Categories
Minor Surnames Transcriptions

Minor Details: A Pension Certificate, A Letter, & A Curious Descendant

Not long ago a cousin set out on a quest to determine the provenance of a Minor family heirloom–a sword, rumored to have belonged to John Pearson (Pierson) Minor. Some folks suggested to my cousin that the sword must be from the American Revolution.

But J. Pearson Minor was born in 1791, not even a twinkle in his parents’ eyes during the revolution, and his father, Abia (A-bye-ya) did not serve in either a state militia or the Continental army during that period. So the sword is not likely to be from the 18th century.

Family lore had it that Pearson Minor did serve during the War of 1812, and there is evidence to support that story among the contents of The Minor Satchel, a leather case filled with documents, notes, and ledgers that I inherited from my mother, Marilyn, who retrieved it from the attic of the Whiteley (PA) Home Farm before it was sold in the 1970s.

The Evidence

After the Civil War, Congress passed the Act of February 14, 1871 to establish a monthly pension for elderly, infirmed veterans who had served at least 60 days during the war with Britain in 1812-1815. An attorney acting on my great-great-great-grandfather’s behalf filed an application. On March 15, 1872 J. Jackson Purman wrote from his Waynesburg (PA) office:

Pearson Minor, Esq:

Dear Sir-I have at last succeeded in getting your claim adjusted and a Certificate issued, which has been sent to your Post Office. Along with the Certificate you will find certain other papers, which you are to sign and have witnessed, and be sworn to, and upon these being sent to the agent, who pays the money at Pittsburg, you will receive your Pension. As these papers require great care in their execution, you had better come up to Waynesburg to execute them if you are able. If you are not able, go before your nearest squire and execute them. The Certificate you will keep in your own possession- You need not trouble yourself about any fee, as I will receive my fee from the Government.

Yours Sincerely,

J. Jackson Purman

Included in this set of papers is Form No. 26 from the Department of the Interior, Pension Office, Washington D. C. An office clerk used a black ink pen to fill in the pension certificate number ________

13669

and the pension agency _________________ charged with making the $8 a month payment

Pittsburgh

At the bottom of the page, the worker wrote the name of the pensioner

To Pearson Minor, Whiteley, Green Co. Pa.

and stamped the Commissioner’s name, J. H. Baker, before putting the one page document into a Department of the Interior official envelope and hand addressing it to Pearson Minor. This notification left Washington, D.C. on March 12.

PENNSYLVANIA, Plate 14 from Mathew Carey’s General Atlas, Philadelphia 1814. Digitally accessed at 1810’s Pennsylvania Maps (http://www.mapsofpa.com/antiquemaps31.htm), 14 Nov 2021.

In addition to government form No. 26, the “Pension Papers” contain a voucher from 1872 and another from 1874; an envelope from the Pittsburgh Pension Agent, James McGregor, that once contained a voucher; and the most important document of all–THE pension certificate #13669.


Transcription:

Department of the Interior

War of 1812–Survivor’s Pension

I certify that in conformity with the Law of the United States, approved February 14, 1871, Pearson Minor, late a Corpl (Corporal) of Captain T. J. Seeley’s Company Pa Militia is inscribed on the Pension List Roll of the Pittsburg (sic) Penna, Agency, at the rate of eight dollars per month , to commence on the fourteenth day of February, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one. No sale, transfer, or mortgage of any description whatever, of the whole or any part of the pension payable in virtue of this certificate , is of any legal or binding force against either the pensioner or the United States.

Given at the Department of the Interior, this 9th day of March, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-two,


Back to the heirloom sword

My cousin received the sword from his father, my uncle and great-great-grandson of J. Pearson Minor. These documents strongly suggest that the sword was used by our patriarch during the War of 1812 when he served as a corporal with Captain T. J. Seeley’s Pennsylvania Volunteers, just as family lore suggested.

What remains a mystery is more about the pension, itself. Why did Pearson need a pension when he had hundreds of acres of land, and a son with whom he lived. On the surface it would seem that the Minors had the assets and labor necessary to care for Pearson, even if he was an infirmed, eighty-one year old.

Those bits of data–and perhaps more information about Minor’s military life–could be in the pension application itself, a document that resides in the National Archives, Washington, D. C. on microfilm M313, Department of Veteran Affairs, Record Group #15.

Yes. You guessed it. I have submitted a request for a copy of this record and eagerly await an archivist’s reply.

More Minor Details to come.


Source:

Minor, John Pearson (Pierson) Minor (Whiteley, Greene County, PA). Pension Certificate #13669 and assorted documents, 9 March 1872. Privately held by D. Kay Strickland, [address for private use] Pennsylvania, 2021.

Categories
Bradford Minor Photographs and Memories

Meet You Under The Tent

CHAUTAUQUA TENT WILL RISE TODAY

Performer with Red Path Chautauqua, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1929

During the early decades of the twentieth century, the arrival of the big brown tent was the highlight of a town’s summer.  Under the canvas roof, large crowds would gather for a week’s worth of entertainment and education.  The Redpath Circuit Chautauqua was part vaudeville show, part educational lecture series, and at its height in the 1920s the performers and lecturers appeared in over 10,000 communities in 45 states.  Crowds, far from the cultural benefits of metropolitan areas, were thus able to hear Broadway hits, watch classic plays, and learn about the social and political ideas of the day.  For many Americans the Circuit Chautauqua was an important factor in molding the very character of the nation.

CHAUTAUQUA TO HAVE JUNIOR TOWN

Junior Town, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1929, supervised by Kerma P. Bradford
Junior Town, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, 1929, supervised by Kerma P. Bradford

The chautauqua wasn’t only for adults.  Thousands of children had their cultural horizons expanded through programming just for them, and for hundreds of young women, the job of supervising the children’s programs offered an opportunity to work and travel. One such lucky lady was my grandmother, Kerma Pauline Bradford.  In the summers of 1928 and 1929, Kerma left her hometown, Coshocton, Ohio, to set up Junior Town in a circuit that included Canton and Masillon, Ohio, and Greene County, Pennsylvania. In each community, Kerma met with the youngsters, ticket holders all, at nine o’clock the first day of chautauqua.

Kerma Bradford, Junior Town supervisor, with Bill Slater, superintendent of Red Path Chautauqua, 1929
Kerma Bradford, Junior Town supervisor, with Bill Slater, superintendent of Red Path Chautauqua, 1929

From among the assembled kids, ten boys and girls were elected to the Junior Town Council, which was then charged with assisting Miss Bradford.  Every day the Junior Chautauqua would meet from nine until noon, to play games, listen to stories, take hikes, and, most importantly, prepare the week’s project–a minstrel show or pageant–which was performed during the last day, for the entire chautauqua. 

In 1929, Kerma Bradford traveled to Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, where she reported to the Big Brown Tent each morning from her room in the Wisecarver House.  Beyond her duties to Junior Town, Kerma had time for friendships, and time for romance. When the Junior Town supervisor returned to Coshocton that fall, she had many stories to recall to her kindergarten students, including the memory of a certain young man, future husband, Donald Minor.

Photographs from the Marilyn Minor Collection, archived with the author.

For more interesting chautauqua tidbits:

The Evening Repository (Canton), “Woman Directs Chatauqua Event,” August 12, 1928. http://www.genealogybank.com (accessed January 12, 2014).

The Evening Repository (Canton), “Chautauqua To Have Junior Town,” July 31, 1928.  http://www.genealogybank.com (accessed January 12, 2014).

Canning Charlotte, The Most American Thing in America: Circuit Chautauqua as Performance.  University of Iowa Press: Iowa City. 2005.

The Redpath Chautauqua Collection, University of Iowa digital collection: http://www.sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/traveling-culture/inventory/msc150.html.

Categories
Minor Surnames

Serendipity Surrounds a Secret: Madness Monday

Family Secrets Lurking 1.0

Family Secrets Lurking 2.0

Serendipity Surrounds a Secret

My mother’s family was a well-to-do farming clan – the Minors of Greene County.  Cattle and stock dealers for generations, the family groups had accumulated hundreds of acres of hilly land in southwestern Pennsylvania  by the turn of the twentieth century when the bituminous Pittsburgh coal vein prompted a speculative race. Around 1905 the rights to that black gold were sold, by some accounts for up to $600 per acre, and the Francis Marion Minor family was suddenly land AND cash rich.  In spite of the opportunities afforded the prosperous, my great-grandfather, Robert Minor, suffered from horrible headaches and melancholy, traveling throughout his life from health resort to health resort seeking relief .  I haven’t been able to pinpoint a reason for his brooding.  Some secret lurks within family lore.  It hangs over other stories like the fog lingering over the Susquehanna River even as the rest of the Wyoming Valley clears to reveal its broad plain, mountain ridges and blue dome sky.

Last week I stepped away from the shroud to gain perspective, re-searching the family patriarch in case some new record or paper had been digitalized.

John P. Minor + cattle

Among the google-returned items was a newspaper article from 1908.  My great-great-great-grandfather Minor died in 1874.  But. . . . If an article catches my interest, I read first and judge relevance later.  Suddenly this unexpected detail poked through the family fog:

  • A quick review of the family register confirmed that THIS John P. Minor was the eldest brother of my great-grandfather, Robert Minor.  John Minor had married Elizabeth Garard, and they had one child, Ira, who died December 12, 1908.
  • A further newspaper search at the Library of Congress Chronicling America yielded multiple accounts of the bank’s failure in 1906 – and of this young man’s suicide.  Mr. Rinehart was convicted in January of 1909 for stealing funds from the bank and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
  • The postcards which document my great-grandfather’s descent into headaches and melancholy were postmarked 1910.
  • After rereading my Minor documents of that era, I am not convinced that the fortune mentioned in the article was that of John P. Minor alone, but perhaps that of the entire FM Minor clan.  Even so, the $500,000 dollars would have been the equivalent of $12,000,000 dollars in 2009. Losing half of that sum would have resulted in the family being worth “only” $6 million dollars, with the economic clout of someone with $131 million dollars in 2009.  *¹  Split among four families, that is still a grand fortune, by my book.

Did the Minor family have a predisposition to brooding, melancholy, headaches, and other “nervous ailments” and was my great-grandfather’s depression caused by this bank failure or by the family crisis that came in its wake?  Why did Robert Minor continue to suffer?  And what ever happened to all of that money?

Perhaps I will never really know the true nature of the secret, or be privy to the knowledge that hurt this family so deeply.  This genealogical serendipity surrounds my secret, however, helping to define its edges and contain its outline.  At the very least, I know that there really was a family fortune, that there really was family tragedy and that at least some members of the family – like Robert Minor – had difficulty coping.

The secret is by my side now, not lurking in a corner driving me mad.

*¹ The website Measuring Worth is extremely helpful in calculating the relative worth of the U. S. Dollar, from 1774- the present.