The Old Minor Home Farm: Those Places Thursday

My mother and three siblings pose here on the dining room steps with their mother, Kerma Minor.  The white painted-brick farmhouse was surrounded by 330 acres of rolling hills studded by her daddy’s prized cows.  This was my mother’s home, Ceylon Lane, Greene Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania–where the Donald Minor family weathered the Depression and World War II.  Home on the home farm that her daddy had inherited from his daddy, Robert Minor, who had been bequeathed the home farm by his dad. Francis Marion Minor had in turn received the 330 acres from his father, John Pearson Minor, as per item 7 in his will of 28 February 1867:

I give, devise and bequeath unto my son, Francis Marion, his heirs and assigns the tract of land whereon he and I reside, known as the Myers farm, containing three hundred and twenty nine acres more or less…

Just when, I have wondered, did the former Myers farm become my family’s home farm.  Last week I unearthed a document in the Minor Papers that provides an important clue.

An article of Agreement made and concluded between James McFarland of Cumberland Township (housejoiner) and John P. Minor of Green Township both of Green County Pennsylvania on the twenty second of February eighteen hundred and thirty one as follows

John P. Minor was to purchase and supply all the materials for the project, and furnish board and lodging to James McFarland for the duration of the project.  In addition Mr. McFarland would receive $300 upon the satisfactory conclusion of all work.

For his part, James McFarland was to

complete the joiner work of the brick house formerly occupied by Jacob Myers.

The agreement stipulates that he was then to finish the floors and petition three rooms off on each floor

according to the construction of the said house.

Mr. McFarland was also charged with making cupboards, and sashes for the upstairs window, and casing and fixing off all the windows in the whole house.

and run up two pair of stairs in the dwelling house ….a pair of stairs to be run up outside on the porch and a drysink on the inside byside of chimney  the doors to be taken down and the facings new and then hung and mantle peaces and cheer boards and wash boards and all other things necessary to complete the building is to be done by said McFarland.

The house described bears a striking resemblance to the house my mother described as her childhood home.  For now, til new evidence surfaces to contradict me, I believe that the brick house, formerly occupied by Jacob Myers, was handsomely renovated by one James McFarland in 1831, and subsequently occupied by generations of John P. Minor descendants.

This Day in Family History: April 15

April 15.

A date burned into my brain by adrenaline and estrogen and progesterone, a hormone cocktail that pushed a new life into our world.

In 1864, my great-great-grandmother, Mary Jane Gwynne Minor lay in her child bed. Her birthing team may have included a sister-in-law, a midwife, or perhaps a doctor from nearby Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.  Her husband, Francis Marion,  and other three children would have been sent from the home, as modesty dictated.  At some moment, the brick farm house on Ceylon Lane was filled with the cries of the newborn son, and from that moment forward Mary Jane would remember April 15 as Leroy’s birthday.

Leroy Minor turned one April 15, 1865, joy for his reaching this milestone in childhood survival dampened by news of Abraham Lincoln’s death that very morning.  I wonder what Mary Jane thought of the war’s end, the president’s assasination, reconstruction’s beginning.  Living in a household of northern Democrats I doubt that there was much concern expressed for the Freedmen, or much thought directed toward policies of reconciliation.  The business of running the farm, raising children and supporting her husband’s cattle dealing would have been far more immediate than national politics and regional strife.

By year’s end slavery, a national disease, was abolished from the soil of the United States by constitutional amendment .  Mary Jane may not have paid much attention to this transformative moment, for her baby boy failed to thrive.

Little Leroy Minor died in February 1866.


Amanuensis To Some Military Past: Francis Marion Minor and the 1863 Federal Draft

Harper's Weekly, 14 March 1863

The conscription bill enrolls all the males of the loyal States (including Indians and negroes) between the ages of 20 and 45 into a national militia, and empowers the President to call them into the service of the United States for three years or the war.

Congress has wisely empowered the Executive to receive a sum of $300 from any drafted man who prefers paying to serving.  This sum, it is believed, will always secure a substitute.  Clergymen, professional men, large merchants and manufacturers, and others who are of more use to the country while prosecuting their various peaceful avocations than they would be if forced to carry a musket, will thus be exempted, while the class of men which take their place will receive money enough to keep their families as comfortably as if they had remained at home.

Under the operation of the Act the President will be enabled to recruit our armies to the full standard when the time of the nine months’ men expires, and the hopes of the rebels–which have been re-echoed by the correspondents of disloyal journals–that our armies would melt away in the spring will be thoroughly defeated.

This week’s Civil War and Reconstruction Era reading assignment included this report on the legislative achievements of the Thirty-seventh Congress.  *ding*  A little bell rang in my head.  I rushed upstairs to my Minor Satchel, and gingerly opened it’s mouth.  Carefully I searched among its contents, and found IT: a letter, previously sorted and stored in an annotated acid-free sleeve.  AHA! I do have a personal connection to this tidbit of Yankee news.

The Letter

I John Philan of Waynesburg Greene County Pa. hereby certify that I as the agent of Francis Marion Minor of Greene Township Greene County Penna procured William H MKee of Allegheny County Pa to act a s a substitute under the Draft of last summer, for the Minor who was drafted under that Draft, as he is also under the present Draft as I am informed.  I paid the money to the said M’Kee for the said Minor, and saw him sworn into the service of the United States in the Company of Capt Cru in the 168 Regimentof Pennsylvania Militia and procured from Capt Cru a certificate of the fact which I subsequently returned to said Minor.  My recollection is that the said M’Kee represented himself to be over the age of forty five, which was my opinion from his appearance.                                                                         J. Philan

I Christian C Rushe of Greene Township Greene County Penna hereby certify that I was drafted under the Draft of last summer and served my time out in the Company Capt Cru 168 Regt Penna Militia and was regularly discharged on the 25 day of July A.D. 1863  I knew John (William is written and crossed out) H. M’Kee above named as a member of said Company, and know that he served out his time in said company and was regularly discharged at the same time I was My recollection is that the said M’Kee represented his age to be fifty five years.

These statements were sworn before the Justice of the Peace on 8 August 1863.

Company A, 168th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry records show that the said Private John M’Kee was mustered out with the company on July 25, 1863.  There is no record of Francis Marion Minor serving at any point during the civil war.

My conclusion? Francis Minor paid a John M’Kee to substitute for him in the Federal conscription of 1862.  Further more, my great-great-grandfather Minor was one of 292,441 men living north of the Mason-Dixon line, who received  draft notices the summer of 1863, and he was one of the 52,288 whose service was commuted.  In fact, of the nearly 300,000 men called up only 9,881 actually were successfully drafted into Union service.  (Final Report of the Provost Marshal, Journal of the House of Representatives, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., 1866, vol.4, House Exec. Doc. 1, pp. 175, 184, 199, 212.)

So many questions float to the surface of my mind:  When was the first conscription declared and what were its exemptions?  What did Francis Minor do during the Civil War that gave him the capital to pay agent John Philan to find  a substitute soldier?  Why wouldn’t he want to serve?  Who was this John M’Kee, who needed the money Francis Minor could afford to part with?  What sort of man was he?

I will pay close attention to the remaining, untranscribed satchel contents, hoping for further clues about the life and times of Francis Marion Minor.

Tombstone Tuesday: John Pearson (Pierson) Minor

Veteran, War of 1812
—–John Pearson Minor was born in Middlesex, New Jersey on 7 November 1791.  He moved with his parents, Abia and Margaret Pearson Minor, to Greene County, Pennsylvania in 1796.  The War of 1812 veteran remained in the Whitely Creek area for the duration of his life, serving as a financial lender, land speculator, cattle dealer, and farmer.  He married Hannah McClelland about 1815, and had two children, Abia born 3 July 1816, and  Robert born 11 April 1817.  After her death in 28 April 1817, John married Isabella McClelland  on 24 September 1817,  and together they had 9 children:  Hannah (6 June 1818-?); Mary Ann (19 January 1820-?);   Margaret (5 November 1821- ?);   Rebecca (29 November 1823-5 July 1891);  Samuel Pierson (23 August 1825–27 August 1909);  Francis Marion (23 November 1828–4 August 1913);  Sarah Ellen (10 September 1833–21 October  1862);  Frances Caroline  (9 May 1833–21 October 1862).  Isabella died at home on 14 August 1863.
John P. Minor left the family farm to his son Francis Marion on the condition that he be allowed to remain at the farm for the duration of his life–at no cost. This Minor patriarch died at home on 12 September 1874 and was buried in the cemetery of  John Corbley Baptist Church, Garard’s Fort, Pennsylvania.

John Corbley Baptist Church, Garards Fort, Pennsylvania