A date burned into my brain by adrenaline and estrogen and progesterone, a hormone cocktail that pushed a new life into our world.
In 1864, my great-great-grandmother, Mary Jane Gwynne Minor lay in her child bed. Her birthing team may have included a sister-in-law, a midwife, or perhaps a doctor from nearby Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Her husband, Francis Marion, and other three children would have been sent from the home, as modesty dictated. At some moment, the brick farm house on Ceylon Lane was filled with the cries of the newborn son, and from that moment forward Mary Jane would remember April 15 as Leroy’s birthday.
Leroy Minor turned one April 15, 1865, joy for his reaching this milestone in childhood survival dampened by news of Abraham Lincoln’s death that very morning. I wonder what Mary Jane thought of the war’s end, the president’s assasination, reconstruction’s beginning. Living in a household of northern Democrats I doubt that there was much concern expressed for the Freedmen, or much thought directed toward policies of reconciliation. The business of running the farm, raising children and supporting her husband’s cattle dealing would have been far more immediate than national politics and regional strife.
By year’s end slavery, a national disease, was abolished from the soil of the United States by constitutional amendment . Mary Jane may not have paid much attention to this transformative moment, for her baby boy failed to thrive.
Little Leroy Minor died in February 1866.