About Kay Strickland

I am a keeper of my family's lore, chasing after my ancestors' tales in south central New York, southwestern Pennsylvania and Southside Virginia. The stories and photographs that I share on this blog are my intellectual property. While I do my very best to provide well researched posts, I do not pretend to have reached genealogical proof standards. Therefore, much of this work is to generate conversation among interested parties. If you would like to share my work or my records, please contact me: dkaysdays (at) gmail (dot) com.

For Marion

page 12 back

Page twelve of the Minor Family Album holds a cabinet card addressed to my great-great-grandfather, Marion Minor (1828-1913). The paper photograph is mounted on a basic ivory-colored cardstock, the photographer’s information stamped at the bottom.

The woman’s face holds a gentle expression, her dark hair swept back to enhance her dark eyes.  Her dress looks plain, as if she had but one good outfit to be worn on many occasions. She dressed it up by adding a white starched collar and a beautiful, in-laid broach at the neckline.

Is she friend or kin?

The mystery lady had her portrait taken by a now-forgotten photographer Howard in Nelson, Nebraska around 1883-1886, judging from from her hairstyle and clothing. Nelson was a town just a decade old, the county seat of agricultural Nuckolls County.  Her two hundred and fifty inhabitants lived and worked in forty-five blocks of newly constructed buildings, hoping for the day the railroad would come through their town.

The Nebraska this woman looked upon was a rapidly growing state, its rolling hills and plains dotted with cattle and corn, and lined by the historic ruts of the Oregon Trail, the California Stagecoach Line, and the Pony Express.  Railroads would soon cut through the waving fields, bringing passengers and goods, and exporting marketable farm products east.

Who was she? Friend? Kin? For now, she remains my mystery woman from Nebraska.

June 23, 2014 —–UPDATE through cousinly collaboration with Linda Bell——-

A close look at several Minor resources* located a cousin some fifteen years younger than Marion Minor.  Andrew Jackson “Jack” Minor (1843-1911) was the son of Uncle Samuel and Aunt Elly Lowery Minor, the last of at least six children who were born to the couple while they lived in Greene County a few miles north of Marion and Mary Jane.  In between 1855-1860, this branch of the Minor tree set off for Linn County, Iowa, for reasons unknown.

Jack served in the Pennsylvania cavalry from 1862-1865, and returned to Linn County.  He married another Greene County native transplanted to the midwest in 1870.  Nancy Rine (1849-193?) and husband Jack moved to Adair, Illinois by 1872 where they ran a store on the railroad with brother Will Minor.  In the 1880s the family moved to…NEBRASKA!!!

Specifically, the family relocated to the town of Fairfield, Nebraska, just a short distance north of Nelson, where two children were born (1883 and 1885) before the family relocated TO NELSON where two more children were born (1887 and 1890).  BOOM!!!!!!!!!!!

What if?

What if my Cornhusker woman is Nancy Rine Minor, wearing a slightly dated fashion for her portrait taken after moving to Nelson.  What if? I await cousinly confirmation!

 

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* including the Ancestry and the Thomas Minor Society databases, and a set of letters written by Samuel Minor to brother John P Minor in the early 1870s.

Taylor Is The New Greene

Plat Book Jesse MinorIn the mid to late 1800s entire branches of original Greene County, Pennsylvania families headed west.  Some may have stopped in Ohio or Missouri before finally heading west again–to the fertile lands of Iowa. Stephensons, Minors, Hartleys, and Keenans swept into the plains of Taylor County, along the south-central border with Missouri.  And many of these western pioneers were related to my great-great-grandfolk, Marion and Mary Jane Minor. The Minor Family Album, then, is more than a photograph storage container; it is the recording of our country’s western migration, and its impact on this extended family.

Page eleven, for instance, tells the story of Jesse Minor (1853-1926) and his wife, Olive Independence Sims (1860-1909).  Jesse grew up next door to Marion and Mary Jane, the son of Marion’s brother, Samuel.  The young farmer left the Minor-studded hills of Ceylon Road when he was just twenty-three, found a wife in Missouri, and settled on land just south of Mormontown (Blockton), Taylor County, Iowa. At the time of this portrait, Jesse and Olive were tightly integrated into the agrarian communities by faith, farming, and family.  Cousin John P. Keenan farmed acres just north of Jesse, and brother John P. Minor lived just to the south.  To the east, just over the Ringgold County line, lived Keenan’s sister, Hannah Hartley, and Minor cousin, John and Mary Stephenson.

Jesse is shown in this photo sitting in the only chair, a Victorian reference to his status as head of household, and his son, Joseph Carl “Jed”, is balanced on his dad’s crossed legs.  Olive sits primly to Jesse’s side, her hands folded in her lap.  Their tween daughter, Della May, stands beside her mother, her hand draped on her father’s chair. The group is well dressed, facing the camera with confident, happy eyes. Fourteen years after leaving southwestern Pennsylvania, little Jesse Minor has firmly established himself as a successful farmer, stock buyer, husband, father, and community member.   This image captured his contentment and pride more completely than any letter’s words, and was saved, ever a reminder that family ties endure, even if Taylor is the new Greene.

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Womenfolk I Know

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Ah! Another page of familiar faces. This woman’s stare…I have seen it somewhere. The eyebrows are a horizontal accent to an intense gaze. The mouth is held in a slight frown and she has that Minor Roman nose.  Who does this woman remind me of?

Sarah Priscilla Minor (1858-1925) at about sixteen.

Sarah Priscilla Minor (1858-1925) at about sixteen. Close up from the Minor Family Portrait, author’s collection.

Sarah Minor, that’s who!  My great-grandfather’s sister.

left to right: Owen McClure (1843-1925) , Owen's daughter from first marriage, Anna McClure (1872-xx), daughter of Sarah and Owen, Florence McClure; Sarah's daughter by first marriage, Beatrice Herrington; Sarah Minor Herrington McClure.

left to right: Owen McClure (1843-1925) , Owen’s daughter from first marriage, Anna McClure (1872-xx), daughter of Sarah and Owen, Florence McClure (1889-1968); Sarah’s daughter by first marriage, Beatrice Herrington (1880-1964); Sarah Minor Herrington McClure (1858-1925). Photograph taken by TW Rogers in about 1891.

The story here is of a blended family, thrown together by society’s constraints and family tragedy.  Both Owen and Sarah lost their first spouses and were left with a daughter each to raise alone.  They joined forces to make a stronger family unit, and created one more daughter–Florence.  Or Flossie as I knew her.

Yes!  That little girl grew up and lived down the street from my Minor grandparents in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, though I remember Flossie as an old, very old lady.  Flossie and Arthur Titus were regular visitors during our summer visits, and it pleases me no end to have a photograph that unites my ancestral and my childhood pasts.

 

Windows To My Past

Vintage photographs lead to vintage family.  Folks that shared an historical context and proximity, whose connections of love and sorrow shaped decisions that are even now rippling through my time.

I love looking at these eyes, windows to my past, staring back into my present.

Family Portrait taken by T W Rogers, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, circa 1874.  Standing: Sarah, John P., Olfred Minor.  Seated: Mary Jane Gwynn and Francis Marion Minor.  Standing front: Robert Minor (b. 1869) Photo recovered from Minor Home Farm circa 1965

Family Portrait taken by T W Rogers, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, circa 1874. Standing: Sarah, John P., Olfred Minor. Seated: Mary Jane Gwynn and Francis Marion Minor. Standing front: Robert Minor (b. 1869) Photo recovered from Minor Home Farm circa 1965

Thomas W Rogers of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania took this portrait of my great-grandfather’s birth family in the mid-1870s, when Robert Minor was about six years old.  The faces of his parents bear distinctive features, which I make use of as I sleuth through other photographs.

Like now, when we turn to pages eight and nine of the Minor Family Album.

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Marion Minor (1828-1913) His Roman nose was a strong facial feature. His right eyelid drooped noticeably.

 

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Mary Jane Gwynne Minor (1829-1908) Her most striking feature were her startingly light, and probably blue, eyes.

 

The photographs are mounted on heavy cardstock, with a metallic coating–silver or gold–on the beveled, scalloped edges, a product commonly used from 1880-the early 1890s. The two appear to be in their early sixties, suggesting a portrait sitting after 1888.  The puffy fullness at the shoulder of Mary Jane’s dress narrows the timeframe to between 1889-1892.

I imagine Mary Jane and Marion starting their day with the usual farm chores, milking cows, gathering egges, lighting the stove and fixing breakfast.  Instructions would be given to Robert and the farmhands for the rest of the day’s chores, before the couple changed into their best clothes.  A horse was hitched up to the buggy and they drove out onto the “red dog” surface, heading up the hill of Ceylon Road, past the homes of siblings and children, nieces and nephews, on their seven mile trip to Carmichaels.

What was the occasion for the photographs?  A sixtieth birthday acknowledged?  Their fortieth wedding anniversary celebrated?

Whatever prompted the impulse, I am grateful that the studio appointment was kept, and that I have these eyes gazing from my past.

On The Trail To Tioga

Cemetery. Mount Pleasant. Westfield, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.  Sayles, Christopher and Sarah KingI woke to this thought–I live three hours from my great-great-grandfather’s childhood home. The weather report promised spring sun and warm temperatures, perfect for a cemetery hunt.  I gassed up my car, plotted out my routes, and headed out west through the Endless Mountains. I couldn’t help wondering why Ira Sayles’ parents and grandparents picked up and left Rhode Island.

At Williamsport, I turned north and traveled up the four lane highway where hillsides hug the horizon to the valley.   Just miles from the point where Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier turns into New York’s Southern Tier, I turned off onto a winding Route 49.  A stagnant band of water stretched some miles to my right, today’s Cowanesque River Recreation Area.  In another moment I realized that the water was off to my left and squiggling through the soil, a river of little size.  This then is the Cowanesque Valley which beckoned to my ancestors centuries ago.  Alrighty.  But why would the Howlands, Kings and Sayles make the trek from northwestern Rhode Island, small children, babies, pots, pans, quilts, packed into whatever form the roads required?  How did this land lure people from ancestral ties, family-packed villages, established communities and businesses?

I kept driving, through Elkland, toward Deerfield Township. Knoxville and Westfield were up ahead.

I rounded a corner–to a valley opened in a welcoming hello. Flat fields stretched for miles.  Farmhouses sat close to the road, their barns and outbuildings clustered close behind.  Green hills rose on the horizon, tethering the fertile ground to a wide sky.  So THIS was the Cowanesque Valley that pulled John and Lois Eddy Howland, James and Rhobe Howland King, and Christopher and Sarah King Sayles from the established coastal settlements to the western frontier.

Landscape. Cowanesque Valley, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.

The Howlands were Quaker, and their remains were buried in what is now the town of Knoxville. Quaker headstones were often inscribed with nothing more than initials and a date of death.  The town decided to replace the aging stones with one durable marker honoring the burial place of the area’s Quaker ancestors.

Cemetery. Knoxville. Howland, John and Lois Eddy.

On this site were buried the great-grandparents of Ira Sayles, John Howland (1743-1835) and Lois Eddy Howland (1749-1825)

The valley narrowed as I continued west to the Krusen Cemetery, located a short distance from the Cowanesque River bridge in Westfield.  On a knoll are the remains of this town’s elders, including Ira’s grandparents, James IV King and the Howland’s daughter, Rhobe.

Krusen Cemetery, Westfield, Pennsylvania. The gravestone of Ira Sayles' grandparents, James King IV (1765-1844) and Rhobe/Merrobe Howland King (1769-1836)

Krusen Cemetery, Westfield, Pennsylvania. The gravestone of Ira Sayles’ grandparents, James King IV (1765-1844) and Rhobe/Merrobe Howland King (1769-1836)

Turning east I took the hill-hugging Mill Street to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the resting place of Ira’s parents, Christopher Sayles and the King’s daughter, Sarah.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Westfield, Pennsylvania.  The grave of Ira's parents, Christopher Sayles (1791-1884) and Sarah King Sayles (1793-1866)

Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Westfield, Pennsylvania. The grave of Ira’s parents, Christopher Sayles (1791-1884) and Sarah King Sayles (1793-1866)

Pausing at the grave sites I tried hard to imagine what characteristics I might have inherited.  Persistence.  Patience.  Imagination. Courage to get up every day even when you don’t know if you’ve done the right thing. The desire to make a building a home,and a network of people a community.

As I looked out over the hills of my ancestors I felt a piece of me relax, accepting their gifts, prepared to continue their legacy.

Landscape.  Westfield, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.