There are fifteen branches of the Minor family in total, each with their own distinguishing designation based on the estate where they were born. As Francis and Virginia were second cousins, they are both represented on different branches. Francis’ line is known as the “Woodlawn Minors” and Virginia is of the “Topping Castle Minors.
Beginning with their first blood relatives in America, Francis and Virginia hold several generations in common. These shared relatives will be addressed first, followed by the relatives of Francis, of whom the records are more plentiful; then those of Virginia, who are still, by and large, murky figures lost to history.
Genealogist Charles M. Blackford notes that while few achieved lasting fame, “from the first of the name to the present day, [the Minor family’s] members have been influential in their respective communities, but have ever shunned office, and hence are not as well-known as many families of less real merit but fewer peculiarities.”
* These are short profiles of the Minors. For more in-depth information, please see Nicole’s book when it is released.
Mindert Doodes (also spelled Maindort/Meindert Doedes)
Mindert Doodes, one of the hundreds of Dutch ship captains who had traded in Virginia, chose to leave Holland and relocate to Virginia in 1650 along with his wife, Mary, a woman of social and political distinction in Holland. He made his home on the lower waters of the Rappahannock in Nansemond County.
Mindert and Mary had two children, Doodes and Marie. Father and son were naturalized in 1673, under the Virginia Naturalization Act of 1671, which required them to petition the General Assembly and take an oath of allegiance to the Crown in exchange for the right to inherit land.
Mindert lived only four years as a full citizen of the English colony of Virginia. He died sometime in late 1677. Mindert’s will—appropriately sealed with a wax impression of a galley— was proved on December 13, 1677. He left his estate to his wife until such time as she remarried, which she did, twice, before her death on January 9, 1686/87. His estate then passed to his children.
Doodes Minor was born in Holland and was about nine years old when the family emigrated to Virginia, which puts his birth around 1641. Nothing is known of his childhood.
As an adult, Doodes lived on the Rappahannock River in the county of Middlesex. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had five or six children, one of whom was a daughter. Doodes was a farmer who did much to advance his family from the status of immigrant merchants to the planter class or gentry of the South, who made most of their money through tobacco beginning in the mid-seventeenth century. Doodes was also a member of the Middlesex County Colonial Militia, with records confirming service at least in 1687.
The exact date of Doodes’ death is unclear, but family tradition holds it occurred sometime in 1695. Doodes willed his plantation to his wife until her death or remarriage, at which time it was to be divided among four of his sons. He also willed that his land in the upper part of Middlesex County be divided among them.
Garrett Minor was the third son of Doodes and Elizabeth Minor, born April 13, 1679. Very little is known of his life other than he served as Justice of Middlesex county and was referred to as “mayor.”
According to tax records, he owned 225 acres in Middlesex, Virginia by 1704. Garrett was the first Minor to supplement his tobacco income with work in the law, which was to become a sacred vocation in the Minor family.
He married Diane Vivian on October 17, 1706, in Christ Church Parish in Middlesex. They had at least two children, a son named John, born June 29, 1707, and a daughter called Diana, born June 22, 1710.
Garrett died on February 2, 1720, in Middlesex. Like many of his ancestors and descendants, he is buried in Christ Church Cemetery in Middlesex.
John Vivian Minor
John Minor, was a wealthy planter from Spotsylvania County, Virginia, who also served as a captain in the Fairfax County Militia. He was known as an intelligent and well-respected leader who “had a prominent place in the life of colonial Caroline” County.
He married Sarah Carr, daughter of Captain Thomas and Mary Carr on Nov 14, 1732. Together, they had eleven children. As a wedding gift, his father-in-law gave him ownership of Sarah’s childhood home, an estate on the north bank of the North Anna River in Caroline County called Topping Castle.
Three years later, on August 9, 1735, King George II granted twenty-eight-year–old John a Crown Patent for 400 acres of land in Hanover County on “the North Fork of the north fork of the James River” called Gale Hill for the sum of forty shillings.
John chose not to live on Gale Hill, making their home instead at Topping Castle. John reserved the Gale Hill land for agriculture. On April 26, 1748, John bought another 400 acres of property adjacent to Gale Hill, and area called Waller Grant. By time he died in 1755, John’s children stood to inherit some 800 acres. He left Gale Hill to his son James and Topping Hill to John II.
John Vivian Minor is the last joint ancestor of Virginia and Francis Minor. His sons, John Minor II (the eldest and Virginia’s great-grandfather) and Dabney Minor I (the eighth child and Francis’ grandfather) are the point at which the family tree splits into two distinct branches.
Dabney Minor I
Dabney Minor I, Francis Minor’s grandfather, was the eighth child of John Vivian Minor and Sarah Carr, born June 11, 1749. History is mute on his upbringing, but he was certainly apprenticed to the trade of carpentry at a young age, as his profession is described as a carpenter and house joiner.
Dabney married Anne Anderson, daughter of David and Elizabeth (Mills) Anderson of Albemarle County, on October 12, 1773. Together, they had five children, including one daughter who died young and is therefore omitted from some family and historical records.
Dabney was so well-respected for his work he received several commissions. He was part of a commission of five men who prepared two acres of land for public buildings in Orange, the county seat. He also completed several commissions in construction of the courthouse and furniture to be housed within it, including tables and bookcases.
At some point before 1797, the family acquired over 1,000 acres on the North Anna River, a plantation they came to call Woodlawn. That was a popular name for residences in the area, with no fewer than five others bearing the same name; this one is believed to be located south of present-day Highway 612 just west of the Spotsylvania border.
This was the home that came to identify a whole branch of the Minor family, but Dabney did not live in it long. The year of his death is in some question, as the Minor Family Bible clearly records it as November 7, 1797, but tradition holds to November 7, 1799, possibly the result of a transcription error somewhere along the way.
Dabney Minor II
Little record remains of Dabney’s youngest son, Dabney Minor II, born July 22, 1779, at Woodlawn. He was a lawyer who handled land cases and executed wills.
He married Lucy Herndon on January 30, 1800. They had nine children, of whom Francis was the second youngest. They lived on a “tract of land purchased from Joseph Alcock’s estate” in Orange County, Virginia.
Francis was only two when his father died after a long, painful illness on March 8, 1822, at the age of forty-two. He gave two-thirds of the land on which they lived to his wife, Lucy, and the other third to his daughter, Salley, plus a third of his land in Hanover County to little Francis. This was either split with Christopher Hudson of Albemarle County, and Launcelot Minor of Louisa County, or held in their ownership until Francis came of age; the will is unclear.
Three of Virginia’s ancestors were members of the commission which sentenced the slaves and white indentured servant rebels in Bacon’s rebellion in 1676 for rising up against the local gentry. She is also related to George Washington through two lines and eight generations.
Major John Minor II
Born November 13, 1735, to John Vivian Minor and Sarah Carr, Major John Minor was their heir and one of the most influential of the Topping Castle Minors.
John married Elizabeth Cosby in 1755. They had four children. He and his second wife Mary Overton, whom he married in 1760, had seven children.
At the age of twenty, John inherited Gale Hill lands from his father. He likely began his career as a tobacco farmer. At the time, it was not uncommon for planters like Minor to fund their lands not from the profit of their farms, but by taking other jobs in professions like medicine, education, or law—all of which various branches of the Minor family excelled in. John was appointed a Justice of the Peace in Caroline County in 1769 by Governor Botetourt.
In addition, he managed the affairs and estate of General Thomas Nelson Jr. while he was otherwise engaged as a member of Congress, was a delegate to the 1776 Constitutional Convention, and commanded the siege of Yorktown that resulted in the surrender of the British and an eventual end to the Revolutionary War.
Beginning in 1777, John served in the Caroline County militia during the Revolutionary War. He was promoted to the rank of second major in August 1777 by Walker Taliaferro. He served until January 1779, when he resigned his commission.
Sometime in the 1770s he built a mansion on his father’s land that came to be known as Gale Hill.
John Minor died March 21, 1800, aged sixty-four.
Col. William Minor
Very few records survive pertaining to Col. William Minor, the third son of John Minor, and Virginia Minor’s grandfather. He married Mildred T. Lewis, daughter of Capt. John Lewis, through whom the Minors are related to Meriwether Lewis of the Louisiana Purchase, on January 2, 1790. Together, they had three children: Warner Washington, Virginia’s father; Lucy; and Elizabeth.
Col. William Minor was a career military man. He died in Hybla in Hanover County, Virginia, in 1820.
Warner Washington Minor
Virginia’s father, Warner Washington Minor, was born on November 22, 1792, the eldest child of William and Mildred Gregory Lewis Minor. Nothing is known of his childhood.
Warner married Maria Timberlake on January 25, 1819. They had seven children, of whom Virginia Louise (or Louisa) was the second daughter and third eldest. Her older siblings were Lewis Madison Timberlake (1828–1874) and Mary Mildred Madison (1821–1843) and her younger sisters were Lucy Ellen (1826–1872), Maria Warner, who was born and died in 1827, and Harriet Ann (1828–1830), plus brother Warner W. (1830–1832).
Little is known about Warner’s life between his marriage and 1825, other than he seems to have lost whatever fortune he had. It is unclear where the family was living prior to 1825, when they moved to Charlottesville so Warner could take a job as one of the first “hotelkeeper” at the University of Virginia, where he oversaw Hotel C. This job was financially and physically taxing, and Warner resigned in the fall of 1828. No further record of his employment currently exists.
The next mention of him is his sudden death on March 27, 1830, which left six-year-old Virginia and her siblings without a father, and her mother a widow with three young children, and the whole family in dire financial straits.