Roundtable Speaker Combines Interest in Civil War, Family History

Article excerpt

What began as an innocent and unassuming family visit turned into a more than 30-year odyssey that enabled western Pennsylvania native Mark Miner to, as he referred to it, "find my niche."

Through what, he added, was a series of amazing coincidences that were years in the making, Miner uncovered a family history that found no fewer than 115 members of his extended family having participated in the Civil War. And, this, the 150th anniversary of that conflict, makes Miner's discoveries more meaningful as a result.

While most families are able to, at best, identify two, three or perhaps as many as four or five generations in their often branchless- and leafless family trees, Miner, who lives in Beaver, traces his family's roots to Somerset County in the 1790s, when the United States, under presidents George Washington and John Adams, was in its formative years.

Miner, 51, who graduated from West Virginia University in 1983 with a degree in journalism, will be the featured speaker Thursday at the California University of Pennsylvania Civil War Roundtable. Miner's presentation not coincidentally bears the same title as his book: "Well At This Time: The Civil War Diaries of Ephraim Miner of Somerset County."

If the name sounds familiar, it should. Ephraim Miner is Mark Miner's great-great-grand-uncle.

During a visit to Miner's great-grandmother's home when he was 10 years old, his father's grandmother, as grandmothers are wont to do, pulled out the family photo album. Attending yet another family reunion and fascinated by some of those same pictures, his great- grandmother presented him the album.

"She said, 'Find out about these people,'" Miner said, "and I've been searching ever since. I found paperwork in another relative's home and that led to discovering more about the family in Somerset County and its subsequent moves to other areas of Western Pennsylvania."

Among the photos in that album was one of a great-great-great grandfather from Moundsville, W.Va., a member of the 12th West Virginia Infantry, Miner later discovered, killed in battle in Winchester, Va. Once Mark Miner discovered that piece of family history, he discovered that ancestor's Civil War papers in the National Archives, furthering his interest in the Civil War.

More than curious about his family history, Miner, an annual guest lecturer at the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics, visited family members in Kingwood in Somerset County where he was escorted to a local cemetery. Ephraim Miner (1838- 1921) is buried in that Kingwood cemetery. Another stop in Kingwood was to the home of Ephraim Miner's daughter, Minnie (Miner) Gary, who was born in 1892 and still lived in the house her father built when she passed away in 1985.

Proudly displayed on a wall in Ephraim's daughter's home was the same photo Miner initially saw in the family album, the photo which spurred his interest. Delving further into the family history, Miner discovered a copy of that soldier's Civil War papers. …