Taylor Is The New Greene

Plat Book Jesse MinorIn the mid to late 1800s entire branches of original Greene County, Pennsylvania families headed west.  Some may have stopped in Ohio or Missouri before finally heading west again–to the fertile lands of Iowa. Stephensons, Minors, Hartleys, and Keenans swept into the plains of Taylor County, along the south-central border with Missouri.  And many of these western pioneers were related to my great-great-grandfolk, Marion and Mary Jane Minor. The Minor Family Album, then, is more than a photograph storage container; it is the recording of our country’s western migration, and its impact on this extended family.

Page eleven, for instance, tells the story of Jesse Minor (1853-1926) and his wife, Olive Independence Sims (1860-1909).  Jesse grew up next door to Marion and Mary Jane, the son of Marion’s brother, Samuel.  The young farmer left the Minor-studded hills of Ceylon Road when he was just twenty-three, found a wife in Missouri, and settled on land just south of Mormontown (Blockton), Taylor County, Iowa. At the time of this portrait, Jesse and Olive were tightly integrated into the agrarian communities by faith, farming, and family.  Cousin John P. Keenan farmed acres just north of Jesse, and brother John P. Minor lived just to the south.  To the east, just over the Ringgold County line, lived Keenan’s sister, Hannah Hartley, and Minor cousin, John and Mary Stephenson.

Jesse is shown in this photo sitting in the only chair, a Victorian reference to his status as head of household, and his son, Joseph Carl “Jed”, is balanced on his dad’s crossed legs.  Olive sits primly to Jesse’s side, her hands folded in her lap.  Their tween daughter, Della May, stands beside her mother, her hand draped on her father’s chair. The group is well dressed, facing the camera with confident, happy eyes. Fourteen years after leaving southwestern Pennsylvania, little Jesse Minor has firmly established himself as a successful farmer, stock buyer, husband, father, and community member.   This image captured his contentment and pride more completely than any letter’s words, and was saved, ever a reminder that family ties endure, even if Taylor is the new Greene.

page 11 blog

 

 

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.

The Story Lies In His Hand

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.

May Laura Stevenson and Robert Minor said "I do" on September 8, 1892, in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania.  The service was officiated by Rev. T. J. Briston, a Presbyterian minister.

May Laura Stevenson and Robert Minor said “I do” on September 8, 1892, in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania. The service was officiated by Rev. T. J. Briston, a Presbyterian minister.

The Adventures Of A Photo Sleuth: The Minor Family Album

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Minor Photo Album Latch

The leather is cracking, and the gold flecking off of its pages. The images inside are time capsules.  Staring at their faces I search for some resemblance that reappears in my mother or my brothers or me or my children.  Someone on Ceylon Lane, Post Office Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, bought this richly tooled leather album in the late 1800s.  Its heavy card stock pages were cut precisely to hold 4½ by 6½ cabinet card photographs. She–and I only say she because it is this she who constructs family albums today–she did not do me the favor of identifying these people.  I just have clues in the photographers’ names and studio locations.  Hairstyles and jewelry, the cut of a bodice, the width of a lapel, all hint at a timeframe.  Then, like a sleuthhound, I pick up the scent, looking through all the shoots and roots and leaves of my family tree.  Because I do believe that these men, women and children are my family.

For the next little while I will be writing about my discoveries: the mysteries solved, the wild goose chases, and the tips and tricks collected along the way. Join me as I unlock the secrets of the Minor Family Album.

1.  Provenance

2. Page One: Mr. Chin Whiskers

3. Mr. Chin Whiskers, continued

4. Pages two, three and four

5. Page five: The marriage of Robert and May

6. Crossing Paths With More Strangers

7. Windows to My Past

8. Women Folk I Know

9. Taylor is the New Greene

10. For Marion

11. On Court Avenue

12. Resembling the Past

 

 

Thanksgiving Greetings: (almost) Wordless Wednesday – Vintage Postcard #3

This series digitizes a set of postcards collected by my grandfather Donald C. Minor from 1906-1910. Born in Greene County, Pennsylvania in 1902, Donald was the youngest son, youngest grandson and youngest cousin of the Francis Marion and Mary Jane Gwynn Minor clan.  His parents, Robert and May Stephenson Minor, sent cards from their travels; his older sister, Helen, sent cards while she was attending school in nearby Waynesburg; aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends sent photocards and holiday greetings from all over the United States with great regularity.  The resulting Postcard Collection is both a family puzzle and a cultural window to the world of Donald Minor during the first decade of the twentieth century.

“Hello, Donal,” says Ralph of South Connellsville, Pennsylvania.  “How are you.  I am well and go to school nearly every day.”  Ralph set down his Thanksgiving greetings in late November 1909, perhaps as a way of practicing his cursive.

The card he selected was printed in Germany, with the attention to detail and use of deep colors a collector comes to expect of German cards.  The trademark is an unfamiliar girl at the mailbox illustration; this greeting appears to be #2140 in a series.
On the front, a traditional Eastern Wild Turkey is pictured in front of a patriotic banner.  The embossed gold oval frames a still life of fruit and flowers.  The white lilies were considered symbols of majesty and honor, while strawberries were meant to recall the sweetness in life and character.