Family Secrets Lurking 1.0 – Amanuensis Monday

Family Secrets Lurking 1.0

Family Secrets Lurking 2.0

Serendipity Surrounds a Secret

A family secret lurks in my work room, its edges smudged by family pride and shame and simmering disputes.  Penciled thoughts leap from papers long forgotten; stamps and postmarks reveal clues that no one thought to hide.  The secret’s outline is becoming sharper.

Robert Minor was born in 1869, the youngest child of a well-to-do stock dealer in southwestern Pennsylvania.  Francis Marion and Mary Jane Gwynn Minor passed on Greene County farms to each of their four children, with Robert inheriting the Home Farm, also known as the Jacob Myers farm.  Like his family before him, Robert was to become a stock dealer, raising his two children, Helen and Donald, with his wife May Laura Stephenson Minor, on the Home Farm.  What was on the land was far less valuable than what was IN the land, and once the coal  rights were sold in the early 1900s, the family’s opportunities multiplied. Stories floated during our family reunions, whispers of fabulous wealth and travel, all lost to the depression and the world war that followed.  The details remained in the shadows.  I thought nothing of it, until I began collecting and curating family records.

Four days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my great-grandfather wrote to his son, Donald Minor, from the Mercer Sanitarium, Mercer, Pennsylvania.  The nurses were all working somewhere else and the “guests” receiving Dr. Richardson’s treatments needed to find new quarters.

December 11, 1941

Dear Donald, Received your letter and will say that you got a good price for your calves. Please excuse this pencil riting (sic) My ink is set up in the (cupboard) or the (clothes press) will in riting these few lines. Dr. Richardson wants me to write you. Won’t you please get me a room in the Washington Hospital. Please do that much for me as he says all the nurses are away working. Do it at once and please and thank you. Yours respect (sic), your Dad

My mother was a young girl at that time, and vaguely recollects discussions surrounding her grandfather’s hospitalization.  One fact stuck with her – Robert Minor ended up at Mayview, a psychiatric hospital outside Pittsburgh.  A cousin remembers stories of misery and desperation, with Robert pleading to be removed from the hospital.

Did deteriorating wealth lead to deteriorating mental health?  Were Robert and Donald estranged? What circumstances led to Robert’s stay in the sanitarium and from what was he recuperating?  Was the Mercer Sanitarium more hotel than hospital, like the Victorian health resorts?  If so, then a move to Mayview would have been a very jolting experience.

A secret is lurking in my work room and I aim to coax it out.  “Please do that much for me. . . “

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The Board of Education: (almost) Wordless Wednesday

I started today with a quick hunt through my Donald C. Minor Postcard Collection for depictions of rain or autumn or late summer or school.  My grandfather received this gem from a friend who signed him/herself as HM.

What a strange card for one child to send to another!

 

A letter from Mormontown, Iowa, 1882: Amanuensis Monday

A hearty thank you to John Newmark at Transylvanian Dutch, creator of Amanuensis Monday, for the gentle nudge to keep transcribing those family documents.

Every once in awhile, I come across an envelope and feel a thrill of anticipation. Letters, even business letters, can yield personal details, hints of who the author and the intended reader really were and what was going on in our country at the moment pen met paper.  The bundle of documents I am currently curating from the Minor Satchel has included a lengthy correspondence between a John P. Keenan of Iowa and my great-great-grandfather, Francis Marion Minor, of Whiteley, Greene County, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Keenan was apparently a debt collector for Francis Minor in Mormontown, Iowa in 1881-1883; each letter describes an attempt to collect money, pay taxes or settle a dispute about one of these issues.  Without a fuller review of ALL the Minor documents I remain mystified by the insinuations introduced in the notes.  Even so there are sentences, sometimes whole paragraphs, that begin to tell a personal tale, particularly if I use good punctuation!

Mr. F. M. Minor

Sir, I receive yours of the fifth. Now in regard to Evans I saw him to day. I told him you had to have that money.  He said he didn’t want to, he said, but (he) would have to sell his farm.  Now I tell you, I believe it can be bought worth the money he offered it to me for 25 dollars per acre but I believe it can be bought for less money.  It is a nice little farm and when times gets a little better it will fetch a good price.  Times are dull here and nobody wants to buy any thing.  We ain’t have a half of a corn crop and the oats won’t make over half crop.  We thought we had a big oats crop till we went to corting, but they ain’t half filled and when we lose crops it makes dull times.  This country is full of cattle and are going to be sold low.  There was cattle held over from last winter on the account of corn that will be sold this fall and the thing is worse now than last fall and I tell you I believe if you feel like investing any money in the west there ain’t been a better time for five years.  I know you are no western man but I tell you what, do come and see the country and I believe you can make expenses any way now .

I tell you about Evans when he finds you will close.  He is going to sell it worth the money. I would hate to sue him but would like to make a few dollars out on him.

Yours as ever, J. P. Keenan.  Please answer.

“Times are dull here.”  Times are dull, full of gambles and hopes. Unpredictable weather and volatile markets know no boundaries of time, as Hurricane Irene and a plunging stock market reminded me last week.

Just a couple of days ago, I handed a local farmer change for the apples and I asked how she had fared during Irene.  The days-long power outage was the least of her concerns; newly planted apple trees had had to be propped up and trees, shaped-trained for years, were just chopped down  –  too bent over to be recovered.  She said, “It reminds me of my father, who was asked if he was going to the newly developed race track at the Pocono Downs (1960s).  He said, “Absolutely not.  Why gamble there?  I gamble every day I farm.”

That is my take away from this letter  –  no matter the era, we humans take chances, tell stories, pursue dreams; we gamble that tomorrow can be better than today.  Sometimes we lose the farm.

“Bot (sic) of Erskine Eichelberger”: Amanuensis Monday

A hearty thank you to John Newmark at Transylvanian Dutch, creator of Amanuensis Monday, for the gentle nudge to keep transcribing those family documents.

From my Minor Satchel Collection I gently extract a scrap of paper.  Another receipt. Sigh.  I am bored with these receipts; I want letters, wills, newspaper clippings.  Sigh.  Diligently I begin the annotation which will tag the receipt’s storage sleeve.

Date:  December 16, 1830

Place:  Baltimore

Names:  John P. Minor

Now this scrap is piquing my interest!  What would Greene County, Pennsylvania resident John P. Minor be doing in Baltimore?

This paper doesn’t detail how my great³ grandfather came by the money, but it does detail how he SPENT $11.92 at the wholesale grocers, Erskine and Eichelberger, at the southwest corner of Baltimore and Howard Streets in Baltimore, Maryland.¹  John P. Minor bot (sic) ½ barrel of Coffee for $9.30, 2 units of T. Y. C. tea for $2.00, 2 units of Black Pepper for 37 cents and 1 unit of allspice for 25 cents. I can’t help but wonder if my great³grandmother enjoyed the tea for Christmas!

An 1823 Receipt for Payment: Amanuensis Monday

A hearty thank you to John Newmark at Transylvanian Dutch, creator of Amanuensis Monday, for the gentle nudge to keep transcribing those family documents.

My great-great-great-grandfather Minor was a cattle drover in southwestern Pennsylvania throughout the 1820s and 1830s.  John Pearson based this business out of his farm in Greene County, near the town of Whitely (later called Gerards Fort) and left dozens of receipts, lists and agreements.  Generations later, the Minor Satchel Collection is mine to separate, annotate and place into acid-free sleeves. Names and places float still disconnected in six three-ring-binders, taunting me to find their meaning.  This receipt, simple in its intent, concise in its content, affirms that a  loan has been repaid; its black ink stands in strong relief against the yellow paper.

April 4th 1823

Received of John P. Minor by John McClelland agent for William McClelland the sum of one hundred and seventy dollars due on an article as note dated the tenth day of April 1822.

William McClelland

 John P. Minor married Hannah McClelland, daughter of Robert McClelland, in 1815. The couple had two sons in short order; and Hannah died shortly after the birth of the second boy in the spring of 1817.  By the fall John had remarried–an Isabella McClelland. Now this note appears to attest that a John and William McClelland also lived in Greene County. 

All these McClellands dangle on separate branches of an old tree that I believe belongs to a Revolutionary War era Robert McClelland. Will further research help me put Hannah, Isabella, William and John on the same branch?  Or will these folks end up on separate McClelland trees?