Civil War veteran William Minerd, of the 17th West Virginia Infantry, suffered a lifetime of discrimination because of his mixed-race heritage. The son of Pennsylvania German father Jacob Minerd and Native American mother Ruth Adams, he was considered "colored" and in the eyes of society was neither white nor black, even though he could "pass for white."
Born in Fayette County, PA, William and his parents and siblings migrated south into West Virginia, where they settled in Grafton, and later to Philippi. In February 1865, with the end of the Civil War nearing, he and his brothers Henry and John joined the 17th West Virginia, as did his future brother in law Jonathan Mayle and in-law George W. Male. He caught the measles while on duty at Bulltown, WV, and spent the rest of the war training and drilling in Wheeling, WV.
Unlike his fully white cousins only 65 miles to the north in Southwestern Pennsylvania, William and his wives and children endured hardships simply because of their skin color. This included exclusion from attending school with white children; paying extra taxes; being called such derogatory terms as "guinea" and worse; and losing certain legal rights because their birth records were willfully destroyed by local government officials. He only found relief from the burden of racism when working in Ohio after the war, as a laborer building railroad tracks, where he was treated as a white man. In a fascinating twist, his brother in law Fleming Woody, of near Athens, Ohio, was the only known former slave in our family. [ more ]