Saddle Bag Preacher

The Reverend Nathan Bangs

Anticipation! That is what Garrett and Elizabeth Miller and family were feeling this day in 1805. A young Garrett Jr. would rush to take the saddled horse to stable and feed the animal then hurry inside their log home 12 x 16 feet, to watch their mother add more water to the soup for the company. She would stoke up the fire to dry off the preacher from his stream crossing. The saddle bag preacher’s news would gladden all their hearts. The first Methodist camp meeting ever to be held in Canada would happen in September 1805 over at Hay Bay and they were all invited.

Circuit Rider pencil sketch by Wendy Harty May 2021

The life of my 6th great grand parents Garrett and Elizabeth Switzer Miller continues to fascinate me. Both were born of Irish Palatine German backgrounds, survived the trip to the shores of America, married at Camden New York and fled the Revolutionary War to a final resting and home at Ernestown, Ontario. Garrett lived a long life of 84 years; his wife Elizabeth to 84 and it is the spiritual journey of this family that I want to explore.

When Garrett Sr. was 14, his father Adam Miller was the Lutheran minister for the Courtmatix, Ireland community. It is here in their home they entertained the Reverend John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. So too, the circuit rider would make an anticipated visit travelling the 200 mile trip to share the gospel with the small villages and farms. And who was one of these riders? With over 2 million people arriving on America’s shores, what are the chances that it would be a 4th cousin of Keziah Atwood Gibbs! And that he would have the ancestral ties to Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush and his son President George Walker Bush. Who is this new find for the family tree. His name is Reverend Nathan Bangs, 1777-1836. If you need a refresher of the Bangs story read “Migrant Ship” and “7 Men of Eastham” found on my WordPress site under

At Ernestown, the Millers built a farm and brought up the children in the faith. My 5th great grandmother Rebecca, had a brother named after her father, Garrett Miller, Jr. born November 18th 1786 at Sorel, Quebec. His obituary reads: with his family at age 12, a young Garrett gave himself to God and to the Church, joined Mr. Detlor’s class and remained unshaken in his confidence until his last hour. His stability in relation to the Church of his early choice may be accounted for, in part at least, by the fact that he was from an early and constant reader of our church organ; from the first he was want to hail The Christian Guardian as a weekly visitor, close and continued attention to its columns put him in possession of that information which saved himself and others in the the years of storm and trial. Others where born off on the tide of division when he remained unmoved, a pillar in the Church of God. In church matters as in his personal experience he often said, “my heart is fixed”. He was more knowing and better read in church matters than many of his day. The House of the Lord was his chief joy, often, when scarcely able to sit up in his chair, he found his way to the place of prayer. His wife’s maiden name was Nancy Foster. With her he lived long and happily, leaving behind him 6 married children, and a number of grandchildren. After a long illness of patient suffering he died in great peace, on Monday the 28th of December, 1863.

Info from obituary buried Newburgh United Church Cemetery, Newburgh, Lennox and Addington, Ontario, Canada

And with this information I’m off on a new hunt for information. Tugging on oars for weeks before they reached a new home to begin again, the land along the Bay of Quinte had been taken years earlier by the Loyalist and the Millers went closer to Elizabeth’s relatives the Switzers, who with the first group of Loyalists settled the area in 1784. These people were granted the Fourth Township, surveyed at the Bay of Quinte.

Elizabeth Switzer Miller’s parents Anna Maria Guier 1730-1807 and Peter Switzer 1730-1816 are buried here, my 7th great grandparents along with Garrett Miller Sr. 1738-1823

A three week bateaux voyage and they arrived upon the sloping banks of a small stream, disembarked and called it home. The future home of each, chosen by ballot gave them 200 acres and one lot in a plot of 300 acres which was set apart for a village. The Garrett Miller family sacrificed not once but twice their worldly possessions and weren’t to be stopped by any obstacle. They came about 1796 to the area called Ernestown. The forest had to be overcome. A crude log home was erected and they gathered around the open fireplace that first winter, enjoying long evenings, Rebecca 18 would be married the next year to Charles Henry Bush, Peter 17, Agnes 13, William 9, Garrett Jr. 6. Garrett was 58 when he started over, his wife Elizabeth 42. Imagine how exhausted they must have been from getting rid of the green timber, removing stumps and underbrush to get ready for a planting season. Garret would recount the suffering his loyalty had brought upon his body, showing his musket ball injury. There was lots of kinfolk on the Switzer side and someone gave Elizabeth a pumpkin, which would become standard fare. She would mix it with Indian corn meal and made into a small loaf, baked in the open oven. Outside their door, was maple syrup for the taking.

They were amongst fellow Loyalists, family and neighbors, all looking forward to the circuit riders making the 200 mile round trip to bring them the gospel. The home of Garrett and Elizabeth Miller was a welcome stop, where William Losee, 1792 had been appointed to supply the ministerial work in Canada. The circuit was called Oswegotchie with 90 members. Old Hay Bay Church, the first Methodist Church in Canada was built that year. Next came Sylvanus Keeler, appointed 1795 to the Bay of Quinte.

This was the area surveyed for the Loyalists in Southern Ontario. Ernestown is close to Millers Corner and is about 25 miles to Hay Bay where the First Methodist Camp Meeting would be held.

Governor Simcoe, in 1796 by proclamation directed the magistrates of Upper Canada to ascertain under oath and register the names of all such persons as United Empire Loyalists Garrett Miller was awarded the honorary distinction of U.E.L.

Itinerant circuit riders were travelling preachers opposed to local preachers. Nathan Bangs was anti-religious until his sister, who was a devout Methodist, convinced him. At age 23 he was put on trial to be a circuit rider, in 1801. There was no formal education requirement. Those on trail apprenticed with existing circuit riders for two years. Nathan Bangs was assigned the Bay of Quinte Circuit, having 457 members, travelling from Kingston east, west to York, on the St. Lawrence River, then north to Lake Simcoe and back along both sides of the bay. In his journal he wrote on October 7, 1802 of his experience. He was heading with Joseph Jewell, towards the Bay of Quinte; the hills and creeks, mud and water were his experiences on a terrible non existent road. Safely they arrived at York, now Toronto where he became sick with influenza. Jewell continued without him. He was tenderly nursed, recovered, mounted his horse and rode on. His faithful animal was taken sick and died the next day. Alone, in a strange place, no money, without friends. He said, “I trusted God alone”. Along came a man offering him a loan of a horse on condition he preach to them before going on to the Bay. Thankfully Bangs accepted the offer. Into new settlements he rode on extremely bad roads, and found the people so poor and demoralized. He also encountered bad food and violent opposition to the gospel. As he travelled further, he found mention of Seth Crowell, a godly and zealous itinerant, who had travelled the lake shore before him who had awakened and converted many settlers. Small societies had formed, although separated by many isolated miles. His Itinerating came to a halt December 1803, when he came down with Typhus. He was given up for dead by his caregiver. He survived and in 1804 Bishop Ashbury ordained Bangs deacon and then an elder so could administer sacraments. He worked with 2 other riders and would have known “The Brethren” by name. The family of Miller would be numbered in the 520 Methodists. In 1805 Nathan Bangs and Sylvanus Keeler came to the Bay of Quinte. Keeler had passed his trial in 1795, travelled the Bay of Quinte and the Oswegatchie Circuit and was back in 1802-1805. They would travel the 200 miles over and over in 2 week circuits.

Nathan Bangs arrived on May 29, 1805, at Hay Bay. He felt his spirit refreshed at meeting with the brethren in this place – a Joyful meeting was going on. He gave a blessing to them for good and asked God to spread His spirit over them day and night. Bangs gave the sermon, preaching from Deutronomy 32:11. ” As an Eagle stirs up her might, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, takes them and bear them, so does the Lord shelter those that trust in Him”. He would return in July, 1805. At this meeting he preached twice and wrote about a strange thing happening. A man bereft of reason, waked – was made aware of his sinfulness next to God’s perfect holiness. By Thursday, July 4, 1805 he was taken ill with ague and fever, weakened in his body and his friends took care of him. “Lake Fever” it was called from stagnant swamps near the rivers, dirty water. On entering a house he would often be offered whiskey to combat it but declined. The people thought the use of spirits preventive of epidemic diseases. If they used the swamp water, 9 cases out of 10 would induce the disease rather than prevent it.

Bangs, the Elder, was about to organize the first camp meeting in Canada. He wrote about his spiritual insecurities in a journal. His Wesleyan theology said one had to consciously choose salvation and make an individual decision and then strive for a live of perfect holiness each day. (From the Journals and Notebook of Nathan Bangs 1805-06).

A lapsed Methodist wrote about the religion’ excessive enthusiasm and spiritual fear it fostered on its converts.

Hay Bay Camp Meeting was to play a major role in frontier evangelism. It’s success resulted in a sustained level of participation in organized religion, as hundreds of souls were converted, by Preachers Case and Ryan, Pickett, Keeler, Madden and Nathan Bangs, my 4th cousin. I’ll be reporting on the meeting in my next blog and continue his astonishing saga when describing the Devine flame running through his soul.

Happy Mother’s Day 2021

The grandmother of my paternal ancestry

Olive Gibbs Waddell my grandmother
Lydia Wise Gibbs my great grandmother standing Olive my grandmother, Marie Minerva on lap
My grandmother Olive and my dad and siblings (1924)

On my paternal ancestry my Grandmother Olive Vivian Gibbs Waddell. Her mother Lydia May Ruth Wise Gibbs (seated in chair) was my Great Grandmother. Lydia was fatherless at age 7, married at age 15, married 3 times, divorced twice, died young at age 39 stomach cancer. Olive also married at age 16, although her marriage certificate says 19! Olive had five children in the next 8 years on a southern Alberta homestead, no running water, no electricity, no doctor in attendance but a good neighbor woman. A quote from Laura Harm, “We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.”


My grandmother Olive knew Charlie Russell and took some art lessons with him. But what I remember is my grandmother’s love of rocks. At the age of 50 they retired off the homestead and started travelling and she collected rocks. She lovely displayed them along an entire wall in their home under glass, each labelled and with each a story to tell anyone who cared to listen, about what, where, how and when. My favorites were the tomahawks and arrowheads. When I was 10 I received a gift from her, labelled in a 10″ x 10″ box. I still have it in perfect condition.

My rock collection from Gramma Waddell

And if you check my pocket guess what you find there? On my coffee table, yes! Outside in my flower garden, a petrified tree rock. When I am stressed I grab my Apache Tear Rock and tell my self the story of no more tears. Now I paint on rocks and take the grandchildren hiking to find them hidden. Such a simple hobby that I’m glad my Gramma Olive introduced to me in such a grand way, and a wonderful memory to share on Mother’s Day, 2021.

Mother’s Day 2021

Verna Jeane Miller Waddell my mother
Josephine Reinhardt Erratt Miller my grandmother

These are the women of my maternal ancestry. Sophia left a slave plantation and husband in North Carolina with 6 kids and moved to Texas during the Apache Wars, Her daughter Emily married a Civil War Union soldier, watched her husband rush during the Oklahoma Land Rush and homesteaded at Manyberries, Josephine was abandoned pregnant with child #4 and found love with my grandfather, Jeane at age 17 was raising the Union Jack flag teaching during WWII, Elizabeth Blair 2 great grandmother lived through the 1816 Year Without a Summer, Samantha 2nd great grandmother buried a husband and child with TB. She came to live in Canada, an illegal immigrant 1912 to be with her daughter after her next husband dropped over delivering mail with a heart attack. Jodi Picoult says, “She is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.” Happy Mother’s day 2021.

Might as Well be the First

My Mom would pour herself a nip of sherry everyday at 2 PM and put her feet up. The Edge of Night was on!

Mom would get lost in a daytime soap featuring long term friendships, family vendettas, a world of attorneys, bad cops, mobsters – a world of crime with a twist of romance, divorce, child custody battles and amnesia. We “kids” would anxiously wait for Saturday comics and after a Hockey Game in Canada learn to dance enjoying Canada’s Country Gentleman, Tommy Hunter. I learned about a world outside my little sphere by watching Nightly News. By the 80’s with kids of my own I enjoyed Adrienne Clarkson and her public affairs show. Living miles from a major center, our TV had rabbit ears, an antenna planted in the ground and the signal bounced off the Sweetgrass Hills, so most of our content was American for the next thirty years.

This kid would set her alarm for 5AM to watch cartoons broadcast from across the USA in a different time zone.

Our TV 1968

When I was born, we had black and white TV. By 1968, we had this big old box, that had to be dusted and collected our trophies on top. To change the channel, there were only three stations, one being CBC. Someone had to leave their chair and manually turn the knob, same if the phone rang, someone had to manually turn down the TV. My children laugh at me today when I tell them these stories, but they also giggle when they see at each reclining chair we each have our own programmed TV controls. Today with cable I have hundreds of programs that can be recorded with the touch of the red button. Progress!

June 30, 1890-Sept 25, 1977

Photo Credit Miller Maki, LLP

George Merle Miller Q.C. “Duke”


My 3rd cousin 4x removed would be Garrett and Elizabeth Switzer Millers descendant. I love his optimism. At 15, George was delivering oats and flour by horse and wagon. At 16, he was managing a store at New Liskeard, Ontario, then set his sites on becoming a lawyer, graduating in 1913, earning honors. George hung out his shingle, specializing in criminal law, and brought partners into his firm. George was at the Bar of his Majesty’s Courts, Upper Canada. By 1920 he won every murder defense trial but one. He was chair of W.E. Mason Foundation that raised funds for charities. The Sudbury Star, a Canadian daily newspaper published in Sudbury, Ontario was co-owned by George in 1951.

First Privately Owned Television Station in Canada

A new entertainment and advertising medium was ushered into a new industry. George was told by many that television was a risky business. CBC approved the application. His first studio was crowded by family, singers, and an orchestra where the first television show was broadcast on October 20, 1953. In 1966 George claimed another first when TV broadcast onto colored screens. “Might as well be first.”

His son, James Tennant Miller, followed in the world of broadcasting and is famous for hiring the first female radio sportscaster in Canada.

At the 25th Anniversary party for the station, George Miller reminisced about a time being entirely void of daytime radio and could only receive signals from the American stations. And not a very good signal. This is also my recollections of our watching TV, on a fuzzy black and white screen. His speech included a vision for the next 25 years, seeing great expansion.

“Meet the challenge, keep your eyes on the future and your feet on the ground and work hard and progressively for the betterment of the industry and Canada, and achieve a measure of success far beyond that which may be on your present horizon.”

Address by George M. Miller, Q. C. President, CKSO Radio Limited on October 15th, 1960.

CKSO in Sudbury, Ontario was the first private station licensed in Canada. It was a CBC affiliate and aired some of its programming. At the time of licensing there were five television sets in Sudbury. Didn’t cousin George have a vision. In 1957 he was the largest percentage owner at 29.8%. The TV industry continued to evolve. In 2002, the CRTC approved the sale of the Sudbury station to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. On 2011, CTV launched Bell Media, and is available on my smart phone and computer as well as my traditional TV, way beyond success cousin George Merle Miller, way beyond success!

Potato Famine

“People should not get something for nothing. I think we made a mistake when we saw the welfare growing and didn’t emphasize work.”

Miss Mary Elizabeth Switzer

Ah, Ireland. I think of an emerald land of Leprechauns, the drinking Catholics celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and the Potato Famine. I can now place another relative in this setting.

Her mother was baptized a Catholic in Cork, Ireland. Her father was of German, Irish-Palatine descent, a Wesleyan Methodist Protestant named Julius Francis Switzer, born 1875 near Limerick, Ireland. Does history just repeat, and then repeat itself, I ask? The Switzer’s left Germany and fled the cold and hunger in 1709. While my Christopher Switzer settled at Courtmatrix, his family came to America starting in 1760. His brother Michael’s family mostly stayed in Ireland, until the Potato Famine.

In 1801, Ireland became part of the United Kingdom. The Irish Catholics made up 80% of the population and their families exploded; the Protestants also abundantly made babies. Ireland was on the verge of starving, absentee landlords who took most of the rents to England, 3/4 of her workers became unemployed, housing conditions and an appalling standard of living with deaths recorded when the potato carried blight disease. The blight destroyed the leaves and the tubers on the plant. There were 3 million people totally dependent on potatoes. What is referred to as the Great Hunger, 1 million died and another million fled from Ireland. The trans Atlantic trip has been described as huddled masses, sleeping on sailcloth hammocks on a sea tossed ocean below deck.

Julius and his wife to be, Margaret Mary Moore met at Newton, Massachusetts and were married in the Catholic Church there on April 19, 1899. Within ten months, Mary Elizabeth Switzer was born and then twins Arthur James and Ann Anastasia followed in two years. Julius couldn’t save his precious Margaret. Her death certificate lists the cause as galloping consumption. Tuberculosis was uncurbable then with a chronic cough, fever, bloody mucus and extreme weight loss. Her funeral card lists a High Mass of Requiem at St. Patrick’s Church, Waterton, Massachusetts, on Thursday, May 4th at 9 o’clock. Relatives and friends were invited to mourn the children’s 37 year old mother. Her father, scorned by the Moore’s, wasn’t Catholic, couldn’t hold a steady job and was inclined to drink Mary Elizabeth and Anastasia were sent to live with Uncle Michael Moore. He had a passion for social services. Mary obtained her BA in international law and graduated in 1921 from Radcliffe College. She moved to Washington, D.C. For the next 50 years, after starting in the department of the Treasury, then Minimum Wage Board, Public health service and the Federal Security Agency. Many Presidents came and went: Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. It was in Nixon’s office, 1973 she became well known for her influencing the Vocational Rehabilitation Act. This act allowed disabled people to work without discrimination and be accommodated in the work place. Mary worked until age 70, retired with over 1000 people attending her party, and died of cancer the next year, 1971.

Miss Mary Switzer was the highest ranking woman in the Federal Government. She made a difference and was an unflagging, inspirational caring spirit. Her budget of the welfare and social agency services was 8 billion.

Her biography was written by her best friend, Isabella Stevenson Diamond called “the dedicated bureaucrat”.

Mary and I are 8 generations removed from the Green Emerald Island of Ireland. For the visually impaired in my city, when the crosswalk turns green, a whistle sounds to tell them the light has changed. When I hear that sound, or see a wheelchair ramp, or feel the bumps on money to read in Braille, I will think about the life of Miss Mary Switzer and her influence and her ability to be disability inclusive, understanding the relationship between the way people function and making sure everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities and desires. Miss Mary certainly walked her village home.

Mama Always Said Be Kind, Queen vs Corby Court Case

Gosh, darn! I have a feeling Jason Miller Mack used some more expressive words than gosh darn when speaking about Premier Rhodes of Nova Scotia. I like the sound of his name especially saying Miller Mack, maybe because the ways M and M sounds on my lips. And when I add the title of Honorable to his name, it sounds very impressive.

Momma’s let them be lawyers and doctors and such. I’ve been blogging and podcasting the story of Uncle Jacob Miller, Irish-Palatine, then about his son, Garrett Miller, merchant and privateer, then his son named Garrett Nelson Trafalgar Miller. Back in 1805 when Augusta Miller toddled in to announce to her father, that she, Augusta, was having a baby that day, when Garrett Nelson Trafalgar Miller was born, she couldn’t know she would have children of her own: Azubah, would die young, but Augusta saw her boys grow up, one to be a lawyer, The Honorable Jason Miller Mack, and one a doctor, Dr. Joshua Newton Mack.

It is the life of Jason Miller Mack that I sketch out. He was born i Mill Villages, Queen’s County, between Lunenburg and Liverpool, Nova Scotia, March 17, 1843. Jason would be my 3rd cousin, removed on my paternal heritage. Jason graduated from Kings University at Windsor, and was called to the bar. He rose quickly and became a barrister acting for the Queen in the court. Jason entered politics in the House of the Assembly and was made Superintendent Magistrate with a reputation for clear thinking and a keen sense of justice. After four years here, he was appointed Legislation Council for Queen’s County, made leader and then the head position of President. Jason Miller Mack was a Liberal appointee, acting as a representative for the Attorney General conducted on behalf of the Queen in the Province of Nova Scotia.

When cousin Jason was 54 years, he was the Barrister Acting for the Crown, in a court case. At the October term of the Supreme Court at Liverpool, Nova Scotia, His Lordship, Mr. Justice Henry presiding, the grand jury preferred an indictment against the defendant in these words:

in the Supreme Court, The Jurors of our Lady, the Queen present that on the first day of October in the year 1897 at Liverpool in the Court of Queen, John Corby unlawfully stole a quantity of pine oil, the property of James C. Innes.”

I am no lawyer, but the court case should have been an easy one to prove, which it was and the jury came back with a guilty verdict. I found the name of my subject on page 330 in a report of cases argued by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and it was cited over many times in many law journals across North America, as what not to do in a court of law. What went wrong?

The verdict was thrown out on a technicality. The court case of theft was appealed as a judge called the circumstances peculiar and in his opinion there should be a new trial and the first conviction quashed. What went wrong I ask again? At the closing arguments, the Honorable Jason Mack addressed the jury, on behalf of the crown and made Mrs. Corby’s failure to testify the subject of comment unfavorable to the prisoner. Counsel for the defendant should have raised his objection at the time. In 1893, there was a statue that read you could not comment on someone not testifying while addressing the jury. Oops! I wonder what he said about Mrs. Corby? He maybe just forgot that day the advice his mama gave him, if you can’t say anything kind, don’t say anything at all!

Oh, to have heard the conversation when the Premier of the Province called on him at the age of 83, on January 17, 1927. I do love straight forward people and can imagine Jason Miller Mack saying, “g.d”. I mean gosh darn, “No, not over my dead body.” The next I find our esteemed cousin lawyer, in the headlines when he died the next day. The headline in the paper reads:

Sudden Death of Honorable Jason Mack

President of Nova Scotia Legislative Council Had Recently Refused to Resign, when requested by Premier Rhodes.

Since the Honorable Jason Mack never died until January 19, 1927 at the age of 83, still working for the government, what did he do for the Premier to ask for his resignation? Whatever it was, his death was not anticipated, and so my research leaves more questions.

My final thought for today; Remember to say only kind things! An innocent remark from the tongue of the Honorable Jason Miller Mack got his court case quashed and debated in the law journals and referenced there for many years. And he must have been some riled up to probably die of a sudden heart attack. The arguments are way above my knowledge of the law but certainly entertained my mind that we had such a lawyer in the family tree worthy to called Honorable.

An Unimaginable Sacrifice

No One To Help, the Cemetery Closed for the Plaque, watercolor by Wendy Harty 2021

I found this lovely quote today. Reading is the way you can hear stories on paper. I have also started sharing my blogs as podcasts, telling the stories so you can also hear them. During my time of Covid isolation and recovery from lung cancer, it’s been one year since surgery, April 30, 2020, this is perhaps the one story that hits home the closest.

Google the name Rachel Miller Bush. Rachel is my 5th great grandmother on my paternal tree. Rachel is listed in the Loyalist Township Cemeteries and is famous as being the oldest person buried there, having lived an impressive 94 years. Born in 1774 to Loyalist Garrett Miller and Elizabeth Switzer, of German Irish-Palatine lineage, her Uncle Philip Switzer lifted her upon his horse and fled Camden, New York in the Revolutionary War. She would grow up in Sorel, Quebec and when her parents lost their farm in a court case, she moved with them to Switzerville, Ontario, named after her relatives. Rachel married Charles Henry Bush. Their daughter Mary Ann Bush married an Irish man, James Wilson Jr.

The Wilson family are documented back to 1665, England in the Derbyshire Countryside, Here in a little village was the parish where the Wilson’s as Wesleyan Methodists worshipped. A tailor by the name of George Viccars had received a damp bundle of cloth to make for Wakes Week, a religious festival. The flea infested bundle was hung over the fire to dry, the fleas liked the warmth and multiplied and within a week George was dead. Between September and December another 42 people died. I found a chart which registered six Wilson death’s, 4 male and 2 female. The people were encouraged by their newly appointed Reverend William Mompesson and committed to slow the spread of the illness. These included no further burials in the St. Lawrence Cemetery and people had to bury their own dead. A Mrs. Hancock buried six children and her husband in eight days. There is a grisly picture of her dragging a child into a field by herself. Church services were relocated to an open field, where people stood apart in household groups. Finally by the spring of 1666, the people were preparing to flee. The Reverend convinced them to quarantine, effectively choosing death, for the greater good. The surrounding communities were grateful and offered food and supplies. With many misgivings the people agreed. That summer was extremely hot and the fleas were very active. 5 or 6 people died each day. What suffering and sacrifice they made for others. I would have had a desperate urge to flee.

For fourteen months the village was ravished with a pitiless pestilence, the death took of 260 or 75% of the people with human to human transmission especially within families and the poorest hit the hardest. Survival seemed random, yet some never caught it such as the Mrs. Hancock above. A family legend of the Blackwell family tells that while delirious one of their female relatives went looking to relieve her parched throat. She drank a jug of bacon fat, her fever broke and she recovered. Was this a cure? I think not, just coincidence and I shudder at the vomiting it would have induced. Three centuries later with Covid-19 people killing people, some bought the bleach to drink after the President of the United States suggested it as a cure.

Plaque – what a word from a distant past. Even today, now treated by antibodies, the evolution of bacteria has made drug resistant strains. Thank heaven there are now treaties in place to limit plaque being used in during times of war. Not so in 1345, the City of Caffa catapulted diseased corpses over the city walls. The Japanese in WWII spread fleas over China.

Just like today there are hard learned lessons and controversial ideas for cures but today we have vaccines. My immune system, the strength of the virus, a compromised health complication has put me into relative isolation. Did survival immunity select the Wilson’s that survived and give me hundreds of years of selective genes to be handed down to the following generations? The jury seems to be undecided. I only know one can have Covid with no symptoms, others are long haulers with lingering ailments and in the city where I live there have been 17 deaths as of April, 2021. Researchers answer my question in the affirmative. Did the village’s isolation help stop the spread of plaque?

I can only hope to gain some knowledge on what stance to take with this nightmare tale and continue to isolate when asked to. I’ll thank the Wilson’s who made it through with their unimaginable sacrifice which benefitted other communities and maybe, just maybe through their genes these relatives through their immunity are benefiting me. If the village of Eyam, England could do this, so can I.

The Naming of Garrett Nelson Trafalgar Miller

Iris Watercolor by Wendy Harty 2021

Garret paced his library. Sixteen steps, then sixteen back. His oldest, barely two, Augusta, came dancing in on sturdy legs. “Mama says” she stuttered in her excitement to get the news out, “Mama says, that I’m going to have a baby!” It made him smile, “yes, will it be a boy or girl that you want,” he questioned? Garrett had read the mornings newspaper, already a week old. He had the perfect name picked out if the child was a son. Garrett after himself, then Nelson Trafalgar. Garrett had grown up on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and rode many the mile between the city of Halifax and his home at LaHave on the river. He’s been versed in news of the high sea adventures from a lad with tutelage of his father, a Loyalist, of German Irish-Palatine descent, who became a successful merchant and privateer. The British had been very good to his family. Now, while the Napoleonic War was ongoing between Britain’s Royal Navy and the fleets of both the French and Spanish Navies, a victory had come at the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. Along the coast of Spain, off Cape Trafalgar, Admiral Nelson’s decisive, action when he directed his fleet into two columns, and sailed straight into the enemy had overcame them. Garrett read of the twenty seven British ships fighting against thirty-three in a fierce battle. Although heavily battered and nearly disabled, Nelson had the greater experience and training. The causalities were great to the French and Spanish 6900 killed or wounded, 8000 captured and 21 ships boarded with one destroyed. He would name his son after Nelson who was shot by a French musketeer and died just before the battle ended. In Garrett’s eyes Lord Nelson was Britain’s greatest naval war hero. This battle ended Napoleon’s quest to invade England and the English Channel. It was good news for his merchant ships, and allowed Britain to become the largest sea power. So too was it great news when he was summoned to the bed of his wife, Catherine Pernette Miller and shown a healthy boy that October in 1805. Garrett, the father, would teach Garrett about Nelson, show him on a map where Trafalgar Cape, Spain was and as a young man, Garrett would tell his children about a place in London, England, named Trafalgar Square.

Garrett Nelson Trafalgar Miller grew up in a life of privilege, but he also worked hard following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. He was called handsome, tall and stately and soldierly in bearing. At age 35 he married Maria Morris, 27 years old. Maria came from another socially prominent merchant family from Halifax, whose ancestors had been Surveyor General of Nova Scotia, helping to survey the land grants of the Loyalists who came to Nova Scotia. At the age of three, Maria’s father died. Her mother, Sybella opened a school in Halifax, in 1830, labelled to instruct young ladies with polite and elegant accomplishment of drawing. At age 17, Maria was teaching there and by the time she was 20 opened her own drawing school. Maria was young, single, and able to support herself. During the Victorian era of Halifax, Maria Morris was quite unique. In this era women were called upon to lead lives revolving around their family, motherhood and respectability, she did things her way. At Halifax, Nova Scotia, she was recognized around the world as an artist.

At the first art exhibition ever held in Canada, she won first prize at Dalhousie College. She worked with scientists, the first three were also government officials, the Secretaries of Agriculture in Nova Scotia. The first, a botanist, Titus Smith, encouraged her and she produced albums of 146 watercolor paintings of wild flowers and natural flora found in the province. Titus Smith brought her the wild flowers to capture on paper immediately before they wilted, then he wrote the accompanying botanical notes. Supported in her work by Smith and with the patronage of Sir Colin Campbell, the newspaper, Novascotian, wrote, “to be in possession of Maria Morris’s botanical wildflower illustrations would give a family reputation for good taste in art and appreciation of science, 1837.” In 1840, six of her paintings were chosen as hand colored lithographs and published by a London bookseller. At her wedding to Garrett Nelson Trafalgar Miller that same year, at St. Paul’s Church, her dress was styled from fabric given to her, as a present from Queen Victoria, as a toke of admiration for her illustrations.

In the next ten years, Garrett and Maria, had five children, 3 sons and 2 daughters. They lived a remote from the city life on the Miller Estates, on the LaHave River, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia. Rumors of an unhappy marriage circulated. Perhaps it was her mother-in-law who hired the butler to spy upon her, but by 1850, her youngest in diapers, Maria reemerged and advertised her drawing school in Halifax, for the next twenty years. Garrett gave her wings and the family are together on the next census. By 1853, Maria had her second set of lithographs published, then petitioned the provincial government for financing and printed the 3rd by 1866 and a fourth printing 1867. This was the year her work was part of the Nova Scotia exhibit at the International Expos in Paris. She and her sister also published a book of poetry called Metrical Musings. Teacher, artist, poet and mother, Maria Morris Miller was a middle class woman, who capitalized on an economic opportunity, and as a professional woman artist in Nova Scotia, I call her a feminist heroine. Marie died in 1875, a very well known artist.

A sample of Maria Morris watercolors

Garrett Miller’s obituary tells me he died, 22 years later July 20, 1897, of heart failure, age 92 and 3 months. Listed as one of the largest real estate owners in Halifax, including Miller’s Woods, beside Point Pleasant Park, and the residential blocks on Young Avenue, as well as property at Morris and Water Street. With his brother, Jacob he was in business on the southern extreme of Water Street, carrying on an extensive shipping business at Miller’s Wharf. At LaHave, where he spent his summers, he was sitting in his dining room, when he fell suddenly to the floor. His housekeeper rushed to his aid, but he never spoke, expiring immediately. The note concludes with speculation of his wealth in the hundreds of thousands.

The tombstone of Garrett Nelson Trafalgar Miller 1805-1897

Garrett Nelson Trafalgar Miller is buried in the cemetery on land he donated at St. Peter’s Cemetery, LeHave, Nova Scotia.

Of Pirates, Prizes and a Pinafort

Seashell pen sketch Wendy Harty February 2021

Just before he closed his eyes each night, Simeon Perkins wrote in his diary. The crusty old seaman did this for 46 years! Just like my Great Uncle Jacob Miller and his son Garrett, Simeon was a privateer, funding ships to capture the prizes during the Napoleonic War It took me an hour with a magnifying glass to decipher each of his words but the endeavor was worth it, giving me a glimpse into one week of Garrett’s life. These two entries were penned 222 years ago by Perkins, written in 1799.

June 3, 1799: Our auction of the prizes of the GMW and Schooner Fly and cargoes of the Prizes and commences the Diligence to Garrett Miller 1000 pounds. The next week on June 8th, he wrote: We have some difficulty with who bid off the prize, Brig LaLibre, on account of the inventory specifying a suit of sails complete, and examining the sails, some of them are very poor, he had a survey made. Messer’s John Kirk, Elisha Hopkins, Ephraim Dean. They passed their judgements on each sail, some half worn, some a quarter and some condemned. We made Mr. Miller several offers which he refused. Finally we agreed him to all the small things he bid off and gave him a stantiale (something used for the rigging) and two swivels (for the gun rests) and a rebate of 10 pounds. Give him a certificate of the purchase and a copy of the condemnation. Took his note for this sale due in sixty days.

Haggling. That’s what Garrett Miller was doing, besides reaping huge profits from legitimate privateering ventures. And what a treasure trove (pun intended) have I found here, Mr. Perkins! The name of the ship Diligence. Her first name was Spencer, but renamed Diligence and commissioned in November 1795. Diligence was an 18-gun brig-sloop with 16 32 pounder cannons and 2 6 pounder chase guns. The chase gun was mounted on the bow and stern and used to damage the rigging of an enemy ship to slow it down. She sailed for Jamaica in 1796. Her first capture was another privateer of six guns and 57 men. She cleared the Bahama Straits and ten leagues out fought for three quarters of an hour to capture 16 guns, 50 men and a cargo of logwood. She teamed up with ships to capture a Spanish packet ship, carrying mail. Did Garrett learn any naval secrets while opening the mail. On and on the privateering continued and by late 1798 Diligence had captured 13 merchant vessels. She took seven more in 1799, the year the diary was written. One had 30,000 pounds of coffee aboard. Another carried 45,000 pounds of coffee and was described as a Spanish schooner, coppered. At the end of this year Diligence was in the Gulf of Venezuela and destroyed a Dutch schooner, a French schooner and a sloop-rigged boat. Numerous more prizes of coffee, men and guns, then one carrying mahogany, another carrying mahogany, coffee and sugar, others with cotton, wine, raisins and one with a load of mules, were overcome, the court would deem them legal prizes and the ship and contents auctioned off.

Garrett would also feel loss. On October 8, 1800, Diligence was cruising the north coast of Cuba in search of a Spanish privateer reported to be in the area. At 7:30 at dusk, Diligence hit a reef. She remained stuck, filling with water. Daylight showed her five miles out from shore and she transferred her provisions and crew there. The next day Thunderer rescued the crew. The British set fire to Diligence as they left, she was scuttled.

On one occasion a captured American vessel had on board a pinafore. It was the property of the daughter of the US President Madison. It had been shipped from New York where the young lady had been attending school. This notable article was bought by the prize commissioner, Garrett Miller, and presented to one of his daughters and still is in the possession of the family, the Honorable Jason Miller Mack.

Uncle Jacob Miller’s oldest son was named Garrett, after his brother. This Garrett was born in 1770, in New York, before the Revolutionary War broke out. The family in including the six children escaped and as his mother said, “The bullets falling around us, she held a frying pan over the head of the youngest to shield her as they ran.” The family settled on the shores of Halifax, Nova Scotia, as Loyalists in 1776. The only son, Garrett followed in his father’s footsteps and also became a merchant and a privateer.

In 1802, he married Catherine, the daughter of Captain Joseph Pernette. Joseph Pernette could name drop the name Cornwallis of Britain. Pernette had been in the military service in Germany and a Colonel in France. As a Huguenott he came with Cornwallis, after Cornwallis had fought in Scotland putting down the Jacobite rebellion. Cornwallis was made the Governor of Nova Scotia, and was tasked with establishing the new town of Halifax there. There was a recruiting drive for settlers to come to the New World, from France, Germany and Switzerland. The British government provided free passage, free land and one year of rations upon arrival. Over 2000 “Foreign Protestants” came in 12 ships in the early 1750’s. Catherine’s father was an aide-de-camp during the taking of Quebec City in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. For this he awarded 22,400 acres. He settled along eleven miles at LaHave River, building a gristmill and a sawmill. He built the first ship on the river, served as justice of the peace, surveyor and colonel in the local militia, participating in the defense of Lunenburg during the Raid on Lunenburg, when privateers entered the town, 1782. Garrett Miller would visit Mr. Pernette with business. Soon his visits were encouraged as he was held in good esteem which was reciprocated by the daughter, Catherine and they married. Garrett bought the land across the LaHave River and called it Miller Estates.

What a beautiful spot in nature. As the river widened for its entry into the sea, the little white German homes of fisherman dotted along the shore of the Atlantic sea, interspersed with the white spires of churches. The pine covered hills kept watch as masts of freighters filled with merchandize skirted the islands coming into the harbor.

Garrett and Catherine Miller had 7 children: Augusta, Garrett Trafalger Nelson, Frances, Joseph Pernette, John, Elizabeth and Jacob.

Garrett Miller was also justice of the peace and was prize commissioner for privateers at Halifax from 1812 to 1815. Garrett represented Lunenburg County in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly from 1836 to 1840 as a Conservative. Miller died in office at LaHave, aged 70.

Garrett Miller 1770-1840

Ho-ho goes my mind. Jacob Miller’s son was handing out the letters of marque or privateering licenses, to 4000 others willing to invest with risk capital. One would be to his own father, no wonder Jacob became very very rich! Robbery under arms was a common aspect of seaborne trade. Queen Elizabeth I authorized sea-raiders such as Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. Think of the gold and silver they captured from the Spanish treasure fleet bringing it back from Mexico. Imagine being a pirate finding a Caribbean fleet laden with the riches of gems, pearls, spices, sugar, tobacco, silk and other exotic goods. The Spanish galleons were built as armed merchant ships and man-of-wars.

During war, piracy was made legal, under King George III. Garrett Miller was delegated to issue the commissions or letters of marque, during the War of 1812. All kinds of hostility was permissible at sea. Captured ships were sold under prize law, and the proceeds divided by percentage between privateer’s sponsors, shipowners, captains and crews. A percentage share usually went to the issuer of the commission. Ho-ho, Garrett was also the commissioner.

What of the five sisters of Garrett, the daughters of Uncle Jacob Miller: Nancy, Betsy, Margaret, Mary and Abigail. I wish I knew more and won’t it be fun to write a story like Little Women about them. Nancy is a tom-boy hanging with her grievous cousin Martin, until he runs away; Betsey reads and reads; Margaret is timid and crippling shy; Mary and Abigail, the youngest and frailest, content to stay at home and are the peacemakers! The five never married, remained spinsters in the house at the intersection of Water and Morris Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, the three oldest living into their 80’s. My mind thinks of gloved tea parties with dainty sandwiches with crusts off, served to a select invited. Mary and Abigail’s graves are in the family plot St. Paul’s Old Burying Ground, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

In loving memory of Abigail Miller

Their father, my Uncle Jacob Miller, died on May 31, 1825, at Halifax, Nova Scotia, having lived a long life of 83 years. His brother, my sixth great grandfather, Garrett Miller died in August, 1823 at Switzerville, Ontario, also a long life of 84 years. What a difference in the two brother’s stories who were both raised beneath the shadow of the Castle Courtmatrix, in Ireland, by their father Adam, the Lutheran Preacher of the Irish Palatines. Both stayed Loyalists, fled the Revolutionary War, and started anew in Canada. Each had a great story to be told, and their own journey through the curves they were thrown and mileposts, each found a unique destination. I can only imagine their travelling’s and report what I find in histories pages. As young Irish lads, I doubt they imagined this story for themselves.

The right side of my brain is stimulated to imagine and I experience and analyze the world through my relative’s lives. Please leave me a like if you’re doing the same: fleeing the bullets, boarding a merchant ship and counting the prize, or dancing in the President’s daughters pinaforte.

They Said Canada Would Be Easy Pickings

A Merchant Ship, watercolor by Wendy Harty April 2021

Egbert was the first King of Britain. Then a Frenchman of questionable lineage called William the Conqueror or William the Bastard, lead the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. He gave them law at the point of a sword. Hated for his cruelty, arrogance and overbearing manners he died in 1087, King of England or William I.

The King or Queen became a hereditary position handed down, mostly from son to son. The Monarch had absolute power and courts became full of bribery, corruption and favoritism. The King could take your son and impress him into the army; your daughter chosen to cook and clean and wait on his lady. In a world ruled by Kings, when your home was no longer a place of safety, people fled. To where? Mine came to the shores of North America.

Over in England, there had been 30 Kings, 8 Civil Wars and 19 rebellions. With hereditary rights forever, some foolish, some wicked or oppressive Kings ruled by a monarch of succession and finally the House of York and Lancaster united in marriage. Peace at last? What could go wrong?

The people of the thirteen colonies came seeking asylum, wanting religious and civil liberty. By 1776, they felt oppressed by the King of England. Wisdom needs a plan and they tried three of them. Negotiations, 600 miles apart across an ocean went back and forth, the Americans pleas and petitions could go unanswered for months, only to find another tax upon the rebellious subjects. That’s how the printers of New York labelled them, the Press being owned by the Loyalists. Plan B: mob rule, tar and feather, loot and destroy. Finally the Colonies declared war and used Plan C, military power. The bloody American Revolution lasted seven years. The English taken in battle were prisoners, their fellow Americans, the Loyalists were labelled traitors.

Americans gained their independence and had lofty ideals of the rights of mankind. What could go wrong? Before the war had started they put it into print, “We are deprived of lands by the unjust extension of the limits of Canada.” After the battles were over, government needed to expand their settlers into the northwest. The War of 1812 can be written with four different versions: The American, The Canadian, The British and the Native American.

The Americans, assembled under a President and sent delegates to vote and represent the people, in the Continental Congress. They voted to secure freedom of property and religion ensuring each individual happiness. Yes, what could go wrong with all men created equal?

The Americans were pushing into the wilderness. My relatives like the Penrod’s were depleting the beaver for pelts, the Stumps building mills, the Buchanan’s clearing forests and the Saxe’s surveying the land for new settlements. Forty years after the Revolutionary War, some delegates were called War Hawks and demanding war. A native leader by the name of Tecumseh tried to get the six tribes to join a Confederacy of Native American Tribes to gain strength for the treaties. An American who would become President, William Harrison, had intelligence Tecumseh was away and attacked his village, killing all men, women and children, burning lodging and food supplies. Tecumseh went to the Canadians looking for help and found an ally in Sir Isaac Brock. The American said outloud, “Canada would be easy pickings.” What could go wrong?

The British had been preparing. Under the Major-General of the British military, administrator of Upper Canada, Sir Isaac Brock had been reinforcing forts, training militia’s, and developing alliances with the First Nations. On June 12, 1812, President Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain. Britain was fighting the Napoleonic War with France, could they fight the Americans at the same time? The British were stopping American ships trading with France and started impressing the men for their war ships. No one was happy. The Canadians stopped the American invasion three times, on land. Then it became a sea fight. There is so much history from the two years and eight months of this war. Fresh supplies were smuggled in to the Siege of Fort Mackenac in camouflaged boats; a slave who gained his freedom during the Revolutionary War organized “The Colored Corps” of other escaped slaves in Canada; Laura Secord, mother of five, made a dangerous journey on foot to warn of a planned American attack; I grew up singing the Battle of New Orleans, we took a little bacon and we took a little beans; and it was the Canadians that led an expeditionary force that burned Washington D.C. and the White House in retaliation. Great grandfather Wendell Miller was with Commodore Perry when he said, Don’t give up the ship” on the Siege of Lake Erie.

What I didn’t know about was the pirate in the family. Garrett Miller, my 6th great grandfather’s brother, Uncle Jacob Miller and his son Garrett, were licensed to use their private ships to wage war. As a sea merchant they invested risk capital and converted their ships. Among 40 of those commissioned they sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia and had ample opportunity during the Napoleonic War as well as the War of 1812. They played a role in closing the American ports and were a source of valuable intelligence for the British Royal Navy. Jacob was issued a letter of marque or privateering license from the Governor of Canada. It was all legitimate. He armed his merchant vessel appropriately. His sailors signed aboard with hopes of sharing the prize money. After a seizure, the Court would decide if another countries boat had been taken legally and then sold at public auction and the profits from the goods, shared. Loads of salt, tea, ammunition and trade goods were sold and the profits split between government, merchant and crew. Uncle Jacob became a very rich privateer. Britain issued 4000 commissions. The most successful were the Sir John Sherbrooke, The Retaliation and the Liverpool Packet. The last with 50 prizes took a value at close to a million dollars. Halifax teemed with these armed ships either preparing to cruise or guarding their prizes. Uncle Jacob also owned Miller’s Wharf, where they would unload. I can only imagine him hurrying from his home on Water and Morris Street when a messenger boy would come racing, shouting, “Ship Ahoy”. Privateering from Canadian ports ceased in 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghant, ending the War of 1812. Neither side won, neither side gained more land. Britain tried to bargain for the creation of a Native Territory but the American delegates refused. Their British support evaporated after this war and quickened the loss of their lands as expansionism took over. The Americans had unfettered access to the sea and entered a commercial boom and settlers poured across the mountains and streams.

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