Mary Jane Minor left no diary, no ledger, no written clues about her daily life, but she did include a photograph of her preacher, Charles W. Tilton, in the Minor Family Album. If this cabinet card, this tangible thing, is an entry point into my great-great-grandmother’s life, where can I go? What intersections existed between the lives of a Baptist minister and a mother of four? What values shaped their lives and structured their days? I wonder…
“Mama, Pastor Tilton is calling us in!”
A table top–thirty feet long–was covered entirely with cakes, flower bouquets, and fall fruits. Twelve year old Sarah jiggled Bobby on her left hip as she snuck a grape from this Sabbath School Festival picnic. Mary Jane tucked one more stem of goldenrod between fern fronds before reaching out to her baby’s pudgy embrace. A final glance at her arrangement left the mother satisfied, and the slim figure joined the lines of children, teens, parents, and elders now flowing into the red brick sanctuary of Goshen Baptist Church.
Reverend Charles Tilton began, “From the book of Proverbs, chapter one.”
“To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgement, and equity…A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels…”
Wiggling free of his mother’s arms, the one year old slid to the floor where he sat and wailed, strands of hair stuck to his red face. With a sigh the forty year old scooped baby Robert up and quietly snuck out to a quiet spot within earshot of the preacher’s voice.
“…Know the value of this Sabbath School, assembled here today, which inculcates in our young people morality and uprightness…”
At the sermon’s close, the Baptist minister invited each child to come forward to receive their prize for completed work. Murmurs of approval followed the footsteps to the pulpit. At last Pastor Tilton recognized the student who had memorized the most Bible verses. Mary Jane allowed a small smile of pride at her Sarah’s name. A pocket-sized Bible would be a treasured addition to the girl’s night table.
Gradually Bobby’s nursing slowed, and his arms splayed softly open to embrace his dreams. Mary Jane rocked back and forth, a metronome to the hymn now drifting out the open windows.
“Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky, sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly. Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee. Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.”
William Hanna, The History of Greene County, Pennsylvania: Containing an Outline of the State from 1682 until the Formation of Washington County in 1781 (1882; image reprint, Internet Archives: https://archive.org/details/historyofgreenec00hann), 213.
Samuel Bates, The History of Greene County, Pennsylvania (1888; image reprint, Internet Archives: https://archive.org/details/historyofgreenec00bate), 95, 749.
“Religious Revivals,” The Washington (Pennsylvania) Review and Examiner, 2 February 1866, p.3; digital images, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 29 July 2014), Newspaper Archives.
“Sabbath School Festival,” The Washington (Pennsylvania) Reporter, 13 October 1869, p.1; digital images, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 29 July 2014), Newspaper Archives.
“Tenmile, (Pa.,) Baptist Association,” The Wheeling (West Virginia) Daily Intelligencer, 26 September 1873, p.3, col. 1; digital images, ChoniclingAmerica.loc.gov (http://www.chroniclingamerica.loc.gov: accessed 6 August 2014), Historic American Newspapers.
My 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.
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.
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.
Every 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!
It 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.
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.
Make sure you check out this google map of the 1918 Christmas Roadtrip.
Donald was the youngest of the youngest, born in 1902 to a family of Minors that spread through the hills of Greene County, Pennsylvania. The dark-haired toddler had a teenage sister, Helen, and cousins all busy with their high school work or farm chores or wedding plans. His father, Robert, was the youngest by ten years, and his elder siblings, John Pierson, Olfred and Sarah, all had nearly grown children by the time Donald came along. Baby of the baby of the family, Don was a cherished, doted upon child.