My great-grandfather, Robert Minor (1869-1943), was brought up on the family farm just outside the village of Garards Fort, Pennsylvania. Just down the red-dog Ceylon Lane stood the sturdy brick home of his Uncle Samuel (1825-1909) and Aunt Louisa (1832-1917) Minor. Sam and Robert’s dad, Marion Minor, were two of John P. and Isabella Minor’s sons, farming land purchased in the 1820s from the Myers and McClelland families.
Sam and Louisa were married in 1852. In the next eighteen years, Louisa gave birth to eight children, three girls and five boys. Their eldest daughter, Isabella, died in childhood. But the rest lived to thrive into adulthood. At the time of this studio work, two boys, Jesse and John, had migrated to Taylor County, Iowa, where they settled among many other Greene County transplants. Three boys, Friend, Sam, and William, were finding their way in and around the farm, and the two girls, Mary Euna and Della, were still living at home. A teenage Robert would have known those cousins well, and would certainly have recognized Sam and Louisa as they are captured here in this set of 1885 portraits by Thomas W. Rogers of Carmichaels.
The branch of the Minor family from which I spring left New Jersey in the late 1790s and settled along Big Whitely Creek, Greene County, Pennsylvania. Abia and Margaret (Pearson) did not homestead in isolation, and may well have lived within the fortified structures that uncles John and William Minor had built in the area. By 1803, Abia and Margaret aspired to their own farm along the waters of Big Whitely, and on 2 February Uncle William Minor and his wife, Hannah, conveyed title to 150 acres of “Race Ground”, for the sum of $1,700 “of lawful money of the United States”. The oak studded hills had been conveyed or patented to William from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1789. In 1803 the creek-side land became the childhood home of my patriarch–John Pearson (Pierson) Minor.
On this anniversary of Robert Minor’s death, I am seeking cousin-ly review. Robert is shown here in front of his home on Ceylon Lane. With confidence I can identify his wife, May, and his two children, Helen and Donald. But who are the rest of the folks? What say you, descendants of John P. and Isabella Minor?
My camera is three and a half pounds of image-capturing magic. Mary Jane Minor’s mouth would round in wonder at its 1295 frames. My great-great-grandma and I are alike in this regard–we collect faces, without identifying the occasion or relation or special qualities that make those eyes so admired, so treasured. Nonetheless, the portraits, now and then, are at an edge, where private lives meet public spaces, revealing a good bit about who we are, what technologies shape our present, what kinds of people add value to our days.
I can confidently put names to only a few faces. So what? This Victorian album is evidence of the sweeping movements of people and machines that transformed my ancestors’ communities in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. More than faces, these portraits are portals to history.
The Minor Family Album closes out with portraits of nine children, all taken between 1887-1894. I can identify, with confidence, only one face.
Framed by short bangs and soft, baby curls, the chubby toddler’s brown eyes flatly state that she will hold this position but a moment longer. This is Flossie, christened Florence McClure in 1889 by her parents, Owen and Sarah Minor McClure.
The puffed sleeve of the eighteen nineties makes an appearance in even this little one’s dress. Her bodice is embellished by a large lacy collar, and ribbon and bows adorn the bodice, sleeves, cuffs, and floor-length skirt. What a fabulous portrait!