James Minerd was born on March 9, 1835 near Scio, Harrison County, OH, the son of John and Barbara (Shaeffer) Minerd Jr. He was a pioneer of western Ohio and eastern Indiana, and outlived his wife and most of their children. He was the second in a line of five generations of Minerds to own the family farm on the Indiana-Ohio border.
When James was age five, in 1840, he and his parents left Harrison County. Using "a good team of horses and a substantial wagon," a newspaper once said, they traveled across the state, a "very tedious and slow" journey. The family settled in Van Wert County, OH, and in 1845 moved to a farm along the Ohio state line in Allen County, IN.
First arriving as a boy on the state line farm, James found one particular young tree that was so thin he could tie it in a knot. As an old man, he was photographed leaning on the tree, which had since grown to three times his width. It's said that as a boy, James spoke German at home until he was old enough to attend school with his English-speaking friends.
On Jan. 20, 1859, at the age of 23, James married 19-year-old Martha "Jane" Sheehan (1839-1916). A newspaper once said that Martha "was born June 30, 1839, and came to Monroeville at the age of 10 years." A manuscript family tree inscribed by the Minerds' granddaughter Goldie Minerd Moennig shows that Martha's parents were Daniel Sheehan, born in 1796, and Elizabeth Hutchinson, born in 1802.
In December 1853, when his brother in law Elihu Tilbury died at age 26, James graciously took the widowed Amy and her two young sons Mentzer and Corwin by horseback to his home farm. There, the Tilbury boys stayed for the next six years until Amy married again. The Minerds must have watched with great fascination and pride as Corwin Tilbury later moved to Pittsburgh, was elected to City Council, and introduced pioneering "anti-smoke" legislation designed to reduce the Steel City's infamously heavy air pollution.
Sadly, on May 12, 1870, daughter Louisa passed away at age five. The cause of her death at such a young age is not known. She was buried in what would become the family plot at Stephenson's graveyard (now known as Sugar Ridge Cemetery. Her stylish marker, spelled "Loiza," and seen here, was still legible after more than 130 years when photographed in 2002.
When the federal census was taken in 1870, James' 17-year-old nephew Corwin Tilbury was residing in their home and working on their farm, having lived there since becoming fatherless in early childhood.
Trying his hand at politics, James was elected as a councilman of Monroeville's Fifth Ward, running as a Democrat. In April 1876, he ran again and was re-elected over Joseph B. Davis by a margin of two to one -- 95 votes versus 46 votes. In the 1876 election, all eight offices were won by Democratic candidates. In publishing the results, the Monroeville Democrat said "The following [numbers] will show how the Republicans were all scooped out of office."
The census of 1880 shows that James and Martha had moved into the town of Monroeville, where James had secured employment in a stove factory, as had his sons Reuben (age 19) and Daniel (17). Their home that year was on Barnhart Street. They apparently did not stay with this arrangement for too long, as they eventually returned to the old home farm for good. They remained members for many years of the Methodist Church in Monroeville.
On Jan. 25, 1888, the Minerds lost their 28-year-old daughter Emma Minerd, also of unknown causes. She was laid to rest in the family plot at Sugar Ridge. Her badly faded grave marker also was still barely legible circa 2002.
James' father lived to the ripe old age of 98. According to a newspaper article, James "tenderly and nobly took care and ministered to the wants of his aged father through all of his cares and afflictions in his declining years." When the father died in 1898, James and all but one of his living siblings attended the funeral. Under the terms of the father's will, James received the 73-acre state line farm, an important move to keep the valuable property in the family.
Seen here, the family cat poses on the family mailbox, addressed "R.F.D. #1, Box 15." The road where this box stood marked the border between Allen County, IN and Van Wert County, OH.
Just after Christmas 1890, the Minerds lost yet another adult child, daughter in law Cora, wife of Daniel, to typhoid fever. Daniel and Cora's only daughter died just a few months later. Then, in 1893, the family suffered the grisly and tragic death of Daniel himself. After taking a horse and buggy out to another town to conduct business, Daniel went on a drinking binge. That night, as he drove home, Daniel slipped from the cart in an apparent stupor, and his head caught between the cart and the wheel. Said the Monroeville (IN) Weekly Breeze:
It was about midnight when his fate was discovered by his father, ... who was
awakened from his sleep by the neighing of a horse, and upon getting up, and
going to the door he observed the horse Daniel had always drove, hitched to the
cart standing at the barnyard gate. He went out and as he came closer to the
cart, a most horrible sight met his gaze. The lifeless body of his son was lying
in the cart with his head still between the thill and the wheel, with blood and
brains oozing from a horrible gash in the back of his head which had been rubbed
in no doubt by the turning of the wheel.
Seen here, the old original Minerd farm house, with James' nephew Corwin Tilbury posed in front. (Corwin grew up in the house.) The fence in front faced the public road which was the state line. The unidentified photographer likely is standing directly on the Indiana-Ohio border.
When the federal census was enumerated in 1900, James and Martha were living on the farm, and had been married for 41 years. The census taker noted that of the four children Martha had borne, only one -- son John Reuben Minerd -- was still alive. Also making her home in the Minerd household that year was 17-year-old niece Jane M. Krick (1882- ? ).
The census of 1910 shows three generations of Minerds in the family home -- James and Martha, son Reuben and wife Alice Maud (Bell) Minerd, and grandchildren Reuben Perry Corwin Minerd and Goldie E. Minerd.
When James' brother in law James Sheehan died in 1913, James was appointed to serve as executor of the estate. The Sheehans had made their home in Jackson Township, Allen County. The news was published in a prominent legal advertisement in the Fort Wayne Daily News.
At the age of 82, the elderly but still active James escaped death but suffered painfully in late August 1917 when the Minerds' suffered a terrible calamity. In a freak accident, their house "burned to the ground with all contents," reported the Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel.
In a top-headline story, the Weekly Sentinel told readers the newsy details of how:
[James] Minerd is in a serious condition and may died as a result of burns received... Members of the family barely escaped with their lives by jumping from the upstairs windows. [He] was burned about the neck and together with the shock and his advanced age, he is reported in a very serious condition. Mrs. Minerd and two children escaped injury by jumping. Mr. Minerd had arisen early and built a fire in the kitchen range before going to the barn to do the chores and it is presumed a defective flue was the immediate cause, for in a short time the house was in flames and beyond control, although they succeeded in saving the surrounding buildings.
Fortunately, James survived his burns, and lived for another dozen years. Little, however, is known of his final years. James eventually willed the farm to a third generation Minerd owner, his son John "Reuben" Minerd.
Martha died at home on May 30, 1916, at the age of 76. She was laid to rest in the Sugar Ridge Cemetery, also known as Stephenson's Cemetery, carved out of a cornfield along what is now known as Old Route 30 near Monroeville. Her obituary in the Fort Wayne News spelled the family name "Miner" and said death was caused by "an illness of two years' duration."
James outlived her by 13 years, and was cared for by son John and his wife and children. Over the years, judging by old family photographs, James visited or was visited by his nephews James Wesley Pring, Mentzer Tilbury and Corwin Tilbury, and nieces of the Krick family.
James passed away on July 5, 1929, at the age of 94. He was laid to eternal rest beside his wife at Sugar Ridge. All four of their children repose there as well.
Nephew Corwin Tilbury, who had lived on their farm as a teenager, received word of his uncle's death. He traveled with his wife from their home in Pittsburgh, PA to attend the funeral. Writing from Chicago, niece Leona L. Thorne sent Reuben a heartfelt letter, saying:
Uncle Jim lived to a marvelous old age, a happy and useful life, a devoted father, a loyal son, a good neighbor. I have a keen recollection of him when he was perhaps 45 or 50 years old, always genial, gracious and friendly. We have always held for him an enduring affection. I know that his declining years have been happy with you and Alice and the children...
Copyright © 2002, 2007, 2008, 2016 Mark A. Miner