Forever Young–a letter to Abia Minor, 1837: Amanuensis Monday

The four by three inch paper appeared to be just one more scrap of Minor business.  Unfolded, the 1837 ink revealed a delightful conversation  between one Phineas R—- and my great-great grandfather’s eldest brother, twenty-two year old Abia Minor. *

Eaton Ohio, June 12th 1837

Respected Sir

I received your letters dated as afforesaid. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction. By golly I want if possible to give you a dis?nphon of the past and present times. For Instance….I am now setting here at a great Large Desk with my Noggin pretty darned well tumbled up, I tell you about matters and things.  But says i, heres what ear stands it. I now stick my penn in the ink stand, lean back in my chair, touch back my hair and study something, that I think will be pretty darned good to you. I suppose you want the truth, do ya? AYE (but I’m not so shure that you get it)

As I walked out the udder evening I went through a tolerable thick spatch of bushes and hiked my self up on a darned big stump and was setting there a studdying about old times   Behold, the first thing I new my pockets troused over and all were full of these helish big piss ants a going there dep?h, by Golly. So I began to jump Gim Crow, thats a considerable of a fact(there is a great many pis ants this year) Well now, what next my something I have no doubt.  Girls is plenty and Gentlemen is plenty . ——-is plenty. Candles scarce. Consider some are beautiful.  Some is ugly, some is large of mere size, some small but the most pretty best of all.

 But although some of mine has got the Fidgets their like a real old hip and go, constant mare.  But I think if you had put a Little stirrups of Spirtentine in your Horses (ass) and a little in yours you would both rode off in a tolerable fast canter. You would both fell big like Martin Van devil our most Honerable and not verry well respected President at this time (he’s going the hole hog, by Golly) with a Tump___hop___step___& fall.

Both you and Benjamin Evans must quit this practice of going a courting until you have some notion of marrying.

 Boys, how fast can you run.  The young men of this place is celibrated for running.  We can run a 1/4 mile in 55 seconds and repeat, that a considerable of a fact. Don’t doubt for pity sake.  This is one evenings employment I’ll try it —- tomorrow.

This is 13th day of June I will try to give a few more whats on Politicks. Lerigion Ave or the free Masons on the 24 of June walks at Richmond Ia (Iowa?) all thats in the state, I suppose. They will have a great time. I wish you was here, by Devil. I think that we would have lots of fun.  Oh, I’ll  tell you we have thespians in this town.  Such performing you never in your life. Some will come on the stage half scared to depth while others is fiercing for it.  I don’t .  Now anything else at present to write till I git an answer from you. You must write wright off. You told me to scratch of a letter some how. I think that I have —–well.  Oh. I want you to something about Mr. Van Buren, Good or Bad whither you are opposed to him or not. For my part I think they are a —?– to the middle regimes of Damnation.

With these words I remain yours   Phineas R p——–


* I left the spellings as I found them, but I have introduced current standard punctuation.  Otherwise the letter would have been two very long sentences.  Ha!

A Minor Detail: Amanuensis Monday

I threw off two quilts and a down comforter this morning, and leapt to my feet.  Hurriedly I dressed into chore clothes and padded stockinged-footed downstairs to make coffee.  The dogs sleepily rose from their beds to gather their morning pats before groggily making their way outside for the day’s first potty trip.  The damp March air filled my lungs with both the early smells of earth’s warming and of clouds holding snow.  We in northeastern Pennsylvania still sit on the edge of spring, with wintry conditions hovering.  I whistled the dogs back inside.  They listened impatiently as the kibble clinked into their bowls, paused in their down positions before being released with my “Rise and shine” command.  As Cappy, Fly and Luci wolfed down their breakfast my coffee steeped; finally I pushed the plunger of the French Press, and poured a mug of strong, bold brew lightened with a generous slug of cream.  The house was empty and still, NPR talking in the background, the computer screen an eerie glow in the dawn lit kitchen just waiting to transmit the bits and bytes from my trans-Atlantic children.

How different was the dawn for my great-great-great-grandmother, Isabelle McClelland Minor.  When Isabelle was my age, she had five grown kids, married with children of their own; and five kids still living at home, the youngest just 11 years old.  Her wake up time would not have been so peaceful or languid, and her breakfast chores would certainly have required more effort than pouring kibble into a bowl.  On the morning in 1855 that she and John P finally gave the Harrison County, Virginia land over to eldest son Abia Minor, Isabelle probably finished a bunch of chores by the time light broke over the farm in Greene County, Pennsylvania.  Hopefully the May air was sweet with the smells of a first cut of hay and with the endless song of birds waking to feed nestlings.  Did Isabelle feel satisfied to be off the farm for the day?  How much say did she have about this transaction?  Was she pleased to make this provision for her eldest boy’s family?

The land on which Abia Minor farmed from the mid-1840s through the 1850s.

Abia Minor, for his part, had lived on the Harrison County farm since at least 1845, and had six children by 1853, the year he lost his wife, Elizabeth.  He had remarried, taking Hannah Ballard as his wife, only four months before his parents went to James Cree and Alexander Stephenson to draw up this document.  At almost forty years of age, Abia must have felt that this Minor detail was long overdue.

This Indenture made the Eleventh day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand Eight Hundred and fifty five Between John P Minor of Green County and State of Pennsylvania and Isabel His wife of the one part and Abiah Minor of Harrison County and State of Virginia of the other part Witnesseth that the said John P Minor and Isabel his wife for and in consideration of his share of a tract of Land willed to him the said Abiah Minor by Robert Mc Clelland deceased it being valued at twelve Hundred dollars the receipt whereof is hereby acknoledged (sic) and for other reasons and in Liew of Legacy*¹ do Hereby grant bargain sell convey and confirm unto the said Abiah Minor his heirs and assignee for Ever all that tract or parcel of Land situate lying and being in the County of Harison (sic) in the State of Virginia and bounded as follows Beginning at a Shugartree (sic) and of the original Corners of the Lowther Survey also a Corner to Land belonging to Solomon Holland thense (sic) by Lands of Said Holland North 81 E 22 perches to a corner thense (sic) south by Land of Same 28 E 76 perches to a corner on the creek thense (sic) up said creek 13 ¼ perches to a corner thense (sic) North 25 ½ E54 perches to a post on the division line between Abia Minor and Robert Minor thense (sic) North 20 ¾ E 90 perches to a stake on said line thense (sic) by the same Course 66½ perches to a Stone near to a whiteoak thense (sic) on a Northern direction to a stone on the original Line 162 ½ perches thense (sic)  South 27 W 53 ½ perches to a Stone in the old line thense (sic) South 10 West 11 perches and 15 links to a Black oak Near to a Cole (sic) Bank thense (sic) South 16¾ East 96½ perches to a Beech thense (sic) South 8½ West 28¼ to a whiteoak thense (sic) South 12 W26½ perches to a Stake near the mouth of the run*² thense (sic)  S 10 W 24 perches to a sugar tree place of beginning containing one Hundred and sixty acres, it being a part of a sirvey (sic) of Land Deeded to the party of the first part by deeds of James P Wilson bairing (sic)  dates 19th october 1841 and 31st March 1842 and recorded in Book No 29 folio 486 and in deed Book No 29 folio 681 in Harison (sic) county State of Virginia as Shown by the cirtificate (sic) of the Clerk of Said county Referance thereunto being had will more fully appear together with all and singular other the the houses out houses buildings barns stables ways roads waters water courses rights libertys priviledges hereditaments and appertenances whatsoever thereunto belonging or in anywise appertaining  (Except the wright (sic) of a way for the benafit (sic)of the upper or remaining part of the aforesaid Survey to get out to the road.) and the reversion and remainders rents issues and proppert??thereof and also all the Estate right title interest property clause and demand whatsoever of them the said John P Minor and Isabel his wife in law with equity or other wis however of in to or out of the same To have and to hold the said (several words unreadable) containing one hundred and sixty acres hereditaments and premises hereby granted or intended so to be with the appertenances unto the said Abia Minor his heirs and assigns to the only proper use and behoof of the said Abiah Minor his heirs and assigns for ever and the said John P mInor and Isabel his wife do covenant and agree to the said Abiah Minor to warant (sic) and forever defend from all persons Lawfully claims rising under them interest or title to the aforesaid premises In witness whereof the Said John P Minor and Isabel his wife have hereunto set their hands and seals this day and year first above  written.

*¹Abia did not receive any other land or money in the settlement of John P. Minor’s estate.

*² The run mentioned in this document refers to what is known in the 1841 and 1842 documents as Limestone Run, which emptied into Simpsons Creek.

Mapping the Wilson-Minor Transactions: Mappy Monday

Drawn on thin paper discolored to a light blue, the survey map described a distinct parcel of land with corners marked by Black Oak, Water Beech, Limestones, fence posts, stakes, and Hickories.  Lines connected the corners and were labeled with surveying code–S37 W 151/2 poles and the like.  Unnamed squiggly lines posed as small streams crossing the land, emptying into an unnamed creek boundary. Lines cut the map into pieces; within one rectangle was the name A. Minor, within another the name R. Minor.  The outside bore a cryptic “plot of Virginia land 575.”

Five hundred and seventy-five was the amount of land that John P. Minor purchased from James P. Wilson in 1841 and 1842.  As I reread those deeds I traced my finger along the lines of this map, and with great excitement realized that I did indeed have a map which depicted the Minor land acquisition of 1841 and 1842 in Harrison County, (West) Virginia!

Five Hundred Seventy-five Acres along Simpsons Creek

With that confirmed I could with great certainty know that the bigger stream indicated Simpson’s Creek, and the smaller streams were Limestone Run and Stout’s Run.  However, I still didn’t know when this map was created or where this parcel of land was on a current map.

unto the said Abia and Robert Minor their heirs and assigns for ever all that tract or parcel of land situate lying and being in the county of Harrison in the state of Virginia and bounded as follows

The 1849 document transferring a piece of this property to Abia and Robert Minor was never executed.  It was as if the boys had given John P. some reason to pause before deeding title. BUT the document gives a surveyor’s description of the considered transaction, and that plot is only the piece labeled R. Minor in this map–a clue that this map was created sometime AFTER 1849.  Other documents related to this land include John P. Minor deeding the tract of land labeled here A. Minor to Abia Minor in 1854. Therefore, I conclude that my surveyor’s map was created sometime between the years 1849 and 1854.

The when of the map was closer to being settled at this point, however I was left no closer to understanding where these 575 acres were located. For that I consulted  the Federal Census data hoping to track the residences of the young men.  My hunch was rewarded with an interesting trail.

1840                          Abia has a child and wife in Greene County, PA
Robert is not listed anywhere
1850                          Can’t find either Abia or Robert
1860                        Abia is in Moultrie County,Illinois
Robert is in Harrison County, Virginia
1870                         Abia is in Moultrie County, Illinois
Robert is in Harrison County, West Virginia
1880                        Abia is in Harper County, Kansas
Robert is in Harrison County, West Virginia

If Robert was on that land so long then searching for a map of that 1860-1880 era might yield some clues.

At Historic Map Works I did indeed find such a map–An Atlas of West Virginia, published by D. J. Lake and Company in 1886.   This map labeled not just towns and streams, but homes and businesses. I found Robert Minor’s name by a square that sat on a small stream, presumably Stout’s Run, that emptied into Simpson’s Creek north of Bridgeport.  Limestone Run had been renamed Barnet’s Run by 1886.  With these facts I could look at a Google map with new eyes and locate the ‘Plot Virginia Land 575’.

Limestone Run was renamed Barnet's Run by 1886, and the farms were covered by interstate and malls by 1986.

A mystery is solved, and leaves me with mixed emotions.  Now I know where my ancestor once walked; where, finding coal and water and good land for farming, John P. Minor expected to give his sons a great leg up in life.  Now I know that today’s parents walk from store to car, and drive home on streets and highways, on top of that land. They too expect to give their sons and daughters a leg up.

**With sixteen passes of the Flip Pal I had successfully scanned the map before me and stitched it together into a seamless jpeg file with the built in Stitch Tool.  Flip Pal. LOVE. IT.  Check it out here.

Touching the Future–A Grandfather’s Bequest: amanuensis monday

[Author’s Note: As any parent knows, shooing kids into adulthood requires a balancing of priorities.  While securing one’s own home and finances, you also strive to secure a promising future for your children.  We pay for health insurance, cover education costs, loan cash for car payments, and extend a bit of mad money whenever possible–as long as we don’t leave ourselves bankrupt and unable to manage our dotage.  John Pearson (Pierson) Minor and his wife, Isabela McClelland, of Greene County, Pennsylvania were no exceptions.  These parents accomplished this tricky balancing act by serving as their family’s private bankers, lending money and holding the mortgages on land in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio.  For cattle dealers and farmers in the first half of the 19th century, securing land was the ticket to securing a child’s good future; the means by which a young man/woman could become a self-sufficient, productive member of society.  This transcription continues a cascade of posts in which I will share the notes, mortgages and letters that record the helping hand extended to John’s eldest children,  Robert and Abia, the two boys by his first marriage to Hannah McClelland.]

In the last post we were introduced to a piece of land in Harrison County, Virginia.  In 1849 John and Isabella were prepared to deed this land to the brothers, Abia (a- bye-ya) and Robert, in exchange for title to land that the boys had inherited from their grandfather, Robert McClelland.  This un-executed deed serves as a keystone document from which we will jump back into time.

Abia and Robert  Became Landowners

A will would be nice, but the 1849 document will have to suffice.  It states that “their share of a tract of land will,d to them the said Abia and Robert Minor by Robert McClelland deceased” is accepted as payment for the “Wilson Land” in Harrison County.  When did they first become landowners?  At the time of their grandfather’s death.  When did Robert McClelland die?  I do have a document to narrow the timeframe.

In the Orphans Court of Green County at June Term 1834

And now June 11th 1834 an notice of the Court grant a Rule upon the heirs and legal Representatives of Robert McClelland deceased to be and appear at an orphans Court when held at Waynesburgh in and for said County on the third Monday of September next and accept or refute the real estate of said decedent at the valuation there of or shuo (show) county why the same shall ???? sold.

The smudge in the lower left corner, when held just right in great light, revealed an embossed Seal of the County Greene.  Inscribed on the note’s exterior were the words–

March Term 1833           Order upon the H????? of Robt McClelland, dec’d

It would appear then from this Orphans Court decree that Robert McClelland died after the court met in 1832 but before the March Term in 1833.  The will must have stipulated that a tract of land be divided among his children, and among grandchildren if the child was deceased.  This grandfather’s bequest secured a bit of future for a 17 year old Abia and 15 year old Robert.  For whatever reason the young men chose to begin adulthood on the Wilson Land, using their inheritance as collateral.

Our next transcription will uncover how John P. Minor acquired the Wilson Land of Harrison County.

Our Government Rocks! : Follow Friday

I am in many ways exasperated with the state of our national government with all the picky nonsense, the garrulous quarreling.  LEAD already!

But there is no set of institutions better at creating databases than ours, and lately these civil servants have been digitizing the records and making the database searchable from your home!  The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management–General Land Office website receives this week’s TOP HITS award!

I have the honor of being custodian and researcher for a batch of family documents, many of them related to land transactions in the 1840s-1860s.  Armed with the family surname, Minor, and the county and state mentioned in the document–Moultrie, Illinois in this week’s search–I was able to draw up all of the land warrantees and patentees for the Federal distribution of public lands.  

What an experience to confirm with government documents that my ancestors participated in the westward expansion of our country.  In this case, Abia Minor, son of John Pearson Minor, is assigned the land originally warranted to War of 1812 veterans.   By clicking on the far left hand paper icon I can access the original document.  I can even order a certified copy of this document without leaving the page.  Clicking the details tab on that page gives a second page that succinctly states the specifics of the land now to be in Abia Minor’s name.  

As I reread my satchel stash of transactions between father and son, this newfound government information will enrich my understanding of family dynamics and of government policy impact on those interactions.