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Winifred (Minerd) Downs
(1888-1962)

 

Winifred Winona (Minerd) Downs was born on April 19, 1888 in Fayette County, PA, the daughter of Charles A. and Sarah Jane (Kincell) Minerd Sr. Her husband was an early lawyer in our family.

In 1908, when she was age 20, Winona married Harry Rutherford Downs (1877-1966), the son of Ashbel F. and Fannie (Lewis Fetty) Downs of Clarksburg, Harrison County, WV and Uniontown, Fayette County, PA. Harry was 11 years older than his wife.

The Downses bore two known children -- Lewis M. Downs and Virginia J. Robinson.

 

Clarksburg's Main Street circa 1908

 

 

Harrison County Courthouse

Harry was raised by parents who valued the development of one's mind. His father was a successful attorney, county treasurer and grade school teacher who is pictured and profiled in Samuel T. Wiley's 1889 book, Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Fayette County

Harry "spent three years in the study of photography," says the 1912 book, Genealogical and Personal History of the Upper Monongahela Valley, West Virginia, Volume III. "In 1896 under the firm name of Downs Brothers established a photograph gallery in Uniontown. There the two brothers, Harry R. and Ralph W.E. Downs, continued until 1909." Harry earned enough money from the business to pay law school tuition, and in 1908 graduated from the West Virginia University College of Law. On "March 1, 1909, he located in Clarksburg and opened his law office at No. 320 West Main street."

In 1909, by an act of the West Virginia legislature, a Criminal Court was established for Harrison County. According to Henry Haymond's 1910 book, History of Harrison County, the first term of the new court was held on June 1, 1909, and Harry was among the first attorneys who were admitted to practice before that court. He would have tried his cases in the stately, ornate brick Harrison County Courthouse in Clarksburg.

In all, said the Clarksburg Telegram, Harry was a lawyer for 66 years. 

They were members of the First Methodist Church of Clarksburg, and Harry belonged to the Herman Lodge No. 6, AF & AM.

Little else is known of the Downses' personal lives in Clarksburg, except for a few small glimpses from time to time as reported in books and local newspapers. In December 1910, infant son Lewis was "suffering from meningitis," said the Connellsville Daily Courier, "and no hopes are entertained for his recovery." Sadly, the unfortunate child died shortly after, on Dec. 18, 1910, and was buried in the Downs family plot at Elkview Masonic Cemetery on Marshall Avenue in Clarksburg.

 

Elkview Masonic Cemetery

In the winters from 1910 to 1915, Harry's mother resided in their home at 442 South Chestnut Street in Clarksburg. Then, in early April 1915, she came down with the flu and bronchitis, and died in the residence. The Downses traveled from Clarksburg to Uniontown for the burial at Oak Grove Cemetery. The event was covered in a Uniontown newspaper.

Winifred worked as a clerk in the drapery department of the Montgomery Ward Company store in Clarksburg. 

In March 1937, the Downs' daughter Virginia was a student at the West Virginia Wesleyan College, and with the college choir gave a concert at the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Connellsville.

Not much is known about Winifred and Harry in their later years.

 

Winifred, far right, with her sister and brother in law, Nell and Martin Walsh. They appear to be standing at the edge of a hillside road.

 

 

Elkview Masonic Cemetery

Winifred passed away on June 29, 1962, after a brief illness. 

Harry outlived her by nearly four years, and moved to Texas to reside with daughter Virginia. He died there on May 13, 1966, and his remains were returned to Clarksburg for burial. They are laid to rest near their infant son in the Elkview Masonic Cemetery in Clarksburg.

Distant cousins of Harry Downs --

 

~ Daughter Virginia Jane (Downs) Robinson ~

Daughter Virginia Jane Downs (1918-2011) was born on Jan. 28, 1918 in Clarksburg.

She studied at West Virginia Wesleyan College circa 1937.

On Feb. 23, 1939, at the age of 21, she entered into marriage with 23-year-old Lyndon Hayward Robinson (Jan. 22, 1916-2010), a resident of Fairmont and the son of Perry and Stella Cathryn (Parks) Robinson.The wedding ceremony was held in Buckhannon, Upshur County, WV, by the hand of Rev. Frank W. Thurston. Their union survived an extraordinary 71 years of time.

Together the couple bore three offspring, Lyndon Hayward Robinson Jr., Paul E. Robinson and Carol Jane Allen.

Both Virginia and Lyndon received their bachelor's degrees in 1939, the same year as their marriage, from West Virginia Wesleyan College. 

The Robinsons settled in Orange, TX. Paul was a licensed professional engineer and was employed for four decades by DuPont. He spent his spare time as a longtime choir singer, member of the Orange Community Band and as a licensed pilot.

Virginia in 1967 obtained a master's degree from the University of Denver. She was a teacher and librarian for years with the Bridge City and West Orange-Cove Schools.

They held a membership in the First United Methodist Church of Orange. She was a "Gray Lady" volunteer with the local Baptist Hospital.

Sadly, Lyndon died at home in Orange at the age of 94 on Sept. 14, 2010. Funeral services were led by Rev. Tom Stephenson and Rev. Toney Miller in the family church. Burial was in Hillcrest Memorial Gardens, Bride City. An obituary was printed in the Orange Record and the Beaumont Record.

Virginia only outlived her spouse by fewer than four months. Death swept her away in her residence at age 92 on Jan. 3, 2011. The Rev.'s Stephenson and Miller again presided over the funeral. The Beaumont Enterprise printed her obituary.

Son Lyndon Hayward Robinson Jr. ( ? - ? ) was born in (?). He was a graduate of Stark High School. Circa 1961, he studied electrical engineering at the University of Texas, and was an Engineering Fellow. His college affiliations included Phi Eta Sigma, Eta Kappa Nu and Tau Beta Pi. He wed Minnie and relocated to Redlands, CA.

Son Paul E. Robinson (1952-2003) was born on Oct. 11, 1952. Little is known of his life. He resided in Houston, TX. Paul passed away in Houston at the age of 51 on Dec. 14, 2003. His remains were interred in Hillcrest Memorial Gardens.

Daughter Carol Jane Robinson was joined in wedlock with James "Jimmie" Allen. They put down roots in Orange, TX.

 

 Copyright 2001-2003, 2021-2022 Mark A. Miner
Grave photos by Donald Lewis. He and his sister Barb Lewis-Hardung graciously have shared their extensive research on the Downs genealogy going back to England.