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family history Family Lore Minor Surnames Transcriptions

Letters from Home:

Donald C. Minor to his daughter, Marilyn–1954

This letter written from my Grandaddy Minor to my mother, Marilyn, made me chuckle. Though decades old, its mixed sentiments about the holiday season could have been written in just the last few days.

As 1954 drew to a close, Donald Minor paused before heading to bed to pen his account of the Greene Hills Farm Christmas to his eldest daughter.

Dear Marilyn and Norman, Dec 30, 1954

Another year nearly completed–my how time does fly! We used to read about the fleeting years and little could I then realize the full import of the expression and how swiftly the useful years of our lives are really spent. It certainly behooves each of us to live each day with purpose and spiritual significance. Most of our thought and planning is for a livelihood and self agrandizement [sic] and it is apparent that unless we become more careful the tendency will become increasingly prevalent. Somehow it is difficult to feel the challenge for a more purposeful life until we come in contact with a meek soul who is truly trusting God for strength and guidance.

Every day I have meant to write you and thank you for greetings at Christmas together with the candy and guest towels. The candy was delicious and quite different. Did you make it, Marilyn? And the towels are so pretty. –those colors go well with our blue walls in the bath room.

Yes, I bet she DID make that candy, for my mother was a fabulous cook and baker.

From your letter today it sounded like you had a nice Christmas even though you were away from home. I was so glad for you and was so happy you could be together–it would simply have been too ba if you could not.

My parents had been married for just a year, and living separately as Norman completed his first year with General Electric in Rochester (NY) and my mother completed her Occupational Therapy degree at Tufts University, Boston. It snowed heavily the day my mother was to commute to Rochester for Christmas and my dad, fearing the bus wouldn’t make it, drove half-way to Boston, picked her up at one stop [lost to my memory] and headed to their apartment in New York. They clearly didn’t make it back to Lyn’s childhood home in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Our Christmas was much the same as usual–just a family dinner with entirely too much preparation and commotion to be truly enjoyable. Our gifts were mainly clothes and personal things to make a feller’ look better and smell pretty. I got a shirt, socks, house slippers and shaving accessories and oh yes — a wedding band after 24 years. It’s a nice on and I like it a lot. I’m glad the house coat fitted you. I had Toddy Riggs Greenler–she works in the office–try it for size. Only wish it could have been nicer but I did like the color. Norman’s shirt I trust was OK. We thought maybe with your being a bit more north (you are, aren’t you) that a heavier shirt would be acceptable. Those nylon and wool shirts were quite the rage here–Spraggs store sold them by the dozen. I trust the others will tell you about their Christmas which was much like mine except Helen got a R.C.A. Victor record player–Hi fidelity from Steve. It’s really nice. Of course the niceness depends upon the type records and some Steve selected I didn’t much care for. The machine will play continuously for 9 hours if you so desire.

How do you like your new apartment? I hope it will be pleasant and quite satisfactory for you both. I am so glad Marilyn you are living in the hospital where you work–at least I trust it will be more desirable. In this day it is hardly safe for a woman to live out to herself. The beastly desire of men (women too of course) cannot be overlooked and we cannot allow ourselves to be negligent of the fact that such characters are lurking around every street corners [sic]. An article in a recent issue of the Coronet magazine was allerting [sic] women of this prevalent danger. Too it was warning women everywhere to be cautious today and to avoid contacts and places where this type “bird” might be hanging around for they are really vicious. They do most of their work not in the “dives” but right out on traveled streets where they will wait hours for the opportune person and moment. This is not to frighten but to caution you of the danger.

Quite the cheery holiday message, eh? And a solid reminder of how messaging was (is) designed to curtail women’s movements and opportunities.

Yes we got our dining room “revamped” for Christmas. Between the oak squares we have it painted a nile green. The paper above is pale cream background with prominent design of Rhododendron in two shades of pink and flamingo and green leaves and branches in varying hues of green. it is really striking and helps the whole downstairs. Our living room mantle had a string of colored lights hidden in pine and white candles. The doorway too was decorated with pine and lights–in fact it looked real nice.

We seem to be awfully busy somehow doing nothing but just existing. Eating, sleeping a little, and working–in fact I’m plain tired of it. Never washed so many dishes in y life it seemed as during this last week. The male members are simply horrified at the sight of a dish cloth in this household. As soon as they get a fill off they go to another part of thehouse to suck a cigarette.

In my mother’s handwriting is a note: referring to Steve too, I’ll bet!

Helen (my mother’s sister) and Steve left for New Jersey this morning to spend New Years. She worked all day yesterday and up until 11 last night–in fact Helen was worn out and really looked badly. she had no business going so far in her condition [pregnant with her first daughter] but of course Steve didn’t want to go alone and she of course didn’t like to see him go off by himself. Do hope they get along OK. Don’t think she looks forward with anticipation to trips down that way for their living there is so different–Maybe it’s OK but it doesn’t appeal to me. There seem to be some nice people but they sure are pleasure mad. Well here it is 11pm. I just came home from our Agri (sic) Extension meeting. We have some good members on the board.

My grandfather was an active leader in the Greene County agricultural community, known for his livestock expertise.

John Myers is holding Revival meetings for the 1st Bapt. Ch. in Jan. they want me to conduct the song services but I simply cannot and work every day. Then to what is their preacher going to do? He says his “pins” will hard hold him up. Maybe so but by golly mine aren’t so agile anymore and besides I’m older than he is. It seems a fellow has to look out for himself a little–the other fellow doesn’t care too much and I know best how I feel. Best of luck for a happy and successful New Year. Lots of love and a big hug to start it off with.–Dad

Donald was a graduate of Denison College (Ohio) and had as a young man aspirations to be a professional–a banker or a journalist. The Depression blunted that dream, and its reality forced him to provide for his young family by returning to the Garard’s Fort ancestral land and the Minor tradition of raising livestock. Donald never gave up his love of music, however, practicing the piano and leading church choirs as often as time and health permitted. At the time of this note, Donald was 52 years old, and evidently feeling the 24/7/365 fatigue of farming.

Source:

Minor, Donald C. (Garard’s Fort, Pennsylvania) to “Dear Marilyn” [Marilyn “Lyn” Minor Strickland]. Letter. 30 December 1954. Privately held by D. Kay Strickland, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. 2021.

Categories
Sayles Surnames

Peeking Into Ira’s Soul


“”Practice any art,” Kurt Vonnegut wrote.  “…music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage…

“Practice any art…no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”

Ira Sayles, 1817-1894, practiced art, writing essays and poems throughout his long life.  He shared them with friends. He enclosed them in family letters. He submitted them to regional newspapers and sought wider publication.  Ira yearned to belong among the publicly acclaimed, a recognized poet, an admired intellectual.  He had to settle for living among regular folks.

It didn’t stop his writing, though, and the samples of his art that survive are a testament to Ira’s experiences and soul searching. 

In a poem written 15 December 1872 and published in The Sabbath Recorder on 9 January 1873, Ira celebrates the biblical account of Jesus’ birth.  Each verse ends with “Peace on earth, good-will to man!” 

Is this refrain a peek into Ira’s soul?

Ira served in the Union Army in the early years of the Civil War, discharged after only a short campaign because his 44 year old body couldn’t bear the field conditions of a soldier, much to his dismay. He returned to his wife, Serena, and three sons to resume teaching at Alfred University, Alfred, New York. During early Reconstruction, Serena directed Ira to purchase land in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, where the family relocated in 1870. Her money, her land, in her name, feme sole.  The situation proved acrimonious, as Ira sought to retire and write. Serena, presumably, was determined to teach, farm, or both. 

By the poem’s wintry date, Ira was estranged from Serena, who stayed with their three boys down in Virginia.  Ira returned to his birth family in Pennsylvania.  Eventually, the 55 year old would resume teaching, traveling throughout northern tier counties of Pennsylvania and the southern tier counties in New York to fill vacancies in one room schoolhouses.

Do these stanzas tell us more than Ira was a Christian? Perhaps this poem was a way for Ira to process grief, shame, restlessness; to find peace on earth and good-will to Ira in the new year.

            "Christmas Choral"

 Music floats upon the night-wind,
            Watching shepherds list the strain:
Gently steals the anthem earthward;
            Echo whispers its refrain—
“Peace on earth, good-will to man!”
 
Seers had heard the wondrous story,
            Longed to seeMessiah’s reign,
“Come! O come! thou King of Glory!”
            Echo caught the faint refrain—
“Peace on earth, good-will to man!”
 
Cradled in a humble manger, 
            Nursed by earth’s most lowly train,
Lo! He comes, th’ Almighty stranger!
            Echo murmurs the refrain—
“Peace on earth, good-will to man!”
 
Magi see the astral token
            Shimmering o’er Judea’s plain;
Death’s gloomy night , they know is broken;
            Echo floats the sweet refrain—
“Peace on earth, good-will to man!”
 
Age on age hath borne its burden,
            Filled with human woe and pain, 
Since Faith first beheld her guerdon:
            Echo thunders the refrain—
“Peace on earth, good-will to man!”
 
Brighter gleams that astral glory,
            As the ages rush amain;
Echo louder peals the story,
            Thundering out that sweet refrain—
“Peace on earth, good-will to man!”
 
                                    Ira Sayles
Knoxville, Tioga Co., Pa., 
Wednesday, Dec. 25, 1872

Source

Sayles, Ira. Poem “Christmas Choral,” The Sabbath Recorder, 9 Jan 1873, v29 i2 p6; digitally accessed on Fulton History (FultonHistory.com) 10 Dec 2018.  Transcribed by D. Kay Strickland. 

Categories
Minor Surnames

And You Thought OUR Roads Were Bad: 1918 Christmas Roadtrip

Chasing family tales is what gets all genealogists hooked, and when we get help from previously unknown circles, it feels like Christmas.  To receive such collaboration AT Christmastime is just too wonderful for words. I want to thank cousin, Linda Bell, for her  holiday energy and sharing.  Family lore has become another GREAT family story. 

Minor Home, Orlando, FloridaEvery once in a while as I was growing up, Minor family reunions would include some reminiscing, and tantalizing bits of information would drift about. Like…Robert and May Laura Minor, my great-grandparents,  had a home in Florida. Sometime. Somewhere. For some reason. Years passed. THEN came an email exchange between genea-cousins, which connected my memories and photos with her memories and documents, and whoosh!! we have a Christmas STORY!

IMAGINE…..  

The Minor Farm on Ceylon Lane, Greene County, PennsylvaniaIt is December 23, in southwestern Pennsylvania, 1918.  Two years have passed since President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Aid Road Act, the first comprehensive commitment to the establishment of a nationwide highway system.  America has entered the age of the automobile, BUT would-be travelers have no AAA to call, no Kayak.com to click, no system of vacation organization whatever.  America has 2.5 million miles of public roads,  but only 11% are paved.  Let’s go on a Christmas roadtrip!  To Florida! By auto! SAY WHAT?

‘TWAS TWO DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS . . . . 

And Robert and May, Donald (16), Helen (24) and Alonzo Bell,  were headed out, off the farm! Onward to Florida! But first to cross the Monongahela River! As told by Helen Minor Bell, my great-grandaunt, the trek proved to be eventful.

Minor Automobile with Helen at the wheel

On Dec. 23rd 1918, Father, mother, brother, my husband and myself left the farm for Florida by auto.  On reaching Carmichaels, we learned we could not cross the river at Crucible as the river was so high, but they were still crossing at Masontown so went back to Masontown and crossed that was we did not strike a good road until we almost to Uniontown.  

The first day we only got as far as Flintstone Md. A very small hotel and no conveniences whatever.  Sec. day ate dinner at HamiltonHotel, Hagerstown, Md, stayed that night at Berkley Hotel Martinsburg, W. Va.  Christmas Dinner Edinburgh Hotel at Edinburgh Va. and stayed at Beverly Hotel at Staunton Va.  Here we saw Pres. Wilson’s birth-place, also the Staunton Military Academy.  There, next day after Xmas had dinner at Natural Bridge Hotel, Natural B Va.  Here the natural bridge was one of the wonders of the world.  

The drive this after noon from Natural Bridge to Lynchburg was the most dangerous and very risky trip in any afternoon.  Part of the way we followed a road just wide enough for the car along an old canal, finally we came to a place which seemed to us we were driving up to some ones barn yard, we thought this as far as the road went, but asked the woman and she said you’re on the right road go straight ahead.  We drove on up around the barn among the cows and up a steep hill which looked like nothing more than a rocky trail this we kept up all afternoon crossing one ridge after another of the Blue Ridge Mts.  Just one steady pull and only wide enough for the car, down below hundreds of feet was the James river and not more than a foot away from the edge at any time.  When we had crossed several ridges we came to a creek which we had to ford and right in the middle of it the car stopped and we were there for at least 3/4 of an hr before we got the car started, then when the car started we were wedged in between two rocks and could not go forward or backwards.  

This wonderful account ends abruptly, but it is enough to get my heart racing.   I have wandered among the Blue Ridge back roads, which even today are not much more than a car and half wide.  I can easily imagine the cliff-hugging view.  I suppose once they got through that creek they figured they could do anything, and managed on, day after day, until they crossed the state line into Florida.

Which they did reach.  So wonderful was the destination, that Robert purchased a home. In Orlando. And yet another family story begins.

Minor Orlando HomeMinor Home, Orlando, FloridaMake sure you check out this google map of the 1918 Christmas Roadtrip.

Categories
Advent Calendar Minor Surnames Vintage Postcards

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Christmas Cards 1910

Printed by S L Company in Saxony, Germany, 1910
Printed by S L Company in Saxony, Germany, 1910

Note the publisher's trademark in the lower left-hand corner
Note the publisher’s trademark in the lower left-hand corner

My grandfather’s postcard collection dates from 1906-1910, a wonderful glimpse into the life of small, turn-of-the-century boy.  But Donald C. Minor’s cards also offer the simple pleasure of Christmas artwork, which I never tire of admiring.

Two red-breasted songsters perch on a sprig of holly, which is decorated with a sprig of mistletoe and a golden horseshoe.  This brightly colored card is meant to bring the recipient great cheer, that is for certain.  Published by the New York-based Samuel Langdorf and Company*, number 841 was one of several designs the company printed in Saxony, Germany in 1910.

Donald C. Minor received this card from Ralph on December 20, 1910.

“Hello Donal. How are you? What do you want Santa to bring you? I want a gun but mama says i can not have it so I will haft (sic) to take what ever I get. Your friend, Ralph”

There are other postcards from Ralph and his younger brother, Blair, in my grandfather’s postcard collection.  Using the search engine of Ancestry.com I entered Ralph as living in South Connellsville, PA in 1910 with a sibling, Blair.  The return included a interesting match: Ralph Younkin, 10, son of Milton R and May Waychoff Younkin, living with Blair, 8, and grandmother, Jennie Waychoff, in Connellsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania.  I have researched the Minor family fairly well, and the Younkin surname is unfamiliar.  However, recently collected cousin memories suggest that Donald’s parents were friends with the Waychoff family; perhaps May Stephenson Minor and May Waychoff Younkin were exchanging Christmas cards, too!

Interesting how a fascination with Christmas postcards intertwines with a family history.  Merry Christmas, indeed!

*The winged orb on the back of the card is identified by the Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City as the trademark for Samuel Langford and Company, publishers from 1906-1918.  Accessed on December 16, 2011.

Categories
Photographs and Memories

Seasonal Marker

Poinsettia 3

I open the door to release restless pups, and they gallop into the yard, dawn breaking overhead.  I open the refrigerator to grab peppers, onions, garlic, and ginger, with the gorgeous low-on-the-horizon beams flooding my kitchen.  I pick out dropped leaves which lie among my flame red poinsettias, no matter how carefully I attend their food-making needs.  These observations mark mid-winter.   We in the northern hemisphere are inching toward equinox, toward sprouting bulbs and passerine symphonies.