Reassembling the Past

Cousinly Review Prompts a Re-view (updated 27 August 2014)

Shortly after posting this piece, I received an email from reader and cousin, Linda Bell. My colleague strongly suspected that the face was familiar, not just family-like, as if she had seen the photograph before.  Perhaps, Linda suggested, this face appears in Bates’ History of Greene County, Pennsylvania (©1888) which can be read online at the Internet Archive.  And yes, he was there…This post has been updated to reflect the new information.  Portions of the original post have, therefore, been deleted. 

I have stared at the last half of the Minor Family Album for a month now, confounded by more than one photograph.  None are annotated with given names, or family names, or even a hint of a date.  I look at the next cabinet card with a hand lens. I scan it into my hard drive, enhance the clarity and then look again, with the computer as hand lens.  The paper photo drops crumbs of information, which I collect and line up, willing a trail to appear.

tw rogers trademark back 1870 est

The photograph was produced by Thomas W. Rogers of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, on ivory colored cardstock with rounded corners, and the simple, red-ink trademark on the back.  The photograph, whether original or a copy, was made most likely between the late 1860s and early 1870s, early in TW Rogers photographic career.

Mr. Clean-shaven is between 50-65 years old, with thick wavy hair worn in a conservative above-the-collar fashion.  The white mane sweeps from right to left above his bushy salt-and-pepper eyebrows. Puffy half-moons beneath  light-colored eyes cushion his intensity; this is a busy man with little patience for sleep.  The gaze, the wavy hair, the Roman nose, the bushy brow…features shared with other Minor family members.

My wavy-haired gentleman is wearing a starched white shirt, with a heavily starched, detachable collar. He has tied a black silk cravat into a flat bow tie at his throat.  Over this he wears a black, collarless, single-breasted vest, trimmed in braid fashionable in the late 1860s. All of the buttons are fastened, without any evidence of a watchchain. The double-breasted sack coat is also made of black wool and trimmed in braid.  The buttons and button holes go very high into the lapel, which is notched quite deeply, the lower portion much wider than the upper portion at the neck.  The fit is quite generous, particularly at the sleeves, which sit on the shoulder, a style worn in the late 1860s-early 1870s.

This clean-shaven man had his portrait taken at the height of his career, when he was about 55 years, between 1868-1872.  Fortunately, Samuel Bates included an illustration based on this very photograph in his History of Greene County, Pennsylvania (1888), which accompanied a biographical sketch of a very prominent Baptist minister–Charles W. Tilton.
Abia Minor, cabinet card 1866-1873Born  to New Jersey residents Enoch and Elizabeth Tilton in 1815, Charles spent his childhood on the family’s farms.  The youngster attended local subscription schools in western Pennsylvania and Frankfort Academy in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.  Tilton’s first vocation was as a teacher, but he was called to the ministry.  In 1843 Teacher Tilton was ordained a Baptist preacher, and began a life of service inside the Ten Mile Baptist Association, Greene County, Pennsylvania.  Reverend Tilton filled the pulpit at several Ten Mile churches, at times perhaps simultaneously, including Goshen Baptist in Garards Fort, home church to my Minor ancestors.

Pastor Charles was a reknowned revival leader during the post-war years, leading congregants to a healing place after the horrific losses and community ruptures of the Civil War. (Greene County was a Democratic Party stronghold, fiercely opposed to the concept of emancipation.) This photograph was taken during this time.  As a revival preacher, Sabbath School leader, and a higher education advocate, Charles W. Tilton was famous among the Baptists of Greene County, and probably well acquainted with the Minors of Ceylon Lane.

Little wonder that the man’s photograph was sought by my great-great-grandmother, and later displayed, among family, for posterity.

 

 

 

 

 

On Court Avenue

The cabinet card is not quite as sturdy as one would expect from an established photographer like Benjamin E. Goldsberry, and his studio logo was stamped in haste across the bottom, leaving the green-inked words crookedly confirming the man’s location–Court Avenue in Bedford, the county seat of Taylor County, Iowa. Ben Goldsberry operated cameras like an artist and had a strong reputation in the region, training other aspiring photographers like Matthew G. Maxwell.

page 13 blogThe young couple wear clothes that are simple and traditional, probably made of worsted wool.  The woman’s bodice is plain with no inlays, embroidery or ruffles, and the buttons appear to be made of bone.  She dresses the outfit up with a starched undercollar and a beautiful oval broach at the throat.  Her hair is divided in three pieces; the bottom strands are pulled to the back and twisted into a bun, which is then wound with the two upper pieces for an 1880s finishing touch.  The man wears a jacket and vest made of matching plaid fabric, and a long flowing beard with trimmed sideburns and mustache–a style considered old-fashioned back east.  Mr. Goldsberry operated his Bedford studio from 1880-1890, and these internal clues suggest that the couple posed on Court Avenue between 1884-1889.

I have uncovered six Minor family members living in Iowa’s southcentral counties during the latter decades of the 19th century so far, and only one would fit the description above.

140627-164834John Pierson and Minnie B. Norton Keenan

John P. Keenan was born on a farm near Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, son of Hugh and Isabella Minor Keenan. An adventurous person, John left Greene County in 1875, and as an eighteen year old made his way to Taylor County, Iowa, where he herded other people’s cattle for a living.  He was an enterprising man known as a progressive farmer.  By 1881 John was acting as the legal agent for his Uncle Marion Minor, collecting “judgements” from other Greene County residents who had borrowed money to establish their Iowa roots.  During this same time period, John had made enough money to purchase his own farm in the neighboring Ringgold County. There he met, courted and married Minnie Norton in 1884.

By 1887 John and Minnie had the opportunity to purchase 300 acres of fine farming land south of Mormontown (Blockton), Jefferson Township, Taylor County.  Their lives were turned topsy-turvy when son Hugh was born the summer of 1887.  Unfortunately the following year was filled with grief, as they lost first Minnie’s father, Martin, and then their little boy.

Perhaps later that fall the young farmers headed to town, purchasing winter supplies, tying up financial matters, posting letters before the winter storms set in,  and stopping by Court Avenue to document their resilience for posterity.

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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

page 10 blog 2

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.