Project 150 is a series of Civil War posts that, taken together, will tell the story of my family’s life choices during the years of rebellion. Sources used for today’s post include privately held family documents, a Wiki article on the election and the Federal 1860 census accessed at ancestry.com.
My great-great-grandparents, F. Marion and Mary Jane Gwynn Minor, woke up each day of 1861 inside a farmhouse on Ceylon Lane. Each night they tucked their three children, John (age 9), Olfred (age 6) and Sarah (age 3), into bed. When they attended Goshen Baptist Church in the nearby village of Garard’s Fort, Marion and Mary Jane drove past brother Samuel Minor‘s family home. Driving to the nearest town, Carmichaels, took the couple past the homes of Marion’s parents, John P. and Isabella McClelland Minor, and his sister, Isabella Minor and Hugh Keenan. The families were four of the ninety-eight that called Greene Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania home.
Within its sixteen square miles, the township had 134 women housekeeping and keeping all that was in the house – the stories, the children, the meals, the cleaning, the mending, the tending, the healing. The hills also sheltered 105 farmers and day laborers, 5 shoemakers, 4 carpenters,3 merchants, 2 clerks, 3 seamstresses, 2 millers, 2 stonemasons, 2 stonecutters, 2 washerwomen, a shinglemaker, a chairmaker, a cattle drover, a physician, a blacksmith, and a coal miner. All but two families were white, and all but twelve residents were born in Pennsylvania. Most everyone could read and write. The township’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of the merchants and three farming families: the Lantzes, the Gerards and the clan of John P. and Isabella Minor.
John Pierson (Pearson) subscribed to the Waynesburg Messenger, an instrument of the Democratic Party. Shared among the extended family, the pages were no doubt well thumbed; the articles frequent sources of conversation and debate. Greene County voters had handed the county to the pro-slavery Southern Democrat, John C. Breckinridge, in the 1860 election.
As the country staggered toward dissolution in 1861, Marion bought twelve head of cattle from Philip Wolf for $140, and another three for $25. A bit later he purchased one from John Ramer for $24.20. As Abraham Lincoln settled into the White House, F. Marion bought ten more head at $60.
Throughout the summer of 1861, as volunteers formed companies and regiments and brigades, the Minors of Ceylon Lane farmed on. Walnut and oak trees were felled for logs, planks and rafters; stable flooring, joists, and sills. Stables were built, homes repaired; livestock bought, fed and sold. Into the fall the family farmed. John P. purchased 50 bushels of coal for $5. John P. Junior and Olfred probably climbed the hill to the family schoolhouse when they could, and climbed trees to shake out nuts when they were asked.
As the days folded into long nights, the Minor business of tending children and raising cattle continued to thrive.
December the 24th 1861
This is to certify that I, Elias Slocum, waid for TB Martin and Dan Shore 42 hed of cattel sold to Pearson Minor the cattel was in a fair condition to when waid.
Elias Slocum, way master
On December 30, 1861 John P. Minor made one last entry in his business ledger: Lindsey paid me $487.00.
One thought on “Project 150: It’s 1861. Farm On.”
Farm on, indeed! the riches of oak and walnut contrasted with the drums of war. Stirring.