An Unfortunate Accident

One of the data-bases in the Ancestry.com collection is “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011.” Naturally, I have used this collection to try to find the death certificates for my many Indiana ancestors. The certificates can help fill in some of the connections—such as parent’s names, spouse’s name, occupation, dates of birth and death. Obviously, the death certificate also includes the cause of death. Most of the time, I’ve found the cause to be pretty standard—cardio vascular problems, respiratory problems, cancer, etc. Occasionally, I find a more intriguing cause of death…

Burton Minton was the son of Thomas Minton (1844-1916) and Eliza Ann Cummings (1845-1927). He was born in the community of Wilbur, IN December 6, 1870. He was a nephew of my GG Grandmother, Mariah (Minton) Portis (1848-1923). He was a farmer & trader. He was a member of the Poplar Grove M.E. Church. Burton married Vesta Fowler December 24, 1890. He and Vesta had 9 children and lived in the Wilbur community together for 57 years.

Burton’s Death Certificate from Ancestry.com indicates that he didn’t die of “natural causes.”

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Incidentally, his name is spelled “Berton” on the death certificate. I found his obituary in the Morgan County, IN Library. It was not sourced so I’m not sure what newspaper it came from. It stated that “his buggy overturned about 10:30 Monday night on the Baltimore Road.” He was found Tuesday morning. He died “at 3:30 Tuesday afternoon in the Robert Long Hospital in Indianapolis.” He had never regained consciousness. The obit. also stated that searchers had looked “through the night” for Burton. “The parties had passed along the county road beside which Mr. Minton lay after his buggy had slipped off a culvert, but the buggy had turned over in such a deep spot that it was not seen at night…” It also reported that Burton “had evidently crawled about 30 feet along the gully.” He was found about 3 miles north of Wilbur and had reportedly been traveling home from Monrovia, IN.

The first time I read his obituary several years ago, I really had no idea who he was. I skimmed it and didn’t think much more about it. Because he died in a horse and buggy accident, I figured he died in the early 1900’s. Obviously, I didn’t look at the date written on the obit. Burton died May 3, 1949; well into the age of the automobile. Hard to imagine someone was still traveling by horse and buggy. I would guess he didn’t have much light on the roadway at that time of night as well. Anyway, the unfortunate accident claimed his life and added another sad story to the family history.

© MJM 2018

Thirteen Children in a Cabin 3 Logs High

Mariah (Minton) Portis sitting in front of the cabin in which she had 13 children.

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Caption on back of photo: George Portis erected this house near the year 1870 near Wilbur, Morgan Co. Ind. These logs were yellow Poplar. Mr Portis hewed these logs by hand, they were 3 ft through after they were finished. This house was build in the hollow West of Wilbur. This is Mrs. Portis 1920.

There is a news clipping, I’m not sure what newspaper it came from, nor when it was written. Josephine Foster reported on the historic photo. She mentions some attributes of the structure of the cabin. First, there were no windows (except the one high up in the loft). The lack of windows helped keep intruders out. Also the doorway is very short as was common in early cabins. To me it looks like there was a shed added on to the left of the main building. The community of Wilbur, where they lived, is now a cross roads in west central Morgan county in Gregg Twp.

George Portis was born Dec. 15, 1839 (some sources say 1830) in Davidson County, NC. Mariah Minton was born June 30, 1848 in Knox County, TN. They were married Jan. 29, 1865 in Morgan County, IN. George died in 1916 and Mariah in 1923. They are buried in Bethel Friends Church cemetery.

George & Mariah Portis had 13 children:

  • Ezekiel, born in 1866 and lived 5 days
  • Sarah, born in 1868, lived just over a month
  • (Miles J.) Bradley (1871-1929)
  • Silas J. (1872-1933)
  • Bertha Ann (1875 or 76-1940) twin
  • Burton F. (1875 or 76-1934) twin
  • Usher L. born in 1879, lived less than a year
  • Clyda, born in 1880 and lived just over a year
  • Pearl A. (1882-1895), died at 13 years
  • Elbert L. (1884-1952)
  • Gertrude (1888-1967)
  • Georgetta (1892-1962)
  • Earl, born in 1895, lived 1 month

Of the 13, only 7 lived to adulthood. But that is still plenty in such a small cabin!

George and Mariah are my great-great Grandparents. Their daughter, Gertrude, married Oscar McKinley Feb 15, 1908 in Morgan Co. IN.

Sometime in the mid 1900’s George and Mariah moved to Brooklyn, IN and lived in the same house as Gertrude and Oscar. The house in Brooklyn is where my Grandfather, Loran was born.

© MJM 2016