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Photo of the Month
November 2015
See Previous Photos     Unknown Faces and Places

One of the most fascinating characters in the extended Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor family was Martha Emma (Minerd) Gorsuch -- "Matt" to her family and friends -- who lived to the ripe old age of 103. Born before Lincoln was elected president, she died a few months after Bill Mazeroski hit his famous home run to win the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Growing up on a farm in Hexebarger near Kingwood, Somerset County, PA, and then near Mill Run, Fayette County, PA, she was the daughter of first cousins who married each other. Martha bore 10 children to two men, raised two stepchildren, outlived seven of her offspring and suffered the accidental coal mining deaths of a son and son in law

In 1900, when her husband spent a year in a Pittsburgh penitentiary for theft, she at no time visited. Later, when they became even more estranged, the husband wrote to the federal government to prevent her from obtaining his Civil War soldier pension. In 1912, he disappeared altogether and never has been found. After trying for eight years, including interviews with government investigators and traveling to view corpses of vagrants along the railroads of Pittsburgh, suspecting it might be him, Martha finally received the much-sought-after pension and its valuable monthly payments. To support herself, she served as postmistress in the now-defunct community of Nicolay in the mountains near Mill Run, the first known woman in the family to hold this type of office. Later, she spent most of the rest of her years residing with her adult children in Rockwood and Stoystown, Somerset County.

When Martha reached her 100th birthday, a Pittsburgh news reporter asked if there was anything she had never done. "Fly in an airplane," she replied. And so the Piper Aircraft Company donated a free flight for her and a great-grandson, soaring high above western Pennsylvania, including over the farm where she had been born a century earlier. News stories were televised in Pittsburgh and Johnstown.

At the age of 103, Martha fell getting out of bed. She broke her hip, pneumonia set in and she passed into eternity in December 1960. At her death, she was one of the few remaining Civil War widows in the nation to be drawing a monthly pension. More>>>

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Copyright 2015 Mark A. Miner