The Minor Family Album: Mr. Chin Whiskers

 

Mr. Chin Whiskers

When I first became curator of the Minor Family Album, I moved swiftly to identify this man, the first face to appear in the album. I was soooo certain of my clues and my analysis.

  1. This whiskered gent is the first photograph displayed in a Minor Family album created in the latter part of the 19th century. He must be an important family member. A patriarch.
  2. Thomas W. Rogers, the photographer, opened a studio in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, in 1864 that remained in existence through the turn of the century. Thomas took the photograph of this ancestor.
  3. The cabinet photo’s cardstock is an ivory color, with round corners, and medium weight.  According to internet sources, this description dates the card to between 1869-1875.

Digging into the family’s tree, I determined that the one Minor living near Carmichaels, Pennsylvania in the early 1870s old enough to present this image was none other than our patriarch, John Pearson (Pierson) Minor, 1791-1874.  I proudly announced my conclusion to the world here.

WHAT A ROOKIE!!!

Time has passed, my skill set has expanded, newly discovered cousins have shared their treasures, and I have eaten a very, VERY large piece of humble pie.  In other words, I MUST retract my earlier identification.

Starting over I apply the procedures learned from THE photo detective, Maureen A. Taylor, author of Family Photo Detective, Fashionable Folks Bonnets and Hats, Fashionable Folks Hairstyles, as well as, a wonderful blog on the subject.

This photograph is a paper print on a 4½ x 6½ inch ivory colored cardstock, with rounded corners.  The photographer’s name and studio location–Thomas W. Rogers, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania–appear only at the bottom of the photo.  There is no design or notation on the back.  This portrait is an example of a cabinet card, most like created between 1869-1875.

Next I view the print with an eye for internal clues.  The man is seated in front of a dark backdrop.  White dots indicate that this photograph may be a photo of a photo–that the original photograph was on a surface like glass or tin, and that the photo’s chemicals flecked off with time.  In the upper left hand corner there appears to be a curvature of the backdrop, as if the original photograph was in an oval shape.

Snag it of Mr. Chin Whiskers.

 

The man is sporting a full beard, trimmed tight about his ears and mouth.  Beards were not popular until the mid-late 1850s, and were worn by a generation of men until the late 1800s.  The man has a full head of gray hair, worn long over his ears, and parted on the side.  It does not appear to be greased down.

The shot captures the fellow from the chest up, and his beard hides the neckline.  But the coat appears to be loose fitting, with a fairly wide lapel.  The vest is of a different material and the top button is at the height of the coat’s top button, mid-chest.

These internal clues indicate a timeframe between the late 1850s and the late 1860s.

The man himself appears to be between 55 and 70 years old. And sick.

SO NOW WHAT?

Back to the stories, the roots, shoots, and leaves of this Minor Family tree.  And let’s just suppose that I am looking for a male family member who would have been between 55-70 years of age in the late 1850s to the mid 1860s.

So, patriarch Abia was dead by 1834. Francis Marion and his brothers would have been too young to be the photographed dude. That leaves a closer examination of John P., Samuel, and Asa, all of whom would have been alive in the late 1850s and at least 60 years old.

MORE CLUES SURFACE

Cousin Ron Minor has generously shared a digital image, a photograph of a tintype, which was annotated with identification.

Minor Elders Collage

The man  identified as John P. Minor (shown here on the left) has a higher forehead, and a thinner face.  The eyebrows are not the same shape, and the hair appears to be thinner.  Mr. Chin Whiskers is not John P. Minor.

A photograph of Samuel Minor found on the website Ancestry.com bears a strong resemblance to John P., a high forehead, with gray hair thinning at the brow. Samuel’s eyes are deeper set than those of my Mr. Chin Whiskers.

Is this ASA?

More clues to come…

Tuesday’s Tip: Don’t Climb Trees With Your Glasses On!

It all started, this tree climbing, with my grandmother’s handwritten family history and my father’s stories of growing up on the family farm in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.  I scrambled up the lowest branches, then higher and higher into the tree; deeper and deeper into my past, discovering dreams and disappointments among the families’ leaves.  Blogging as I connected the dots of dates and events and folks’ names, I attracted the attention of a fellow enthusiast and descendant.   And the letters she posted via snail mail continued to support my generational study of the Sayles/Dodson family.  Kind of.

Read this excerpt:

“I could get and make a splendid home there (Virginia), at a very low price.  But it is all of no use.  The means of making such a home are his/hers.  Where s/he says invest, there investment will be made, or nowhere.”

Which ancestor wrote this:

a) the stay at home mom with three boys, 18, 13 and 7?

b) the former Captain in the 130th Regiment of the New York Volunteer Infantry?

c) the Principal of Rushford’s secondary school?

d) the French teacher in the town’s academy?

If you said (a), you would not be alone, for that was exactly what I would have said, were I listening to this letter, author unknown.

My great-great-grandmother, Serena White Sayles, was a stay at home mom in the summer of 1869, and a former French teacher at both Rushford Academy and Alfred University in Allegany County, New York.  She and husband, Ira Sayles, moved to a farm outside Christiansville (Chase City), Virginia by the 1870 census, with their boys, upon the advice of Ira who might have become aware of this fertile region while serving at Camp Suffolk, Virginia – just east of Christiansville –  in 1862-1863. 

That’s the story I saw, prior to this letter, because I stared through the lens of old English common law, in which  women’s wages, property and their very identity were merged with that of their husband.  This framework dominated the legal and social  landscape in the post-war era. Except in New York, where the legislature had first passed laws governing the rights of married women as early as 1848. In 1860 it had updated the law to read in part:

Section 1: The property, both real and personal, which any married woman now owns, as her sole and separate property; that which comes to her by descent, devise, bequest, gift or grant; that which she acquires by her trade, business, labor or services, carried on or performed on her sole or separate account; that which a woman married in this state owns at the time of her marriage, and the rents, issues and proceeds of all such property, shall, notwithstanding her marriage, be and remain her sole and separate property, and may be used, collected and invested by her in her own name, and shall not be subject to the interference or control of her husband, or liable of his debts, except such debts as may have been contracted for the support of herself or her children, by her as his agent, ¹

So the author of this letter was not a powerless wife, but a former Captain in the Union army, and a community and educational leader.  It was Serena who owned the family’s real estate, properties gifted to her by her father, Samuel S. White of Whitesville, New York and Serena who held control over those assets.  And it was Serena who instigated the move to Virginia, not Ira, as revealed in another section of this same letter:

She wanted me to invest her means in Virginia lands.  Then she thought she didn’t dare trust me alone, so she went with me. 

Taking my common law lenses off, I have read and reread this letter.  Each pass through yields a different clue to the nature of Ira and Serena’s relationship, its distribution of power and its lack of harmony.  How different the family story is shaping up to be, now that I am climbing without my glasses on. 

¹ New York Married Woman’s Property Act of 1860, approved March 20, 1860.  1860 N.Y. Laws 90, Session 83, pp. 157-159.

An 1860s letter from Abia Minor to his father, John P. Minor: Amanuensis Monday

ABIA MINOR was a resident of Moultrie County, Illinois when he wrote this letter to his father, my great-great-grandfather, JOHN PEARSON MINOR of Greene County, Pennsylvania.

It is an undated description of the winter weather–I have yet 160 rods along my fence that was 30 feet wide and was between four and five feet deep(with snow) but it has settled down to about 3 feet–and reports about his children’s plans.  His eldest boy, John, is of age (b. 1839?) and wants to be doing for himself talks of going away this spring.  

Abia talks about his farming plans and how he want(s) to put a corn crop for I think we will raise good crops next year and I am trying to make some more fence so I can keep some stock without so mutch (sic) trouble in winter; before discussing arrangements for the mailing of daughter Isabel’s saddle and some much coveted flannel for himself.  You said you would send her saddle and some flannel for me a warmth that would be quite a present to me for sutch (sic) flannel is hard to get here and if you send it box them in a light box and send them from any point on the railroad or if any one was comeing out you could put them in a trunk and they can bring them through for nothing.  But, he continues, if his father wants to send them by railroad direct them to

Abia Minor

Mattoon

Coles County, Illinois 

and take a receipt from the station agent for them and send it to me by mail.  

Abia then requests his mothers likeness which you can have taken and send it in a letter and Isabel says you have yours taken on horseback I wish you would send me a copy of it it can be taken on paper or leather and sent in a letter.  

Abia Minor closes his letter with salutations to his brothers and sisters, a plea for letters from them and a pledge to answer back.

I remain yours Truly     Abia Minor