When I created Minerd.com in the early months of 2000, I figured it would take several years to complete. Now, fully into our ninth year of activity, I am adding content regularly, with no end in sight. What a rush – a voyage of continuing discoveries about the lives and activities of thousands of branches of our sprawling family tree.
This past year has been a whirlwind, exceeding my expectations for supporting the Pittsburgh 250 celebration, promoting our large annual reunion, serving as a base for new research and as a gallery for rare family photographs, and – above all – helping cousins connect with their family heritage. Frankly, I cannot imagine another year with as much activity and public exposure for Minerd.com as in 2008.
Thank you to all who made contact with me in 2008 and have shared something of your family branch for this website. Since May 2000, when this website was launched, more than 730 cousins and other newfound friends have made first-time contact via email. I am moved by your interest and kindness.
~ Celebrating "Pittsburgh 250" and Our Annual National Reunion ~
One of the most publicized stories in Pittsburgh the past year has been the 250th birthday of the city and surrounding region. We actively helped celebrate this milestone by hosting more than 115 cousins for a three-day reunion weekend in June. For many attendees, this was their first visit to Pittsburgh, and they only came because of the lure of ancient family connections. Our primary event was held in the Senator John Heinz History Center, affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. Guests were treated to remarks by History Center CEO Andy Masich and Pittsburgh 250 Executive Director Bill Flanagan, as well the unveiling of a photo-memorial to cousin Erick Foster, killed serving our nation in Iraq in 2007. Click for more.
Seen at left, I extend my warm appreciation to Masich -- a Pittsburgh 250 leader -- for providing an outstanding facility. At right, sisters Jane Nusz (left) and Joan Geers display a photograph of their great- grandparents, Oklahoma pioneers James R. and Lydia (Miner) Brown. Joan and Jane, and their two sisters and parents, who today reside in Oklahoma and Texas, were the first members of their branch of our clan to return to the Pittsburgh region for a family event since their ancient ancestors left here in 1812. Many thanks to the financial support provided by our corporate sponsors owned and operated by our cousins -- Kellner's Fireworks, FairPlay and Mark Miner Communications, LLC.
Because of Minerd.com’s role of educating tens of thousands of extended cousins that their ancient roots are in regional Pittsburgh, our website displayed the prominent Pittsburgh 250 logo all year, and the "Photo of the Month" displayed images of Pittsburgh regional activities. Thanks to cousins in Fort Wayne, IN, old letters came to light, written by cousin Corwin D. Tilbury, who served on Pittsburgh’s City Council during the city’s 150th birthday in 1908. To see what Pittsburgh looked like in 1908, I created a webpage featuring "Pittsburgh 150" filled with old postcards and other rare images of the city.
~ Custer Connection ~
The Minerd.com story about Thomas C. "Tommy" Custer, the son of Capt. Thomas Ward Custer and Rebecca Minerd, and nephew of General George Armstrong Custer, continues to fascinate Civil War buffs and Little Big Horn enthusiasts today. The Custer pages on our website remain among the most popular pages of all throughout the year as the story about Tommy -- born out of wedlock and only five years old when his famous father and uncle were killed at Little Big Horn -- becomes more widely accepted and mainstream.
Seen at left, Tommy's father, two-time Medal of Honor winner Thomas Ward Custer.
In August, I was honored to help dedicate an Ohio Historical Society plaque honoring the Custer Homestead in Tontogany, Wood County, OH. As well, I was humbled to receive invitations to give my Tommy Custer powerpoint presentation at meetings of Civil War Round Table chapters in Erie and Butler, PA. The Little Big Horn Associates, a national organization preserving the legacy of General Custer and his family, has played a huge supporting role. In particular, I would like to thank LBHA board director Joan Croy for her ongoing enthusiasm and encouragement.
~ Reprinting the Old Younkin Family News Bulletin ~
In 2008, Minerd.com re-published all eight editions of the Younkin Family News Bulletin in an attractive booklet for cousins to enjoy, and to deposit in public libraries all throughout Western Pennsylvania. The YFNB was a unique newspaper devoted to the pioneer Younkin-Junghen family, which intermarried extensively into the Minerd-Miner clan. (We know of a dozen such marriages before 1900 -- click for details.)
It was published between 1937 and 1941and distributed nationwide in conjunction with the Younkin National Home-coming Reunion held in Kingwood, Somerset County, PA. The publisher was reunion secretary Charles Arthur Younkin of Charleroi, PA and reunion president Otto Roosevelt Younkin of Masontown, PA. During its height in the mid-1930s, the reunion drew more than 1,000 annually, until waning interest and World War II caused its demise.
The first copy I saw was in 1986. It had been photocopied in sections from someone’s original. The late Jane McNeill of Onawa, IA urged me to find the original publisher. It was clear that more than one issue had been published. But how many in total? Fortunately, in 1991, after 50 years of inactivity, the Younkin-Junghen Reunion was revived by Donna (Younkin) Logan who shared a great interest in the newspapers. Then, in 1998, after cousin Diana (Younkin) Egan had formed the Younkin Reunion-West in Oregon, I saw all eight originals, displayed end to end on a table by the late Merrill V. Younkin of Edmonds, WA, and his cousin Paul. The untimely passing in 2006 of East/West reunion organizers Donna Logan and Diana Egan was the final inspiration to get this long overdue task done. Click for more.
~ Honoring the Forgotten Mountain-Poet, Allen Harbaugh ~
In May, fulfilling a longtime wish of his granddaughters, a grave marker was placed in the cemetery of the Indian Creek Baptist Church in Mill Run, Fayette County, PA, honoring the "Mountain Poet," Allen Edward Harbaugh, and his wife Margaret. It was my great privilege to help coordinate this effort to pay tribute to a talented but largely forgotten renaissance man of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Harbaugh's genealogy of the Minerds has been critical to our understanding of the early generations in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio.
The grave marker was intentionally selected for its unusual shape, and its top edge gently slopes to a point, symbolizing the uniqueness of the man and the mountains he loved so well. We hope to have a formal dedication at the cemetery in the spring of 2009.
Harbaugh, often writing under the pen name of "Al-Ed-Ha," was a turn of the 20th century Renaissance man in a region which primarily valued toughness and brawn. Among his many talents, he was a poet, journalist, sketch artist, sign painter, historian, economic development champion and political analyst. His poetry, published in a book in 1890, appeared with the works of Walt Whitman, Julia Ward Howe, James Whitcomb Riley (the "Hoosier Poet") and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (father of the Supreme Court Chief Justice).
~ Exhaustive Research Leads to New and Fascinating Discoveries ~
As in years past, much of the content for Minerd.com is "mined" through exhaustive research, both in person in libraries, courthouses and cemeteries, as well as on the Internet. Because new resource materials increasingly are being placed online, such as Ancestry.com, searchable state vital record indexes and FamilySearch.org Record Search, more and more discoveries were made in 2008 using these vital tools. Among the highlights of new research findings in 2008 have been:Surpassing 100 Known Civil War Soldiers – During the year, four new Civil War soldiers were identified, including one Confederate, and possibly a second Confederate, surpassing the 100 mark of total of known Civil War veterans in our family. We now know of 103, with more under research. The newfound ones are Daniel F. Fawcett (17th WV Infantry), Sylvester Monroe Martin (17th WV Infantry), Daniel Mitchell Pyles (6th WV Infantry) and Presley Martin (46th Battalion, VA Cavalry). We also are researching Jeremiah Minard (33rd VA Infantry, Confederate) to see if we can prove a connection. This research is possible through the National Archives fantastic collection of soldiers’ military and pension records and newspaper obituaries found in the extensive microfilm holdings of the West Virginia and Regional History Collection at West Virginia University.
Nebraska's First Medical Technologist – Seen here, Ohio native Helen (Wyandt) Reihart, the daughter of Jacob W. and Mattie (Purinton) Wyandt, was an early medical researcher whose influence as a teacher has been felt by generations of students in the Midwestern United States and beyond. A 1918 graduate of Boston's Simmons College, she became the first trained medical technologist in Nebraska and the first medical technologist on the faculty of what now is known as the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Today, medical technologists are a standard part of the process of providing outcomes of care, but this was not always so. Their critical behind-the-scenes work ranges from analyzing blood and confirming diseases to identifying early cases of illness and testing for compatible transplant organs. A portrait of Helen in her laboratory will be our "Photo of the Month" in February.
Pioneering NASA Nurse – Our photo of the month last May featured Lt. Col. Betty Jo (Workman) Canter holding "Ham the Astrochimp," the first hominid to be launched into outer space in a Project Mercury capsule. Betty Jo was one of the first Air Force nurses assigned to NASA's manned space flight program and worked directly with astronaut John Glenn and others during her 22 years of continuous active duty. In 2009, Minerd.com will publish another major installment of Betty Jo's family memoirs, featuring her mother, Phoebe (Thorpe) Workman, having previously published memoirs of her grandmother, Clara (Freed) Thorpe.
Buckwheat Festival – The first known member of our family to reside in Preston County, WV was War of 1812 veteran Burket Minard and his wife Frances, circa 1814, followed by their nephew, also known as Burket Minerd, circa 1836. Many of their descendants remain in Preston County today, and have been organizers and participants in one of the region's best known cultural/community events, the annual Buckwheat Festival. Among others, those known to be active in the festival have been general chairman J. Donald Everly and festival princesses Mary Everly, Bonnie Overfield and Jo Ann Van Zandt.
Dean of the West Virginia Bar – Attorney Patrick J. Crogan, seen here, a prominent lawyer in Kingwood, Preston County, WV, was widely known as the "Dean of the West Virginia Bar" who had "one of the largest law libraries in the state." Affiliated with Kingwood lawyer John Barton Payne, who later became head of the local chapter of the American Red Cross, Patrick served a wide variety of clients, from accused criminals to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Showing the close interconnection between the early families of cousins in Preston County, Patrick's wife, Luella (Fawcett) Crogan, and step-mother in law, Julia (Hanshaw) Fawcett, were cousins. A larger version of Patrick's portrait will be our "Photo of the Month" in early 2009.
Mortality – Sadly, as new research findings became known, the headcount increased of known cousin-deaths in wartime military service (29), and the coal-coke-steel industry workplace (30). It is darkly fascinating that the numbers in both categories closely parallel each other.
Stories of Americana's Grand Sweep – Best of all, the research uncovered the fates of many scores of average Americans who did not pursue fame or fortune, but who quietly lived their lives during good time and bad and were an integral part of the grand sweep of Americana.
~ Viewership and Expansion Trends ~
Disappointingly, during 2008, the website was seen by fewer people on average than in any year since 2005. It received slightly under 18,000 visits a month on average, down 18 percent from 22,000 visitors last year. For all of 2008, the site was viewed 215, 851 times, down from 267,376 the previous year. At the end of 2008, the all-time number of visits was 1,294,921. While viewership has slipped, the volume of visits nonetheless encourages me to push onward in this work.
I added 79 new biographies the past year, bringing the grand total to 1,256. In comparison, the site had 954 biographies as of the end of 2003 and 500 bios as of January 2001. As well, I added approximately 630 photographic and postcard images to the site in 2008, bringing the total to more than 6,630. This compares with 4,600 images at the end of 2005 and 2,700 images as of January 2001.
~ Maintaining a High Profile in the News
After eight and a half years, Minerd.com and our reunion continue to make news and be in the news. The website must continue to maintain a high profile for us to reach more of our cousins, and also play a more mainstream role in our culture and society.
For the eighth year, starting in 2001, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review regularly published Minerd.com's archival postcards in its Sunday "Focus" Magazine, all showing rare images of local towns and workplaces in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Click for a summary of postcard images published since 2001.
In 2008, the site was featured in articles in Pittsburgh Quarterly and Internet Genealogy magazines, and the Minerd.com biography of Sarah (Miner) Boyd was reprinted in the Illinois State Genealogical Society Bulletin, all providing valuable regional and national exposure.
~ A Look Ahead to 2009 ~
The year 2009 will be active for Minerd.com. I have accepted the invitation to help publish the Civil War diaries of Ephraim Minerd of the 142nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, who spent much of his wartime service recovering in military hospitals. As well, research trips are planned to Missouri, Indiana, Oklahoma and Montana to research distant branches of cousins who lived and died there. I also plan to publish a new webpage, entitled "Shame of the Name," a chronicle of the agonizing racial discrimination against our cousins of mixed race who lived in the Chestnut Ridge Community of Philippi, Barbour County, in the late 1800s and early to mid 1900s. "Shame" will summarize my own proprietary research in addition to valuable published studies by Thomas McElwain, Brewton Berry, Barry Paris, Dorothy J. Cox, John F. Burnell Jr. and William Harlen Gilbert Jr.
To make the site more convenient to use, I will add a site-specific Google search engine function. I've also made some internal infrastructure changes to make it even easier for search engines to find key words on our site.
Among other of my research objectives in the new year will be contacting or mining the following resources:FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, NY – regarding several avenues: Dr. Harold Daniel Minerd’s trip to the White House in 1934 with newspaper publisher James Driscoll to attend a fundraising reception for President Roosevelt’s birthday and the Warm Springs Foundation Fund; and connections between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and the Arthurdale community in Preston County, WV, where some of our cousins were residents and civic leaders.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – to copy Pittsburgh Sun newspaper articles on microfilm regarding the pioneering environmental cleanup legislation, "1906 Smoke Ordinance," proposed by Pittsburgh City Councilman Corwin D. Tilbury (seen here), placing him in direct conflict with the major steel and industrial companies.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, IL – to explore the extent of President Abraham Lincoln’s relationship with newspaper publisher William Taylor Davidson of the Fulton County Democrat.
County and state bar association records – for early attorneys Willis Thorne (Chicago), Patrick J. Crogan (Preston County, WV) and Harry D. Leonard (Fayette County, PA) to learn more about their legal careers.
West Virginia Press Association – to obtain records or photographs of James W. White, publisher of the Preston County Journal and the Webster Republican -- called the "dean of West Virginia newspaper publishers."
United States Department of Veterans Affairs – which hold the Civil War pension files of several of our soldier-cousins, instead of the usual National Archives: John C. France, Eugenus King, Ephraim Minerd, Gilman Rose and George Washington Turner.
National Baseball Hall of Fame – seeking rare photographs, in his uniform, of cousin Roger Miller who pitched in two games for the Milwaukee Brewers at the end of the 1974 season.
~ In Closing, A Heart-felt Thank You! ~
This work continues to be deeply fulfilling even after eight-plus years. Thank you again to everyone who plays a key role in our website's continued development and expansion. This site is for you, and would not be possible without you.