In 1904, the year this topographical map was drawn, my grandfather Minor, Donald Corbly Minor, was a two year toddler living on the family farm on Ceylon Lane, a tiny road leading out of Whitely, Greene Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania. Today it remains a tiny road, gravel and oiled to keep the dust down. I pass by the old farm house, and remember the trips we made out to these hills when I was just shoulder high to my mom. We walked through cow-nibbled grasses, hunted for old trash pits among the trees, dug up jars to be treasured back home. Topo maps are small snags of information that reflect the part of a community that changes least, its topography. Granddaddy’s hills and streams will remain when the farm’s foundations support vines instead of walls.
Drawn on thin paper discolored to a light blue, the survey map described a distinct parcel of land with corners marked by Black Oak, Water Beech, Limestones, fence posts, stakes, and Hickories. Lines connected the corners and were labeled with surveying code–S37 W 151/2 poles and the like. Unnamed squiggly lines posed as small streams crossing the land, emptying into an unnamed creek boundary. Lines cut the map into pieces; within one rectangle was the name A. Minor, within another the name R. Minor. The outside bore a cryptic “plot of Virginia land 575.”
Five hundred and seventy-five was the amount of land that John P. Minor purchased from James P. Wilson in 1841 and 1842. As I reread those deeds I traced my finger along the lines of this map, and with great excitement realized that I did indeed have a map which depicted the Minor land acquisition of 1841 and 1842 in Harrison County, (West) Virginia!
With that confirmed I could with great certainty know that the bigger stream indicated Simpson’s Creek, and the smaller streams were Limestone Run and Stout’s Run. However, I still didn’t know when this map was created or where this parcel of land was on a current map.
unto the said Abia and Robert Minor their heirs and assigns for ever all that tract or parcel of land situate lying and being in the county of Harrison in the state of Virginia and bounded as follows
The 1849 document transferring a piece of this property to Abia and Robert Minor was never executed. It was as if the boys had given John P. some reason to pause before deeding title. BUT the document gives a surveyor’s description of the considered transaction, and that plot is only the piece labeled R. Minor in this map–a clue that this map was created sometime AFTER 1849. Other documents related to this land include John P. Minor deeding the tract of land labeled here A. Minor to Abia Minor in 1854. Therefore, I conclude that my surveyor’s map was created sometime between the years 1849 and 1854.
The when of the map was closer to being settled at this point, however I was left no closer to understanding where these 575 acres were located. For that I consulted the Federal Census data hoping to track the residences of the young men. My hunch was rewarded with an interesting trail.1840 Abia has a child and wife in Greene County, PA Robert is not listed anywhere 1850 Can’t find either Abia or Robert 1860 Abia is in Moultrie County,Illinois Robert is in Harrison County, Virginia 1870 Abia is in Moultrie County, Illinois Robert is in Harrison County, West Virginia 1880 Abia is in Harper County, Kansas Robert is in Harrison County, West Virginia
If Robert was on that land so long then searching for a map of that 1860-1880 era might yield some clues.
At Historic Map Works I did indeed find such a map–An Atlas of West Virginia, published by D. J. Lake and Company in 1886. This map labeled not just towns and streams, but homes and businesses. I found Robert Minor’s name by a square that sat on a small stream, presumably Stout’s Run, that emptied into Simpson’s Creek north of Bridgeport. Limestone Run had been renamed Barnet’s Run by 1886. With these facts I could look at a Google map with new eyes and locate the ‘Plot Virginia Land 575’.
A mystery is solved, and leaves me with mixed emotions. Now I know where my ancestor once walked; where, finding coal and water and good land for farming, John P. Minor expected to give his sons a great leg up in life. Now I know that today’s parents walk from store to car, and drive home on streets and highways, on top of that land. They too expect to give their sons and daughters a leg up.
**With sixteen passes of the Flip Pal I had successfully scanned the map before me and stitched it together into a seamless jpeg file with the built in Stitch Tool. Flip Pal. LOVE. IT. Check it out here.
In my last post, A Mom’s Goodbye, I began the story of Greene Dodson and his home-leaving to join the Army of the Confederate States of America. Today I continue building proofs which document my family’s lore.
All sorts of paper have been saved by our federal, state and local governments, and while I may groan about filling out the forms today I am sure grateful my ancestors completed theirs. The Confederate’s Citizens File is one such collection of forms and notes, offering proof of services and goods rendered by private citizens and businesses to the Confederate States of America. My search of this data-mine was possible through the entity of Footnote.com through which I pulled up a file on James H Dodson, Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Previous work with Federal census data from the mid-1800’s has confirmed the existence of only one James H Dodson in Mecklenburg County, and therefore this file documents some of the transactions my great-great-grandfather made. Bonanza! for among these records was this scrap:
The search moved to the files of Civil War Soldiers, Company I, 25th Battalion, Virginia Infantry (Richmond Battalion). Upon clicking my cursor I felt a connection so palpable, I could almost talk to my ancestors. In November of 1863, with the war continuing far longer than anyone had ever dreamed, Greene Dodson dropped out of school and traveled the hundred or so miles to Richmond, Virginia, capital of the Confederate States of America. His father accompanied him in order to give his consent, which reads:
Richmond, Virginia Nov 21, 1863
I hereby consent for my son, William G. Dodson, to join and become a member of Capt. Aston’s Co. I 25th Inf Batt. James H Dodson
Witness: W.E. Hitchcock
It appears that someone had written out the text, with James filling in his son’s name, and signing his own name.
Four other documents are included in this file, yielding precious nuggets of information, keystone elements of my family’s story. William Greene Dodson, seventeen years and eight months, stood 5’9″ tall. Greene was light complected with dark hair. His hazel eyes must have burned with earnest bravado as the young farmer signed the enlistment papers for Captain Samuel T. Bayly. Volunteering to serve three years or the duration of the War, my great-great-uncle took the oath of allegiance to the Confederate States of America and its leaders. By the end of the day 25 November 1863 all the forms had been filled out, all the recruitment exams and procedures conducted–William Greene Dodson was a Private with Company I, 25th Battalion Virginia Infantry.
I imagine James and Sarah down home in southside Virginia, pausing during their chores, half expecting to see their son’s lanky frame come ’round a barn door. And then remembering with a mixture of pride and fear that Greene had stepped into being a man, answering a call to duty.
We leave Greene in Richmond, where he is on the List of Recruits, 31 December 1863. There are no further muster cards for this ancestor with this company. I can only speculate at this point what Greene did between December 1863 and 15 April 1864 when he re-enlisted.
Next: The Dodsons of Company B, 34th Regiment Virginia Infantry.