“Storms a coming tonight” said Moon. Moon was on the smallish size, a ten year old small enough to crawl through tunnels. Edward nodded, didn’t blink. Wide in the shoulders, he wore a dark suit; his coat was open partly in the front and Moon could see the butt of a gun under his arm.
Edward was the child of a Union Civil War Veteran and a slave owning plantation raised mother. Were this couple, Josiah and Emily, after the war trying to unite North and South? They believed in hard work and and that is how they lived. But to survive the harsh prairie climate did Edward choose a different path?
I leave my luxury room at the Temple Garden Spa; the hotel boasts a natural geothermal pond on the upper floor, where I have indulged myself. For one who is afraid of drowning it was heavenly, the thick minerals keeping me afloat. But I am after Edward’s story and must walk the streets of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. There is enough truth in the story to warrant my investigations, I step through an archway, I’m guessing the tunnel is 30 feet long, the end is blocked by mortar and rock. There are shards of glass on the floor and I imagine them as smashed whiskey bottles. Is this the lair of bootleggers?
Below the streets of Moose Jaw are tunnels. Anti-Chinese hysteria erupted, and the Chinese who had helped build the railroads, huddled underground in them. About 1908 several members of the Chinese were attacked and killed at the CPR yards. They moved underground and lived there for years. Then Prohibition came and the smugglers or bootleggers used them.
Moon was one of five boys, known as tunnel crawlers. He hung out at River Street at the newspaper stand. The police chief would ride up on his horse and buy a paper, saying, “Storm’s a comin’ tonight.” Moon would run fast as his little legs could travel and rap twice on the door on 51 River Street. Moon would go down the stairs. There was a whole room of men playing poker. Edward tipped back on his chair legs, balancing to hear Moon say, “Storm tonight.” He flipped Moon twenty-five cents for his work. The cards, the money and even Edward would disappear for awhile.
Edward didn’t believe in the crookedness but it was a way of life; not the way he was raised and he didn’t really like it but he had to make a living and this was one way to do it. Supply and demand. Fast cars. At River Street business was booming. Upstairs they served alcohol in a teapot and the police chief turned his eyes away.
I am being careless with truth and accuracy. This story is both. Another blogger on WordPress, Shirley DicKard gave me this advice. Take the facts you know and add the fiction. The above is historical fiction. Back to the “truth”.
Josiah and Emily Miller, my great grandparents, moved about looking for a better life and circumstances. My great uncle Edward was their second son. Edward Miller moved about Texas, always headed north from his birthplace of Brownsville, to Corpus Christi, 1873, then to Hope, Texas, 1880, with his parents, and expanding family, including my Grandfather, William Miller, Edward’s brother. They arrived in Oklahoma, Custer County, Beef Creek In 1889, the opening of choice portions of Indian Territory occurred. Josiah and his son, Edward, rushed. (see original letter in Josiah Miller part 2) The night before the grey wolf and the deer had roamed undisturbed. Precisely at high noon, thousands of would-be settlers made a mad dash into the newly opened Oklahoma territory to claim cheap land. Edward would hear the boom of the fort cannon, and the crack of hundreds of whips, when 50,000 in wagons, on horseback and on foot, entered the territory that day. “The day was one of perfect peace. Overhead the sun shone down from a sky so fair and blue. The green, rolling hills of the promised land could be seen from zenith to horizon in spotless purity” wrote the Harper’s Weekly. By nightfall, he and his father had their stake, in an extraordinary exhibit of both pioneer spirit and the American lust for land. Edward, aged 27 married Anabelle Carnahan, 17, a Kentucky girl. Lawrence Ray was born March 1, 1899 at Deer Creek Township, Custer County, Oklahoma. A second son, William Jesse was born there the next year. On the 1900 census of Deer Creek, Custer, Oklahoma, Edward Miller, wife Anna married in 1898 with child aged 1, Lawrence R are found and the following information: farmer, could read and write and owned his home free of mortgage. On the same census are listed his parents, Josiah aged 60, his mother Emily 51, son Hiram 26, son William 19 and son Ira Lee 17. Under the plow, the Oklahoma land began to blow, the red sand seeped in everywhere. Tragedy struck when another brother of Edward’s, the youngest Albert Asa was buried there, 1894. The Edward Miller family moved to Canada, to Asquith near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Edward and Annabelle separated. Family helping family is evidenced because with Edward left to raise two small children, Josiah and Emily came to help. Edward Miller is found on the 1906 Canada Census age 34, listed as married but wife not on census. Immigration year 1903. Section 10-Township 11, Range 13, W2, horses 8. He is listed as son to parents Josiah C. Miller and Emily Miller, brother Hiram 32 who was wheelchair bound after having been thrown from a horse at age 20, a brother Ira Lee 23, and Edward’s two children, Lawrence R aged 7, and Jesse C aged 5, at Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. It must have been very crowded in a little homestead shack. The Miller family stayed long enough to prove up the land, make a profit and moved on to Manyberries, Alberta in 1910, just as homesteads were opening up there. Edward was 39 years old, did not file on any homestead, but visited his parents and family when this family photo was taken approximately 1913.
Edward Miller, center back row in picture, led an “interesting” life! He ran liquor both ways across the Canadian/American border, through Manyberries, Wild Horse and Havre, Montana. He drove fast cars. He carried a Colts hand gun, manufactured in Hartford, Ct. that took 32-20 Winchester shells; its overall length was 11 inches.
In 1918, he was one of the original members to start the Manyberries Cemetery Company where his father, Josiah was soon be buried February 2, 1918. He bought a plot there but did not use it. My Uncle Herb told the story of his Uncle Edward working for the Wright Brothers on their first plane. He was a wonderful mechanic. Edward was the chief mechanic for the Duke of Sutherland on his farm east of Brooks, Alberta. In 1926, when my mother Jeane Miller was born, Uncle Edward and his sister Aunt Celia came to visit, his brother William and wife Josephine, before he moved to the states. The women took the gun from his belongings and threw it in the Crowsnest River, thinking to end his gun toting ways. There was a great commotion and the gun was retrieved. This story checks out with a US Border Crossing from Canada to the US on May 11, 1926, Edward of German Nationality age 54 birthdate 1872, birthplace Brownsville, Texas. arrival Eastport, Idaho.
The 1930 United States Census lists Edward as 59, divorced, living at 2111, 2nd Ave Spokane, Washington and states he had not attended school, occupation was a truck driver for a lumber company. Edward was living with his son Lawrence and wife Edith and two granddaughters, Ruth E age 6 and Louise M age 3. Edward Miller my great uncle lived out his life at Spangle, Washington, USA dying March 23, 1934 at the age of 62.
This story was told to me while standing beside a Straight Eight Buick car, as I mused about its rumrunner stories; while not about Uncle Edward, it seems to be an apt ending to this blog.
A man “Henry” came across the sea to homestead in Alberta. Times were very tough. He became a bootlegger, a smuggler, a rumrunner. He quickly made a small fortune and wanted to share his bounty with his mother back in the “old” country, but did not know how to get the money back home, without being robbed. On the advice of an old timer, he sewed two pair of men’s underwear together, creating a pocket for the ill begotten money. Boarding the ship he travelled back to his mother never removing the underwear the entire time and smuggled the money back to her. At the door, she did not expect to see her son but welcomed him with open arms. Then, her first words to him were, “Sonny, you stink, go and bathe!” While he was bathing, the mother washed his clothes. And thus became the saying, “laundered money!”