Put Procrastination On A Shelf

Book.Corrigan.Mining.1887.01.EHDeadlines are a writer’s friend, and I desperately needed one if I was to transform an octopus of a research project into a finished story.  Analyzing my mother-in-law’s old book, The Mine Foreman’s Handbook, for heirloom status had proven to be a daunting task.  

The editor of my local genealogical society newsletter reminded me each time I visited their library of my promise to contribute a story.  This past spring  I committed to pressing “send” by the summer solstice.  And the account of Martin Corrigan’s book flowed out, line by line by line.

I urge all you family history lovers to venture out from tree shaping and blog posting.  We all have some big stories to tell.  Find a genealogical or historical society near you and make friends with their newsletter deadline.

Here is an excerpt of  Inside Out: Judging a Book By Its Cover, which begins on page 11 of the summer issue of Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society’s newsletter, The Heritage. 

51-The Heritage Summer 2016, Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society

“In 1887 Martin Corrigan was granted a Certificate of Service by the Pennsylvania Mine Foreman Examining Board, an alternative certification which recognized men who had served as mine foremen for at least one year prior to the 1885 Mine Safety Act9 . Martin Corrigan did not own this book in order to take the Mine Foreman Exam himself. Martin may have originally purchased the book for his own private library, consulting its contents in his role as mine boss for Augustus S. Van Winkle’s Milnesville collieries. But Martin also loaned this book out. The words “Please Return” were found inside the front and back covers, and on one of the first pages someone inscribed the words: Martin Corrigan No. 90 North Wyoming Street Hazleton.”

Namesakes: Francis Marion Minor

I have always been curious about the name of my 2nd great-grandfather, Francis Marion Minor.  Neither Francis nor Marion makes an appearance among family tree leaves until his birth in 1828, a strange happenstance in an era that often confounds modern genealogists with its generation-lapping of names.  So what’s up with John Pierson and Isabella McClelland Minor in 1828?

Photo.Newspapers.FrancisMarion.Namesake.1825

An area newspaper, the Washington Reporter (Washington, PA) carried the musings of a Mr. Sample on its front page in January 1825 about Brigadier General Francis Marion.  The South Carolinian was known among American Revolution veterans as the Swamp Fox for his daring guerrilla tactics against the British forces occupying the southern coast.  His movements against a superior force were credited with forcing the redcoats’ evacuation.  And during the 1820s General Marion was still being remembered as a prominent revolutionary hero, comparable in intelligence, benevolence, and bravery to the illustrious General George Washington.

John and Isabella were raising their children where they had been raised, in Greene Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, just outside the village of Garards Fort–an area developed by the revolutionary generation. As those community members aged, and began to die out, there was a heightened sense of that generation’s role in the country’s freedom and enfranchisement. To honor and commemorate the grit and determination of their predecessors, parents named their children for people they had never known but would always admire.  And that is how I think my great-great-grandfather got his name–Francis Marion Minor (1828-1918).

 

The Dodsons Cross County Lines: Surname Saturday

In the summer of 1772, Edward Dodson cast a shadow into my future as he set out from Amelia County, Virginia.  The young man crossed the Meherrin River and continued on into Mecklenburg County, passing the farms of Samuel Dedman, William Wills Green, and John Hyde to assess the red soil along the little fork of Allen’s Creek.  Edward walked the tract’s perimeter with the owner. Finding the rolling, timbered hills fit for his needs, the aspiring farmer handed John Glassock five shillings, current money of colonial Virginia.

The Mecklenburg County Court convened once a month in the settlement that would one day become Boydton some 5 miles south. Residents used the court day as a social occasion, and  traveled from their farms to conduct business, swap stories, and trade goods.  Glassock and two friends, James Brown and Peter Burton, were among the folks who gathered on that August 10th, 1772.  The court ordered county clerk, John Talborne to duly record that John Glassock

…Doth give Grant Bargain, Sell Alien assigns and confirm to the Said Edward Dodson and his heirs. & Assigns for ever one certain tract or Parcell (sic) of Land Containing Ninety five acres lying and being in the County of Mecklenburg on the Little fork of Allens Creek…

Brown and Burton bore witness to the verity of the transaction.

Meanwhile Edward Dodson returned home to plan his emigration to Virginia’s remote interior.  On the last day of April 1773, Edward took possession of his “parcell”, perhaps with his wife, Francis, already pregnant with their first child Sarah.

Five shillings purchased the first acres of land that would remain in the Dodson family for six generations.  The story meanders, like a creek, into the 20th century.

Map.Virginia.1776.DavidRumseyMapCollection

Edward and Francis Dodson moved from around Amelia to a farm situated between the Meherrin River and Jefferson Falls on the Roanoke River. A General Map of the Middle British Colonies, in America. (1776). digital image: David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, DavidRumsey.com.

Reference:

Glassock to Dodson, Mecklenburg County (VA) Deed Book 3-433; Microfilm #32533, Family History Center, Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Story Lies In His Hand

Page Five of The MINOR FAMILY ALBUM

How good it is to see familiar faces!!

The fifth page frames a young couple’s portrait, carefully staged to tell the story of a momentous autumn day. Robert Minor had just taken May Stevenson’s hand in marriage.

The twenty-three year old groom was dressed in well-tailored pin-striped pants worn with a frock coat and matching waist coat–a fashion which would indicate that the Thursday wedding was held during the day.  His bride, seventeen year old May Stevenson, wore an exquisite gown with lace at the throat, on the bodice, and at the cuffs.  The hat, no doubt designed and made by her milliner mother, Mary Jones Stevenson, was trimmed in the this same lace and finished with feathers.  September 8, 1892 was a grand day for these families.

The Presbyterian minister, T. G. Bristow, conducted the service in Carmichaels, Greene County, Pennsylvania.  After Robert and May exchanged their vows, and the LARGE families of both bride and groom mingled in congratulations, the newlyweds stopped by the Public Square studio of T. W. Rogers and had their picture taken.  Robert stared a bit like a deer caught in a lantern’s light, perhaps rocked by the realization that the circuit of ice cream socials and steamboat shows had come to an end. A soft smile tugged at May’s face, however.  The young lady had survived the arduous years following her father’s death and secured her future with this prosperous young man.  Together the youngsters would join in the family business–raising cattle and children to carry on the Minor legacy on Ceylon Road, Garard’s Fort, Pennsylvania.

May Laura Stevenson and Robert Minor said "I do" on September 8, 1892, in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania.  The service was officiated by Rev. T. J. Briston, a Presbyterian minister.

May Laura Stevenson and Robert Minor said “I do” on September 8, 1892, in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania. The service was officiated by Rev. T. J. Briston, a Presbyterian minister.

St. Patrick’s Day : Just An Excuse To Work On My Irish Family (in-law) Tree

I don’t live anywhere close to where my ancestors grew up. I don’t even live close to where I grew up! When my kids started leaving home, and my parents started leaving this earth, my sense of place and time, home and identity got launched airmail to the moon. Thus was started a genealogical hobby that has turned into a family history passion (that some would call compulsive hoarding and obsessive research.) MY ancestors, MY photographs, MY family, wrapped me in stories. Cocooned by memories I feel rooted, ready…to see more stories.  

Suddenly every town I pass through holds the possibility of a tale–not mine, directly, but my husband’s and our children’s.  These mountains and the Susquehanna River are holding the Irish lilt of Corrigans and Dooleys, Monaghans and Carrolls and Delehantys. St. Patrick’s Day seems a fitting day to introduce some of these characters.

Let’s start with the earliest arrival–Miner John Corrigan

Straight off, let me explain that when I write about John Corrigan, I am writing about John Corgan.  And vice versa.  John was an Irishman, born in 1811 in County Carlow, near the town of Leighlin’s Bridge, and just east of the Leinster Coalfield.  When he married a Queens County girl, Mary Dooley, in 1833 was he a miner? Perhaps.  The couple had three children in Leighlinbridge–Martin (1834), Esther (1836) and Margaret (1839)–before they moved to the Welsh mining town of Swansea, where Daniel (1841) and Michael (1843) were born.  The growing family returned to Ireland, where daughter Ann (1845) was born.  But the famine conditions drove John and Mary out of the country, back to Swansea, Wales in search of a better life. Certainly Mary was busy caring for all of these children, and bearing two more–James (1847) and Catharine (1850), while John and Martin worked in the mines for the Swansea Coal Company.

On the plus side, the training inside Welsh mines was considered to be outstanding, and Welsh miners were sought after among American companies in the mid-century anthracite boom.  The Corrigans became Corgans, a Welsh miner’s family.

In December of 1851, John Corgan left his pregnant wife and eight children in Swansea and headed for America. Mr. Corgan boarded a ship in Liverpool, England, and arrived in New York, New York on January 2, 1852.  John Corgan found work in the company town of Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania, home of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company.  Word was sent back across the Atlantic, and in September, six weeks after delivering her ninth child, Elizabeth, Mary set off with her family to join John. The brood arrived in New York on December 2, 1852.

Nesquehoning was a company town, with a company store that let families pay “on the cuff”, credit paid with wage deductions.  John Corgan, and his elder boys, worked with the certainty and expertise of the Welsh miners, and were compensated as skilled miners. This family had options, while most miners were held in abject poverty, never clear of their company debt.  The Corgans could move, and move they did.  Family records indicate that the clan lived in several Lehigh Coal Company towns, including Nesquehoning, Summit Hill and Hacklebernie, all near Mauch Chunk, Carbon County, Pennsylvania. In 1855 they moved to work in the newly opened Council Ridge Colliery, operated by Sharpe, Weiss and Company, in what would become the town of Eckley.  The Corgans returned to the Mauch Chunk area of Summit Hill by 1858.  By the end of the decade, John was a naturalized citizen of the United States, and Mary and John were tired proud parents of 12 children, the eldest (Martin) being 25 years old and the youngest (William) just a year and half.

By 1860 the entire family had moved up the mountains, to the communities surrounding the growing coal hub of Hazleton, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.  In addition to celebrating first teeth, an end to diapers, First Communions and Confirmations, the Corgan family planned weddings,and John and Mary welcomed grandchildren into their home.  To play with their youngest kids.  The thrifty couple also purchased land–five lots on Second Street, between Mahoning Road and Tunnel Street, in Mauch Chunk Township (now Jim Thorpe).  Though the family was moving quite frequently–whether for better working conditions, better pay, or at a company’s request–home for John and Mary remained within the steep hills along the Lehigh River, connected to the parish of St. Patrick’s Catholic church in Nesquehoning.  Before any home could be built, however, Mary died, and in 1863 she was laid to rest in the St. Patrick’s Cemetery, her grave marked with this inscription:

In memory of Mary wife of John Corgan, a native of Ireland, Queens County, Parish of Killeshen, who departed this life July 27, 1863, aged 48 years 11 months and 18 days.   May she rest in peace, amen. 

Children weep not in sorrow of spirit, but joy my time is here over, I go that good part to inherit, where sorrow and sin is no more. 

The 1860s brought Civil War, and mining was a vital industry to the cause.  There are no records of John Corgan, or his sons, being called up for duty.  But the tax records of that era indicate that John remained on the move returning to Hacklebernie, Mauch Chunk Township, by 1864. The Welsh-trained miner earned $1018.00 that year, which earned him the honor of having to pay the IRS. John remained in the Lehigh Coal Company mines to the end of the decade.

Susquehanna River near MoconaquaIn 1870, John Corgan moved north, into the upper anthracite fields, just off the Susquehanna River, in the steep hills around Moconaqua and Shickshinny, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.  His eldest daughter, a coal miner’s widow, helped John tend to his three youngest children as she mothered her own two boys.  The sixty year old father kept working as long as he could, until his children were all grown, with adult lives that would be brighter than his own.  John Corgan was an able miner, but illiterate.  He was thrifty and careful to ensure that his children learned to read and write, to have opportunities, to build resilience and self-reliance.  He died at age sixty-six, on March 30, 1877.  His obituary appeared in the Nesquehoning Items of the Mauch Chunk paper:

Nesquehoning, April 5, 1877

Died at his residence in East (sic) Nanticoke, Mr. John Corgan, aged 68 (sic) years, formerly a resident of Hackelberney (Hacklebernia).  His remains arrived on the 1:30 train on Monday and was interred in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.  His family consists of six sons and six daughters, all grown up persons, who escorted their father’s remains to the grave.

John Corgan’s life represents a story arc repeated in countless families.  He journeyed from the undulating hills of County Carlow, to the coal ridges of Swansea, Wales; across an ocean to the anthracite fields of the Appalachian Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania.  He never saw Leighlin’s Bridge again, or the priest of his parish, the friends from his childhood.  John kept the Welsh spelling of his name throughout his life, a testament to his miner’s education, a pass to a better life for his wife and family. His children’s children lived lives above ground, becoming businessmen, doctors, teachers, clergy, community leaders–a tribute to the grit, determination, and pride of an Irishman.

I am greatly indebted to the genealogists before me, particularly Margaret M. Corgan, author of The Corgan/Corrigan Family, self-published, 1991.  As always, a huge shout out to all archivists responsible for the digital records within Ancestry.com, including the U.S. Federal Census, the US IRS Tax Assessment Lists, and the 1851 Welsh Census.