Sometime between 1888 and 1890, my great-grandfather, Robert Minor, strolled into the photographic studio of Thomas W. Rogers (Carmichaels, PA) and struck a pose. He wore a well-ironed wool suit, the jacket buttoned so high that the full Windsor knot is all one sees of his dapper tie. His eyes belie the confident stance–Robert is on the cusp of adulthood, almost ready to marry, almost ready to manage the family farm. Almost.
Little wonder that his mother, Mary Jane Minor, included this moment in time within the pages of the Minor Family Album.
Mary Jane Minor left no diary, no ledger, no written clues about her daily life, but she did include a photograph of her preacher, Charles W. Tilton, in the Minor Family Album. If this cabinet card, this tangible thing, is an entry point into my great-great-grandmother’s life, where can I go? What intersections existed between the lives of a Baptist minister and a mother of four? What values shaped their lives and structured their days? I wonder…
“Mama, Pastor Tilton is calling us in!”
A table top–thirty feet long–was covered entirely with cakes, flower bouquets, and fall fruits. Twelve year old Sarah jiggled Bobby on her left hip as she snuck a grape from this Sabbath School Festival picnic. Mary Jane tucked one more stem of goldenrod between fern fronds before reaching out to her baby’s pudgy embrace. A final glance at her arrangement left the mother satisfied, and the slim figure joined the lines of children, teens, parents, and elders now flowing into the red brick sanctuary of Goshen Baptist Church.
Reverend Charles Tilton began, “From the book of Proverbs, chapter one.”
“To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgement, and equity…A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels…”
Wiggling free of his mother’s arms, the one year old slid to the floor where he sat and wailed, strands of hair stuck to his red face. With a sigh the forty year old scooped baby Robert up and quietly snuck out to a quiet spot within earshot of the preacher’s voice.
“…Know the value of this Sabbath School, assembled here today, which inculcates in our young people morality and uprightness…”
At the sermon’s close, the Baptist minister invited each child to come forward to receive their prize for completed work. Murmurs of approval followed the footsteps to the pulpit. At last Pastor Tilton recognized the student who had memorized the most Bible verses. Mary Jane allowed a small smile of pride at her Sarah’s name. A pocket-sized Bible would be a treasured addition to the girl’s night table.
Gradually Bobby’s nursing slowed, and his arms splayed softly open to embrace his dreams. Mary Jane rocked back and forth, a metronome to the hymn now drifting out the open windows.
“Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky, sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly. Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee. Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.”
William Hanna, The History of Greene County, Pennsylvania: Containing an Outline of the State from 1682 until the Formation of Washington County in 1781 (1882; image reprint, Internet Archives: https://archive.org/details/historyofgreenec00hann), 213.
Samuel Bates, The History of Greene County, Pennsylvania (1888; image reprint, Internet Archives: https://archive.org/details/historyofgreenec00bate), 95, 749.
“Religious Revivals,” The Washington (Pennsylvania) Review and Examiner, 2 February 1866, p.3; digital images, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 29 July 2014), Newspaper Archives.
“Sabbath School Festival,” The Washington (Pennsylvania) Reporter, 13 October 1869, p.1; digital images, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 29 July 2014), Newspaper Archives.
“Tenmile, (Pa.,) Baptist Association,” The Wheeling (West Virginia) Daily Intelligencer, 26 September 1873, p.3, col. 1; digital images, ChoniclingAmerica.loc.gov (http://www.chroniclingamerica.loc.gov: accessed 6 August 2014), Historic American Newspapers.
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.
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?
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.