Sometime between 1888 and 1890, my great-grandfather, Robert Minor, strolled into the photographic studio of Thomas W. Rogers (Carmichaels, PA) and struck a pose. He wore a well-ironed wool suit, the jacket buttoned so high that the full Windsor knot is all one sees of his dapper tie. His eyes belie the confident stance–Robert is on the cusp of adulthood, almost ready to marry, almost ready to manage the family farm. Almost.
Little wonder that his mother, Mary Jane Minor, included this moment in time within the pages of the Minor Family Album.
Mary Jane Minor left no diary, no ledger, no written clues about her daily life, but she did include a photograph of her preacher, Charles W. Tilton, in the Minor Family Album. If this cabinet card, this tangible thing, is an entry point into my great-great-grandmother’s life, where can I go? What intersections existed between the lives of a Baptist minister and a mother of four? What values shaped their lives and structured their days? I wonder…
“Mama, Pastor Tilton is calling us in!”
A table top–thirty feet long–was covered entirely with cakes, flower bouquets, and fall fruits. Twelve year old Sarah jiggled Bobby on her left hip as she snuck a grape from this Sabbath School Festival picnic. Mary Jane tucked one more stem of goldenrod between fern fronds before reaching out to her baby’s pudgy embrace. A final glance at her arrangement left the mother satisfied, and the slim figure joined the lines of children, teens, parents, and elders now flowing into the red brick sanctuary of Goshen Baptist Church.
Reverend Charles Tilton began, “From the book of Proverbs, chapter one.”
“To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgement, and equity…A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels…”
Wiggling free of his mother’s arms, the one year old slid to the floor where he sat and wailed, strands of hair stuck to his red face. With a sigh the forty year old scooped baby Robert up and quietly snuck out to a quiet spot within earshot of the preacher’s voice.
“…Know the value of this Sabbath School, assembled here today, which inculcates in our young people morality and uprightness…”
At the sermon’s close, the Baptist minister invited each child to come forward to receive their prize for completed work. Murmurs of approval followed the footsteps to the pulpit. At last Pastor Tilton recognized the student who had memorized the most Bible verses. Mary Jane allowed a small smile of pride at her Sarah’s name. A pocket-sized Bible would be a treasured addition to the girl’s night table.
Gradually Bobby’s nursing slowed, and his arms splayed softly open to embrace his dreams. Mary Jane rocked back and forth, a metronome to the hymn now drifting out the open windows.
“Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky, sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly. Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee. Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.”
William Hanna, The History of Greene County, Pennsylvania: Containing an Outline of the State from 1682 until the Formation of Washington County in 1781 (1882; image reprint, Internet Archives: https://archive.org/details/historyofgreenec00hann), 213.
“Religious Revivals,” The Washington (Pennsylvania) Review and Examiner, 2 February 1866, p.3; digital images, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 29 July 2014), Newspaper Archives.
“Sabbath School Festival,” The Washington (Pennsylvania) Reporter, 13 October 1869, p.1; digital images, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com: accessed 29 July 2014), Newspaper Archives.
“Tenmile, (Pa.,) Baptist Association,” The Wheeling (West Virginia) Daily Intelligencer, 26 September 1873, p.3, col. 1; digital images, ChoniclingAmerica.loc.gov (http://www.chroniclingamerica.loc.gov: accessed 6 August 2014), Historic American Newspapers.
The tooled leather volume resembles a family bible, ornamented by the addition of a bronze latch. The heavy cardstock pages are cut out in the middle allowing for two cabinet cards to be displayed, back to back. A thick gold line frames each photograph. Buckled into the Minor Album are twenty-eight portraits taken between 1860-1900.
JUST WHAT DO I HAVE HERE?
THIS is the title page. Gorgeous!! Right?
MEH. I want story. Story comes from details.
Let’s start with the known. The album was recovered by my mother from the attic of the farmhouse in which she grew up. In which her father grew up. In which her grandfather and his father grew up. From the attic of the Minor Home Farm on Ceylon Lane, purchased by John Pearson Minor circa 1830. Just who, then, might have purchased the album and slipped the cabinet cards into place?
She did it.
My mother’s father’s grandmother, Mary Jane Gwynne Minor.
Women of the Victorian era were associated with the collection of family memorabilia and its display; photograph albums were part of this creative work. Mary Jane was the woman of Ceylon Lane, the mom of the Minor Home Farm, during the period that this album was filled.
This hypothesis has been strengthened by my work comparing other labeled photographs in my collection with those that I am finding inside the album. I have identified several images as members of the Mary Jane and Francis Marion Minor Family.
My sleuthing adventures begin with this hypothesis–the cabinet cards of the Minor Family Album belonged to Mary Jane and Marion Minor, and represent members of their immediate and extended family.
With my trusty Flip Pal scanner, I captured this image of a family heirloom. The photograph is snugly framed, with a sturdily nailed backing that I didn’t want to disturb. So I did the best I could and scanned from on top of the glass. The image will be useful in identifying other photographs that my mother is letting me take home, since we know the identities of these folks.
Seated are my great-great grandparents, Mary Jane Gwynn and Francis Marion Minor. The little boy standing to their left is my great-grandfather, Robert Minor. Standing behind the trio are the older children – Sarah Priscilla, John Pierson and Olfred Minor. I know that Robert was born in 1869, and he looks to be about 5 or 6 here; T W Rogers of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania took this photograph sometime in the mid-1870s then.
Project 150 is a series of Civil War posts that, taken together, will tell the story of my family’s life choices during the years of rebellion. Sources used for today’s post include privately held family documents, a Wiki article on the election and the Federal 1860 census accessed at ancestry.com.
My great-great-grandparents, F. Marion and Mary Jane Gwynn Minor, woke up each day of 1861 inside a farmhouse on Ceylon Lane. Each night they tucked their three children, John (age 9), Olfred (age 6) and Sarah (age 3), into bed. When they attended Goshen Baptist Church in the nearby village of Garard’s Fort, Marion and Mary Jane drove past brother Samuel Minor‘s family home. Driving to the nearest town, Carmichaels, took the couple past the homes of Marion’s parents, John P. and Isabella McClelland Minor, and his sister, Isabella Minor and Hugh Keenan. The families were four of the ninety-eight that called Greene Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania home.
Within its sixteen square miles, the township had 134 women housekeeping and keeping all that was in the house – the stories, the children, the meals, the cleaning, the mending, the tending, the healing. The hills also sheltered 105 farmers and day laborers, 5 shoemakers, 4 carpenters,3 merchants, 2 clerks, 3 seamstresses, 2 millers, 2 stonemasons, 2 stonecutters, 2 washerwomen, a shinglemaker, a chairmaker, a cattle drover, a physician, a blacksmith, and a coal miner. All but two families were white, and all but twelve residents were born in Pennsylvania. Most everyone could read and write. The township’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of the merchants and three farming families: the Lantzes, the Gerards and the clan of John P. and Isabella Minor.
John Pierson (Pearson) subscribed to the Waynesburg Messenger, an instrument of the Democratic Party. Shared among the extended family, the pages were no doubt well thumbed; the articles frequent sources of conversation and debate. Greene County voters had handed the county to the pro-slavery Southern Democrat, John C. Breckinridge, in the 1860 election.
As the country staggered toward dissolution in 1861, Marion bought twelve head of cattle from Philip Wolf for $140, and another three for $25. A bit later he purchased one from John Ramer for $24.20. As Abraham Lincoln settled into the White House, F. Marion bought ten more head at $60.
Throughout the summer of 1861, as volunteers formed companies and regiments and brigades, the Minors of Ceylon Lane farmed on. Walnut and oak trees were felled for logs, planks and rafters; stable flooring, joists, and sills. Stables were built, homes repaired; livestock bought, fed and sold. Into the fall the family farmed. John P. purchased 50 bushels of coal for $5. John P. Junior and Olfred probably climbed the hill to the family schoolhouse when they could, and climbed trees to shake out nuts when they were asked.
As the days folded into long nights, the Minor business of tending children and raising cattle continued to thrive.
December the 24th 1861
This is to certify that I, Elias Slocum, waid for TB Martin and Dan Shore 42 hed of cattel sold to Pearson Minor the cattel was in a fair condition to when waid.
Elias Slocum, way master
On December 30, 1861 John P. Minor made one last entry in his business ledger: Lindsey paid me $487.00.