 25 day of September, 1813. . . . . . . . .
Shaking my head, I read this statement again. And again.
I have spent little time pondering John Pearson’s married life; the details have just been very hard to obtain. I rolled along, telling the story of his life with the information others had gathered before me, including the family register held at the Thomas Minor Society and family trees from Ancestry.com. All of these sources listed two wives for John Pearson, one Hannah McClelland who died in 1817 shortly after the birth of the second son, Robert, and an Isabella McClelland, whom he married in 1817 and with whom he had nine children. This 1871 document, completed with the sworn testimony of the John Pearson Minor, left me doubting my assumptions, and the sources I have trusted for the past three years.
BACK TO THE BASICS
The woman who is known in my family documents as Isabella McClelland Minor is often listed in family trees and registers as Huldah Isabella McClelland Minor. I have no primary source to offer an explanation for the first name. With this new genea-bomb I have had to wonder if Huldah was Hannah, poorly transcribed, making Hannah and Isabella McClelland but one person. But how did folks ever think that John Pearson had two wives? What records might exist to put this to rest once and for all? And if there were two McClelland girls who married John Pearson Minor, how were they related?
I started my triangulation of the truth with a pretty thorough, and fruitless, search for primary source documentation on the family trees and registers that I have gathered. I then returned to the documents within my possession, with greater success.
CLUES TO THE TRUTH
I assembled all the original and photocopied primary sources within my possession that contained the surname McClelland. This collection included:
- An 1823 deed conveying title from Robert McClelland and wife, Isabella, to John P. Minor for a piece of the land patented to Robert McClelland in 1793 and 1794 from Stephen Davis. This document provides a hint that Isabella was a family name.
- An announcement from the Orphans Court of Greene County that all stakeholders in the estate of Robert McClelland, deceased, should appear in June 1834.
- An undated document indicating that John Pearson had purchased the remainder of the McClelland Farm and needed to straighten out how payment was to be finalized.
- An 1835 deed conveying title from Cephas McClelland to John Pearson for land patented to Robert McClelland from Stephen Davis in 1793 and 1794. This deed established that Robert was the father of Cephas, and, with the phrase “the land is defended from all claims except those from Abia and Robert Minor, and (John Pearson’s) present wife”, indicated that Cephas and Isabella were brother and sister, and sibling to the mother of Abia and Robert.
- An 1855 deed in which John and Isabella Minor conveyed title to land in Harrison County, (West) Virginia to the two oldest children, Abia and Robert; and for which payment was to include land,in lieu of cash, in Greene County, Pennsylvania that the boys had inherited from Robert McClelland.
- Abia Minor, son of John Pearson Minor, married Harriet Ballard in 1855 after his first wife, Elizabeth Thompson, died in 1853. This Harrison County, West Virginia marriage record states that Abia’s father was John P. and his mother was Hannah.
- Francis Marion, oldest son of John Pearson and Isabella Minor, and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor’s family bible bears this inscription: Isabella McClelland, second wife of John P. Minor, was born on the thirtieth day of September 1792.
- A recent Glade Cemetery index, Carmicheals, Pennsylvania,submitted online by the D.A.R. Chapter of Greene County, includes the inscription for one Hannah Minor, first wife of John P, who died at age twenty two, 28 April 1817.
- Howard Leckey’s highly regarded history of Greene County pioneer families, Ten Mile Country and its Pioneer Families, lists Cephas and Isabella as the children of Robert McClelland and wife unknown.
ASSEMBLING THE EVIDENCE
By pulling threads from all of these sources, I can weave today the following conclusion: John Pearson Minor was married on September 25, 1813 to Hannah McClelland, who bore two sons – Abia and Robert – before dying on April 28, 1817. John Pearson Minor then married Hannah’s sister, Isabella McClelland in the fall of 1817. The couple had another nine children, together.
It would seem then that seventy-nine year old John Pearson Minor was a bit fuzzy with his family history on that summer day in 1871, evidence that even ancestors had senior moments.
OTHER INTERESTING TRUTHS
As is often the case, genea-sleuthing leads family historians to unexpected places. As I gathered evidence for the existence and identity of two wives, I also wove a record of John Pearson and Isabella Minor purchasing the McClelland Farm bit by bit over the course of their lives, from Robert; his son, Cephas; and his grandsons, Abia and Robert. Or looked at from another perspective, Isabella McClelland Minor bought her homeplace from her father, her brother and her nephews.
As it turns out the adjacent farm belonged to Jacob Myers, and John Pearson Minor purchased that farm in 1828, refurbishing the solid brick home for his family in 1831. Their eleven children grew up running through the hills of Isabella’s childhood. The McClelland Farm was given to Pearson and Isabella’s youngest son, Samuel. And that brick house on the Myers Farm – that was the same home in which John Pearson resided as a widower; the same home in which Francis and Mary Jane raised their family; and their son, Robert, raised his Helen and Donald; and the same brick home in which Donald raised my mom and her siblings.
.. . . . . his wife’s name was Isabella McClelland, to whom he was married at Greene Township, Greene Co. PA , on the 25 day of September, 1813. . . .
How grateful I am for John Pearson’s senior moment!