The Minor Family Album–Provenance

 

The tooled leather volume resembles a family bible, ornamented by the addition of a bronze latch. The heavy cardstock pages are cut out in the middle allowing for two cabinet cards to be displayed, back to back.  A thick gold line frames each photograph.  Buckled into the Minor Album are twenty-eight portraits taken between 1860-1900.

JUST WHAT DO I HAVE HERE?

Minor Photo Album Title Page

THIS is the title page.  Gorgeous!!  Right?

MEH.  I want story.  Story comes from details.

Let’s start with the known.  The album was recovered by my mother from the attic of the farmhouse in which she grew up.  In which her father grew up. In which her grandfather and his father grew up.  From the attic of the Minor Home Farm on Ceylon Lane, purchased by John Pearson Minor circa 1830.  Just who, then, might have purchased the album and slipped the cabinet cards into place?

She did it.  

My mother’s father’s grandmother, Mary Jane Gwynne Minor.

Women of the Victorian era were associated with the collection of family memorabilia and its display; photograph albums were part of this creative work.  Mary Jane was the woman of Ceylon Lane, the mom of the Minor Home Farm, during the period that this album was filled.

This hypothesis has been strengthened by my work comparing other labeled photographs in my collection  with those that I am finding inside the album.  I have identified several images as members of the Mary Jane and Francis Marion Minor Family.

My sleuthing adventures begin with this hypothesis–the cabinet cards of the Minor Family Album belonged to Mary Jane and Marion Minor, and represent members of their immediate and extended family.

Next post–  Mr. Chin Whiskers is revealed.

 

 

Family Portrait taken by T W Rogers, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, circa 1874.  Standing: Sarah, John P., Olfred Minor.  Seated: Mary Jane Gwynn and Francis Marion Minor.  Standing front: Robert Minor (b. 1869) Photo recovered from Minor Home Farm circa 1965

Family Portrait taken by T W Rogers, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, circa 1874. Standing: Sarah, John P., Olfred Minor. Seated: Mary Jane Gwynn and Francis Marion Minor. Standing front: Robert Minor (b. 1869) Photo recovered from Minor Home Farm circa 1965

 

 

And You Thought OUR Roads Were Bad: 1918 Christmas Roadtrip

Chasing family tales is what gets all genealogists hooked, and when we get help from previously unknown circles, it feels like Christmas.  To receive such collaboration AT Christmastime is just too wonderful for words. I want to thank cousin, Linda Bell, for her  holiday energy and sharing.  Family lore has become another GREAT family story. 

Minor Home, Orlando, FloridaEvery once in a while as I was growing up, Minor family reunions would include some reminiscing, and tantalizing bits of information would drift about. Like…Robert and May Laura Minor, my great-grandparents,  had a home in Florida. Sometime. Somewhere. For some reason. Years passed. THEN came an email exchange between genea-cousins, which connected my memories and photos with her memories and documents, and whoosh!! we have a Christmas STORY!

IMAGINE…..  

The Minor Farm on Ceylon Lane, Greene County, PennsylvaniaIt is December 23, in southwestern Pennsylvania, 1918.  Two years have passed since President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Aid Road Act, the first comprehensive commitment to the establishment of a nationwide highway system.  America has entered the age of the automobile, BUT would-be travelers have no AAA to call, no Kayak.com to click, no system of vacation organization whatever.  America has 2.5 million miles of public roads,  but only 11% are paved.  Let’s go on a Christmas roadtrip!  To Florida! By auto! SAY WHAT?

‘TWAS TWO DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS . . . . 

And Robert and May, Donald (16), Helen (24) and Alonzo Bell,  were headed out, off the farm! Onward to Florida! But first to cross the Monongahela River! As told by Helen Minor Bell, my great-grandaunt, the trek proved to be eventful.

Minor Automobile with Helen at the wheel

On Dec. 23rd 1918, Father, mother, brother, my husband and myself left the farm for Florida by auto.  On reaching Carmichaels, we learned we could not cross the river at Crucible as the river was so high, but they were still crossing at Masontown so went back to Masontown and crossed that was we did not strike a good road until we almost to Uniontown.  

The first day we only got as far as Flintstone Md. A very small hotel and no conveniences whatever.  Sec. day ate dinner at HamiltonHotel, Hagerstown, Md, stayed that night at Berkley Hotel Martinsburg, W. Va.  Christmas Dinner Edinburgh Hotel at Edinburgh Va. and stayed at Beverly Hotel at Staunton Va.  Here we saw Pres. Wilson’s birth-place, also the Staunton Military Academy.  There, next day after Xmas had dinner at Natural Bridge Hotel, Natural B Va.  Here the natural bridge was one of the wonders of the world.  

The drive this after noon from Natural Bridge to Lynchburg was the most dangerous and very risky trip in any afternoon.  Part of the way we followed a road just wide enough for the car along an old canal, finally we came to a place which seemed to us we were driving up to some ones barn yard, we thought this as far as the road went, but asked the woman and she said you’re on the right road go straight ahead.  We drove on up around the barn among the cows and up a steep hill which looked like nothing more than a rocky trail this we kept up all afternoon crossing one ridge after another of the Blue Ridge Mts.  Just one steady pull and only wide enough for the car, down below hundreds of feet was the James river and not more than a foot away from the edge at any time.  When we had crossed several ridges we came to a creek which we had to ford and right in the middle of it the car stopped and we were there for at least 3/4 of an hr before we got the car started, then when the car started we were wedged in between two rocks and could not go forward or backwards.  

This wonderful account ends abruptly, but it is enough to get my heart racing.   I have wandered among the Blue Ridge back roads, which even today are not much more than a car and half wide.  I can easily imagine the cliff-hugging view.  I suppose once they got through that creek they figured they could do anything, and managed on, day after day, until they crossed the state line into Florida.

Which they did reach.  So wonderful was the destination, that Robert purchased a home. In Orlando. And yet another family story begins.

Minor Orlando HomeMinor Home, Orlando, FloridaMake sure you check out this google map of the 1918 Christmas Roadtrip.

Story by Story: A Doll’s Cradle

A doll’s cradle, tucked away, unseen for a generation, has found its way into my home, a piece of my mother’s collection.  In photographing this wicker treasure, I discovered a clue as to its origins.  Affixed to the bottom of the toy was a piece of masking tape with the words “made by Robert Minor for Marilyn, 193?“, written in my mother’s handwriting.

Robert Minor holding Marilyn, 1932, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. From the Marilyn Minor Strickland Collection.

Robert Minor holding Marilyn, 1932, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. From the Marilyn Minor Strickland Collection.

Marilyn’s granddaddy Minor (1869-1943) was a substantial man, stocky, square.  Looking at his picture, it is not hard to imagine that Robert Minor milked cows from an early age, or that he was groomed to take over the family cattle trading business as soon as he could count.  But his sturdy physique and natty attire belied an emotional vulnerability.  Intractable headaches and melancholy shaped Robert’s ability to work, to parent, to care and be cared for.  And once the family sold the mineral rights for the coal on that Pennsylvania farm in 1906, Robert had the means to do more than suffer in silence.

Treatment for nervous conditions in the early 20th century was limited, with most, like Robert, seeking the rest cure at various resort-like sanitariums.  Fresh air, clear spring water, no stressors, and occupational therapy were thought to be just the ticket to relief.  Relief did not guarantee return to a normal, productive life.

The stories told at family reunions, and recently uncovered postcards and letters, reveal that Robert never quite shook the demon depression.  He was subject to violent outbursts throughout his life.  His wife, May Laura, had even advised their adolescent son, Donald, to never be alone with Robert out in the barn.  Robert also had a habit of kicking his shin black and blue whenever he became upset.

Robert Minor must have retreated to sanitariums many, many times. Somehow the farm remained functional, and a legacy for Donald, his wife, Kerma, and his children, including Marilyn.  And in spite of frequent absences, Robert appears to have been a doting grandfather, buying dresses and toys when at home, and writing letters when away, like this note to ten year old Marilyn from Mercer Sanitarium, Mercer, Pennsylvania, when once again he was a resident of that therapeutic institution.

“Dear Marylin(sic) you little sweet thing, I only wish I could write you a nice letter one you would be proud of but Grandady (sic) isn’t able to do it.  Of course I could ask you about the school and your little friends and about your brothers and sisters and who your teacher is and where you go to school Willow Tree or Garards Fort, and how many there were in the school and do you mind the cold, and did you or any of them take the Hooping (sic) cough.”

At Mercer Sanitarium, Robert would have been under the care of Dr. W.W. Richardson, M.D.  Many nurses would have been called up to serve in various war-time positions.  I suppose, though short staffed, the basis of that 1942 care would have remained much the same as before the war: good food, raised on the premises; daily chores around the home and farm; and instruction in weaving, brass work, lace weaving, or basketry.  Basketry.

When I look at this doll’s cradle, I see more than eight inches of woven wicker.  I see a troubled mind holding in his heart what he couldn’t hold in his arms.  My dear little Marilyn…..

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Mapping My Ancestors: An Update to the Wilson-Minor Transactions

Have you ever wondered  if anybody ever reads what you have so passionately researched and diligently recorded?  Just as I despair that my family storytelling has NO audience, I got a comment, followed by a description, followed by an email with PHOTOGRAPHS.  This post was originally published two years ago, and today, because of curious reader, I have additional descriptions of land purchased 170 years ago by John Pearson Minor.  

Drawn on thin paper discolored to a light blue, the survey map described a distinct parcel of land with corners marked by Black Oak, Water Beech, Limestones, fence posts, stakes, and Hickories.  Lines connected the corners and were labeled with surveying code–S37 W 151/2 poles and the like.  Unnamed squiggly lines posed as small streams crossing the land, emptying into an unnamed creek boundary. Lines cut the map into pieces; within one rectangle was the name A. Minor, within another the name R. Minor.  The outside bore a cryptic “plot of Virginia land 575.”

Five hundred and seventy-five was the amount of land that John P. Minor purchased from James P. Wilson in 1841 and 1842.  As I reread those deeds I traced my finger along the lines of this map, and with great excitement realized that I did indeed have a map which depicted the Minor land acquisition of 1841 and 1842 in Harrison County, (West) Virginia!

Five Hundred Seventy-five Acres along Simpsons Creek

With that confirmed I could with great certainty know that the bigger stream indicated Simpson’s Creek, and the smaller streams were Limestone Run and Stout’s Run.  However, I still didn’t know when this map was created or where this parcel of land was on a current map.

unto the said Abia and Robert Minor their heirs and assigns for ever all that tract or parcel of land situate lying and being in the county of Harrison in the state of Virginia and bounded as follows

The 1849 document transferring a piece of this property to Abia and Robert Minor was never executed.  It was as if the boys had given John P. some reason to pause before deeding title. BUT the document gives a surveyor’s description of the considered transaction, and that plot is only the piece labeled R. Minor in this map–a clue that this map was created sometime AFTER 1849.  Other documents related to this land include John P. Minor deeding the tract of land labeled here A. Minor to Abia Minor in 1854. Therefore, I conclude that my surveyor’s map was created sometime between the years 1849 and 1854.

The when of the map was closer to being settled at this point, however I was left no closer to understanding where these 575 acres were located. For that I consulted  the Federal Census data hoping to track the residences of the young men.  My hunch was rewarded with an interesting trail.

1840                          Abia has a child and wife in Greene County, PA
Robert is not listed anywhere
1850                          Can’t find either Abia or Robert
1860                        Abia is in Moultrie County,Illinois
Robert is in Harrison County, Virginia
1870                         Abia is in Moultrie County, Illinois
Robert is in Harrison County, West Virginia
1880                        Abia is in Harper County, Kansas
Robert is in Harrison County, West Virginia

If Robert was on that land so long then searching for a map of that 1860-1880 era might yield some clues.

At Historic Map Works I did indeed find such a map–An Atlas of West Virginia, published by D. J. Lake and Company in 1886.   This map labeled not just towns and streams, but homes and businesses. I found Robert Minor’s name by a square that sat on a small stream, presumably Stout’s Run, that emptied into Simpson’s Creek north of Bridgeport.  Limestone Run had been renamed Barnet’s Run by 1886.  With these facts I could look at a Google map with new eyes and locate the ‘Plot Virginia Land 575′.

Limestone Run was renamed Barnet’s Run by 1886, and the farms were covered by interstate and malls by 1986.

A mystery is solved, and leaves me with mixed emotions.  Now I know where my ancestor once walked; where, finding coal and water and good land for farming, John P. Minor expected to give his sons a great leg up in life.

Phillip Wilson stopped by my blog, and read through this post, recognizing immediately that he grew up on Robert Minor’s farm.  His parents, Robert and Helen Wilson, purchased the land in 1962.  Their home, built around 1940, sat close to the “cellar house”, the basement of the original home.  Phillip played for hours down by the creek while his mother kept a watchful eye from the patio, til they paved paradise and put up an exit ramp. 

Robert Minor Farm, photo from Philip Wilson 3.2.2013

Robert Minor Farm, photo from Philip Wilson 3.2.2013

Robert Minor Farm, photo from Philip Wilson 3.2.2013

Robert Minor Farm, photo from Philip Wilson 3.2.2013

**With sixteen passes of the Flip Pal I had successfully scanned the map before me and stitched it together into a seamless jpeg file with the built in Stitch Tool.  Flip Pal. LOVE. IT.  Check it out here.

Wordless Wednesday: Minors of Greene County – 1875

With my trusty Flip Pal scanner, I captured this image of a family heirloom.  The photograph is snugly framed, with a sturdily nailed backing that I didn’t want to disturb.  So I did the best I could and scanned from on top of the glass.  The image  will be useful in identifying other photographs that my mother is letting me take home, since we know the identities of these folks.

Seated are my great-great grandparents, Mary Jane Gwynn and Francis Marion Minor.  The little boy standing to their left is my great-grandfather, Robert Minor.  Standing behind the trio are the older children – Sarah Priscilla, John Pierson and Olfred Minor.  I know that Robert was born in 1869, and he looks to be about 5 or 6 here;  T W Rogers of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania took this photograph sometime in the mid-1870s then.

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