On Court Avenue

The cabinet card is not quite as sturdy as one would expect from an established photographer like Benjamin E. Goldsberry, and his studio logo was stamped in haste across the bottom, leaving the green-inked words crookedly confirming the man’s location–Court Avenue in Bedford, the county seat of Taylor County, Iowa. Ben Goldsberry operated cameras like an artist and had a strong reputation in the region, training other aspiring photographers like Matthew G. Maxwell.

page 13 blogThe young couple wear clothes that are simple and traditional, probably made of worsted wool.  The woman’s bodice is plain with no inlays, embroidery or ruffles, and the buttons appear to be made of bone.  She dresses the outfit up with a starched undercollar and a beautiful oval broach at the throat.  Her hair is divided in three pieces; the bottom strands are pulled to the back and twisted into a bun, which is then wound with the two upper pieces for an 1880s finishing touch.  The man wears a jacket and vest made of matching plaid fabric, and a long flowing beard with trimmed sideburns and mustache–a style considered old-fashioned back east.  Mr. Goldsberry operated his Bedford studio from 1880-1890, and these internal clues suggest that the couple posed on Court Avenue between 1884-1889.

I have uncovered six Minor family members living in Iowa’s southcentral counties during the latter decades of the 19th century so far, and only one would fit the description above.

140627-164834John Pierson and Minnie B. Norton Keenan

John P. Keenan was born on a farm near Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, son of Hugh and Isabella Minor Keenan. An adventurous person, John left Greene County in 1875, and as an eighteen year old made his way to Taylor County, Iowa, where he herded other people’s cattle for a living.  He was an enterprising man known as a progressive farmer.  By 1881 John was acting as the legal agent for his Uncle Marion Minor, collecting “judgements” from other Greene County residents who had borrowed money to establish their Iowa roots.  During this same time period, John had made enough money to purchase his own farm in the neighboring Ringgold County. There he met, courted and married Minnie Norton in 1884.

By 1887 John and Minnie had the opportunity to purchase 300 acres of fine farming land south of Mormontown (Blockton), Jefferson Township, Taylor County.  Their lives were turned topsy-turvy when son Hugh was born the summer of 1887.  Unfortunately the following year was filled with grief, as they lost first Minnie’s father, Martin, and then their little boy.

Perhaps later that fall the young farmers headed to town, purchasing winter supplies, tying up financial matters, posting letters before the winter storms set in,  and stopping by Court Avenue to document their resilience for posterity.

page 13 blog

 

 

Taylor Is The New Greene

Plat Book Jesse MinorIn the mid to late 1800s entire branches of original Greene County, Pennsylvania families headed west.  Some may have stopped in Ohio or Missouri before finally heading west again–to the fertile lands of Iowa. Stephensons, Minors, Hartleys, and Keenans swept into the plains of Taylor County, along the south-central border with Missouri.  And many of these western pioneers were related to my great-great-grandfolk, Marion and Mary Jane Minor. The Minor Family Album, then, is more than a photograph storage container; it is the recording of our country’s western migration, and its impact on this extended family.

Page eleven, for instance, tells the story of Jesse Minor (1853-1926) and his wife, Olive Independence Sims (1860-1909).  Jesse grew up next door to Marion and Mary Jane, the son of Marion’s brother, Samuel.  The young farmer left the Minor-studded hills of Ceylon Road when he was just twenty-three, found a wife in Missouri, and settled on land just south of Mormontown (Blockton), Taylor County, Iowa. At the time of this portrait, Jesse and Olive were tightly integrated into the agrarian communities by faith, farming, and family.  Cousin John P. Keenan farmed acres just north of Jesse, and brother John P. Minor lived just to the south.  To the east, just over the Ringgold County line, lived Keenan’s sister, Hannah Hartley, and Minor cousin, John and Mary Stephenson.

Jesse is shown in this photo sitting in the only chair, a Victorian reference to his status as head of household, and his son, Joseph Carl “Jed”, is balanced on his dad’s crossed legs.  Olive sits primly to Jesse’s side, her hands folded in her lap.  Their tween daughter, Della May, stands beside her mother, her hand draped on her father’s chair. The group is well dressed, facing the camera with confident, happy eyes. Fourteen years after leaving southwestern Pennsylvania, little Jesse Minor has firmly established himself as a successful farmer, stock buyer, husband, father, and community member.   This image captured his contentment and pride more completely than any letter’s words, and was saved, ever a reminder that family ties endure, even if Taylor is the new Greene.

page 11 blog

 

 

UPDATED Strangers Cross My Path Again: The Minor Family Album

I am becoming a bit wary of this great-great-grandmother of mine, Mary Jane Minor. She does not appear to have had much of a design plan for this photograph album, for turning to pages six and seven, I am greeted by strangers once again.  Strangers from Iowa.

The man sports a full beard and moustache, and wears his plaid coat unbuttoned to show off the matching vest and watch chain.  He appears to be in his mid-late forties. The woman looks to be about ten years his junior and wears her hair parted in the middle with no bangs and severely swept back to the nape of her neck.  Her dress is made of a dark cloth, the tightly fitted bodice decorated with ornate embroidery trim on either side of the column of buttons and a bit of lace peeking out at the throat.  The puffed shoulders of her slim sleeves are my best hint that this photograph was taken sometime between 1888 and 1893, when women’s fashion dictated ever fuller leg of mutton sleeves.  Before 1888, the sleeve would have been sewn flat at the shoulder.

The photographer was Matthew G. Maxwell who first learned his trade while working for Mr. Goldsberry of Bedford,Taylor  County, Iowa. By the time of these portraits, Mr. Maxwell had an established studio in Mt. Ayr, in the neighboring county of Ringgold.

POSSIBILITIES ARE LIMITED

Neither of these two folks are Mary Jane’s children, all of whom can be accounted for back east. John P Minor (Jr.) was married with a child, and living right down the road from Mary Jane and Marion.  Sarah Minor Herrington was a widow, with a child, and living nearby.  Olfred had died in 1886, and his widow and children were being cared for locally by Mary Jane and Marion.  And Robert, my grandfather, was still living at the home farm on Ceylon Road with his parents.

Time to shake the family branches!

A few candidates fall out during the search for middle aged relatives living in or near Mt. Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa in the late 1880s.

  •  John Minor Stephenson was Mary Jane’s nephew, as his mother, Hannah,  was Marion Minor’s sister.  John had moved to a farm near the village of Maloy in Ringgold County with his wife, Mary Dulaney, in 1867.  In 1888, John would have been 54 and Mary would have been 44.  If Iowa fashion lagged trends, and the photographs were actually taken in the early 1890s, then John would have been in his late fifties and Mary in her late forties.
  • John P. Keenan was another nephew, son of Isabelle Minor Keenan.  John went to Taylor County, Iowa in the 1870s, and for several years herded cattle before purchasing land of his own in neighboring Ringgold County.  He married Minnie and eventually went back to Taylor County farming land close to the town of Blockton.  In the late 1880s John P. would have been in his early thirties, and his wife Minnie in her early twenties.
  • John Keenan’s sister was also in Taylor County, Iowa.  Hannah and her husband, John Milton Hartley relocated from Greene County, Pennsylvania to Iowa in 1874. The two raised their family on a Taylor County farm before starting a business in the town of Maloy, Ringgold County, Iowa. In 1888, Hannah would have been 35 years old and husband John would have been 48.
  • Two other Greene County boys had settled in Taylor County, Iowa by the late 1880s, Jesse and John P. Minor, sons of Marion’s brother–and next door neighbor–Samuel.  They and their wives held contiguous farms just south of the town of Blockton.  Jesse would have been in his late thirties and Olive in her late twenties.  John P. and Mary Ellen would have been in their late twenties.

Map. Taylor and Ringgold Counties, Iowa. Keenan, Minor, Stephenson

 

Let’s suppose at the time of the portrait session, the residences of all these Minor kids were within traveling distance of Matthew G. Maxwell’s studio in Mt. Ayr.  Jesse and John P. Minor were too young to be the gentleman shown.  Furthermore, I have comparison portraits of these guys which confirm that Mr. Page Seven is not a picture of them!

John Stevenson would have been much older than the man in this photograph.

John and Minnie Keenan would have been much younger than the two pictured here.

AT THIS TIME THEN 

The most likely identity of this couple–with what I know now–is Hannah Keenen Hartley and her husband John Milton.

I will have to keep an open mind as I continue this puzzle, matching up letters and documents with what clues I have in photographs.  But for the moment…I think have added one more stranger to my family tree.

Well, THAT sense of satisfaction was short-lived!!!

I followed up my blog post yesterday with another google search for the Hartleys, to expand my sense of their space, their era, their dreams.  And found this page on the Ringgold, Iowa GenWeb site:

 http://iagenweb.org/ringgold/history/maloy/hist_maloyCent_HartleyFam.html

Minor Relatives. Photo. 1890. Hartley, Hannah Keenan and John Milton

Dare to compare. Hannah Hartley appears to have a bigger frame and a broader nose than my Victorian lady.  And John Milton Hartley appears to be bald, whereas my dude is thinning at the temple.  I must return these faces to the stranger pile, to be hung on my family tree at some future date.

I’m a Big Brother! : Ivan Vannoy circa 1911

Image

 

Dear Cousin Donald,  You ought to come and see our little baby.  He is just fine.  we have not named him yet. Mabey (sic) you can send him a name.  How is "Great-Grandpa?  We are all fine.  Papa brought ma football from Chicago.  I wish I had a nice yard like you have to play in.  It has just poured down all day so Janet and I have been in the house all day, and it is raining hard this evening. When are you all coming to see us?  Mama said Helo (sic) to your Mama and wants to know how your papa is.  Lovingly your cousin.  Ivan Vannoy

Dear Cousin Donald, You ought to come and see our little baby. He is just fine. we have not named him yet. Mabey (sic) you can send him a name. How is “Great-Grandpa? We are all fine. Papa brought me football from Chicago. I wish I had a nice yard like you have to play in. It has just poured down all day so Janet and I have been in the house all day, and it is raining hard this evening. When are you all coming to see us? Mama said Helo (sic) to your Mama and wants to know how your papa is. Lovingly your cousin. Ivan Vannoy

In 1911, Donald Minor’s cousin, Bedie Harrington Vannoy, had her third child out in Iowa.  The little boy was eventually named Paul, and returned with siblings Ivan and Janet to visit their grandmother, Sarah Minor Harrington McClure, and their great-grandpa, Francis Marion Minor, with whom Donald lived while his father convalesced from migraines in health resorts like the Markleton Sanitorium.

The Tama, Iowa photographer, C. W. Wright, printed the photograph of this six-year-old on postcard stock, and the note accompanied other mail delivered to Ceylon Lane, Garard’s Fort, Pennsylvania.

*Photograph restored using PicMonkey: http://www.picmonkey.com/

 

 

I Seat My Self To Write You A Few Lines – Samuel Minor: Amanuensis Monday

Last week I published a letter written on the 22 September of 1872 by Samuel Minor of Linn County, Iowa to his brother, John P. Minor of Greene County, Pennsylvania.  He provided updates about his sons but not his daughters; he talked about the weather and described the town’s new bridge.  THIS letter was written a year later, and Ellis has had another daughter; AJ “Jack” has moved to Adair, Illinois; Elly has been traveling; and Samuel has been butchering hogs.

Once again, I have translated the original letter, so the reader can focus on the newsy descriptions rather than the idiosyncratic spelling and punctuation of an 80 year old farmer.  You can click on each image if you would like to read the original.

December the 25, 1873                        Linn County,Iowa

Dear brother and nephew,

I seat myself to write you a few lines to let you know what was the reason I did not answer yours long before.  I had a geathering on my hand that I could not write.  We are all as well as common at this time.  George Minor is married and lives on Sias’ (Josiah’s) land over in the woods.  Ely Worithington with him. They are hawling wood to town. Sam Minor’s wife has a sow. They have a turkey roast at Si’s today and Elly is gone over .  I could not go. I got my butchering done and I have one large hog for sale. He will weigh about 4 hundred live weight at this time.

Jack was here since you were and Elly went home with him and Will and his wife came back with her.  She said Will and Jack has quite a large store there in Adair on the railroad.  She was at Thomas McGee’s; he is Clerk in the express office.  Gets 75 dollars a month and his boy 10 for opening the gate in Bushnell, Illinois about 9 miles from Will’s.  And Jack’s has put him self a house, Will one and a kitchen and stable for Will. Their lots join not far off the depo. Jack’s brother-in law is Clerk and gets 65 Dollars a month.  His name John Eperson.  Jack’s wife’s folks live not far from there.

Sy got a letter from Ellis and they have another girl. It is fat and hearty like all the rest of us two month olds. When he wrote they have 6 children, 2 boys and 4 girls.  They have a school handy and the children is learning very fast.  He sold some cattle; he got 15 dollars for two year olds, 18 to 20 for 3 yearlings, from 10 to 13 for spring calves, 6 to 8 for cows,  from 12 to 18 wheat from 75 per bushel.  (no, I didn’t understand that last bit either.)

I can’t see to follow the lines but I do the best I can.  We have a very pleasant winter here not very cold nor windy as yet a good many snows not very much at a time. Our markets is pretty well supplied except potatoes. The farmers did not raise more than will do them selves and some of them will have to buy their  ? wheat .  Hay is plenty; butter and eggs plenty .  I work a little every day, as I feel better when I work than when I do nothing I find.  And cut my wood when brought to the door a foot long and make on fires.  Elly cooks and does the house work except washing.  She is much better and knits a great deal for her grandchildren and our selves.

No more at this time but remain your loving Brother and uncle to John P and Samuel Minor

Samuel Minor

PS You can let any of the friends see this.

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