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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.

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Minor Surnames Transcriptions

Transcription: A Letter Home-Abia Minor

Abia Minor was born in Greene County, Pennsylvania in about 1815, the son of stock drover John Pierson Minor and his first wife, Hannah McClelland. As a young man Abia (a-bye-ya) followed his family’s tradition, bought and farmed land near the town of Bridgeville in what was then western Virginia. But he had aspirations that went beyond the Appalachian Mountains. By the early 1850s, Abia had purchased land in Moultrie County, Illinois with clear intentions of resettling there. That dream was deferred a bit by the death of his first wife, Elizabeth Thompson, and his remarriage to Harriet Ballard. Before the decade turned and civil unrest upended the nation, Abia and Harriet relocated to Township 14 N Range 6 E, Moultrie County, Illinois. The family farmed this Jonathan Creek land until emigrating to Harper County, Kansas in 1878, where Abia lived until his death eleven years later.


This letter, with its long, run-on sentences, was written to Abia’s Pennsylvania parents during that Jonathan Creek period, sometime after 1858 but before his step-mother, Isabelle, died in 1863. I read ancestors’ notes out loud to my dog–hearing the words makes the distance between past and present smaller. Since Abia wrote with NO PUNCTUATION, to clue you all in I transcribed the letter with spacing matching my breath, so reading Abia’s 159 year old words is more conversational.

The first two pages have been lost, so we begin Abia’s letter to J. Pearson and Isabella Minor on

Page 3

…Tell him to go out and look not to make it all talk

it has been awful cold here this winter otherwise it has been a fine winter or we would think it so if we had our usual crop for it has been dry all winter and better roads I never saw

good sledding for 3 or 4 weeks but the snow is gone now only where it drifted I have yet 160 rods along my fence that 30 feet wide and was between 4 and 5 feet deep but it has settled down to about 3 feet

the weather has been fine winter weather ever since the cold storm was over which only lasted 2 days

you wrote that you had been in Ohio this winter I wish you could have came out to see us I would like to come to se (sic) you and Thank you for you (sic) generous offer but I canot (sic) come this winter Polk is in Woodford Co going to school and I have to stay close to home

John is of age and wants to be doing for himself talks of going away this spring

I want to put a corn crop for I think we will raise good crop next year and I am trying to make some more fence so I can keep some stack without so mutch (sic) trouble in winter

Isabel [perhaps his sister] got home on sunday after she started they were detained by not making the connection and it cost her 21 dollars and some few ctz (sic) She will write to you and send her letter with this you said you would send her saddle and some flannel for me a warm (?) that would be quite a present to me for sutch (sic) flannel is hard to get here and if you send it box them in a light box and send them from any point on the railroad or if any one was coming out you could put them in a trunk and they can bring them through for nothing but if you send them out by railroad direct them to

Abia Minor

Mattoon*

Coles Co

Illinois

And take a receipt from the _ldier agent for them and send it to me by mail

please write to me as soon as you get this and I would like to have mothers likeness which you can have taken and send it in a letter and Isabel says you have yours taken on horseback I wish you would send me a coppy (sic) of it it can be taken on paper or leather and sent in a letter

give my respects to all my brothers and sisters

tell them to write to me and I will answer their letters and feel very thankful beside with the above I remain yours truly

Abia Minor

*Mattoon was 15-17 miles from the Jonathan Creek property, a town created by the intersection of the Illinois Central, the Terre Haute, and the Alton Railroads.

**Per the 1860 Federal Census, Abia wrote this letter while his at-home family included: second wife, Harriet, teenage sons John C and James, teenage daughters Permilia and Margaret, young Minerva, and very young William and Mary O.

Source:

Minor, Abia (Moultrie County, Illinois) to father [J. Pearson Minor]. Letter. undated, presumed between late 1850s and 1863. Privately held by D. Kay Strickland, [address for private use] Pennsylvania. 2021.

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Sayles Surnames

Amanuensis: A Letter from Ira Sayles to brother James K. Sayles, 1869

Rushford, Allg. Co., N.Y., Saturday, July 24, 1869

My Dear Brother, James,

Yours of the 18 inst[ant] came to hand, last evening. I need not say I was somewhat surprised: for I had lost all trace of you. My last to you was directed to La Porte, and was never answered. I received a paper published at Austin, Minn., sometime last summer, a year ago. Your name was on it, and I supposed you sent it. This was all the clue I had to your whereabouts. I could not discover where that was mailed. So I supposed you would rather I should not know. Of course I was quiet. I am glad to receive a line now.

Since I wrote to you, my matters have run along in the usual track. My year’s expenses devoured my year’s salary, and left me as poor, today, as one year ago today.

Serena does not dispose of much of her landed property, though of some. She is moving to sell her Alfred property, house and all, for six thousand. It ought to bring ten thousand. She wanted me to invest her means in Virginia lands. Then she though she didn’t dare trust me alone, so she went with me. It was exceedingly warm; and I suspect she will not go again very soon.

I could get and make a splendid home there, at a very low price. But it is all of no use. The means of making such a home are hers. Where she says invest, there investment will be made, or nowhere.

Loren is in East Boston, I suppose. He has twice inquired of me for you. I could not tell. The matter has rested.

I am again engaged in this school, for another year. So you will know where I may be found.

This season has been a very unfavorable one for corn with us; but wheat has done well. Grass has a heavy growth, but the weather for haymaking is tremendous. No one can guess what hour may rain like Noah’s flood. These rains are frequently cold as April rains.

We are all very well. I have not recently heard from any of our brothers and sisters.

My respects to Lucinda and Anna.

Very truly
Your Brother
Ira

Source:

Letter from Ira Sayles to James K. Sayles, 1869, from the Sayles Family Collection, privately held by Sharon Babcock (address for private use); transcribed by Kay Strickland 25 February 2019.

Ira Sayles (1817-1894) was the author's great-great-grandfather.
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Sayles Surnames

A[nother] Letter from Ira Sayles

Updated 23 February 2019

IN 1884 Ira Sayles, 1817-1894, wrote a letter to his friend Edwin B. Hall of Wellsville, New York. My great-great-grandfather could have been writing from Ithaca, New York or from Washington, D.C., in between field trips for the United States Geological Survey. He could have been writing on site in Tennessee or Virginia or Vermont, after a day’s work collecting paleontological specimens. Though Hall was also a renowned amateur paleontologist, in this note Ira dwells on his aspirations rather than fossils.

While the first page is missing, it is possible to discern that Hall and Sayles were in dialogue about life’s value and one’s hopes. Ira says, ” The whole scope of our natural activities must be met, grasped, and guided by a master-hand.”

Ira proceeds to lay out his plan for a home, to be established on public land out West, where he could retire and live with others who practice the principles that he teaches. “My home shall be the home of such and of such only as wish to live the life that I teach…[I]t will be to me as the beginning of my life anew–a life with a purpose humble, but deep as the Eternal Fountain whence it draws its inspiration.”

Ira Sayles aspired to build a utopian community, or so it appears. As Ira was a prolific letter-writer, I am certain to flesh out Ira’s “principles” as I take a new look at old files.

This letter contains clues worthy of pursuit. And after a fresh take I can answer a few questions.

Why did Ira claim that he had never had a home of his own?

Ira lived in his parents’ home, with siblings, in Alfred College dorms and in residences that his wife’s money purchased. He rented hotel rooms and apartments, stayed in boarding houses, and visited his estranged wife on the farm that she owned. A recurring theme for Ira, “home” as something he purchased and constructed in accordance with his values and principles eluded the man throughout his life. His search for status and belonging makes for a poignant story.

What happened in 1880 that led Ira to feel healthier, more fit?

This question requires more research. And luck.

What happened in 1883 that contributed to Ira’s financial security?

While serving as Secretary of the Interior (1882-1885), Henry M. Teller appointed his former Rushford (NY) Academy principal and teacher Ira Sayles to the newly formed United States Geological Survey. Ira was then able to have a steady income from work that centered his scientific interest in geology. Ira’s field work yielded rock and fossil specimens from the Appalachian strata from Tennessee to Vermont before illness forced the elderly paleontologist to resign in 1892.

Did Ira ever go West? If so, where did he travel, how long did he stay, with whom did he live?

Ira finally went west…in 1892, after suffering a stroke the previous fall and some sort of “attack” that forced him into a Washington, D.C. hospital for a few days in February 1892.

By March 11, Ira had crossed the country to Greensburg, Kansas where he intended to make a home with his brother, Loren Sayles. No description of his four month visit has surfaced, but it is clear that health played a part in Ira’s return to Washington, D.C. where he made application for a military pension on August 2 based on general debility. The story of what followed his return to the East deserves a post of its own.

Home.

There is no place like home.

Ira wandered like a stray puppy looking for his home, to the end.

Source:

Letter from Ira Sayles to EB Hall, 1884. From the Edwin B Hall Family Collection, privately held by Jay Woelfel, [address for private use.] Transcribed by D. Kay Strickland December 2018.  

Letter. Sayles, Ira to EB Hall. 1884.transcription. images 1,2,3.

Newspapers.com – Kiowa County Signal – 11 Mar 1892 – Page Page 1

 Newspapers.com – The Olean Democrat – 5 Jun 1883 – Page Page 6

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.