Spring has finally settled in here in the Appalachain plateau of northeastern Pennsylvania. The Daffodils are drying their flowers, the Oak’s leaves are hiding its fruits, and the Alum are shooting up their petaled orbs.
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.
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:
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.
Page Five of The MINOR FAMILY ALBUM
How good it is to see familiar faces!!
The fifth page frames a young couple’s portrait, carefully staged to tell the story of a momentous autumn day. Robert Minor had just taken May Stevenson’s hand in marriage.
The twenty-three year old groom was dressed in well-tailored pin-striped pants worn with a frock coat and matching waist coat–a fashion which would indicate that the Thursday wedding was held during the day. His bride, seventeen year old May Stevenson, wore an exquisite gown with lace at the throat, on the bodice, and at the cuffs. The hat, no doubt designed and made by her milliner mother, Mary Jones Stevenson, was trimmed in the this same lace and finished with feathers. September 8, 1892 was a grand day for these families.
The Presbyterian minister, T. G. Bristow, conducted the service in Carmichaels, Greene County, Pennsylvania. After Robert and May exchanged their vows, and the LARGE families of both bride and groom mingled in congratulations, the newlyweds stopped by the Public Square studio of T. W. Rogers and had their picture taken. Robert stared a bit like a deer caught in a lantern’s light, perhaps rocked by the realization that the circuit of ice cream socials and steamboat shows had come to an end. A soft smile tugged at May’s face, however. The young lady had survived the arduous years following her father’s death and secured her future with this prosperous young man. Together the youngsters would join in the family business–raising cattle and children to carry on the Minor legacy on Ceylon Road, Garard’s Fort, Pennsylvania.
My 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.
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.
When I first became curator of the Minor Family Album, I moved swiftly to identify this man, the first face to appear in the album. I was soooo certain of my clues and my analysis.
- This whiskered gent is the first photograph displayed in a Minor Family album created in the latter part of the 19th century. He must be an important family member. A patriarch.
- Thomas W. Rogers, the photographer, opened a studio in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, in 1864 that remained in existence through the turn of the century. Thomas took the photograph of this ancestor.
- The cabinet photo’s cardstock is an ivory color, with round corners, and medium weight. According to internet sources, this description dates the card to between 1869-1875.
WHAT A ROOKIE!!!
Time has passed, my skill set has expanded, newly discovered cousins have shared their treasures, and I have eaten a very, VERY large piece of humble pie. In other words, I MUST retract my earlier identification.
Starting over I apply the procedures learned from THE photo detective, Maureen A. Taylor, author of Family Photo Detective, Fashionable Folks Bonnets and Hats, Fashionable Folks Hairstyles, as well as, a wonderful blog on the subject.
This photograph is a paper print on a 4½ x 6½ inch ivory colored cardstock, with rounded corners. The photographer’s name and studio location–Thomas W. Rogers, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania–appear only at the bottom of the photo. There is no design or notation on the back. This portrait is an example of a cabinet card, most like created between 1869-1875.
Next I view the print with an eye for internal clues. The man is seated in front of a dark backdrop. White dots indicate that this photograph may be a photo of a photo–that the original photograph was on a surface like glass or tin, and that the photo’s chemicals flecked off with time. In the upper left hand corner there appears to be a curvature of the backdrop, as if the original photograph was in an oval shape.
The man is sporting a full beard, trimmed tight about his ears and mouth. Beards were not popular until the mid-late 1850s, and were worn by a generation of men until the late 1800s. The man has a full head of gray hair, worn long over his ears, and parted on the side. It does not appear to be greased down.
The shot captures the fellow from the chest up, and his beard hides the neckline. But the coat appears to be loose fitting, with a fairly wide lapel. The vest is of a different material and the top button is at the height of the coat’s top button, mid-chest.
These internal clues indicate a timeframe between the late 1850s and the late 1860s.
The man himself appears to be between 55 and 70 years old. And sick.
SO NOW WHAT?
Back to the stories, the roots, shoots, and leaves of this Minor Family tree. And let’s just suppose that I am looking for a male family member who would have been between 55-70 years of age in the late 1850s to the mid 1860s.
So, patriarch Abia was dead by 1834. Francis Marion and his brothers would have been too young to be the photographed dude. That leaves a closer examination of John P., Samuel, and Asa, all of whom would have been alive in the late 1850s and at least 60 years old.
MORE CLUES SURFACE
Cousin Ron Minor has generously shared a digital image, a photograph of a tintype, which was annotated with identification.
The man identified as John P. Minor (shown here on the left) has a higher forehead, and a thinner face. The eyebrows are not the same shape, and the hair appears to be thinner. Mr. Chin Whiskers is not John P. Minor.
A photograph of Samuel Minor found on the website Ancestry.com bears a strong resemblance to John P., a high forehead, with gray hair thinning at the brow. Samuel’s eyes are deeper set than those of my Mr. Chin Whiskers.
Is this ASA?
More clues to come…
*I have since removed that original post because of the improper identification, AND because people were taking the misidentified photograph and posting to ancestry.com without my permission. If you see something that you would like to share, please ask me about it.