Earthworms are being pecked out of the ground at an astonishing rate, judging from the robin beaks I have seen today. Hungry mouths are waiting.
Observing feathered behavior is a favorite pasttime, particularly when one individual becomes part of my landscape, part of my family.
My girl’s nest building was furtive, unnoticed. But her alarm routine while I gardened prompted a determined hunt ending at a low growing pine, her nest just above eye level. Gleefully I imagined the clutch she was protecting, and anticipated the addition of nestling peeps to our spring bird symphony.
I sat at my desk Friday, the clatter of the keyboard drowned out by alarm cries. I was driven to such distraction that I left my desk and walked out on the front porch. At least a dozen robins were participating in a flock alarm pattern, alternately swooping through the air, diving toward the ground or calling from a nearby maple. Perched at the top of the six foot pine was a Red-tailed Hawk, leering into the shrub’s branches. At my nest.
AT MY NEST!!!
I joined the flock alarm, clapping my hands and shouting “HEY!!!” My herding dog turned his eye on the raptor and added his command. With great deliberation the hawk looked down, then around, then slowly spread her wings to a lazy lift off. Atop my neighbors hemlock, twenty-four inches of taloned feathers observed our interspecies team for another minute before abandoning the project all together.
A short while later I held a compact mirror above the nest to glimpse the raptor’s intended prize–four blind, down-covered nestlings. Several hours passed before I checked one more time on my nest, only to be met by a mother’s stern gaze. We both have our eye on the future.
I am becoming a bit wary of this great-great-grandmother of mine, Mary Jane Minor. She does not appear to have had much of a design plan for this photograph album, for turning to pages six and seven, I am greeted by strangers once again. Strangers from Iowa.
The man sports a full beard and moustache, and wears his plaid coat unbuttoned to show off the matching vest and watch chain. He appears to be in his mid-late forties. The woman looks to be about ten years his junior and wears her hair parted in the middle with no bangs and severely swept back to the nape of her neck. Her dress is made of a dark cloth, the tightly fitted bodice decorated with ornate embroidery trim on either side of the column of buttons and a bit of lace peeking out at the throat. The puffed shoulders of her slim sleeves are my best hint that this photograph was taken sometime between 1888 and 1893, when women’s fashion dictated ever fuller leg of mutton sleeves. Before 1888, the sleeve would have been sewn flat at the shoulder.
The photographer was Matthew G. Maxwell who first learned his trade while working for Mr. Goldsberry of Bedford,Taylor County, Iowa. By the time of these portraits, Mr. Maxwell had an established studio in Mt. Ayr, in the neighboring county of Ringgold.
POSSIBILITIES ARE LIMITED
Neither of these two folks are Mary Jane’s children, all of whom can be accounted for back east. John P Minor (Jr.) was married with a child, and living right down the road from Mary Jane and Marion. Sarah Minor Herrington was a widow, with a child, and living nearby. Olfred had died in 1886, and his widow and children were being cared for locally by Mary Jane and Marion. And Robert, my grandfather, was still living at the home farm on Ceylon Road with his parents.
Time to shake the family branches!
A few candidates fall out during the search for middle aged relatives living in or near Mt. Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa in the late 1880s.
- John Minor Stephenson was Mary Jane’s nephew, as his mother, Hannah, was Marion Minor’s sister. John had moved to a farm near the village of Maloy in Ringgold County with his wife, Mary Dulaney, in 1867. In 1888, John would have been 54 and Mary would have been 44. If Iowa fashion lagged trends, and the photographs were actually taken in the early 1890s, then John would have been in his late fifties and Mary in her late forties.
- John P. Keenan was another nephew, son of Isabelle Minor Keenan. John went to Taylor County, Iowa in the 1870s, and for several years herded cattle before purchasing land of his own in neighboring Ringgold County. He married Minnie and eventually went back to Taylor County farming land close to the town of Blockton. In the late 1880s John P. would have been in his early thirties, and his wife Minnie in her early twenties.
- John Keenan’s sister was also in Taylor County, Iowa. Hannah and her husband, John Milton Hartley relocated from Greene County, Pennsylvania to Iowa in 1874. The two raised their family on a Taylor County farm before starting a business in the town of Maloy, Ringgold County, Iowa. In 1888, Hannah would have been 35 years old and husband John would have been 48.
- Two other Greene County boys had settled in Taylor County, Iowa by the late 1880s, Jesse and John P. Minor, sons of Marion’s brother–and next door neighbor–Samuel. They and their wives held contiguous farms just south of the town of Blockton. Jesse would have been in his late thirties and Olive in her late twenties. John P. and Mary Ellen would have been in their late twenties.
Let’s suppose at the time of the portrait session, the residences of all these Minor kids were within traveling distance of Matthew G. Maxwell’s studio in Mt. Ayr. Jesse and John P. Minor were too young to be the gentleman shown. Furthermore, I have comparison portraits of these guys which confirm that Mr. Page Seven is not a picture of them!
John Stevenson would have been much older than the man in this photograph.
John and Minnie Keenan would have been much younger than the two pictured here.
AT THIS TIME THEN
The most likely identity of this couple–with what I know now–is Hannah Keenen Hartley and her husband John Milton.
I will have to keep an open mind as I continue this puzzle, matching up letters and documents with what clues I have in photographs. But for the moment…I think have added one more stranger to my family tree.
Well, THAT sense of satisfaction was short-lived!!!
I followed up my blog post yesterday with another google search for the Hartleys, to expand my sense of their space, their era, their dreams. And found this page on the Ringgold, Iowa GenWeb site:
Dare to compare. Hannah Hartley appears to have a bigger frame and a broader nose than my Victorian lady. And John Milton Hartley appears to be bald, whereas my dude is thinning at the temple. I must return these faces to the stranger pile, to be hung on my family tree at some future date.
Page Five of The MINOR FAMILY ALBUM
How good it is to see familiar faces!!
The fifth page frames a young couple’s portrait, carefully staged to tell the story of a momentous autumn day. Robert Minor had just taken May Stevenson’s hand in marriage.
The twenty-three year old groom was dressed in well-tailored pin-striped pants worn with a frock coat and matching waist coat–a fashion which would indicate that the Thursday wedding was held during the day. His bride, seventeen year old May Stevenson, wore an exquisite gown with lace at the throat, on the bodice, and at the cuffs. The hat, no doubt designed and made by her milliner mother, Mary Jones Stevenson, was trimmed in the this same lace and finished with feathers. September 8, 1892 was a grand day for these families.
The Presbyterian minister, T. G. Bristow, conducted the service in Carmichaels, Greene County, Pennsylvania. After Robert and May exchanged their vows, and the LARGE families of both bride and groom mingled in congratulations, the newlyweds stopped by the Public Square studio of T. W. Rogers and had their picture taken. Robert stared a bit like a deer caught in a lantern’s light, perhaps rocked by the realization that the circuit of ice cream socials and steamboat shows had come to an end. A soft smile tugged at May’s face, however. The young lady had survived the arduous years following her father’s death and secured her future with this prosperous young man. Together the youngsters would join in the family business–raising cattle and children to carry on the Minor legacy on Ceylon Road, Garard’s Fort, Pennsylvania.