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.

page 8 blog

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

 

page 9 blog

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.

UPDATED Strangers Cross My Path Again: The Minor Family Album

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.

Map. Taylor and Ringgold Counties, Iowa. Keenan, Minor, Stephenson

 

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:

 http://iagenweb.org/ringgold/history/maloy/hist_maloyCent_HartleyFam.html

Minor Relatives. Photo. 1890. Hartley, Hannah Keenan and John Milton

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.

The Story Lies In His Hand

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.

May Laura Stevenson and Robert Minor said "I do" on September 8, 1892, in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania.  The service was officiated by Rev. T. J. Briston, a Presbyterian minister.

May Laura Stevenson and Robert Minor said “I do” on September 8, 1892, in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania. The service was officiated by Rev. T. J. Briston, a Presbyterian minister.

On The Trail of S. A. Stevens : The Minor Family Album

The second, third, and fourth pages of the Minor Family Album were all taken by Oliver Eugene Aultman, in his West Main Street studio, in Trinidad, Colorado.  I made a thorough study of the photographs’ internal clues and narrowed down the timeframe for the shoot as being between 1889-1893.  With no annotations to aid my identification, I turned to the internet and googled the photographer.  This switch in focus may seem counterintuitive, but, as I reported here, perserverance paid off with an amazing, unexpected clue: the discovery of MY photograph in the online Aultman Collection shared by History Colorado.

So these folks are the Stevens Family

The online file confirmed that the photo had been taken in 1890, and the name associated with the woman was S. A. Stevens.

Still means nothing to me.

I found online copies Trinidad Directories from the 1890s and discovered that there was a Sanford H. Stevens living in Trinidad.

Still means nothing.

I searched the digital Denver Library files and found an 1892 photograph of Sanford H. Stevens surrounded by his colleagues at the Trinidad Advertiser where he was business manager.

Still no connection to me and mine.

Damn the fire that destroyed the 1890 census!

So relying on the 1850-1880 and the 1900 US Federal censuses, I reconstructed the life of this Sanford Stevens and found a sliver of a clue.  Sanford Stevens was born in 1849 to Greenwood W. and Maria Stevens, farmers in Monongalia County, (West) Virginia.  The family moved to Dunkard Township–just south of my family’s Greene Township home!!–by 1860.  Sanford was listed as a school teacher in Dunkard Township in 1870, and must have married soon after, for the 1880 census has Sanford and wife, Phoebe, farming and raising two children in Monongalia County.  Since they sat for a photograph in 1890, the family moved west sometime in the 1880s.  By 1900, the Stevens family was complete, and Sanford and Phoebe were living on Colorado Avenue, Trinidad with four children, Clyde (1875), Frank G. (1877), Chellie M. (1881), and Mary E. (1884).

So this is Sanford H. Stevens.

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.

And this is Phoebe Stevens.

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.

And, from left to right, these are Clyde, Chellie, Frank, and Mary Stevens.

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.

But. Why are these folks in the album?

I googled my accumulated terms–Sanford, Stevens, Trinidad, history, Advertiser, newspaper–and hit upon a 1913 Semi-centennial History of the State of Colorado, Volume 2, by Jerome Smiley.  Page three hundred and thirty was my perserverance reward, three glorious paragraphs describing Sanford H. Stevens’ family, employment, and public service. And most importantly yielding the golden ticket, the clue that solves my mystery.

Sanford H. Stevens was married in 1873 to Phoebe H. Evans, daughter of Benjamin Evans. OH!  I know that name!!

That’s it!!!

That is THE connection. Benjamin Brice Evans was married to Margaret Minor and Margaret was the sister of Francis Marion, my great-grandfather.  Mary Jane included these photographs because they were her niece’s family, folks who had successfully navigated their way to an exciting new life out west.

With tremendous satisfaction, I introduce Phoebe Evans Stevens, the Minor link to Trinidad, Colorado.

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.

 

The Minor Family Album: Continuing The Search for Mr. Chin Whisker’s Identity

Mr. Chin WhiskersMy last post contained a LOT of information about the face that greets me when I open the Minor Family Album.  Mr. Chin Whiskers was originally thought to be our family patriarch, John Pearson (Pierson) Minor, but that hypothesis was thrown out when a cousin shared copy of a labeled tintype of John P. Minor.  My image and his image were NOT of the same person.  Continuing my search within the Minor family tree, I compared my image to another image of a known Minor, Samuel Minor, who was John P’s brother.  These two images were not of the same person.  I left the post dangling the idea that perhaps my image is of a third brother, Asa.

Is this bearded man Asa Minor?

Among my family artifacts are documents and letters found in an old leather satchel, retrieved from the Minor Home Farm long ago by my mother.  Included in this treasure trove are letters from Asa Minor to his brother, John P.  (You can read more about this exchange here.) These papers establish that the brothers kept in touch, and presumably John’s children would have known of their uncle.

The 1860 US Federal Mortality Schedule tells us that Asa died in January of that year, succumbing to consumption from which he had suffered for nine months.  His wife continued to live on the farm in Deerfield Township, Warren County, Ohio.

So, Asa kept in touch with John.  Asa was alive in the 1850s when everybody with a bit of money could get a photograph made.

That is all we really know.

Could this photograph be Asa?  If I can confirm that the TW Rogers took a photo of a photo and if I can confirm that the man’s clothing is typical of the late 1850s, then I could feel a wee bit of confidence in that identification hypothesis.

For now…

I turn to the blogosphere, to photo detectives, to descendants of Asa Minor–what do YOU think?

  • What timeframe does the jacket, vest and beard suggest to you?
  • Are there other copies of this photograph out there, LABELED?
  • Are there other photographs of Asa out there?

Of course there are other possibilities…

What if this is a member of Mary Jane Gwynne’s family?  I don’t have much research to document her family, other than her father, Alfred, died in 1835.  And until I can narrow down the timeframe for the photograph, original or copied, then I can’t really narrow down which male family members this might be!!

And so I conclude this post as mystified as I began.  The whiskered man begs to tell a story.  For now, the story will have to remain untold.

Mr. Chin Whiskers