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Minor Surnames Transcriptions

Transcription: A Letter Home-Abia Minor

Abia Minor was born in Greene County, Pennsylvania in about 1815, the son of stock drover John Pierson Minor and his first wife, Hannah McClelland. As a young man Abia (a-bye-ya) followed his family’s tradition, bought and farmed land near the town of Bridgeville in what was then western Virginia. But he had aspirations that went beyond the Appalachian Mountains. By the early 1850s, Abia had purchased land in Moultrie County, Illinois with clear intentions of resettling there. That dream was deferred a bit by the death of his first wife, Elizabeth Thompson, and his remarriage to Harriet Ballard. Before the decade turned and civil unrest upended the nation, Abia and Harriet relocated to Township 14 N Range 6 E, Moultrie County, Illinois. The family farmed this Jonathan Creek land until emigrating to Harper County, Kansas in 1878, where Abia lived until his death eleven years later.


This letter, with its long, run-on sentences, was written to Abia’s Pennsylvania parents during that Jonathan Creek period, sometime after 1858 but before his step-mother, Isabelle, died in 1863. I read ancestors’ notes out loud to my dog–hearing the words makes the distance between past and present smaller. Since Abia wrote with NO PUNCTUATION, to clue you all in I transcribed the letter with spacing matching my breath, so reading Abia’s 159 year old words is more conversational.

The first two pages have been lost, so we begin Abia’s letter to J. Pearson and Isabella Minor on

Page 3

…Tell him to go out and look not to make it all talk

it has been awful cold here this winter otherwise it has been a fine winter or we would think it so if we had our usual crop for it has been dry all winter and better roads I never saw

good sledding for 3 or 4 weeks but the snow is gone now only where it drifted I have yet 160 rods along my fence that 30 feet wide and was between 4 and 5 feet deep but it has settled down to about 3 feet

the weather has been fine winter weather ever since the cold storm was over which only lasted 2 days

you wrote that you had been in Ohio this winter I wish you could have came out to see us I would like to come to se (sic) you and Thank you for you (sic) generous offer but I canot (sic) come this winter Polk is in Woodford Co going to school and I have to stay close to home

John is of age and wants to be doing for himself talks of going away this spring

I want to put a corn crop for I think we will raise good crop next year and I am trying to make some more fence so I can keep some stack without so mutch (sic) trouble in winter

Isabel [perhaps his sister] got home on sunday after she started they were detained by not making the connection and it cost her 21 dollars and some few ctz (sic) She will write to you and send her letter with this you said you would send her saddle and some flannel for me a warm (?) that would be quite a present to me for sutch (sic) flannel is hard to get here and if you send it box them in a light box and send them from any point on the railroad or if any one was coming out you could put them in a trunk and they can bring them through for nothing but if you send them out by railroad direct them to

Abia Minor

Mattoon*

Coles Co

Illinois

And take a receipt from the _ldier agent for them and send it to me by mail

please write to me as soon as you get this and I would like to have mothers likeness which you can have taken and send it in a letter and Isabel says you have yours taken on horseback I wish you would send me a coppy (sic) of it it can be taken on paper or leather and sent in a letter

give my respects to all my brothers and sisters

tell them to write to me and I will answer their letters and feel very thankful beside with the above I remain yours truly

Abia Minor

*Mattoon was 15-17 miles from the Jonathan Creek property, a town created by the intersection of the Illinois Central, the Terre Haute, and the Alton Railroads.

**Per the 1860 Federal Census, Abia wrote this letter while his at-home family included: second wife, Harriet, teenage sons John C and James, teenage daughters Permilia and Margaret, young Minerva, and very young William and Mary O.

Source:

Minor, Abia (Moultrie County, Illinois) to father [J. Pearson Minor]. Letter. undated, presumed between late 1850s and 1863. Privately held by D. Kay Strickland, [address for private use] Pennsylvania. 2021.

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Random Thoughts Strickland Transcriptions

Examining the Language of Slavery

During the mid-nineteenth century North Carolina was the global supplier of naval stores. The “Turpentine State” lay in the long-leaf pine belt–a region of dry sandy clay subsoil that ran from North Carolina, south to Florida, and as far west as southern Alabama and Mississippi.

The sap of turpentine orchards was harvested and distilled into spirits of turpentine and rosin; pine trunks were burned in earthen kilns to produce tar. These naval stores rendered ship hulls watertight and preserved hemp rigging. Camphene, a mixture of turpentine and alcohol, was a widely used illuminant until the development of Pennsylvania kerosene in 1860. By the late 1850s, naval stores were the South’s 3rd largest global export crop, exceeded only by cotton and tobacco.

Weekly Raleigh Register,(Raleigh, NC)
Wednesday, January 17, 1855

My 2x-great-granduncle, William Gray Strickland, owned several tracts of land in the pine belt, and put one 760 acre parcel up for sale in 1855. Its proximity to the North Carolina Railroad, which ran from the Neuse River town of Goldsboro through Raleigh, the state capital, and ultimately inland to Charlotte, was a major selling point, as was its piney woods, portions of which he had “boxed and attended to for one year.”

The land lay 12 miles north of Raleigh and the previous year, Gray Strickland had sent enslaved turpentine hands to tend portions of the piney forest. They would have cut a hole or box near the base of trees 8-15 inches wide and 3-4 inches deep, with a highly skilled boxer cutting up to 75-80 boxes a day from November until March. As the sap began to rise–peaking in July and August–“dippers” had harvested the resin from the bottom of each box and stored it in barrels shipped by river or rail to distilleries.

Turpentine operations were distant from the main Strickland lands; the isolation of the orchards made for hard, solitary work in insufferably hot conditions. And perhaps that distance created an opportunity for one enslaved man to seek freedom.

Dennis was about 21 years old, a sturdy five foot three, 150 pound man who sought freedom in December of 1853. As James G. Williams, Dennis found work in pine belt counties to the south and east of Strickland’s Wake County plantations, relocating as necessary from river towns to turpentine orchards. For almost two years the young man labored as a ditcher, a striker, a turpentine hand, a maker of barrels. Making his way as a free man.

The Spirit of the Age,Raleigh, North Carolina,17 Oct 1855, Wed  •  Page 4

Then in late August of 1855, Gray Strickland began to track Dennis in earnest, running an advertisement in several Raleigh papers, including the Spirit of the Age, The Semi-Weekly Standard and The Weekly Standard.

The enslaver offered a reward worth $3000 in today’s currency to any North Carolinian who could catch and confine Dennis, and he offered to cover expenses of the collaborator who delivered the young man to Gray.

I couldn’t find an earlier advertisement for Dennis, which makes me wonder about the timing of this reward offer. Was Gray Strickland needing a strong, highly skilled worker?

Or did he need to capture this young man to prove to Dennis, to the rest of the black community enslaved on Strickland land, and to the larger community that he had the money and the power to catch, confine, and control.

The Weekly Standard,Raleigh, North Carolina, 30 Jan 1856, Wed  •  Page 3

In this “status update” Gray Strickland tells people to cease the hunt for a fugitive, and indicates what he thinks should happen to any enslaved person who seeks freedom. Unwritten is the warning otherwise transmitted to any enslaved person thinking of seeking asylum among abolitionists or creating freedom with new identities: “You will be caught. You will be punished. You will be separated from everything you know. I have that power.”

Historian Walter Johnson aptly notes that the language of ‘dehumanization’ is misleading because slavery depended upon the human capacities of enslaved people. It depended upon their reproduction. It depended upon their labor, and it depended upon their sentience. Enslaved people could be taught: their intelligence made them valuable. They could be manipulated: their desires could make them pliable. The could be terrorized: their fears could make them controllable.…The illogic of it all appears to reveal a simple linear truth that is often lost–oppression is never about humanity or lack thereof. It is, and always has been, about power.

Clint Smith, How The Word Is Passed

Sources

https://coastalreview.org/2019/08/the-turpentine-trail/

Cecelski, David, “The Turpentine State,” from the blog David Celeski: New Writing, Collected Essays, Latest Discoveries, https://davidcecelski.com/2017/12/17/the-turpentine-state/.

Outland, Robert B. “Slavery, Work, and the Geography of the North Carolina Naval Stores Industry, 1835-1860.” The Journal of Southern History 62, no. 1 (1996): 27-56. Accessed June 18, 2021. doi:10.2307/2211205.

Advertisement by Gray Strickland, The Spirit of the Age,Raleigh, North Carolina17 Oct 1855, Wed  •  Page 4; digitally accessed on Newspapers.com. Transcription below.

$100 REWARD

Since Dennis has been a runaway, I have heard of his being in Johnston county as a turpentine hand and ditcher; I have heard of his being about Averasboro’ as a maker of turpentine barrels and striker in a blacksmith shop; perhaps in Fayetteville [a prominent town on Cape Fear River] or its vicinity, and about Goldsboro'[a Neuse River town]. I cannot say whether these representations are true, but I have no doubt he is in Johnston, Harnett, Cumberland or some of the adjacent counties [all part of the turpentine belt], working about as a free man. I learn he passed in some places by the name of “John G. Williams;” he doubtless has other names by which he has passed during his long absence.

I will give the above reward for the apprehension and confinement of my Negro Man DENNIS, if taken in this State, or $200 if taken out of the State. Said Dennis has now been run-away about twenty months, viz: since December, 1853. He is slightly bow-legged, toes turning out a little, rather round shouldered and stoops slightly in walking; has a scar on one of his thighs caused by a snag, of dark complexion, 5 feet 3 or 4 inches high, aged about 21 years, and weighing when he left about 150 pounds.

I will give the above Reward of $100 for his apprehension and confinement in this State, or $200 if taken out of the State, so that I get him again. If delivered to me in Raleigh, I will pay all additional expenses beside the above Reward. Letters concerning said Runaway, to be addressed to me at Raleigh.

W. GRAY STRICKLAND

Raleigh, August 25, 1855

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Minor

Fences Are For White Folks

This illustrated envelope dates from the 1860s. Depicting a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and accompanied by a poem, the iconography prominently features “The Fence that Uncle Abe built.” From the U.S. Civil War Papers, ca. 1850-1917. Box 7. Columbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
This illustrated envelope dates from the 1860s. Depicting a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and accompanied by a poem, the iconography prominently features “The Fence that Uncle Abe built.”
From the U.S. Civil War Papers, ca. 1850-1917. Box 7. Columbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

I am currently enrolled in a MOOC, HIST1.1x The Civil War and Reconstruction – 1850-1861, taught by respected historian, Eric Foner.  Each week our online student body analyzes a primary resource, an activity I enjoy immensely. This week’s challenge was the above envelope.  Who was the audience for this 1860s product?  What message was it trying to convey?  How did it reflect the symbolism and policies of the nascent Republican party?

so I posted:

Last year, when I took the course the first time, I am sure that I saw a clear appeal to the demographic that embraced free labor in an expanding country. Now, all I can see is an appeal to white men, who had the privilege of dreaming about being their own boss, marking their own territory, building their own factory/workshop. Blacks, enslaved or free, and Asian immigrants didn’t have the opportunity to set up boundaries, either physical or mental. Indigenous peoples measured territory and property with a whole different paradigm. The nascent Republican party was appealing to the common man, as long as he was white. The economic and cultural revolutions may have broadened the concept of “good” labor, but the political system was still attempting to reinforce white supremacy.

The discussion that followed had me return, reflect, and drill down into the free labor/free soil ideology, a fascinating and confusing exercise that only got productive when I harnessed my roaming mind to my own family history.

I can say with reasonable certainty, that my cattle drover ancestor, John Pearson Minor, regarded land as the ultimate asset, not only for the stock that could be raised on top of it and sold to expanding markets but also for the coal, salt, and other mineral resources beneath it that could be mined and sold to expanding markets. From his base in Southwestern Pennsylvania he speculated in land in what became West Virginia, Illinois, and Iowa. Extended family swept westward through this free soil era as well.

Letters reveal that the free labor concept of “work hard and rise to the top” was a core piece of this westward impulsion. Other documents indicate that these same people aligned themselves with the Democratic party. Republicans may well have captured the votes of some of this crowd, but only in as much as the Republican-defined property rights aligned with their own self interest. And that self-interest was what white men could define, legally describe, control, and profit from.

In as much as enslavers demeaned the very work that such cattlemen/farmers/entrepreneurs conducted, I speculate that my ancestors viewed slaveowners with contempt, and the ultimate insult would be to not acknowledge their social structure, the cornerstone of which was human chattel. And Native Americans worked from a whole different paradigm regarding property and community with a degree of stewardship of resources that was alien to the white, Protestant mind.

This one branch of my family demonstrated that an American could be an advocate of free labor and agitate for “free” or deeply discounted soil, and yet remain committed to a hierarchical, racist social structure, that codified a particular definition of property–fenced in by white folks.

Categories
Minor Photographs and Memories The Minor Family Album

Unknown Woman In Day Cap: The Minor Family Album

This middle-aged woman sat for her portrait, held motionless by a photographer’s head rest for the minutes-long exposure. The discomfort of such stillness couldn’t keep an impish grin from her face.  Woman in a Day Cap’s identity and relationship to my family has been lost. Her photograph, however, can serve now as a mid-nineteenth century fashion plate, evidence of what a mature woman wore out and about on a cold day.

LOOK WITH ME

A white cap covers the woman’s gray-streaked hair, framing her face with its starched ruffles.  A white ribbon is tied under her chin, ensuring the cap’s place come wind or rain.  At her throat, the woman wears a white cotton collar, one to three inches wide, with scalloped tatted edges decoratively set off by the dark material underneath.  The woolen wrap is worn draped across the front, gathered and fastened on the upper left arm–not at the throat like other coats and cloaks of the 1840s and 1850s.  Her hands are tucked inside a white fur muff, likely made of ermine.

Even if I don’t know how this woman is related to my Minor family, I take great delight in the inclusion of her photograph.  As always, digging in the Minor Family Album reveals treasures.

Smiling Woman Wearing Day Cap. Cabinet card (1885-1895) of original daguerreotype (1845-1855). Minor Family Album, p. 17; author's collection. 2014.
Smiling Woman Wearing Day Cap. Cabinet card (1885-1895) of original daguerreotype (1845-1855). Minor Family Album, p. 17; author’s collection. 2014.

Categories
Minor The Minor Family Album

The Minor Family Album: Mr. Chin Whiskers

 

Mr. Chin Whiskers

When I first became curator of the Minor Family Album, I moved swiftly to identify this man, the first face to appear in the album. I was soooo certain of my clues and my analysis.

  1. This whiskered gent is the first photograph displayed in a Minor Family album created in the latter part of the 19th century. He must be an important family member. A patriarch.
  2. Thomas W. Rogers, the photographer, opened a studio in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania, in 1864 that remained in existence through the turn of the century. Thomas took the photograph of this ancestor.
  3. The cabinet photo’s cardstock is an ivory color, with round corners, and medium weight.  According to internet sources, this description dates the card to between 1869-1875.
Digging into the family’s tree, I determined that the one Minor living near Carmichaels, Pennsylvania in the early 1870s old enough to present this image was none other than our patriarch, John Pearson (Pierson) Minor, 1791-1874.  I proudly announced my conclusion to the world in this blog.*

WHAT A ROOKIE!!!

Time has passed, my skill set has expanded, newly discovered cousins have shared their treasures, and I have eaten a very, VERY large piece of humble pie.  In other words, I MUST retract my earlier identification.

Starting over I apply the procedures learned from THE photo detective, Maureen A. Taylor, author of Family Photo Detective, Fashionable Folks Bonnets and Hats, Fashionable Folks Hairstyles, as well as, a wonderful blog on the subject.

This photograph is a paper print on a 4½ x 6½ inch ivory colored cardstock, with rounded corners.  The photographer’s name and studio location–Thomas W. Rogers, Carmichaels, Pennsylvania–appear only at the bottom of the photo.  There is no design or notation on the back.  This portrait is an example of a cabinet card, most like created between 1869-1875.

Next I view the print with an eye for internal clues.  The man is seated in front of a dark backdrop.  White dots indicate that this photograph may be a photo of a photo–that the original photograph was on a surface like glass or tin, and that the photo’s chemicals flecked off with time.  In the upper left hand corner there appears to be a curvature of the backdrop, as if the original photograph was in an oval shape.

Snag it of Mr. Chin Whiskers.

 

The man is sporting a full beard, trimmed tight about his ears and mouth.  Beards were not popular until the mid-late 1850s, and were worn by a generation of men until the late 1800s.  The man has a full head of gray hair, worn long over his ears, and parted on the side.  It does not appear to be greased down.

The shot captures the fellow from the chest up, and his beard hides the neckline.  But the coat appears to be loose fitting, with a fairly wide lapel.  The vest is of a different material and the top button is at the height of the coat’s top button, mid-chest.

These internal clues indicate a timeframe between the late 1850s and the late 1860s.

The man himself appears to be between 55 and 70 years old. And sick.

SO NOW WHAT?

Back to the stories, the roots, shoots, and leaves of this Minor Family tree.  And let’s just suppose that I am looking for a male family member who would have been between 55-70 years of age in the late 1850s to the mid 1860s.

So, patriarch Abia was dead by 1834. Francis Marion and his brothers would have been too young to be the photographed dude. That leaves a closer examination of John P., Samuel, and Asa, all of whom would have been alive in the late 1850s and at least 60 years old.

MORE CLUES SURFACE

Cousin Ron Minor has generously shared a digital image, a photograph of a tintype, which was annotated with identification.

Minor Elders Collage

The man  identified as John P. Minor (shown here on the left) has a higher forehead, and a thinner face.  The eyebrows are not the same shape, and the hair appears to be thinner.  Mr. Chin Whiskers is not John P. Minor.

A photograph of Samuel Minor found on the website Ancestry.com bears a strong resemblance to John P., a high forehead, with gray hair thinning at the brow. Samuel’s eyes are deeper set than those of my Mr. Chin Whiskers.

Is this ASA?

More clues to come…

 

*I have since removed that original post because of the improper identification, AND because people were taking the misidentified photograph and posting to ancestry.com without my permission.  If you see something that you would like to share, please ask me about it.