There is no word in our language to describe how a single family can, over the span of many generations, have a massive impact on society through its collective work.
Yet this phenomenon is true for many Fayette County families whose roots run deep.
Like other pioneer clans, our Minerds, Miners and Minors have lived here for some eight to 10 generations, spanning more than two centuries. We trace back to 1791, when Revolutionary War veteran Jacob Minerd Sr. and his wife Maria settled at Maple Summit near Mill Run. These settlers had 12 children and at least 67 grandchildren, 310 great-grandchildren and 790 great-great grandchildren, virtually all born before 1900.
In 1913, descendants held their first reunion at Ohiopyle, and drew 125 people. The popular reunions continued until the 1930s and, after a layoff of more than 50 years, were reorganized in 1986. Each event features a different theme, which we research deeply, and is open to all descendants.
At the 1913 reunion, family historian Allen Harbaugh said that the large number of cousins was "a task for the living generation to enumerate." Throughout the rest of the 20th century, the family has continued to expand geometrically.
Today, we know that an astonishing 12,300 cousins (including spouses) exist, with thousands more waiting to be discovered.
As more relatives have been found coast to coast, our reunion has begun to evolve into a national clearinghouse for networking, information and research. Many cousins have helped identify their branch of relatives and career contributions. Together, we've found thousands of newspaper articles, censuses, books, letters and photographs. We've tapped memories, traipsed cemeteries and used the Internet to build an archive of who's who, how everyone fits and the work each has done.
The project is changing from family history to a study of how our clan has interacted with and influenced its community.
Individually, our cousins include an actor who's made films with some of Hollywood's top stars, a writer whose prize-winning fiction has been published nationally and a top guidance systems engineer in the Apollo rocket program. In Fayette County, the clan has produced two Connellsville mayors; the Minerd (now Barnett) Funeral Home; the founding pastor of the Greenwood and Calvary Methodist Churches; physicians at the Connellsville and Uniontown Hospitals; the proprietor of the old Fayette Springs Resort; and a major league baseball pitcher.
Collectively, the clan has turned out thousands of lesser-known men and women who have made their own mark in education, military service, railroading, farming, manufacturing, the professions and business, symbolizing the muscle that built the region. Cousins have married into families or adopted children of virtually all races and faiths, and collectively serve as a microcosm of our diverse society.
At least 330 relatives have worked in coal, coke and steel. This mushrooming effect took place amid the building of empires by Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. Thus it was logical that this year's reunion theme honored these men and women. Unlike previous gatherings, which focused on the fields of education and the military, this subject delved deeper -- into the identity, sacrifices and heritage of Fayette County.
We learned that cousins toiled thousands of man-years. They mined and coked millions of tons of coal and produced millions more tons of steel. The finished products were used to build our nation's great landmarks -- the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, Panama Canal and Pennsylvania Railroad. We also discovered that 14 men were killed in workplace accidents between 1884 and 1941, a dark and sad finding.
At our reunion, "Andrew Carnegie" appeared in costume and riveted the audience talking about his life and career. The one-man performance was provided by actor Allen Nesvisky of the Senator Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center.
To record their work efforts for posterity, we published a booklet packed with 40 photos and each cousin's career entry. The data yielded insights about how these industries gave many cousins long-term employment and provided opportunities for industry and economic leadership and the ability to export talents to other regions. Their children and grandchildren used that base to pursue higher education and alternative careers.
As we enter a new century, we want to continue building our reunion and comprehensive repository of information. We hope it will shed light on the workforce and culture of Fayette County through the lives of our many thousands of cousins.
Copyright © 1999 Mark A. Miner