Re-Viewing the Past: Wordless Wednesday

Stuck between some sheet music bearing my grandfather’s signature was a photograph.  A faded copy of a copy, it depicted a mid-19th century cane-carrying gentleman astride a large dapple gray horse.  Establishing provenance of the photograph is almost impossible, but the copy appears to have been among Donald Minor’s possessions, which were then stored by my mother, Marilyn Minor Strickland, and inherited by me.

When first discovered, I posited that this commanding figure was a Minor.(read my first post here)

Found among the sheet music of Donald Minor, this photograph bears no identification, of the rider or the photographer.  From the Marilyn Minor Strickland Collection, 2014.

Found among the sheet music of Donald Minor, this photograph bears no identification, of the rider or the photographer. From the Marilyn Minor Strickland Collection, 2014.

Since that summer day, I have been in communication with two Minor cousins, and was lucky enough to score a new photograph.  This time provenance is known. The original photograph of John Pearson (Pierson) Minor was taken by J. P. Shafer of Morgantown, West Virginia,  held by his son, Samuel, in Greene County, Pennsylvania, and then passed down through that family to my cousin, Ron.

Tin Type of John Pearson Minor, J. P. Shafer of Morgantown, West Virginia, photographer.

John Pearson Minor, J. P. Shafer of Morgantown, West Virginia, photographer; from the Ronald Minor Collection, 2014. 

The figure on the horse bears a striking resemblance to the man calmly sitting for his portrait.  My investigation into my mystery horseman will require additional knowledge of period clothing and hairstyles.  I also think the cane may hold a clue about his identity.  But I am stepping lightly toward identifying the rider as one John P. Minor, circa 1860.

Walking Down May’s Street: mappy monday

May Laura Stevenson lay under covers, listening to eight siblings rustle from bed’s warmth into cold, thick wool layers.  Procrastinating would not reduce her chores or delay the walk to school, so up she sat, throwing off her blankets, reaching for her clothes. In quick fluid movements May covered her shivering little body, and joined the familiar morning jostle.  Ice had to be broken from animals’ water troughs; pigs had to be slopped, and chickens fed.  Stalls needed to be mucked out, and cows milked.  Breakfast had to be fixed, the table set.

May’s early life was spent on Gabler’s Knob, a farm that looked out over the bustling river town of Greensboro, on the Monongahela River in Greene County, Pennsylvania.  Born in 1874, May was the seventh of nine children born to Ellis and Mary Jones Stevenson.

Prints of LightAfter a hearty breakfast the school-age Stevensons set off down the hill, past Dr. G. F. Birch’s orchard, and turned left onto the main road of the Old Glass Works*.  As William, Presley, Permelia, and May walked up the village street, they were joined by young Kramers, McCoys, Mercers, Blacks, and Gablers.  The wind coming off the river hurled the winter damp through their coats, and the would-be scholars hurried past Mr. Neil’s ferry, round the corner, and into the school house.  All together they learned to read, to write, to do their figures.  At day’s end, the group trudged on home, the Stevensons to return to more chores before settling down for the dinner and a good night’s sleep.

Floe on the SusquehannaOn Sunday, the family traveled into town, to attend services at Greensboro Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Clear and Second streets.  The sanctuary was just a block down from the Star Pottery and Tile Works, owned by Frank Hamilton and John Jones,  Mary Stevenson’s cousin. After church service, May and her family walked three blocks south on Front Street, to eat Sunday dinner  with the Jones’.  Uncle David and Aunt Cill ran Greensboro House, a family business handed down from father, John Jones, and the home to the Jones family since the late 1840s. Her double first cousins, Anna and Fannie, would regale May with stories about the latest hotel guests, and the difficulties steamboats had when the river ice grew thick. The girls imagined a day in spring when they would saunter down County Street to the quay, and board the Packet Dean Adams, traveling all the way to Pittsburgh, just to shop for a dress.  Laughter and dreams and family.

That is what I imagine for May, my great-grandmother, as I walk down May’s street in my mind. [click on the maps below for enlarged viewing]

*Some seventy years before May was born, the village on the banks of the Monongahela River had been occupied by the first glass making factory west of the Allegheny Mountains. German immigrants like May’s great-great-granduncle, Adolphus Eberhart, lent their expertise to the making of frontier window glass and bottles.

Music My Mother Played: The Old Lamp-Lighter

Music my mother played The Lamp-LighterIn 1946 the songwriting team of Charles Tobias and Nat Simon captured  the hearts, and ears, of a post-war audience with their tune, The Old Lamp-Lighter.  Band leader Sammy Kaye recorded the song, featuring vocals by Billy Williams, and the haunting melody hit the Billboard Best Sellers List by November.  The Old Lamp-Lighter stayed on the charts for fourteen weeks, peaking at #1.  Among Sammy and His Orchestra‘s many fans was fourteen year old Marilyn Minor, a young pianist and talented vocalist living in rural Greene County, Pennsylvania.  Every Friday she traveled into nearby Waynesburg, to stay overnight with her Grandmother May Minor for her Saturday piano lesson.  I imagine this young teen sitting at the bench, determined to parse out the arrangement’s rhythm of dotted eighth and sixteenth notes.  And I wonder if her father, Donald, sang along, “He made the night a little brighter wherever he would go…”

Meet You Under The Tent

CHAUTAUQUA TENT WILL RISE TODAY

Performer with Red Path Chautauqua, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1929

During the early decades of the twentieth century, the arrival of the big brown tent was the highlight of a town’s summer.  Under the canvas roof, large crowds would gather for a week’s worth of entertainment and education.  The Redpath Circuit Chautauqua was part vaudeville show, part educational lecture series, and at its height in the 1920s the performers and lecturers appeared in over 10,000 communities in 45 states.  Crowds, far from the cultural benefits of metropolitan areas, were thus able to hear Broadway hits, watch classic plays, and learn about the social and political ideas of the day.  For many Americans the Circuit Chautauqua was an important factor in molding the very character of the nation.

CHAUTAUQUA TO HAVE JUNIOR TOWN

Junior Town, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1929, supervised by Kerma P. Bradford

Junior Town, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1929, supervised by Kerma P. Bradford

The chautauqua wasn’t only for adults.  Thousands of children had their cultural horizons expanded through programming just for them, and for hundreds of young women, the job of supervising the children’s programs offered an opportunity to work and travel. One such lucky lady was my grandmother, Kerma Pauline Bradford.  In the summers of 1928 and 1929, Kerma left her hometown, Coshocton, Ohio, to set up Junior Town in a circuit that included Canton and Masillon, Ohio, and Greene County, Pennsylvania. In each community, Kerma met with the youngsters, ticket holders all, at nine o’clock the first day of chautauqua.

Kerma Bradford, Junior Town supervisor, with Bill Slater, superintendent of Red Path Chautauqua, 1929

Kerma Bradford, Junior Town supervisor, with Bill Slater, superintendent of Red Path Chautauqua, 1929

From among the assembled kids, ten boys and girls were elected to the Junior Town Council, which was then charged with assisting Miss Bradford.  Every day the Junior Chautauqua would meet from nine until noon, to play games, listen to stories, take hikes, and, most importantly, prepare the week’s project–a minstrel show or pageant–which was performed during the last day, for the entire chautauqua. 

In 1929, Kerma Bradford traveled to Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, where she reported to the Big Brown Tent each morning from her room in the Wisecarver House.  Beyond her duties to Junior Town, Kerma had time for friendships, and time for romance. When the Junior Town supervisor returned to Coshocton that fall, she had many stories to recall to her kindergarten students, including the memory of a certain young man, future husband, Donald Minor.

Photographs from the Marilyn Minor Collection, archived with the author.

For more interesting chautauqua tidbits:

The Evening Repository (Canton), “Woman Directs Chatauqua Event,” August 12, 1928. http://www.genealogybank.com (accessed January 12, 2014).

The Evening Repository (Canton), “Chautauqua To Have Junior Town,” July 31, 1928.  http://www.genealogybank.com (accessed January 12, 2014).

Canning Charlotte, The Most American Thing in America: Circuit Chautauqua as Performance.  University of Iowa Press: Iowa City. 2005.

The Redpath Chautauqua Collection, University of Iowa digital collection: http://www.sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/traveling-culture/inventory/msc150.html.

And You Thought OUR Roads Were Bad: 1918 Christmas Roadtrip

Chasing family tales is what gets all genealogists hooked, and when we get help from previously unknown circles, it feels like Christmas.  To receive such collaboration AT Christmastime is just too wonderful for words. I want to thank cousin, Linda Bell, for her  holiday energy and sharing.  Family lore has become another GREAT family story. 

Minor Home, Orlando, FloridaEvery once in a while as I was growing up, Minor family reunions would include some reminiscing, and tantalizing bits of information would drift about. Like…Robert and May Laura Minor, my great-grandparents,  had a home in Florida. Sometime. Somewhere. For some reason. Years passed. THEN came an email exchange between genea-cousins, which connected my memories and photos with her memories and documents, and whoosh!! we have a Christmas STORY!

IMAGINE…..  

The Minor Farm on Ceylon Lane, Greene County, PennsylvaniaIt is December 23, in southwestern Pennsylvania, 1918.  Two years have passed since President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Aid Road Act, the first comprehensive commitment to the establishment of a nationwide highway system.  America has entered the age of the automobile, BUT would-be travelers have no AAA to call, no Kayak.com to click, no system of vacation organization whatever.  America has 2.5 million miles of public roads,  but only 11% are paved.  Let’s go on a Christmas roadtrip!  To Florida! By auto! SAY WHAT?

‘TWAS TWO DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS . . . . 

And Robert and May, Donald (16), Helen (24) and Alonzo Bell,  were headed out, off the farm! Onward to Florida! But first to cross the Monongahela River! As told by Helen Minor Bell, my great-grandaunt, the trek proved to be eventful.

Minor Automobile with Helen at the wheel

On Dec. 23rd 1918, Father, mother, brother, my husband and myself left the farm for Florida by auto.  On reaching Carmichaels, we learned we could not cross the river at Crucible as the river was so high, but they were still crossing at Masontown so went back to Masontown and crossed that was we did not strike a good road until we almost to Uniontown.  

The first day we only got as far as Flintstone Md. A very small hotel and no conveniences whatever.  Sec. day ate dinner at HamiltonHotel, Hagerstown, Md, stayed that night at Berkley Hotel Martinsburg, W. Va.  Christmas Dinner Edinburgh Hotel at Edinburgh Va. and stayed at Beverly Hotel at Staunton Va.  Here we saw Pres. Wilson’s birth-place, also the Staunton Military Academy.  There, next day after Xmas had dinner at Natural Bridge Hotel, Natural B Va.  Here the natural bridge was one of the wonders of the world.  

The drive this after noon from Natural Bridge to Lynchburg was the most dangerous and very risky trip in any afternoon.  Part of the way we followed a road just wide enough for the car along an old canal, finally we came to a place which seemed to us we were driving up to some ones barn yard, we thought this as far as the road went, but asked the woman and she said you’re on the right road go straight ahead.  We drove on up around the barn among the cows and up a steep hill which looked like nothing more than a rocky trail this we kept up all afternoon crossing one ridge after another of the Blue Ridge Mts.  Just one steady pull and only wide enough for the car, down below hundreds of feet was the James river and not more than a foot away from the edge at any time.  When we had crossed several ridges we came to a creek which we had to ford and right in the middle of it the car stopped and we were there for at least 3/4 of an hr before we got the car started, then when the car started we were wedged in between two rocks and could not go forward or backwards.  

This wonderful account ends abruptly, but it is enough to get my heart racing.   I have wandered among the Blue Ridge back roads, which even today are not much more than a car and half wide.  I can easily imagine the cliff-hugging view.  I suppose once they got through that creek they figured they could do anything, and managed on, day after day, until they crossed the state line into Florida.

Which they did reach.  So wonderful was the destination, that Robert purchased a home. In Orlando. And yet another family story begins.

Minor Orlando HomeMinor Home, Orlando, FloridaMake sure you check out this google map of the 1918 Christmas Roadtrip.