The Drowning Tragedy of a Disabled Teenager

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Brothers Thomas and James Minerd

 

Likely born with a leg defect, James William Minerd (right) grew into a teen making many friends in the coal mine town of Helen, near what today is Smock, Fayette County, PA. Tragically, his lifelong disability led to his drowning death while at play at the age of 13.

On Aug. 9, 1911, while rafting in the reservoir at the Helen coal mine works, James fell into the water and struggled to rescue himself.  The Uniontown Morning Herald reported what happened next:

In plain view of Mrs. Harry Hassen and her two sons, who made a frantic effort to save him, James Minerd, aged 15, was drowned in the reservoir at the Atlas coke works, Helen, yesterday afternoon at 4 o’clock.  The woman, attracted by the screams of the boys who were bathing with Minerd, ran to the reservoir.  It took but a glance to see the plight of Minerd.  She quickly secured a rope, fastened one end around her waist and the other on the bank and jumped into the reservoir.  Before she could reach the spot where she had last seen the boy he had disappeared for the third time….

The boy, who was the son of Thomas Minerd, a driver in the mines at Atlas, was a cripple and while he and the two sons of Harry Hassen were swimming in the reservoir, Minerd got beyond his depth.  The two boys became so excited that they could not save the drowning boy but their cries brought the Mrs. Hassen to the scene….  Minerd was well known in the vicinity in which he lived and was one of the most popular boys at Helen.

To mark his awful passing, his parents Thomas Watt and Sara “Theresa” (Dowling) Minerd had this photograph produced, showing James seated with his older brother Thomas, possibly the only image of the ill-fated boy. The brother grew to adulthood, spent decades as a coal miner and married Anna DZiak, but never got over the heartache of the loss. The town of Helen, consisting of inexpensive worker-housing built by a coal company, eventually collapsed due to subsidence and no longer exists. Our long-time Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor Reunion-goers may recall the Minerds’ daughter, the late Theresa Charnovich and her family, who attended a number of our annual gatherings and graciously shared memories and photographs for the Minerd.com website.

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Launching the New Gaumer Online Archive on Minerd.com

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The Gaumer/Meinert family was formed in 1748 with the marriage of Maria Elizabeth Meinert to Johannes Dietrich Gaumer. From their home in Alburtis, Lehigh County, PA, they produced 11 known children who in turn bore 40+ grandchildren and 120+ great-grandchildren, many of whom dwelled in Somerset County, PA and Muskingum County, OH. Today their descendants are counted in the tens of thousands, scattered all over the world.

A new online archives has been launched that will lead you into their stories and experiences as they broadly helped to shape Americana over the past 270 years.

The 11 known children and their spouses are Johann “John” and Albertina Christina (Dean) GaumerJohann “Friedrich” and Catharina Barbara (Eisenhardt) Gaumer –  Johann “Heinrich” and Anna Margaretha (?) GaumerJohann “Jacob” and Maria Catharina (Sowash) Gaumer Sr. – Johann George Gaumer – Mary Catherine Gaumer – Johann Dietrich and Rebecca Margaretha (Strunck) Gaumer Jr. – Heinrich “Henry” and Maria Gertrude (Gaumer) MeitzlerJohann “Adam” and Regina GaumerHeinrich “Henry” and Elisabetha (Gaumer) Schanckweiler – Peter Gaumer – and Jacob and Catherine (Keiser) Gaumer.

This compilation of Gaumer names and relationships has only been possible through the research, writing and/or gracious sharing of the following individuals spanning many decades: Eber and Marguerite (Lepley) Cockley – Gilbert R. Gaumer – Jeanne Gaumer – Lucie (Burditt) Gaumer – Paul K. Gaumer – William “Bill” Gaumer – Jeannie (Beghart) LaCues – Kenneth Moffitt – Eugene F. Podraza – Mary L. Shirer – Garold W. Sneegas – Keith Sturts – Paula (Gaumer) Tooke – Barbara (Moss) Wardsworth – and Myrtle (Knepper) Weniger.

Any comments, questions or revisions are welcome, with the original documentation requested as well.

The Hopwood Band

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Many small communities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries took great pride in their local bands which entertained at holidays, celebrations and festivals. The Hopwood Band, based in a village on the outskirts of Uniontown, Fayette County, PA, featured several Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor cousins among the musicians. This image, from 1908, shows drummer Joseph M. Hopwood (3rd from left) and horn players Simeon Thomas Goff and daughter Lea Ray (Goff) Phillips Guyton (far right). Other known band members from the community were Tommy Hair (far left, who was blind) and Joseph Goff and Frank Goff.

Joseph Hopwood’s great-grandson James Philip “Phil” Parker, who furnished this image, and of the family of Bessie (Hopwood) LaClair, says that the photo was “taken at Hopwood picnic grounds near the site of the Howard Johnson’s restaurant.”

View an enlarged version of this image as the Minerd.com Photo of the Month for July 2018. If you can identify other of the faces in this photograph, please contact us. See other community band images as our Photo of the Month for April 2017November 2012 — and January 2002.

WV Country Music Hall of Famer Lisa Lynn Lizzie-Ann Janoske

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Electric bass player and new West Virginia Country Music Hall of Famer Lisa Lynn Lizzie-Ann (Hawker) Janoske — inducted April 21, 2018 — started singing at the age of three and has been going strong for four decades.

Her early teachers were known to say, “Give her a stage, and she’ll perform on it.” Lisa made her first stage appearance at seven with her father’s band, The Royal Tones, at the Westover Fair near Morgantown. Even at a young age, she performed at Applachia Lake in Bruceton Mills with Nashville stars such as the Hagar Twins from Hee Haw, Doyle Holly, the Statler Brothers, Ronnie Milsap, Tanya Tucker, Herb Humphrey and Lynn Anderson. In addition to her late father Jack Hawker, she counts her mentors and teachers over the years as Jack “Tiny” Waycaster, Don Corbin, Bob “Tootie” White, and Dick and Kelly Choma. She also has been a leader in the music business as the youngest member to hold office on the board of directors of the American Federation of Musicians Union in Morgantown. In 2009, Lisa and her daughter Jena joined 155 others in a performance of Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance to benefit House of Hope in Garrett County, MD. In the process, they not only raised more than $30,000 but coordinated their dance with 300 cities in 32 countries to establish a record in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Today Lisa performs for Brenda’s Body Shop dance company in Garrett County, MD and with her husband Bill is a member of the house band at Sagebrush Round-Up, a music hall in Bunner Ridge near Fairmont, WV which also houses the hall of fame. She has produced her own show, Honor Thy Legends, paying tribute to George Jones and Tammy Wynette. She is employed as a guidance secretary with the Garrett County Board of Education, is a Sunday School teacher and youth leader and enjoys using her music and dance to raise money for charity. She is the mother of two, Jena and Jack.

Those who have attended our national Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor Reunion will recall having met Lisa’s mother, our longtime treasurer, Doris (Sands) Hawker of the family of Alma (Ream) Sands. In fact, Lisa’s great-grandfather Joseph Ward Ream was elected secretary-treasurer of the old Minerd-Miner Reunion circa 1924.

Connect with Lisa on Facebook.

Clara (Leonard) Holt: Preservationist of the French & Indian War ‘Camp of the 12 Springs’

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Clara (Leonard) Holt was among several of our cousins who had connections to historic French and Indian War sites in southwestern Pennsylvania known as Fort Necessity (site of George Washington’s first battle, a loss to the French) and Braddock’s Grave (marking the burial site of a British general mortally wounded in an attack near Pittsburgh in 1755). Clara was the wife of John T. Holt and daughter of Reuben H. and Martha (Cunningham) Leonard.

An early educator in the family, Clara taught in one-room schoolhouses in Stewart and Springfield townships, Fayette County. The book she’s holding in this image may reflect a love of learning. Tragically, her husband was killed in a freak accident near Markleysburg, PA in 1919, while en route home from a stone quarry. He fell from his truck, driven by a son, and was run over and crushed to death. Clara outlived her husband by more than two decades, remaining in their home along the National Road (U.S. Route 40) in the mountains of Farmington, east of Uniontown.

Part of her 500-acre farm was located 12 miles east of Fort Necessity and considered historic property, referred to locally as the “Camp of the Twelve Springs.” During the war, Washington and his beaten army camped there after surrendering Fort Necessity on July 4, 1754, and the following year, General Braddock made his eighth encampment there on June 25, 1755. Later, Job Clark patented the land and kept a tavern at the site. An article in the Uniontown Daily News Standard reported in 1932 that “Outlines of the old springs and the tavern are still visible.”

Clara had what a newspaper called “considerable interest in the historical significance of the farm on which she lives.” Her sons made an effort to locate each of the 12 springs on the property. In 1932, she paid to have a commemorative marker produced and placed at the site of Twelve Springs. John Kennedy Lacock, an authority on the Braddock expedition, and professor of history at Harvard University, organized a dedication service on Sept. 11, 1932. Yet the site never fully captured the public’s attention. By 1937 John P. Cowan, park ranger and historian at Fort Necessity, wrote to the editors of the Daily News Standard saying “everybody has overlooked” the area. More about our family’s links to the fort and grave sites>>>

Nettie (White) Bailey – Impassioned Kansas Prairie Letter Writer and Lightning Victim of the 1880s

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Having struck out to a new south-central Kansas prairie home in the spring of 1884 with her husband and parents, Nettie (White) Bailey wrote a prolific series of impassioned letters to her beloved sister Helen (White) Clark who had remained in Missouri with her family. The letters which survive today, mainly penned by Nettie (seen here), describe the death of their mother Mahala (Miner) White, ever-present dust and wind, community gossip, the anguish of the sisters’ separation, and comings and goings of relatives and friends, including the April 1889 departure of their uncle and aunt James and Lydia (Miner) Brown from Kansas for a new life in central Oklahoma.

Tragically, Nettie’s life was snuffed out in a freak lightning storm in July 1889. But the correspondence between the Kansas Whites and Missouri Clarks continued through 1911. The final letter is from Nettie’s brother Layton White to his niece Blanche just before his death.

After the letters stopped, Nettie’s daughters Mabel (Bailey) Phelp and Blanche (Bailey) Peterie lovingly preserved and kept them together. They were shared among various family members until about 1984, when Nettie’s great-granddaughter Janet (Hoyt) Sperry brought them to her home in Montana and painstakingly retyped each and every one. To do so, she carefully studied the faded and small handwriting to make sure she was capturing every word correctly. In the end, on behalf of the family, she donated the originals to the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka, accession number 2003-065.02. A complete set of the retyped letters is in the Lincoln Library in Medicine Lodge, KS.

Today, with Janet’s gracious permission, these letters are being posted on Minerd.com as the “Nett Helen Letters” for all to enjoy and to bring these ancient lives into view. As of April 8, 2018, letters had been posted chronologically through Aug. 25, 1889, with more intended to be added all the time.

You may recall that Janet was featured as the Minerd.com “Photo of the Month” in November 2011. An enlarged version of Nettie’s portrait is the “Photo of the Month” for April 2018.

2017 Annual Review – A Report for Family and Friends

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[Link to full text – 2017 Annual Review]

Every week and sometimes nearly every day during the past year, I added new material or searched new nooks and crannies to bright to light new facts about lives of our family of the past. The research and publishing are at times exhausting, frustrating and labor-intensive, but also at times exhilarating, especially when cousins from throughout the nation write and say they’ve enjoyed the experience of surfing the site.

The spigot of inbound story and image content for Minerd.com remains turned on, full force, even after nearly 18 years of active publishing. There are just too many stories and rare images distributed in households all across the country for this website ever to be complete.

Minerd.com’s content is written for two different audiences. One is the readers and inquirers of today. The other has not yet been born, but may crave to know something about their ancient people 100 and 200 years from now. Afflicted with the “tyranny of the urgent,” a focus on the here and now and immediate gratification, Americans do not think in these terms. Minerd.com and its archives will continue to produce content and preserve materials to keep old, forgotten lives alive in some flickering way far, far into the future.

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Among the plans for 2018 are a return visit to present at the annual Junghen-Younkin Reunion in July in Somerset County, PA — a continued posting of the “Nett Helen Letters” between two sisters of the 19th century, one in Missouri, the other in Kansas who was killed in a freak lightning storm — and a few days of research in the National Archives in Washington, DC to examine and copy the Civil War records of 14 newly discovered soldiers of the Minerd, Younkin and Owen clans

As Minerd.com is now in its 18th year, it’s exciting that this work never ends. The site continues to be fascinating, surprising, exasperating, eye-opening and never ever dull. New material continues to be shared by long-lost cousins near and farm.

Thank you again to everyone who has contributed your special part from your own family’s trove of family treasures. This site is for you, and would not be possible without you.