Digging For The Roots Beneath An Heirloom Cabinet Card

Charles W. Tilton, minister, Goshen Baptist Church, 1864-1882, Greene County, Pennsylvania

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.”

Goshen Baptist Church

Goshen Baptist Church, Greene County, Pennsylvania, now known as John Corbley Baptist Church

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.

The Minor Family Album: Continuing The Search for Mr. Chin Whisker’s Identity

Mr. Chin WhiskersMy 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.

For now…

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.

Mr. Chin Whiskers





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!


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?


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.

I’m a Big Boy: Donald Corbly Minor circa 1905


Donald Minor, putting his best foot forward for photographer T.W. Rogers of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania

Donald Minor, putting his best foot forward for photographer T.W. Rogers of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania

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. 

Follow Up Friday: Even Ancestors Had Their Senior Moments

A couple of weeks ago I posted a bit of my family’s story, which explored the  life of John Pearson Minor between the time he was a child of the Western Pennsylvania frontier and the time he became Pearson Minor, husband, father and Garard’s Fort community leader.  In particular I wanted to know more about this ancestor’s military service during the War of 1812.  Among the Minor documents in my possession is the 1871 Pension notification for Pearson, a corporal in Captain Seeley’s regiment.  My request for a copy of this pension file was quickly filled by the folks at the National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Honestly, I had hoped for a few details that could fill out the sketchy family lore, and I wasn’t disappointed.  As I pored over the contents, I sighed with delight; then I sucked in my breath and held it for as long as it took to read this genea-bomb.

War of 1812


to be executed before Judge or Clerk of Court


State of Pennsylvania

County of Greene

On this twenty sixth day of June , AD one thousand eight hundred and seventy one, personally appeared before me, H. H. Lindsey, Clerk of the Court of Common Please, a Court of Record within and for the county and State aforesaid, Pearson Minor aged seventy nine years, a resident of Greene Township , County of Greene State of Pennsylvania, who, being duly sworn according to law, declares that he is married; that his wife’s name was Isabella McClelland, to whom he was married at Greene Township, Greene Co. PA , on the 25 day of September, 1813. . . . . . . . .


Shaking my head, I read this statement again.  And again.

I have spent little time pondering John Pearson’s married life; the details have just been very hard to obtain.  I rolled along, telling the story of his life with the information others had gathered before me, including the family register held at the Thomas Minor Society and family trees from Ancestry.com.  All of these sources listed two wives for John Pearson, one Hannah McClelland who died in 1817 shortly after the birth of the second son, Robert, and an Isabella McClelland, whom he married in 1817 and with whom he had nine children. This 1871 document, completed with the sworn testimony of the John Pearson Minor, left me doubting my assumptions, and the sources I have trusted for the past three years.


The woman who is known in my family documents as Isabella McClelland Minor is often listed in family trees and registers as Huldah Isabella McClelland Minor.  I have no primary source to offer an explanation for the first name.  With this new genea-bomb I have had to wonder if  Huldah was Hannah, poorly transcribed, making Hannah and Isabella McClelland but one person.  But how did folks ever think that John Pearson had two wives?  What records might exist to put this to rest once and for all?  And if there were two McClelland girls who married John Pearson Minor, how were they related?

I started my triangulation of the truth with a pretty thorough, and fruitless, search for primary source documentation on the family trees and registers that I have gathered. I then returned to the documents within my possession, with greater success.


I assembled all the original and photocopied primary sources within my possession that contained the surname McClelland.  This collection included:

  •  An 1823 deed conveying title from Robert McClelland and wife, Isabella, to John P. Minor for a piece of the land patented to Robert McClelland in 1793 and 1794 from Stephen Davis.  This document provides a hint that Isabella was a family name.
  • An announcement from the Orphans Court of Greene County that all stakeholders in the estate of Robert McClelland, deceased, should appear in June 1834.
  • An undated document indicating that John Pearson had purchased the remainder of the McClelland Farm and needed to straighten out how payment was to be finalized.
  • An 1835 deed conveying title from Cephas McClelland to John Pearson for land patented to Robert McClelland from Stephen Davis in 1793 and 1794.  This deed established that Robert was the father of Cephas, and, with the phrase “the land is defended from all claims except those from Abia and Robert Minor, and (John Pearson’s) present wife”, indicated that Cephas and Isabella were brother and sister, and sibling to the mother of Abia and Robert.
  • An 1855 deed in which John and Isabella Minor conveyed title to land in Harrison County, (West) Virginia to the two oldest children, Abia and Robert; and for which payment was to include land,in lieu of cash, in Greene County, Pennsylvania that the boys had inherited from Robert McClelland.
  • Abia Minor, son of John Pearson Minor, married Harriet Ballard in 1855 after his first wife, Elizabeth Thompson, died in 1853.  This Harrison County, West Virginia marriage record states that Abia’s father was John P. and his mother was Hannah.
  • Francis Marion, oldest son of John Pearson and Isabella Minor, and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor’s family bible bears this inscription:  Isabella McClelland, second wife of John P. Minor,  was born on the thirtieth day of September 1792.
  • A recent Glade Cemetery index, Carmicheals, Pennsylvania,submitted online by the D.A.R. Chapter of Greene County, includes the inscription for one Hannah Minor, first wife of John P, who died at age twenty two, 28 April 1817.
  •  Howard Leckey’s highly regarded history of Greene County pioneer families, Ten Mile Country and its Pioneer Families,  lists Cephas and Isabella as the children of Robert McClelland and wife unknown.


By pulling threads from all of these sources, I can weave today the following conclusion:  John Pearson Minor was married on September 25, 1813 to Hannah McClelland, who bore two sons – Abia and Robert – before dying on April 28, 1817.  John Pearson Minor then married Hannah’s sister, Isabella McClelland in the fall of 1817.  The couple had another nine children, together.

It would seem then that seventy-nine year old John Pearson Minor was a bit fuzzy with his family history on that summer day in 1871, evidence that even ancestors had senior moments.


As is often the case, genea-sleuthing leads family historians to unexpected places.  As I gathered evidence for the existence and identity of two wives, I also wove a record of John Pearson and Isabella Minor purchasing the McClelland Farm bit by bit over the course of their lives, from Robert; his son, Cephas; and his grandsons, Abia and Robert.  Or looked at from another perspective, Isabella McClelland Minor bought her homeplace from her father, her brother and her nephews.

As it turns out the adjacent farm belonged to Jacob Myers, and John Pearson Minor purchased that farm in 1828, refurbishing the solid brick home for his family in 1831.  Their eleven children grew up running through the hills of Isabella’s childhood. The McClelland Farm was given to Pearson and Isabella’s youngest son, Samuel.  And that brick house on the Myers Farm – that was the same home in which John Pearson resided as a widower; the same home in which Francis and Mary Jane raised their family; and their son, Robert, raised his Helen and Donald; and the same brick home in which Donald raised my mom and her siblings.

.. . . . . his wife’s name was Isabella McClelland, to whom he was married at Greene Township, Greene Co. PA , on the 25 day of September, 1813. . . . 

How grateful I am for John Pearson’s senior moment!