Family Secrets Lurking 1.0 – Amanuensis Monday

Family Secrets Lurking 1.0

Family Secrets Lurking 2.0

Serendipity Surrounds a Secret

A family secret lurks in my work room, its edges smudged by family pride and shame and simmering disputes.  Penciled thoughts leap from papers long forgotten; stamps and postmarks reveal clues that no one thought to hide.  The secret’s outline is becoming sharper.

Robert Minor was born in 1869, the youngest child of a well-to-do stock dealer in southwestern Pennsylvania.  Francis Marion and Mary Jane Gwynn Minor passed on Greene County farms to each of their four children, with Robert inheriting the Home Farm, also known as the Jacob Myers farm.  Like his family before him, Robert was to become a stock dealer, raising his two children, Helen and Donald, with his wife May Laura Stephenson Minor, on the Home Farm.  What was on the land was far less valuable than what was IN the land, and once the coal  rights were sold in the early 1900s, the family’s opportunities multiplied. Stories floated during our family reunions, whispers of fabulous wealth and travel, all lost to the depression and the world war that followed.  The details remained in the shadows.  I thought nothing of it, until I began collecting and curating family records.

Four days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my great-grandfather wrote to his son, Donald Minor, from the Mercer Sanitarium, Mercer, Pennsylvania.  The nurses were all working somewhere else and the “guests” receiving Dr. Richardson’s treatments needed to find new quarters.

December 11, 1941

Dear Donald, Received your letter and will say that you got a good price for your calves. Please excuse this pencil riting (sic) My ink is set up in the (cupboard) or the (clothes press) will in riting these few lines. Dr. Richardson wants me to write you. Won’t you please get me a room in the Washington Hospital. Please do that much for me as he says all the nurses are away working. Do it at once and please and thank you. Yours respect (sic), your Dad

My mother was a young girl at that time, and vaguely recollects discussions surrounding her grandfather’s hospitalization.  One fact stuck with her – Robert Minor ended up at Mayview, a psychiatric hospital outside Pittsburgh.  A cousin remembers stories of misery and desperation, with Robert pleading to be removed from the hospital.

Did deteriorating wealth lead to deteriorating mental health?  Were Robert and Donald estranged? What circumstances led to Robert’s stay in the sanitarium and from what was he recuperating?  Was the Mercer Sanitarium more hotel than hospital, like the Victorian health resorts?  If so, then a move to Mayview would have been a very jolting experience.

A secret is lurking in my work room and I aim to coax it out.  “Please do that much for me. . . “

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The Old Minor Home Farm: Those Places Thursday

My mother and three siblings pose here on the dining room steps with their mother, Kerma Minor.  The white painted-brick farmhouse was surrounded by 330 acres of rolling hills studded by her daddy’s prized cows.  This was my mother’s home, Ceylon Lane, Greene Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania–where the Donald Minor family weathered the Depression and World War II.  Home on the home farm that her daddy had inherited from his daddy, Robert Minor, who had been bequeathed the home farm by his dad. Francis Marion Minor had in turn received the 330 acres from his father, John Pearson Minor, as per item 7 in his will of 28 February 1867:

I give, devise and bequeath unto my son, Francis Marion, his heirs and assigns the tract of land whereon he and I reside, known as the Myers farm, containing three hundred and twenty nine acres more or less…

Just when, I have wondered, did the former Myers farm become my family’s home farm.  Last week I unearthed a document in the Minor Papers that provides an important clue.

An article of Agreement made and concluded between James McFarland of Cumberland Township (housejoiner) and John P. Minor of Green Township both of Green County Pennsylvania on the twenty second of February eighteen hundred and thirty one as follows

John P. Minor was to purchase and supply all the materials for the project, and furnish board and lodging to James McFarland for the duration of the project.  In addition Mr. McFarland would receive $300 upon the satisfactory conclusion of all work.

For his part, James McFarland was to

complete the joiner work of the brick house formerly occupied by Jacob Myers.

The agreement stipulates that he was then to finish the floors and petition three rooms off on each floor

according to the construction of the said house.

Mr. McFarland was also charged with making cupboards, and sashes for the upstairs window, and casing and fixing off all the windows in the whole house.

and run up two pair of stairs in the dwelling house ….a pair of stairs to be run up outside on the porch and a drysink on the inside byside of chimney  the doors to be taken down and the facings new and then hung and mantle peaces and cheer boards and wash boards and all other things necessary to complete the building is to be done by said McFarland.

The house described bears a striking resemblance to the house my mother described as her childhood home.  For now, til new evidence surfaces to contradict me, I believe that the brick house, formerly occupied by Jacob Myers, was handsomely renovated by one James McFarland in 1831, and subsequently occupied by generations of John P. Minor descendants.

Mapping the Wilson-Minor Transactions: Mappy Monday

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.  Now I know that today’s parents walk from store to car, and drive home on streets and highways, on top of that land. They too expect to give their sons and daughters a leg up.

**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.

Touching the Future–A Grandfather’s Bequest: amanuensis monday

[Author’s Note: As any parent knows, shooing kids into adulthood requires a balancing of priorities.  While securing one’s own home and finances, you also strive to secure a promising future for your children.  We pay for health insurance, cover education costs, loan cash for car payments, and extend a bit of mad money whenever possible–as long as we don’t leave ourselves bankrupt and unable to manage our dotage.  John Pearson (Pierson) Minor and his wife, Isabela McClelland, of Greene County, Pennsylvania were no exceptions.  These parents accomplished this tricky balancing act by serving as their family’s private bankers, lending money and holding the mortgages on land in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio.  For cattle dealers and farmers in the first half of the 19th century, securing land was the ticket to securing a child’s good future; the means by which a young man/woman could become a self-sufficient, productive member of society.  This transcription continues a cascade of posts in which I will share the notes, mortgages and letters that record the helping hand extended to John’s eldest children,  Robert and Abia, the two boys by his first marriage to Hannah McClelland.]

In the last post we were introduced to a piece of land in Harrison County, Virginia.  In 1849 John and Isabella were prepared to deed this land to the brothers, Abia (a- bye-ya) and Robert, in exchange for title to land that the boys had inherited from their grandfather, Robert McClelland.  This un-executed deed serves as a keystone document from which we will jump back into time.

Abia and Robert  Became Landowners

A will would be nice, but the 1849 document will have to suffice.  It states that “their share of a tract of land will,d to them the said Abia and Robert Minor by Robert McClelland deceased” is accepted as payment for the “Wilson Land” in Harrison County.  When did they first become landowners?  At the time of their grandfather’s death.  When did Robert McClelland die?  I do have a document to narrow the timeframe.

In the Orphans Court of Green County at June Term 1834

And now June 11th 1834 an notice of the Court grant a Rule upon the heirs and legal Representatives of Robert McClelland deceased to be and appear at an orphans Court when held at Waynesburgh in and for said County on the third Monday of September next and accept or refute the real estate of said decedent at the valuation there of or shuo (show) county why the same shall ???? sold.

The smudge in the lower left corner, when held just right in great light, revealed an embossed Seal of the County Greene.  Inscribed on the note’s exterior were the words–

March Term 1833           Order upon the H????? of Robt McClelland, dec’d

It would appear then from this Orphans Court decree that Robert McClelland died after the court met in 1832 but before the March Term in 1833.  The will must have stipulated that a tract of land be divided among his children, and among grandchildren if the child was deceased.  This grandfather’s bequest secured a bit of future for a 17 year old Abia and 15 year old Robert.  For whatever reason the young men chose to begin adulthood on the Wilson Land, using their inheritance as collateral.

Our next transcription will uncover how John P. Minor acquired the Wilson Land of Harrison County.






amanuensis monday: TOUCHING THE FUTURE–THE LENDING HABITS OF JOHN P. MINOR

As any parent knows, shooing kids into adulthood requires a balancing of priorities.  While securing one’s own home and finances, you also strive to secure a promising future for your children.  We pay for health insurance, cover education costs, loan cash for car payments, and extend a bit of mad money whenever possible–as long as we don’t leave ourselves bankrupt and unable to manage our dotage.  John Pearson (Pierson) Minor and his wife, Isabela McClelland, were no exceptions.  These parents accomplished this tricky balancing act by serving as their family’s private bankers, lending money and holding the mortgages on land in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio.  For cattle dealers and farmers in the first half of the 19th century, securing land was the ticket to securing a child’s good future; the means by which a young man/woman could become a self-sufficient, productive member of society.  And through the 1850s, many states tied white male suffrage to land ownership.

This transcription begins a cascade of posts in which I will share the notes, mortgages and letters that record the helping hand extended to John’s eldest children,  Robert and Abia, the two boys by his first marriage to Hannah McClelland.

The Unexecuted Deed For “Wilson Land” in Harrison County, Virginia–1849

Library of Congress Map Collection

This Indenture made this ________day of _______in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred forty nine between John P. Minor and Isabella his wife of the county of Greene and state of Pennsylvania of the one part and Abia and Robert Minor (*1) of the county of Harrison and state of Virginia of the other part Witnesseth that the John P. Minor and Isabella his wife for and in consideration of their share of a tract of land will,d to them the said Abia and Robert Minor by Robert McClelland deceased the land being valued at twenty four hundred dollars the receipt whereof is hereby acknoleged (sic) do hereby grant bargain sell convey and confirm 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 Beginning at a hickory one of the original corners and running thence North seven and one third degrees east twenty and one fourth poles to a stake (bearing north twenty degrees East twelve links from a white oak) thence leaving the original line North sixty seven and an half degrees West one hundred and forty eight and one fourth poles to a stake at a fence thence along said fence South twenty and three fourth degrees West Ninety poles to a stake thence South Twenty five and an half degrees West fifty four poles to a stake on the bank of Simpsons Creek thence up said creek with the meanderings thereof North seventy six and an half degrees East forty eight poles South seventy six degrees East eighteen and an half poles crossing a drain South fifty two degrees East fifteen poles crossing Stouts run South twenty five degrees East twenty two and an half poles South five degrees East sixteen poles South eight and an half degrees West twenty nine poles South four degrees East seven poles to a water beech thenceleaving said Creek South sixty ninedegrees East twenty one and one half poles to a stake South seventy nine East twenty six holes to an Ash and Dogwood corner to land of Benjamin Stouts heirs thence North fifty seven and an half degrees East ninety four poles to a stake by the road thence North thirty one degrees West twenty four and an half poles to a Black Walnut and dead white oak thence with one of Aaron Lodges lines North one fourth degrees East seventy five poles crossing said Stouts run to the beginning containing one hundred sixty acres Being a part of a tract of land of three hundred and fifty acres conveyed by James P Wilson and wife to the said John P Minor, together with all and singular the appurtenances thereunto belonging or in any appertaining To have and to hold the above described premises unto the said Abia and Robert Minor their heirs and assigns forever and the said John P Minor and Isabella his wife the aforesaid premises unto the said Abia and Robert Minor their heirs and assigns against the claim or claims of all and every person whomsoever do and will warrant and forever defend by these presents In Witness whereof the said John P Minor and Isabella his wife of the first part have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and year above written.

1) John P Minor and  Hannah McClelland were married in Greene County, Pennsylvania in 1815.  Abia Minor was born 3 July 1816 and Robert was born 11 April 1817.  Hannah died the 28 April 1817, presumably from childbirth complications.  John married Isabella later that same year, 24 September 1817.

2)  The above transcription is the first brush stroke in our understanding of a land transaction between John P. and Isabella Minor and their eldest children, Abia and Robert. Future transcriptions will paint a rich picture of how John and Isabella came to own the land in (West) Virginia and how the boys assumed title to it.

Sources:

Library of Congress Geography and Map Collection,  David Burr H. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3700m.gct00185.

The Minor Papers, private collection.

The Thomas Minor Society, the descendants of Clement Minor, ancestral number 1312.