Follow Up Friday: how did these little piggies get to market?

WRITE ON!  The Family History Writing Challenge has given me permission to write and write and write, even if only a few dozen words a day.  Last week I had woven research and lore into a story exploring John Pearson Minor’s service record during the War of 1812.  This week I explored the contents of a ledger book found among the Minor Satchel.

November  1826

Hogs bought by Lot Lantz for the use of the Drove

wherein Lantz and Minor are in Co are as follows:

I fell into the rabbit hole of 1820s, a decade in which John Pearson and Isabella Minor added five children to their brood of three, and John Pearson began to make a name for himself as a livestock drover.  Below those words John P. had recorded transactions, creating a table, detailing the number of hogs purchased from each farmer and the cash paid.


John Hartley 13.50
6 Ausken Lucias 22.00
3 John Witherholt 13.00
7 Frum Smith 24.00
4 David Scott 17.00
7 Jonathan Morris 26.00
5 Ezekial Calvert 18.25
8 David Taylor 43.50
6 John Herod 23.00
12 John Keenen 50.00
4 Barnet Taylor 13.25
4 Zachariah Gaffen 12.00
10 Enoch South 33.00
5 Jacob Hall 18.50
6 Jonathan Garard 18.50
2 Benjamen South 7.00
10 Robert Keenen 34.50
16 John Moris 64.00
18 Abner Moris 72.00
2 George Moris Jr 8.00
10 George Moris 36.25
10 Otho M Minor 35.00
13 Disaway South  43.00
3 David Keenen 8.50
9 George Garreon 34.00
2 Benjamin Linton 6.75
5 Harry Hittibrand 15.00
3 Alexander Hanon 11.38
2 David Roberts 6.64
6 Henary Hothbrane 19.23
2 John Millburn 7.29
4 Gideon Long 15.00
2 Christian Cowd 5.50
6 Edeobn Hall 20.65
2 Stephen Baley 7.56
6 Eli Gappen 23.19
5 James Williamson 17.25
6 Joseph Vance 25.46
23 John Wright 74.16
74 Lot Lantz 312
24 Corbly Garard 78.75
5 John Myers 15.50
7 William Tribby 22.00
Total hogs purchased Total cash paid out
371 1,379.18

Cash advanced at Rudy Harris near Mobturine                  70.00

Cash to pay hands at Baltimore                                                                52.75

Cash paid stoneing for four stock hogs and left in the drove  7.00

16 bushels of corn                                                                            4.00

paid hand to expence over Duncan                                          1.50

cash to Hugh Munde                                                                      1.25

Amount of advancements made by John P Minor taken off

of his Book                                                                                          1,390.60

Cash on hand                                    $55

Lot Lantz for cash                            15

J P Minor for cash                             5.75                                       75.75    

Drove at Market cost the above sum                                      $2820.54

Hmmm…So John Pearson Minor and Lot Lantz were business partners and livestock drovers.  In late autumn in 1826 they gathered up 371 hogs, purchased from 43 neighbors and farmers from  Greene County Pennsylvania, and herded the lot to market in Baltimore. Wait a minute.

How does one HERD 371 hogs to market? 

With an image of 371 hogs, grunting and rooting and squealing down a narrow dirt road, I began  my follow up work of the week.

Southwestern Pennsylvania’s culture and economic matrix resembled that found in the Ohio frontier and in the mountains and valleys of the Allegheny- Appalachian Mountains.  In fact, many original settlers  of Greene County  made their way from those Virginia counties, and many families had members who migrated on into the eastern counties of Ohio.  Just as the genealogical branches crisscrossed the region, so too did the business paths.

John Pearson Minor took his 371 hogs from Greene Township, Pennsylvania south, to Baltimore, Maryland in late autumn, the customary season for droving.  Looking at John Melish’s 1826 map of Pennsylvania, it is easy to imagine that Minor and Lantz rounded up the animals near Greensburg and proceeded north before crossing the Monongahela and continuing east to Union, Fayette County.  At 8-15 miles a day, the drove would have found itself traveling south on the National Road in about three days.  In all likelihood, Lot Lantz and John P. Minor traveled on horseback and hired “pike boys” to walk beside the hogs, whips in hand;  each set of hands traveled a day or two on down the road before leaving the drove and heading back home, replaced by a new set of boys.  Each night the drovers, drove hands and hogs would stop at a drove stand, run by a local farmer or entrepreneur, where the collection of animals and men would find pens and forage, and food and lodging.  Minor and Lantz were not alone with their swine; at the peak of droving season there was a continuous stream of hogs and cattle sharing the 22 foot road with wagons and coaches traveling both east to Baltimore and west to Ohio.

October 11, 1825

The month long trip to Baltimore was difficult; weather was a constant concern.  The National Road from Union to Cumberland was built to the high European standards of the day, with a macadam surface that promoted proper drainage and stood up to the constant travel of animals, wagons and coaches.  This pike also had more bridges than other drover routes, making river crossings less hazardous. The trail was at times steep and treacherous. In addition, the drovers had to remain vigilant for signs of lameness, weight loss and illness among their stock.  At Cumberland, John Pearson and Lot Lantz may have put the hogs on a ship and sailed down to Baltimore, or continued along the main road, the Maryland-run pike.  In Baltimore, Minor and Lantz would have sold their “hog on hoof” at a profit, and then headed home, by the same route, collecting lame animals that had been left behind the drove and paying the drove stand owners for services previously rendered.

And that’s how those little piggies got to market!

I am grateful to these online sources:

Dunaway, Wilma. A.  The First American frontier: transition to capitalism in southern Appalachia.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2003. accessed February 15, 2012 through google books.

Hurt, R. Douglas.  The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Indiana University Press: Bloomington. 1998. Print. pp. 222-225. accessed February 15, 2012 through google books.

Road through the Wilderness, the Making of the National Road.  Conner Prairie Interactive History Park. accessed February 16, 2012.

Project 150: It’s 1861. Farm On.

Project 150 is a series of Civil War posts that, taken together, will tell the story of my family’s life choices during the years of rebellion.  Sources used for today’s post include privately held family documents, a Wiki article on the election and the Federal 1860 census accessed at

My great-great-grandparents, F. Marion and Mary Jane Gwynn Minor, woke up each day of 1861 inside a farmhouse on Ceylon Lane.  Each night they tucked their three children, John (age 9), Olfred (age 6) and Sarah (age 3), into bed.  When they attended Goshen Baptist Church in the nearby village of Garard’s Fort, Marion and Mary Jane drove past brother Samuel Minor‘s family home.   Driving to the nearest town, Carmichaels, took the couple past the homes of Marion’s parents, John P. and Isabella McClelland Minor, and his sister, Isabella Minor and Hugh Keenan.  The families were four of the ninety-eight that called Greene Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania home.

Within its sixteen square miles, the township had 134 women housekeeping and keeping all that was in the house – the stories, the children, the meals, the cleaning, the mending, the tending, the healing.  The hills also sheltered 105 farmers and day laborers, 5 shoemakers, 4 carpenters,3 merchants, 2 clerks, 3 seamstresses, 2 millers, 2 stonemasons, 2 stonecutters, 2 washerwomen, a shinglemaker, a chairmaker, a cattle drover, a physician, a blacksmith, and a coal miner.  All but two families were white, and all but twelve residents were born in Pennsylvania.  Most everyone could read and write.  The township’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of the merchants and three farming families: the Lantzes, the Gerards and the clan of John P. and Isabella Minor.  

John Pierson (Pearson) subscribed to the Waynesburg Messenger,  an instrument of the Democratic Party.  Shared among the extended family, the pages were no doubt well thumbed; the articles frequent sources of conversation and debate. Greene County voters had handed the county to the pro-slavery Southern Democrat, John C. Breckinridge, in the 1860 election.  

As the country staggered toward dissolution in 1861, Marion bought twelve head of cattle from Philip Wolf for $140, and another three for $25.  A bit later he purchased one from John Ramer for $24.20. As Abraham Lincoln settled into the White House, F. Marion bought ten more head at $60.  

Throughout the summer of 1861, as volunteers formed companies and regiments and brigades, the Minors of Ceylon Lane farmed on.  Walnut and oak trees were felled for logs, planks and rafters; stable flooring, joists, and sills.  Stables were built, homes repaired; livestock bought, fed and sold.  Into the fall the family farmed.   John P. purchased 50 bushels of coal for $5.  John P. Junior and Olfred probably climbed the hill to the family schoolhouse when they could, and climbed trees to shake out nuts when they were asked. 

As the days folded into long nights, the Minor business of tending children and raising cattle continued to thrive. 

December the 24th 1861

This is to certify that I, Elias Slocum, waid for TB Martin and Dan Shore 42 hed of cattel sold to Pearson Minor the cattel was in a fair condition to when waid.  

                                    Elias Slocum, way master

On December 30, 1861 John P. Minor made one last entry in his business ledger:  Lindsey paid me $487.00.  

Farm on.

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Serendipity Surrounds a Secret: Madness Monday

Family Secrets Lurking 1.0

Family Secrets Lurking 2.0

Serendipity Surrounds a Secret

My mother’s family was a well-to-do farming clan – the Minors of Greene County.  Cattle and stock dealers for generations, the family groups had accumulated hundreds of acres of hilly land in southwestern Pennsylvania  by the turn of the twentieth century when the bituminous Pittsburgh coal vein prompted a speculative race. Around 1905 the rights to that black gold were sold, by some accounts for up to $600 per acre, and the Francis Marion Minor family was suddenly land AND cash rich.  In spite of the opportunities afforded the prosperous, my great-grandfather, Robert Minor, suffered from horrible headaches and melancholy, traveling throughout his life from health resort to health resort seeking relief .  I haven’t been able to pinpoint a reason for his brooding.  Some secret lurks within family lore.  It hangs over other stories like the fog lingering over the Susquehanna River even as the rest of the Wyoming Valley clears to reveal its broad plain, mountain ridges and blue dome sky.

Last week I stepped away from the shroud to gain perspective, re-searching the family patriarch in case some new record or paper had been digitalized.

John P. Minor + cattle

Among the google-returned items was a newspaper article from 1908.  My great-great-great-grandfather Minor died in 1874.  But. . . . If an article catches my interest, I read first and judge relevance later.  Suddenly this unexpected detail poked through the family fog:

  • A quick review of the family register confirmed that THIS John P. Minor was the eldest brother of my great-grandfather, Robert Minor.  John Minor had married Elizabeth Garard, and they had one child, Ira, who died December 12, 1908.
  • A further newspaper search at the Library of Congress Chronicling America yielded multiple accounts of the bank’s failure in 1906 – and of this young man’s suicide.  Mr. Rinehart was convicted in January of 1909 for stealing funds from the bank and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
  • The postcards which document my great-grandfather’s descent into headaches and melancholy were postmarked 1910.
  • After rereading my Minor documents of that era, I am not convinced that the fortune mentioned in the article was that of John P. Minor alone, but perhaps that of the entire FM Minor clan.  Even so, the $500,000 dollars would have been the equivalent of $12,000,000 dollars in 2009. Losing half of that sum would have resulted in the family being worth “only” $6 million dollars, with the economic clout of someone with $131 million dollars in 2009.  *¹  Split among four families, that is still a grand fortune, by my book.

Did the Minor family have a predisposition to brooding, melancholy, headaches, and other “nervous ailments” and was my great-grandfather’s depression caused by this bank failure or by the family crisis that came in its wake?  Why did Robert Minor continue to suffer?  And what ever happened to all of that money?

Perhaps I will never really know the true nature of the secret, or be privy to the knowledge that hurt this family so deeply.  This genealogical serendipity surrounds my secret, however, helping to define its edges and contain its outline.  At the very least, I know that there really was a family fortune, that there really was family tragedy and that at least some members of the family – like Robert Minor – had difficulty coping.

The secret is by my side now, not lurking in a corner driving me mad.

*¹ The website Measuring Worth is extremely helpful in calculating the relative worth of the U. S. Dollar, from 1774- the present.

Mapping My Ancestors: Where’s Donald?

Accessed from MyTopo: Historical Topographical Maps, July 25, 2011

In 1904, the year this topographical map was drawn, my grandfather Minor, Donald Corbly Minor, was a two year toddler living on the family farm on Ceylon Lane, a tiny road leading out of Whitely, Greene Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania.  Today it remains a tiny road, gravel and oiled to keep the dust down.  I pass by the old farm house, and remember the trips we made out to these hills when I was just shoulder high to my mom.  We walked through cow-nibbled grasses, hunted for old trash pits among the trees, dug up jars to be treasured back home.  Topo maps are small snags of information that reflect the part of a community that changes least, its topography.  Granddaddy’s hills and streams will remain when the farm’s foundations support vines instead of walls.


The Old Minor Home Farm: Those Places Thursday

My mother and three siblings pose here on the dining room steps with their mother, Kerma Minor.  The white painted-brick farmhouse was surrounded by 330 acres of rolling hills studded by her daddy’s prized cows.  This was my mother’s home, Ceylon Lane, Greene Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania–where the Donald Minor family weathered the Depression and World War II.  Home on the home farm that her daddy had inherited from his daddy, Robert Minor, who had been bequeathed the home farm by his dad. Francis Marion Minor had in turn received the 330 acres from his father, John Pearson Minor, as per item 7 in his will of 28 February 1867:

I give, devise and bequeath unto my son, Francis Marion, his heirs and assigns the tract of land whereon he and I reside, known as the Myers farm, containing three hundred and twenty nine acres more or less…

Just when, I have wondered, did the former Myers farm become my family’s home farm.  Last week I unearthed a document in the Minor Papers that provides an important clue.

An article of Agreement made and concluded between James McFarland of Cumberland Township (housejoiner) and John P. Minor of Green Township both of Green County Pennsylvania on the twenty second of February eighteen hundred and thirty one as follows

John P. Minor was to purchase and supply all the materials for the project, and furnish board and lodging to James McFarland for the duration of the project.  In addition Mr. McFarland would receive $300 upon the satisfactory conclusion of all work.

For his part, James McFarland was to

complete the joiner work of the brick house formerly occupied by Jacob Myers.

The agreement stipulates that he was then to finish the floors and petition three rooms off on each floor

according to the construction of the said house.

Mr. McFarland was also charged with making cupboards, and sashes for the upstairs window, and casing and fixing off all the windows in the whole house.

and run up two pair of stairs in the dwelling house ….a pair of stairs to be run up outside on the porch and a drysink on the inside byside of chimney  the doors to be taken down and the facings new and then hung and mantle peaces and cheer boards and wash boards and all other things necessary to complete the building is to be done by said McFarland.

The house described bears a striking resemblance to the house my mother described as her childhood home.  For now, til new evidence surfaces to contradict me, I believe that the brick house, formerly occupied by Jacob Myers, was handsomely renovated by one James McFarland in 1831, and subsequently occupied by generations of John P. Minor descendants.