A Christmas Babe

December 25, 1796 Harrisburg, Pennysylvania

Back in Tulpehocken, Pennsylvania, the Stump family settled after losing their battle with an unscrupulous land deal. Margaret, one of the 20 children of Christopher and Margaretha Stump, whom she was named after (my beloved Gretta, Christopher called his 2nd wife in his will), was born there October 12, 1761. Margaret Stump married Michael Lewis Miller, in Tulpehocken, Pennsylvania, on June 29, 1779 in the Tulpehocken Trinity Church, Stouchberg, Tulpehocken Township, Berks County, P.A. The Miller family had also came from Germany and their name had been Mueller or Muller but changed the spelling when they reached the shores of America.

The Michael Lewis Miller family farmed near Schaefferstown, Lancaster Co. P.A. now called Lebanon County where Michael M. was born May 3, 1780, Johann “George” F. Sept 30, 1782, Mary Magdalene Jan 26, 1785, Jonathan 1792, Eva 1784, and …. the subject of my story below was born.

I love the Christmas song “Mary, Did You Know? with the words “That sleeping child you’re holding is the great, I Am, Mary did you know? Margaret Stump Miller was preparing their Christmas Eve supper that day in December, 1796 when she knew. All through the night she labored until a boy child was placed in her arms. He would be named Wendell Valentine Miller, born on Christmas Day, 224 years ago as I write this Christmas, 2020.

Wendell Valentine Miller 1796-1889

Wendell is my second great grandfather on my maternal side. He lived to be 92 years old, almost a century! of living. His father Michael Lewis Miller, died in 1809 at Schaefferstown and his mother Margaret Stump Miller in 1812. Wendell was 16 and an orphan. From his obituary I glean what happened next.

“To the young readers and students of history, the War of 1812 appears very very far off in the dim past, yet Mr. Miller lived in those days, when Andrew Jackson made himself so great with the American people, by his brave conduct, in giving the English a most severe drubbing at New Orleans, that they later elected him President. Mr. Miller was then about 17 years old, and patriotic enough to enlist, to fight for his country. With the exception of some three months service with the infantry, his fighting was done with old Commodore Perry, in the Navy, mostly on Lake Erie. Wendell helped in building the fleet, and then helped to make it formidable enough in its fighting abilities to clear the lake of hostile vessels. It is regretted that he never received a pension for his war service. When long years after, the government was compensating such as he, his papers had been lost, and he could not find no one to furnish the required proofs of his services and honorable discharge. Not until after the war of the Rebellion was over, and the life of his son Joseph had been given for his country did Mr. Miller become a pensioner of the government.

Mr. Miller had 11 children, 7 sons and 4 daughters. Only two -D.P. Miller and and Mrs. W.H. Smith, were within reach to be at his bedside, to watch the crossing of his long and exemplary life. The others are scattered in various states from Virginia to Oregon.

Elizabeth Blair 1798-1853 child of James Blair and Mollie Barnett

Wendell Valentine Miller married my second great grandmother Elizabeth Blair in 1818. I have 12 DNA matches with their family, as proof of my connection. Elizabeth lived through the Year Without a Summer of 1816, or 1816 and Froze to Death (there’s some good YouTube documentaries to watch) and so her family had moved from Vermont, west where the couple met and married on July 23, 1818 at Waterford, Pennsylvania. He was 22 years old. They had 14 children in 24 years.

Wendell and Elizabeth started their married life at Harrisburg, Dauphin, Pennsylvania, where Alexander Blair was born April 17, 1820. (Rhoda Stayed Home blog). Alexander fought in the Civil War and moved to Oregon.

Chauncy C was born March 26, 1822.

George Wendell was born February 3, 1825

Mary Emma born May 2, 1827

James Blair born Sept 29, 1829

About this time according to census records, Wendell and Elizabeth moved and were found in Cambridge, P.A where Lucinda Blair was born May 12, 1832 and David Perry on September 8, 1834, were born. Then another daughter Angeline Rachel born May 11, 1837 at Meadville, Crawford, P.A. as well as the twins, Joseph G. and Josiah Converse Miller on February 7, 1840. Josiah would be my great grandfather. The family is found at Rockdale, Crawford, P.A. in the census of 1840.

a distance of over 800 miles

The family moved west and on the 1850 census listed at Medina, Dane, Wisconsin and then another move found them at Oxford, Marquette, Wisconsin where Wendell’s name is on the plotter list. (Oxford was developing without much rhyme or reason and plotter’s helped drew up a formal design with designated streets and avenues. Elizabeth’s sister Esther had married Gideon Ormsby and they were there where Ormsby Street was named. Alexander had married Rhoda Ormsby the daughter of Esther and Gideon.)

Elizabeth Blair Miller died at Oxford February 3, 1853 and was buried there. Wendell and Elizabeth had been married for 34 years. Wendell remarried Mrs. Marie Blair, the widow of Elizabeth’s brother, Smith Blair.

The Oxford Sesquicentennis reported January, 1864, Oxford is out of the draft, having filled her quota of volunteers. Alexander, and Josiah Miller were away fighting in the Civil War, Joseph had died ( Corporal Joseph G. Miller with the 4th Cavalry Co. D Wisconsin, had a surgeon’s discharge and was on his way home when he died , February 12, 1863 in St. Louis, Missouri at the age of 23. Joseph is buried at Oxford, Marquette Co. Wisconsin.) The Oxford Business Directory in the Marquette Express listed November 11, 1863: W.V. Miller Dealer in Dry Goods, Boots and Shoes, store in the Post Office Building.

According to Wendell’s obit, ” in 1873 he left Oxford and settled in Augusta, which has been his home. Mr. Miller has been a member of the M.E. Church (Methodist) since he was 17 years, three quarters of a century ago and during that long period his life was in strict keeping with its profession. He was strict even in stubbornness, his sticking to whatever he deemed right. He did his own thinking and obeyed the dictation but that of his own (illegible). In true dealings with others he was … He never knowingly harmed anyone. And unyielding in his opinions as he was no one was readier than he to go to any extreme to right any wrong he might have inadvertently committed. He was always charitable, and never turned anyone in need of help away. The poor and needy never found his door closed against them but always open and always with help. Ministers of the gospel also found him helping their well being. He loved to minister to their wants, because he dearly loved Him, whose servants they were.

For the last 6 years since he buried his (second) wife Marie King Blair Miller, 1795-1883, he made his home with W. H. Smith, son-in-law married to Angeline. And until about 3 years ago his mind was thoroughly unimpaired; but lately it has been failing very rapidly. About 10 days before his death he fell over a block of wood. Whether the fall injured him or was the result of a sudden failure of his physical abilities is not positive. Yet he failed and sank from that time on, until death closed his long life, on Tuesday morning, May 14, 1889 at Augusta, Wisconsin. As his body was weakening, during the last few days of his life his mind had been wonderfully clear.

Wendell Valentine Miller final resting place, Augusta, Eau Claire, Wisconsin Dec 25, 1796- May 14, 1889. RIP my 2nd great grandfather

The funeral was held on Thursday, the 15th, Rev Hart officiating, the services held at the M.E. Church at 10:00 AM. Quite a number of the veterans of the latest war marched in procession to escort the old veteran, of a war that occurred before most of them were born, to his last resting place.

I love to hear the Christmas story, about a babe born in a stable on Christmas Day. As I sit down to eat my Christmas turkey and celebrate Jesus’s birth, I’ll also be remembering Wendell Valentine Miller born on Christmas Day. This Covid Christmas 2020 will be one for the history books for sure.

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