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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

Wealth and the Ideal Man: An Epistle from Ira Sayles to EB Hall, 1885

Ira Sayles, assistant geologist with United States Geological Survey. 
Photograph taken about 1885 at age 68.

Ira Sayles.

Had I nothing but historical documents, I would have but a simplistic notion of who my great-great-grandfather was.  A self-taught student who rose to be a college student, teacher and founding school administrator of Alfred Academy; Principal of Rushford Academy; Captain of Company H, 130th Regiment of the New York Volunteers in the Union Army; assistant geologist to Charles D. Walcott with the United States Geological Survey. 

A son, brother, husband, father.

But I have letters. And poems. And journal articles. And more letters. 

Clearly, Ira Sayles was a complicated man, with a rich interior life.  His core identity was constructed from his intellectual activities, not his familial relationships.  He harbored ambitions for his poetry, teaching methods, and scientific observations, and nursed grudges with a world that failed to recognize his brilliance. 

In an undated letter to his friend, EB Hall, a druggest and amateur paleontologist in Wellsville, New York, Ira Sayles declares:

People may not be willing to accredit me with being their
Ideal Man. I have never striven to be their Ideal Man; but I do strive to be my own Ideal Man. I am no social puppet. The Ideal Man of Society is but a puppet. He must attitude, and bob, and bow, according to the notions of a silly mob, for whose good opinion I will not turn on my heel. 

Apparently Ira and EB Hall had been discussing the notion of wealth, how the great entrepreneurs of the age–Vanderbilt, Cornell, Rothschild–had used their money to endow public institutions.  Ira took issue with the social standing that these men accrued because of their riches and legacies.

  I know the power of wealth. I acknowledge its good, and I deplore its evils. I can say, too, I have felt its evils. I do not care to rehearse my experiences; nor will I enter into any explanations why I have been so long a homeless wanderer over this beautiful Earth. The story shall remain untold. 

No man can win through the ordinary course of business, a large fortune, but that every dollar is cursed with the tears of the hungry, the naked, the shelterless! 

Ira’s disdain for capitalistic success was connected to his concern about the changing aspirations of women.  In fact, in this letter, Ira predicted a total breakdown of the social order.  Because of financial expectations men, the natural providers for women, would not be able to afford the trappings of success needed to be married.  Wealth among the few would contribute to women not getting married and having children, and men frequenting houses of ill repute because they could not afford wives.  

Ira’s legacy, however, would not be appraised in terms of the dollar.

Instead of making Wealth an object of Life—the object of Life—I will make, as I have long been making, complete fullness of manhood and womanhood, in all its richness, not the chief
but the only end of Life. 

Perhaps you, like others, will call me a dreamer, indulging in an illusive (sic) fancy that will forever mock my hope. Be it so. I have the satisfaction and the joy of living that life myself; I will build myself a home where whoever will, may come and partake with me freely, on the same conditions as I impose on myself, viz. Living up to the Complete Laws of Human Nature. That and that only. 

Living up to the Complete Laws of Human Nature. 

Where the ideal man provided for the ideal woman who remained at home and became mothers.  Where everyone had enough to eat, a safe place to sleep, and honorable work to complete.  

Ira’s utopia. Did he ever discover the wealth inside his own ideal? 

Source

Letter from Ira Sayles to EB Hall of Wellsville, New York, ca. 1885; Hall Family Documents, privately held by Jay Woelfle [address for private use,] 2018. Transcribed by D. Kay Strickland, 2018.