I Remain Your Loving Brother – Samuel Minor to John P. Minor: Amanuensis Monday

On Mondays, many geneabloggers don the hat of amanuensis, to record and transcribe primary sources within our care.  Today I begin sharing the records of Samuel and Elly Lowery Minor found among the papers of Samuel’s brother, my great³ grandfather, John Pearson Minor.  

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On the 22 September 1872, Samuel Minor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa sat down to write his older brother, John Pearson Minor of Whiteley, Greene County, Pennsylvania.  The letter lacks basic punctuation and words are imprecisely spelled.  I have taken the liberty of translating the newsy note, rather than transcribing Samuel’s words verbatim .  Click on the images below to read the letter yourself!  

Cedar Rapids, Iowa  September the 22 1872

Dear Brother,  I take this opportunity of writing to you.  We’re all well as usual. I hope this will find you all the same.  We have had very rainy weather here since the first of August so it is very difficult to save grain and make hay.  Our wheat was very good.  We have thrashed and have 26 bushels to the acre.  Our corn is very good.  Oats and hay not so good.  I got a letter from Ellis not long since and they were all well.  He brags very much of the health of their county and has 200 acres of land and 64 head of cattle, 40 milk cows.  He said they need not lay up any wintering and their cattle is fat in the spring.  They have plenty of fruit of all kinds.  His nearest neighbor had 500 bushels of peaches.  They have no winter of any account; ice not thicker than a knife blade.  Apples will keep all the time in any old house without freezing.  AJ (Andrew Jackson) is going to move to Illinois to Idair on the railroad.  He has been living with one but says he can’t farm as his complaint hurts him to plow.  

Sam has bought another farm and he has worked himself down til he looks almost as old as I do.  John lives close to western.  They have had some sickness on their family but are nearly well again.  If Jack leaves I can’t tell how Elly and me will do.  Sias (Josiah?) and Samuel says they live close by and they can see if we want any thing and Elly has got so she cooks for her and me all this last year nearly and we are getting along very well but we know not what a day may bring forth.  I sometimes think my time short and people tells me I am good for 10 years.  Yet god has spared my life til a good old age and I have a very good relish for my victuals yet.  Elly and me was up at town the other day and had our likeness taken 12 of them and I send you one.  We have a fine iron bridge over the river and you would hardly know our town now.  This bridge is ??? our bridge that I had a sho? is gone the new one is lower down cross the plane.  No more but remain your loving brother. 

Samuel Minor to John P Minor

Write soon.
















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.

“Bot (sic) of Erskine Eichelberger”: Amanuensis Monday

A hearty thank you to John Newmark at Transylvanian Dutch, creator of Amanuensis Monday, for the gentle nudge to keep transcribing those family documents.

From my Minor Satchel Collection I gently extract a scrap of paper.  Another receipt. Sigh.  I am bored with these receipts; I want letters, wills, newspaper clippings.  Sigh.  Diligently I begin the annotation which will tag the receipt’s storage sleeve.

Date:  December 16, 1830

Place:  Baltimore

Names:  John P. Minor

Now this scrap is piquing my interest!  What would Greene County, Pennsylvania resident John P. Minor be doing in Baltimore?

This paper doesn’t detail how my great³ grandfather came by the money, but it does detail how he SPENT $11.92 at the wholesale grocers, Erskine and Eichelberger, at the southwest corner of Baltimore and Howard Streets in Baltimore, Maryland.¹  John P. Minor bot (sic) ½ barrel of Coffee for $9.30, 2 units of T. Y. C. tea for $2.00, 2 units of Black Pepper for 37 cents and 1 unit of allspice for 25 cents. I can’t help but wonder if my great³grandmother enjoyed the tea for Christmas!

An 1823 Receipt for Payment: Amanuensis Monday

A hearty thank you to John Newmark at Transylvanian Dutch, creator of Amanuensis Monday, for the gentle nudge to keep transcribing those family documents.

My great-great-great-grandfather Minor was a cattle drover in southwestern Pennsylvania throughout the 1820s and 1830s.  John Pearson based this business out of his farm in Greene County, near the town of Whitely (later called Gerards Fort) and left dozens of receipts, lists and agreements.  Generations later, the Minor Satchel Collection is mine to separate, annotate and place into acid-free sleeves. Names and places float still disconnected in six three-ring-binders, taunting me to find their meaning.  This receipt, simple in its intent, concise in its content, affirms that a  loan has been repaid; its black ink stands in strong relief against the yellow paper.

April 4th 1823

Received of John P. Minor by John McClelland agent for William McClelland the sum of one hundred and seventy dollars due on an article as note dated the tenth day of April 1822.

William McClelland

 John P. Minor married Hannah McClelland, daughter of Robert McClelland, in 1815. The couple had two sons in short order; and Hannah died shortly after the birth of the second boy in the spring of 1817.  By the fall John had remarried–an Isabella McClelland. Now this note appears to attest that a John and William McClelland also lived in Greene County. 

All these McClellands dangle on separate branches of an old tree that I believe belongs to a Revolutionary War era Robert McClelland. Will further research help me put Hannah, Isabella, William and John on the same branch?  Or will these folks end up on separate McClelland trees?

The Annotation — The Expense Account of Two 1830s Cattle Drovers

Yesterday’s transcription, The Expense Account of Two 1830s Cattle Drovers, offered a fascinating glimpse into the partnership between my great to the third grandfather, John P. Minor, and Lot Lantz.  As with my checkbook today, I reviewed the ledger’s figures with a scattered focus.  Does all of this accounting add up?  Meh!  Close enough!

The real family dirt was in the places named: Bull Town; William Brown’s farm in Preston County, Virginia; Caremont Tavern.  Where did these fellas travel?  How did they get the cattle from point A to point B?  Where was point A?

Both John P. Minor and Lot Lantz were residents of Greene County, in the far southwest corner of Pennsylvania; their names and place of residence appear in multiple federal censuses and several family papers housed in my Minor Satchel File.  Bull Town is in what is now known as Braxton County, West Virginia and Preston County is just to the north and east of Braxton County. What connected southwest Pennsylvania and mid-state (West) Virginia in 1832?


Mail routes.


From the collection of David Rumsey Historical Maps

Every map I have located for the first half of the nineteenth century includes the southwest corner of Pennsylvania in the map of Virginia.  The water ways, rail roads and roads connected the western counties of Virginia to Pennsylvania forming strong economic and cultural ties for many decades.

The Monogehela River and its tributary, the Cheat River, may have been one means of traveling into Preston County.  Or perhaps Minor and Lantz drove cattle down the one horse sulkey road from Waynesburg, Pennsylvania to Morgantown, (West) Virginia to Kingswood, Preston County, (West) Virginia.

At Kingswood the two drovers could have traveled on the Three Fork Road, the day’s interstate highway.  That 2 horse stage coach road would take the men and their cattle through Bridgeport to Clarksburg, Harrison County, (West) Virginia. From that point smaller roads, just one horse sulkey wide, would connect the businessmen with markets in Bull Town.

Travel through the mountains of western Virginia must have been arduous.  I am still trying to wrap my brain around the concept of driving 22 head of cattle or 145 head of cattle along roads shared with mail coaches, farmers and peddlers.  Did they use dogs to help move their merchandise along? Where did they stop to water and feed their cattle?  How long was the average drive?

Cattle drovers were often men of substance in their communities, helping farmers move their animals to distant markets.  John P. Minor was just one of these businessmen, and I am grateful that his descendants have kept the details of his transactions.