On The Trail To Tioga

Cemetery. Mount Pleasant. Westfield, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.  Sayles, Christopher and Sarah KingI woke to this thought–I live three hours from my great-great-grandfather’s childhood home. The weather report promised spring sun and warm temperatures, perfect for a cemetery hunt.  I gassed up my car, plotted out my routes, and headed out west through the Endless Mountains. I couldn’t help wondering why Ira Sayles’ parents and grandparents picked up and left Rhode Island.

At Williamsport, I turned north and traveled up the four lane highway where hillsides hug the horizon to the valley.   Just miles from the point where Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier turns into New York’s Southern Tier, I turned off onto a winding Route 49.  A stagnant band of water stretched some miles to my right, today’s Cowanesque River Recreation Area.  In another moment I realized that the water was off to my left and squiggling through the soil, a river of little size.  This then is the Cowanesque Valley which beckoned to my ancestors centuries ago.  Alrighty.  But why would the Howlands, Kings and Sayles make the trek from northwestern Rhode Island, small children, babies, pots, pans, quilts, packed into whatever form the roads required?  How did this land lure people from ancestral ties, family-packed villages, established communities and businesses?

I kept driving, through Elkland, toward Deerfield Township. Knoxville and Westfield were up ahead.

I rounded a corner–to a valley opened in a welcoming hello. Flat fields stretched for miles.  Farmhouses sat close to the road, their barns and outbuildings clustered close behind.  Green hills rose on the horizon, tethering the fertile ground to a wide sky.  So THIS was the Cowanesque Valley that pulled John and Lois Eddy Howland, James and Rhobe Howland King, and Christopher and Sarah King Sayles from the established coastal settlements to the western frontier.

Landscape. Cowanesque Valley, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.

The Howlands were Quaker, and their remains were buried in what is now the town of Knoxville. Quaker headstones were often inscribed with nothing more than initials and a date of death.  The town decided to replace the aging stones with one durable marker honoring the burial place of the area’s Quaker ancestors.

Cemetery. Knoxville. Howland, John and Lois Eddy.

On this site were buried the great-grandparents of Ira Sayles, John Howland (1743-1835) and Lois Eddy Howland (1749-1825)

The valley narrowed as I continued west to the Krusen Cemetery, located a short distance from the Cowanesque River bridge in Westfield.  On a knoll are the remains of this town’s elders, including Ira’s grandparents, James IV King and the Howland’s daughter, Rhobe.

Krusen Cemetery, Westfield, Pennsylvania. The gravestone of Ira Sayles' grandparents, James King IV (1765-1844) and Rhobe/Merrobe Howland King (1769-1836)

Krusen Cemetery, Westfield, Pennsylvania. The gravestone of Ira Sayles’ grandparents, James King IV (1765-1844) and Rhobe/Merrobe Howland King (1769-1836)

Turning east I took the hill-hugging Mill Street to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the resting place of Ira’s parents, Christopher Sayles and the King’s daughter, Sarah.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Westfield, Pennsylvania.  The grave of Ira's parents, Christopher Sayles (1791-1884) and Sarah King Sayles (1793-1866)

Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Westfield, Pennsylvania. The grave of Ira’s parents, Christopher Sayles (1791-1884) and Sarah King Sayles (1793-1866)

Pausing at the grave sites I tried hard to imagine what characteristics I might have inherited.  Persistence.  Patience.  Imagination. Courage to get up every day even when you don’t know if you’ve done the right thing. The desire to make a building a home,and a network of people a community.

As I looked out over the hills of my ancestors I felt a piece of me relax, accepting their gifts, prepared to continue their legacy.

Landscape.  Westfield, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.

 

Please. May I Have More?

Earthworms are being pecked out of the ground at an astonishing rate, judging from the robin beaks I have seen today.  Hungry mouths are waiting.

Robin nestling

Robin nestlings, less than week old. Adults not on nest or in general vicinity. Temperature 83*F. Shot with Nikon D300sA 1/30 F 16 ISO 1000 200mm.

Eye To The Future

Observing feathered  behavior is a favorite pasttime, particularly when one individual becomes part of my landscape, part of my family.

My girl’s nest building was furtive, unnoticed. But her alarm routine while I gardened prompted a determined hunt ending at a low growing pine, her nest just above eye level.  Gleefully I imagined the clutch she was protecting, and anticipated the addition of nestling peeps to our spring bird symphony.

I sat at my desk Friday, the clatter of the keyboard drowned out by alarm cries. I was driven to such distraction that I left my desk and walked out on the front porch. At least a dozen robins were participating in a flock alarm pattern, alternately swooping through the air, diving toward the ground or calling from a nearby maple.  Perched at the top of the six foot pine was a Red-tailed Hawk, leering into the shrub’s branches.  At my nest.

AT MY NEST!!!

I joined the flock alarm, clapping my hands and shouting “HEY!!!”  My herding dog turned his eye on the raptor and added his command.  With great deliberation the hawk looked down, then around, then slowly spread her wings to a lazy lift off.  Atop my neighbors hemlock, twenty-four inches of taloned feathers observed our interspecies team for another minute before abandoning the project all together.

A short while later I held a compact mirror above the nest to glimpse the raptor’s intended prize–four blind, down-covered nestlings.  Several hours passed before I checked one more time on my nest, only to be met by a mother’s stern gaze.  We both have our eye on the future.

Project 52, May 24, 1014. American Robin on nest, clutch of four, young hatchlings, downy, blind.  No eggs observed.

Project 52, May 24, 1014.
American Robin on nest, clutch of four, young hatchlings, downy, blind. No eggs observed.

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.