Hanging on the Edge of Winter

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The temperatures dipped below 20* F last night at Francis Slocum State Park (PA) and the marsh this morning was edged in ice.  Green is peeking out, though, and hope for spring’s permanent arrival live on!!

 

The Union of Martin Corrigan and Mary Walker: Throwback Thursday

The United States was teetering on the brink of civil war as Mary Walker of Tamaqua (PA) made plans for her union with Ebervale (PA) coal miner Martin Corrigan.  President Abraham Lincoln spent the Easter season contemplating the resupply of Fort Sumter. Mary and Martin completed the final details for their marriage.

On Easter morning, 31 March 1861, Mary traipsed up the mountain from Tamaqua to the region’s main Irish Catholic church in Beaver Meadows.  In all likelihood Mary was accompanied by her mother, Ellen, and sisters, Anne and Ellen, each taking a turn carrying the dress in which the Irish immigrant was to exchange vows.  Meanwhile, Martin, himself a recent Irish immigrant, hurried to put the finishing touches on his wedding attire, borrowing a vest and dress overcoat to spruce up his outfit.

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Colton’s Map Of Pennsylvania, 1859

Though St. Gabriel’s Church existed in Hazleton and was most likely the Corrigans’ home church, Martin and his entourage traveled to the diocese’s main church, St. Mary’s, to rendezvous with the Walkers.  Within the celebration of the high holy day of Easter, Martin and Mary were united in marriage by the Reverend Father Scanlon.  Afterward the young couple posed for a photograph, to capture in perpetuity the beginning  of the Corrigan-Walker partnership.

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Martin and Mary Walker Corrigan on their wedding day, Easter Sunday, March 31, 1861 St. Mary’s Church, Beaver Meadows, PA

 

Sources:

Family Genealogical Record, Ida May Corrigan, 26 Dec 1903. Hand written original. Corrigan Collection with author.

Map 1859 COLTON’S PENNSYLVANIA. Published by Johnson & Browning, 172 William St. New York: accessed online at http://www.mapsofpa.com/antiquemaps35.htm.

Photographic copy of original carte de visite, inscribed on back by Mary Corrigan Delehanty. Corrigan Collection with author.

 

Miscellaneous sources such as census data and obituaries of Martin Corrigan and Mary Walker. Author’s notes available upon request.

 

Falling

Image

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The Impeded Stream

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The impeded stream is the one that sings. ~ Wendell Berry

 

 

Fences Are For White Folks

This illustrated envelope dates from the 1860s. Depicting a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and accompanied by a poem, the iconography prominently features “The Fence that Uncle Abe built.” From the U.S. Civil War Papers, ca. 1850-1917. Box 7. Columbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

This illustrated envelope dates from the 1860s. Depicting a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and accompanied by a poem, the iconography prominently features “The Fence that Uncle Abe built.”
From the U.S. Civil War Papers, ca. 1850-1917. Box 7. Columbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

I am currently enrolled in a MOOC, HIST1.1x The Civil War and Reconstruction – 1850-1861, taught by respected historian, Eric Foner.  Each week our online student body analyzes a primary resource, an activity I enjoy immensely. This week’s challenge was the above envelope.  Who was the audience for this 1860s product?  What message was it trying to convey?  How did it reflect the symbolism and policies of the nascent Republican party?

so I posted:

Last year, when I took the course the first time, I am sure that I saw a clear appeal to the demographic that embraced free labor in an expanding country. Now, all I can see is an appeal to white men, who had the privilege of dreaming about being their own boss, marking their own territory, building their own factory/workshop. Blacks, enslaved or free, and Asian immigrants didn’t have the opportunity to set up boundaries, either physical or mental. Indigenous peoples measured territory and property with a whole different paradigm. The nascent Republican party was appealing to the common man, as long as he was white. The economic and cultural revolutions may have broadened the concept of “good” labor, but the political system was still attempting to reinforce white supremacy.

The discussion that followed had me return, reflect, and drill down into the free labor/free soil ideology, a fascinating and confusing exercise that only got productive when I harnessed my roaming mind to my own family history.

I can say with reasonable certainty, that my cattle drover ancestor, John Pearson Minor, regarded land as the ultimate asset, not only for the stock that could be raised on top of it and sold to expanding markets but also for the coal, salt, and other mineral resources beneath it that could be mined and sold to expanding markets. From his base in Southwestern Pennsylvania he speculated in land in what became West Virginia, Illinois, and Iowa. Extended family swept westward through this free soil era as well.

Letters reveal that the free labor concept of “work hard and rise to the top” was a core piece of this westward impulsion. Other documents indicate that these same people aligned themselves with the Democratic party. Republicans may well have captured the votes of some of this crowd, but only in as much as the Republican-defined property rights aligned with their own self interest. And that self-interest was what white men could define, legally describe, control, and profit from.

In as much as enslavers demeaned the very work that such cattlemen/farmers/entrepreneurs conducted, I speculate that my ancestors viewed slaveowners with contempt, and the ultimate insult would be to not acknowledge their social structure, the cornerstone of which was human chattel. And Native Americans worked from a whole different paradigm regarding property and community with a degree of stewardship of resources that was alien to the white, Protestant mind.

This one branch of my family demonstrated that an American could be an advocate of free labor and agitate for “free” or deeply discounted soil, and yet remain committed to a hierarchical, racist social structure, that codified a particular definition of property–fenced in by white folks.