“Miss Newton, Kansas” of 1926

Lula (Leydig) Webreck

Lula Loyetta “Lulu” Leydig, a native of Butler County, KS, was selected from a group of popular young women as “Miss Newton” at the 1926 Harvey County Fall Festival in Kansas. In this role, said a newspaper, she “performed the duties as the city’s hostess to the festival queen with becoming grace and dignity.”

Lulu was the daughter of James Valentine “J.V.” and Grace Lenora (Guinty) Leydig of the family of Winifred Agnes “Winnie” (Shirer) Leydig Lydig. Their path had led from Somerset County, PA to Muskingum County, OH and thence to Kansas.

At the age of 29, in 1928, she entered into marriage with a cousin, 30-year-old World War I veteran Robert Dennis Webreck of Berlin, Somerset County, PA. Their nuptials were held in Kansas, far from the groom’s hom. In reporting on the wedding, the Meyersdale (PA) Republican stated that “The bride came with her parents to Newton to resided several years ago, and by her sweet, genial disposition has endeared herself to a large circle of friends in the younger and older set with whom she has been associated in both church and social affairs.”

Prior to marriage, during the world war, Robert had served with the 110th Infantry, Company C and saw action at the Battle of the Marne. He went missing in action in August 1918, and in fact he had been wounded by German poison gas, captured and spent five months as a prisoner of war, primarily in Bavaria. His captors were hard on those American soldiers of German descent, often saying “Aren’t you ashamed of coming over here to shoot at your cousins?” In a letter to home, printed in the Republican, he said that “We are treated good here, so don’t worry about me. I will be home some day.” 

In a very rare instance of a relocation eastward among Kansas pioneers, the couple established their dwelling-place in Robert’s hometown of Berlin in Pennsylvania. By that time, he had turned to farming as his occupation. The couple went on to bear a brood of three sons — James Robert Webreck, Richard Milton Werbreck and William F. Werbreck. Lula is known to have inherited the old Leydig family Bible, and in August 1941, she and her mother arranged to meet in Kansas with her uncle Harry Spencer Leydig and cousin Corinna Leydig so the latter two could examine the handwritten family records in the book. She is mentioned in the memoir, “Personal History of the Leydigs of California,” authored by her cousin, Corinna (Leydig) Talbot of Fresno, CA.

Coal Miner Charles Thomas Minerd and Friends at the B&O Railroad Depot at Smithfield, PA

Charles T. Minerd and friends. Enlarge>>>

Coal miner Charles Thomas Minerd and friends pose for this photograph circa 1910 at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad depot in Smithfield, Fayette County, PA. The image captures the men leaning against a fence that surrounded a water pump, with the Barton Hotel in view at right. 

Left to right: Cal Black, Guy Dills, Charley Wise, Polly Huhn, Pedro Morgan, Charles Minerd.

The depot building had a second-floor apartment. It fell into disuse over the years as local rail service declined, with only a few Chessie System steam engines passing by each day. The vintage image was published in Marci Lynn McGuinness’ 1996 book Yesteryear in Smithfield and Point Marion.

Thomas was one of 10 children of Thomas and Kate (Ramsey) Minerd of Smithfield and Uniontown, PA. He grew up in the rough-and-tumble coal and coke country, and lost a 10-year-old brother in 1901 when shot by a toy pistol during a game of “Buckskin Bill.” His uncle, Jack Ramsey, was a member of the notorious Cooley gang which committed brutal robberies throughout the region. Thomas entered into marriage with Perie E. Monteith, and together they bore a family of four — James Thomas Minerd, Alice Conn, Virginia Minerd and Charles Irvin “Bud” Minerd.  

This photograph graciously was provided by cousin Diane Smith, of the family of George W. and Anna Belle (Miner) McCormick, who administers the Smithfield PA Facebook page.

Minerd.com Assets Featured in Statewide Award-Winning Museum Exhibit and Documentary

PA Museums, Pennsylvania’s statewide museum association, is bestowing a 2023 Special Achievement Award to the Beaver Area Heritage Museum for its exhibit, “Saint or Sinner? The Complicated Legacy of Senator Matthew Stanley Quay” and its companion video documentary.

Photographs and documents from the Minerd.com Archives were featured in both the exhibit and documentary.

“PA Museums’ annual awards are meant to inspire the museum field and impress visitors to museums,” said Rusty Baker, executive director of PA Museums in Harrisburg. “The Beaver Area Heritage Museum is one of Pennsylvania’s star performers, and we are proud to recognize its great work along with other museums and historical organizations throughout the Commonwealth.”

Since the 1980s, PA Museums has invited nominations from its membership and chosen institutions, projects and individuals to be recognized. This year, the Beaver museum is one of eight organizations from every region of Pennsylvania to win Institutional Awards of Merit.

“We are grateful for the statewide recognition from PA Museums,” said Edwards McLaughlin, chair of the museum’s board of trustees. “It’s exciting to be recognized for our team’s work and thrilling to be counted among all of the organizations that will receive awards this year.”

More than 1,500 guests viewed the Saint/Sinner display in 2022 and overwhelmingly cast their votes that Quay was more of a sinner than saint in his life’s work. An all-new video documentary, in association with Pacer Studios, captures the highlights of Quay’s personality and practices through the perspective of his biographer, 100-year-old Dr. James A. Kehl. The 35-minute, highly entertaining video is posted on the Heritage Foundation’s new YouTube page.

Due to popular demand, the museum is carrying over the free display and will remain open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays through June 2023. All-new this year is the interactive video touch-screen presentation featuring 17 expanded clips of Dr. Kehl’s best sound bites, including some not shown in the documentary.

The other seven organizations capturing PA Museums Special Achievement Awards are “Can You Live 18th Century” by the Conococheague Institute; “Arch Street Meeting House Exterior Exhibits” by Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust, Philadelphia; “I Am a Penn Stater: Nittany Lions in World War II” by Penn State University All-Sports Museum, University Park; “Beyond Our Doorstep: Bringing Local History Into Your Home “ by the Lackawanna County Historical Society, Scranton; “Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War” by The Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia; “Visible Storage Galleries” by the Chester County History Center, West Chester; and “Pennsylvania History Special Issue: Exploring Disability History in Pennsylvania” by the Pennsylvania Historical Association.

Four organizations will receive PA Museums’ prestigious S.K. Stevens Award, among them The Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia for “When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776-1807;” The Science History Institute, Philadelphia, for “Downstream;” The Senator John Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh for “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith;” and the Stenton Museum and National Society of The Colonial Dames of America, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, for “Virtual History Hunters.” Janet Mishkin, of the Quiet Valley Living History Farm and Museum will be honored for her contributions to the field.

A Girlhood Portrait of Viola ‘Grace’ (McKnight) Soules

The young Viola “Grace” McKnight poses for a simple but beautiful and somewhat mysterious photographic portrait circa 1900. The image made by a loving maternal uncle, William C. Nutt, who was a well-known commercial photographer. Grace grew up on the farm of her parents Henry and Martha (Nutt) McKnight at Lynn Station near Braznell, Fayette County, a community known today as Grindstone.

In 1912, at the age of 20, Grace was united in the bonds of holy matrimony with 21-year-old James Eli Soules. Together, the pair produced a brood of three children — James Henry Soules, Hugh Melvin Soules and Martha Mae Cacchione. Grace and James eventually established their permanent home at 216 Grant Street in Canonsburg, Washington County, PA.

Sadly, she was felled by a cerebral hemorrhage and died on April 18, 1942 at the age of 50, “following an illness of three years,” said a local newspaper. Her remains were lowered into the sacred soil of Little Redstone Methodist Cemetery, to sleep for the ages beside her parents and among many other McKnight uncles, aunts and cousins.  

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Gold Record Winning Recording Artist Rusty Draper

Rusty Draper – enlarge>>>

Sporting red hair which earned him his nickname, Farrell Haliday “Rusty” Draper sold millions of records and earned five gold records in the 1950s and ’60s with such hits as Gambler’s Guitar, Shifting Whispering Sands, Night Life and Mule Skinner Blues

Born in Kirksville, MO, he and his uncle Robert “Ralph” Powell combined their talents in the early years in the band “Cy Perkins and Freckles.” The pair performed on radio shows on WTAD-AM in Missouri and KMA-AM in Iowa, and one of the talents with whom he performed was a young, unknown Patti Page, who proceeded to become the most popular woman singer of the ’50s. He is known to have worked  as a radio station announcer in Des Moines, occasionally filling in for up-and-coming sportscaster Ronald Reagan. 

Rusty’s first big hit, in 1953, was Gambler’s Guitar, which sold 800,000 copies as the B-side of another record. He appeared on national television programs such as The Ed Sullivan Show and Ozark Jubilee, was on a variety show with Arthur Godfrey, and played guest roles on such television shows as Rawhide, Laramie, The Danny Thomas Show and 77 Sunset Strip. In 1966, for a year, he was a television co-host with Molly Bee of the daily country music show Swingin’ Country, with Roy Clark as a regular performer.

Rusty was the son of Samuel C. and Della Mae (Powell) Draper of the family of Sebastian Heck and Margaret Elizabeth (Pring) Cornell. Other musical industry talents highlighted in the Minerd.com “Photo of the Month” series have been left-handed fiddler Fred Younkin (March 2007) – ukulele player and vaudevillian Bobby “Uke” Henshaw (December 2008 and June 2019) – talent agent Frank Wayne Hanshaw Jr. (April 2009) – singer Deane Janis (December 2010) – West Virginia Country Music Hall of Famers Lisa (Hawker) Janoske (June 2018) and her father Jack (August 2019) – singer Alice Lucille Wydman (July 2019) – San Francisco Opera soprano Eloise Farrell (April 2022) – and Alfred Arthur Younkin and the Casselman Cornet Band (May 2020).

Civil War Veteran Henry ‘Foxy’ McKnight and Three Generations of His Offspring

Foxy McKnight and family – Enlarge>>>

Bearded Civil War veteran Henry “Foxy” McKnight of Dawson, PA sits with his son Charles, grandson Clarence “Jay” in the doorway and a great-grandson in this four-generation image, circa the 1910s. Henry served with the 140th Pennsylvania Infantry during the war but is not believed to have seen action. His only wartime injury was White Hall Station, MD, in December 1862, when, he later wrote, he “was thrown into a creek and caught a severe cold which brought on Rheumatism and Catarrh in [my] head.”

Tragically, his bride Barbara (Minerd) McKnight died in childbirth shortly after his return from the army, on Valentine’s Day, 1866. He never married again during the remaining nearly 50 years of his life.

As evidence that Henry remained close with his wife’s extended Minerd family, this photograph was found in the collection of his grand-nephew Lawrence Earl Minerd of Bullskin Township near Connellsville, PA. Handwritten on the back is this message from C.H. McKnight: “Dear uncle, Here is a couple of cards if you ever want any more let me know and i will make them for you.” 

Henry and Barbara rest in the long, long sleep of the ages in Cochran Cemetery near Linden Hall in Dawson. In 2019, direct offspring Joseph Allen McKnight, assisted by his cousin Russell McKnight, with guidance from Corrine (Cremers) McKnight and a map drawn by Beth Lynne Radcliffe, cleaned the couple’s original grave markers and placed them upright against the newer tablet stones.

Annual Review 2022: A Look Back, a Look Ahead and a Five-Year Plan

Our award-winning Minerd.com website, social media properties and family research archive are nearing a crossroads to determine their future. Either these assets will be retired into oblivion when I can no longer maintain them or be kept intact and endure for future generations through a bold plan of action. After much thought and prayer, my choice is to pursue the bold plan. Maybe I’m just crazy.

Thus in 2022, I began a five-year process to identify what steps are needed to make this happen. It will take a combination of factors that must function together in harmony. The solution needs to include all aspects of keeping our website and social media assets online and up-to-date and a facility to house and curate the physical archives where people can gather and mine the material for new discoveries. The solution also will require funding to assure proper stewardship and a team who can expertly curate long-term upkeep and public-facing engagement.

At its best, Minerd.com is a doorway to insight and enrichment of the mind, creating awareness the cultural impact of our families across the centuries of Americana and beyond. Its nearly 2,000 biographies and hundreds of feature pages are intended to inspire wanderlust to educate and enlighten. The site’s intent is to appeal to like-minded cousins near and far, invite their participation through sharing and help us all feel more inter-connected.

The intellectual backbone of the website is the archive, comprised of hundreds of books, thousands of photographs and hundreds of thousands of documents, impossible to re-create. The benefit to the family at large is the permanent preservation of their family history documentation, accessible to all someday, in a way that will elude the ravages of time and disinterest. It may also heighten one’s sense of satisfaction at knowing that her or his family is worthy of having its own place/museum/library.

The first step I took last year was to begin to make sure the website is as complete as possible. In real terms, that meant identifying more than 200 biographies that were not current in chronicling the lives of descendants up to the present day. It involved an upgrade to software that dramatically has sped the editing process – the hard work of research to uncover the lives and stories of thousands of unknown cousins in the extended clan – and the writing and illustration to bring forgotten generations back to life. Out-of-date coding needed to be removed from the back end of several thousand existing pages, and each page given a proper title for optimal search engine optimization. Working nearly every day, I got about halfway through the biography updates, and am continuing full-speed now into the new year. It will take all of 2023 to get this done, if not longer.

We now live in a culture that values digital versus actual antiquities, especially true among our young people who are addicted to their smart phones but who are our future audience. Maybe three-dimensional books and manuscripts and photographs are passé – out of fashion in this era. But as many cousins have entrusted me to preserve their irreplaceable original treasures. My own life has been dedicated to accumulating the rare, otherwise unavailable research materials that provide unique content for our reunion and website. So I’ve made a commitment and it’s what I’m planning to do, with God’s help.

One of the most disheartening feelings is when a cousin says he or she is discarding paper research accumulations of many years’ work because their children don’t have an interest and no one else wants it. Sometimes they have entrusted the material to me. Sometimes they don’t, or it’s too late.

A burning and ongoing question is whether the traditional book, photo or document as a physical object will disappear in the future and that the 100-percent transition to electronic formats is inevitable. Google Books, for example, has scanned and posted more than 10 million old books online in searchable formats, but only if the book is out of copyright or the publisher has given permission. A burning and ongoing question is whether the traditional book, photo or document as a physical object will disappear in the future and that the 100-percent transition to electronic formats is inevitable. Google Books, for example, has scanned and posted more than 10 million old books online in searchable formats, if the book is out of copyright or the publisher has given permission, and not always including self-published books, small press runs or other more “epemeral” works of authorship.

I view our archive over a very long-term as a hedge against evolving technology, a hedge against a fragile electrical infrastructure and a hedge against copyright infringement issues. As well, I see it in terms of completeness, the tactile sensation with the patina of age and the importance of the quality of original visuals. One example is from several summers ago when I was researching in a county courthouse, I asked to see files from old lawsuits of the 1800s. I was shown digital versions on microfiche, scanned several decades ago, but was told that the originals were in cold storage and that the retrieval fee was pricey. The county’s budget would not allow re-scanning using the latest and greatest technology for better legibility. So I spent several hours squinting at fuzzy and small images and in many cases could not decipher the early 19th century handwriting. I came away dissatisfied and convinced that technology had failed me. For more, see my 2016 Minerd.com Blog post, “The BBC News Asks If There’s a Need to Collect Books.”


Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Kathlyn Reynolds

Kathlyn Roberts and her 6th graders – enlarge>>>

Oklahoma Teacher of the Year for 1981, Kathlyn Ann (Roberts) Reynolds, coaches her Singing Blue Angels group of 94 sixth graders from Wiley Post Elementary School of Putnam City in the rotunda of the Oklahoma state capitol. This image, by photographer Vince Hennigan, originally was published in the Oklahoma Times and is provided courtesy of The Gateway to Oklahoma History and the Oklahoma Historical Society.

A native of Shawnee, OK, Kathlyn is of the family of Remulous and Mary Jane “Jennie” (Pring) McCollough, pioneers who came to Oklahoma in the Land Run of 1892, which opened 3.5 million open acres of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation to settlement. Kathlyn’s grandfather, Charles “Wilson” Kennedy, was of the Pottawatomie nation of Native Americans.

Kathlyn received her bachelor of music in voice degree from the University of Oklahoma, where she met her husband, Charles “Robert” Reynolds. She went on to a 46-year teaching career, including 23 years in the Putnam City School District, with assignments at Putnam City Central, Tulakes and Wiley Post. In 1972, she was voted “Teacher of the Year” by her fellow faculty members. Then in 1981, she received the statewide teacher of the year recognition. Adding to her honors, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Educators’ Hall of Fame in 1994.

In 2004, some 14 years after she retired, Kathlyn and fellow teacher Christi Cari Miller co-authored the music for Little Donkey’s Easter Journey, a musical demonstrating the joy of the Christian holiday through the eyes of animals who witnessed Holy Week in Jerusalem. She was featured in a related  Daily Oklahoman article headlined “Longtime Putnam City teacher too busy to dive into retirement,” which quoted her saying she “was the most miserable retiree ever. I wasn’t ready to give up music and children.”

Introducing Author Dr. Matthew Kenneth Minerd

Matthew Kenneth Minerd, Ph.D.enlarge>>>

Continuing in a series promoting authors in the family, this month’s image features Matthew Kenneth Minerd, Ph.D., professor of Moral Theology and Philosophy at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh.

An author and translator of religious texts, Matthew’s most recent technical volume, Conscience: Four Thomistic Treatments, was dedicated to to the memory of his late grandfather, Byron “Kendall” Minerd, of the family of Albert “Ward” and Ada (Whipkey) Minerd. This work includes several essays by scholars of 13th century theologian Thomas Aquinas which confront the difficulty of assessing the proper position of conscience in moral theology.

Matthew’s book Made by God, Made for God: Catholic Morality Explained is written for a general audience and provides a fresh approach to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church in a relatable and easy-to-understand way. The book is very scriptural in orientation and has been positively received by both Catholics and Protestants.

In total, Matthew has authored or translated 13 volumes and has written a number of academic articles, with three more works of authorship forthcoming over the course of the next year. He received his Ph.L. and Ph.D. degrees from Catholic University of America and bachelor’s degrees in computer science and Catholic theology from Saint Vincent College.

Other cousin-authors highlighted in previous Minerd.com Photos of the Month were Thomas Beck and his seven novels (December 2020) — Mary “Michele” Miner and her novel Their Moon Was Cardboard (July 2020) — Jack Lewis and his novel Storm Coming: A Novel of the Civil War in Western Virginia (December 2017) — and Jeffrey T. Minerd’s fantasy adventure novel, The Sailweaver’s Son (November 2016).

John George Kovatch Jr. and the 1942 World Champion Washington Redskins

John Kovatch (no. 40) and Sammy Baugh (33)enlarge>>>

Offensive end John George Kovatch Jr., wearing uniform no. 40, poses with teammates from the 1942 World Champion Washington club of the National Football League. The group stands together in a wide panorama photograph, set against the backdrop of cavernous Griffith Stadium in the nation’s capitol. What makes this image extra special is that fellow player no. 33 is one of the NFL’s all-time greats, future Hall-of-Famer “Slingin’ Sammy” Baugh, a halfback who helped popularize the forward pass and during his career set 13 NFL records as a passer, punter and defensive back. 

John played his college football at Notre Dame. Signing with Washington, and during an Oct. 18, 1942 game in Ebbets Field against the Brooklyn Dodgers, in front of 25,635 spectators, he caught a 13-yard Baugh touchdown pass in a 21-10 victory, the only TD reception of his career. A week later, at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, in a 14-0 win, he played against the Steelers’ future hall-of-famer “Bullet Bill” Dudley.

With World War II aflame, John left after a year to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon his return home, he rejoined Washingtonfor the 1946 season. He then spent 1947 with the Green Bay Packers, playing under the tutelage of hall-of-fame coach Curly Lambeau. Thus in his only three seasons as a pro, John appeared in 21 games and caught 18 passes for 157 yards. 

John’s wife,  Elizabeth Jane “Betty” McMillan, was the daughter of Major Vernon Ream McMillan, Mayor of Terre Haute, IN, once featured in the Saturday Evening Post for his Wabash River cleanup efforts. This branch of the family traces its roots to 19th century tannery owner Jehu and Mary Ann (Ream) McMillan of Listonville, Somerset County, PA, featured in the “Legacy of the Old McMillan Tanneries” page on this website and as our Photo of the Month for December 2021