Santa Claus and the Missouri Pacific Lines Railroad


Santa Claus watching over sleeping kids graced the cover of the December 1927 issue of the Missouri Pacific Lines Magazine of the St. Louis-based railroad which made significant expansions into Texas and Louisiana in the 1920s and ’30s. The publication was edited by Edward Harlan “E.H.” McReynolds, an early Missouri newspaperman, who was hired in 1923 as assistant to the president and director of publicity-advertising.

Over the span of his 14-year career, his name graced the masthead of each and every issue. Edward once wrote of his gratification in the “continuous publication of what has come to be widely acclaimed as one of the outstanding employe magazines in America.”

The MOPAC magazine was a substantial production of work, sometimes totaling as many as 88 pages. It carried articles about the company’s financial performance, operations and personnel as well as reports from its individual sections, from St. Louis, Kansas City and Omaha to Memphis and Houston, and many smaller towns in between. Inside the inaugural edition’s front cover was a message to all employees: “The Missouri Pacific Magazine is yours! We need your help to make it the best of its kind in America… We want lots of pictures!” It included a letter to all employees by new President Lewis W. Baldwin.

Included over the years were pieces on charitable organizations such as the Boy Scouts and apple blossom festival organized by the Missouri River Apple Growers. The railroad’s booster clubs all along the rail lines contributed articles, and there were numerous photographs of employee sports teams, children’s photos and various special interest groups. Stories promoted safety, chess tips and an honor roll of deceased employees. The inaugural issue also contained a political cartoon showing a snake — labeled “Bolshevism” — threatening “your liberty” – “your home” – “your job” – “your money.”

Enlarge this image >>>

View the MOPAC magazine archive on >>> 

More about Edward’s tragic end >>>


Shhhh. Don’t Wake Them Up!


Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Taking a well-earned nap, the usually energetic Christian Stoner and Esther Resler (Barnhouse) Freed rest in the garden on their farm on Trotter Hill about two miles west of Connellsville, Fayette County, PA, circa 1920. Note the handwritten note in white ink at the top of the image — “Sh!”

When they attended the inaugural Minerd Reunion in 1913 at Ohio Pyle, Fayette County, Esther was elected treasurer. She was prominently mentioned in a Minerd history read aloud at the reunion by cousin and family historian Allen Edward Harbaugh — “Of prominent members of the three families, we mention Mrs. Esther Freed, daughter of Catharine Barnhouse, W. Henry Minerd, Justice of the Peace, and son of Joel, and Rev. Isaac H. Minerd, son of Eli,” he wrote. At her death in 1922, the Connellsville Daily Courier said she “held a record as a Sunday school teacher believed to have been unsurpassed in Fayette county. For 50 years she taught in the school of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church at Vanderbilt, relinquishing her work only when failing health compelled her to do so…”

Christian passed away a year after his wife. In an editorial, the Daily Courier eulogized that “In the death of Christian S. Freed, Dunbar township loses one of its best known citizens, his home community and the profession of farming one of the most useful and valuable exponents of all that was intended to contribute to the welfare of his neighbors and the advancement of the art to which he gave the productive years of his life.”

Click to enlarge this as the Photo of the Month for November 2018. The couple previously has been featured as a photo of the month in March 2003 and November 2010.

Gentle-Spirited Evangelical Lutheran Pastor Rev. George Gaumer


Born in Muskingum County, Ohio, Rev. George Gaumer spent his adult life pastoring Evangelical Lutheran Church congregations in Adamsville and Carrolton, Ohio before a transfer to churches in Indian Head and Donegal, PA, all prior to the Civil War. While at Indian Head, in the Good Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church, a friend later wrote:

He ministered to this congregation all these years in all earnestness and fidelity. During his pastorate he baptized 28 children and added a number of adults to the membership of the congregation. The highest number present at any one communion service was 40, and the membership, when he resigned, was reported as 45. In April, 1868, he resigned this parish and accepted a call to Medina, Ohio.

He stayed at Medina until 1873, when he transferred to a new church in Venango, PA. There, he found himself embroiled in a dispute among members whom he could not control. The book Memorial History of the Pittsburgh Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1748-1845-1924 describes this period of turmoil and characterized George as:

…a man of gentle and irenic spirit, but he was not strong enough to control the synodical controversy that broke out in the community during his pastorate. It is claimed that this controversy was stirred up by a former pastor, who returned to the field for that purpose. When Pastor Gaumer proposed the erection of a new church there was an eager response from the people, so that half of the estimated cost was subscribed. Then the question was raised by Solomon Lasher as to whether it would be dedicated as a General Synod Church. When the pastor answered in the negative, Mr. Lasher and his friends objected so strenuously that it became necessary to use discipline and expel twenty-three of them from the church. These expelled members rallied their friends, held a meeting and adopted [a] resolution.

He departed Venango in 1874 and went on to serve churches in Drake’s Mill, Mosiertown and St. Paul (Seanor’s) in Pennsylvania. He retired in 1884 and moved to Greenville near the campus of Thiel College, where he and his wife Mary Anna (Kelly) Gaumer spent their final years. In 1900, at the age of 80, he and Mary Anna sold their home, donated the proceeds to Passavant Hospital in Pittsburgh and then were given rooms there. “With christian resignation,” wrote a friend, “he waited for the Master’s call.”

More>>>’s Recommended News Stories and Blog Posts Since Jan. 2018

Here’s my list of favorite news articles and blog posts since the start of 2018, which initially were posted on my award-winning website, These stories cover important issues in our society and track how our collective heritage shapes how we live today. All have some connection to my favorite themes of Americana, culture, art, journalism, genealogy … and regional Pittsburgh, the epicenter of the extended Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor family’s growth and development since 1791.

A Walk with the Dead” – by Keith C. Burris, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 16, 2018
Teens Use Pitt Archives to Research Homewood Photo History” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 23, 2018
Two men charged with stealing more than $8 million in rare books from Carnegie Library” – “Schulman’s rare books empire began with 1,200 science fiction paperbacks” – “Carnegie Library’s rare books manager was fired after theft was discovered” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 20, 2018
Arrests Accompany Takeover of German Plant in Koppel” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 15, 2018
John Steinbeck’s Western Flyer Resurfaces” – Fine Books & Collections, July 5, 2018
Library of Congress Receives Enormous Donation of Comic Books” – Rare Book Monthly, July 2018
Stolen Columbus Letter Returned to Its Home” – Rare Book Monthly, July 2018
Court documents detail theft of rare maps, books, prints from Carnegie Library” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 29, 2018
Monticello Is Done Avoiding Jefferson’s Relationship With Sally Hemings” – New York Times, June 16, 2018
New Pitt social media study shows how likes, comments, unfriending relate to depression” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 7, 2018
Wreckage of Flight 93 to Be Buried at Crash Site in Somerset County” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 2, 2018
Obituary: Barbara Luderowski / Sculptor, founder of the Mattress Factory helped spur North Side redevelopment” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 31, 2018
The Great Breakup: The First Arrivals to the Americas Split Into Two Groups” – New York Times, May 31, 2018
Retooling a Tweedy Literary Fixture” – New York Times, May 28, 2018
Arlington Cemetery, Nearly Full, May Become More Exclusive” – New York Times, May 28, 2018
The Bibliomaniac of Ridgewood” – New York Times, May 25, 2018
The Hard Truth at Newspapers Across America: Hedge Funds Are in Charge” – Bloomberg, May 22, 2018
Lewis & Clark started here (sorry, St. Louis)” – Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 13, 2018
Amazon is hungry for CMU students during recruiting seasons” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 7, 2018
Their Ancestors Were on Opposite Sides of a Lynching. Now, They’re Friends.” – New York Times, May 4, 2018
Carnegie Mellon inks deal to help create ‘smartest airport on the planet’” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 19, 2018
Library of Congress Puts Papers of Benjamin Franklin Online” – Fine Books & Collections, April 18, 2018
Opinion: The Historians Versus the Genealogists” – by John Sedgwick, New York Times, April 12, 2018
In a rare-book repository, a void that chills” – by Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 5, 2018
The Hamilton of World War II” – by Todd S. Purdum, New York Times, April 1, 2018
Credit Suisse Labels Rare Books a ‘Mediocre’ Financial Investment” – by Michael Stillman, Rare Book Monthly, April 2018
Drue Heinz – philanthropist, literary force, widow of H.J. “Jack” Heinz II – dies at 103” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 31, 2018
Who stole 314 items from the Carnegie Library rare books room?” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 19, 2018
What made Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ so immensely popular?” – Washington Post, March 14, 2018
Stephen Hawking Showed the Power of an Unconstrained Mind” – Bloomberg, March 14, 2018
Michigan State University builds global slave trade paper trail” – Toledo Blade, March 11, 2018
In death as in life, Graham service draws varied throng” – New York Times/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 3, 2018
The Curtis Census – Locating Every Extant Copy of Edward Curtis’ North American Indian” – Rare Book Monthly, March 2018
When Did Americans Stop Marrying Their Cousins? Ask the World’s Largest Family Tree” – New York Times, March 1, 2018
Picturing ‘The Waste Land’” – Fine Books & Collections, Feb. 20, 2018
Marquis de Sade ‘National Treasure’ Removed from French Sale by the State” – by Michael Stillman, Rare Book Monthly, February 2018
90 Shakespeare Documents Recognized on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register” – Fine Books & Collections, Jan. 26, 2018
Descendants’ Stories of the Clotilda Slave Ship Drew Doubts. Now Some See Validation.” – New York Times, Jan. 25, 2018
In Cave in Israel, Scientists Find Jawbone Fossil From Oldest Modern Human Out of Africa” – New York Times, Jan. 25, 2018
Obituary: Lawrence Stager / Creative biblical archaeologist” – New York Times/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 5, 2018
The Hunt for Centuries-Old Books Reveals the Power of the Printed Word” – Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3, 2018
In the Bones of a Buried Child, Signs of a Massive Human Migration to the Americas” – New York Times, Jan. 3, 2018
We Are What We Read” – New York Times, Jan. 2, 2018
Who Owns the Rosetta Stone?” – by Michael Stillman, Rare Book Monthly, January 2018

Farmer Ida Ellen (Farabee) Taylor Behind the Reins in Hundred, WV

Ida and her horse and buggy – enlarge

Farmer Ida Ellen (Farabee) Taylor poses behind the reins of her horse and buggy, likely near in the vicinity of her home near Hundred, Wetzel County, WV. It’s very possible that this image was photographed by her son-in-law, Joseph Lindsey Jones, who briefly operated his own studio near Hundred and whose work is featured on the “Online Museum of Creativity.”

The daughter of Spencer and Nancy (Minor) Farabee of near Waynesburg, PA, Ida was married at the tender age of 15 to 23-year-old James Ambler Taylor. Over the years, the Taylors lived on farms in Hundred and just over the state line in Gilmore Township, Greene County, PA.

The couple produced 10 children – Cora May Jones, William “Franklin” Taylor, Nancy “Anna” Hostutler, Georgia Spencer Taylor, James “Oliver” Taylor, Flora Bell Butcher, Harry “Jackson” Taylor, Charles Oscar Taylor, Esther Luvinia Hixenbaugh Six and Arthur Edmund Taylor. They attended the Oak Forest Church along Brushy Fork Road, near Honsocker Knob, where they and four of their adult children later would be buried.

When Ida’s husband passed away of a stroke in 1932, the Wetzel (WV) Democrat reported that he was “one of the old-time citizens of the community [and] had passed his entire life in this neighborhood and was highly respected by all his neighborhood.” More on this large family>>>

The Drowning Tragedy of a Disabled Teenager


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 website.

Launching the New Gaumer Online Archive on


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.