Blessed are the grandmothers who hoarded newspaper clippings and old letters. For they tell the story of their time. Blessed are all grandfathers who filed every document. For this provided the proof. For this is our heritage. Blessed are those who strive to remember, for theirs is a labor of love. This quote is from the Clermont County Genealogical Society, Batavia, Ohio, October 1987. I doubt if my great grandparents, Josiah and Emily Miller, would have guessed where their married lives would lead them. “Oh, the places they did go and the lives they did lead.”
I left you in Part 2 of my blog about Josiah Miller after he was discharged from the Union Army, he stayed in the Brownsville, Texas area and married Emily Atkinson on June 17, 1868. The next year the couple had their first child named after his twin brother, Joseph, who had died during the Civil War. This Joseph Miller was born August 21, 1869. Also born at Brownsville was a second son, Edward, July 11, 1871. By 1873 the family moved north to Corpus Christie, where their third son, Hiram was born October 19, 1873. And another move found them at Victoria, Victoria County, Texas where their only daughter, Celia was born, March 17, 1876.
Doing my research, I found an interesting “character” named King Fisher who lived in the vicinity of my great grandparents. His story confirms what you will read in Josiah’s letter towards the end of this blog.
King Fisher was born in 1853. His mother died when he was 2. After the Civil War his family moved near Austin, Texas, where his father, Jobe was a cattleman who owned and operated freight wagons. His stepmother died and the family moved to Victoria, Texas (where the Josiah Miller family were in 1876). A grandmother helped raise the motherless Fisher children. King Fisher was handsome and a lady’s man. He was arrested for horse theft but released for his youth. He began working as a cowboy, breaking horses. There was incessant raids, lootings, and rapes of Texas ranch families by bandits. Soon King was taking part in posse’s and he became a gunman. With a band of outlaws he carried out frequent raids to Mexico. A dispute arose over the loot and when one drew his pistol, in the shoot-out he won and became leader of the gang. He moved his ranch to Eagles Pass (the same Eagles Pass as Josiah had patrolled during the Civil War) on the Mexican border. The sign said, “This is King Fisher’s road, Take the other one.” King Fisher did not commit acts of violence or theft against other Texas settlers, but rustled cattle across the Mexican border. The bandits made massive raids, pillaging and looting. It was a massive problem for the Texas Rangers, who were trying to quell Mexican bandit raids into Texas. It was said he had 37 notches on his gun, not counting Mexicans. In 1884, King Fisher was ambushed and murdered. His body is in the Uvalde, Texas, Pioneer Cemetery.
It was here at Uvalde, Texas that my Emily Miller’s sister Oma Jane gave birth to Emily Jane Somerville on November 24, 1877. It must have truly been the wild wild west.
Emily and Josiah moved farther north, away from the violence. Their 5th child, William, (my great grandfather) was born at Hope, Lavaca County, Texas on September 17, 1880. They stayed in Texas where Ira Lee Apr 20, 1882 and Albert Asa Jan 14, 1887 were also born at Hope. The children, Joseph, Edward, Hiram, William and Ira worked in the melon and cotton fields. Celia helped her mother and would help with the younger children: Ira Lee or Tot as he was nicknamed and Albert Asa. They loved the big oak and pecan trees of Texas.
There wasn’t much formal education for the children, a circle of logs, under some shady trees, a slate with a rag to wipe it clean. The schoolhouse was built with high steps to keep the hogs out. Wild hogs roamed and were dangerous. If the Mexicans weren’t crossing the Rio and stealing his cattle the wild hogs were wrecking havoc with his fields. A hog will eat almost anything and could devour or destroy whole fields with their extra long snouts and could root as deep as three feet. They would eat the livestock feed and lambs, kids and calves. The females would travel 50 at a time, the group called a sounder, muddying up the water sources. Hope’s Trading Post was established before the Revolutionary War. In 1836, Hope, Texas was settled by Germans. Of one hundred volunteers from the community serving in the Confederate Army, 93 were killed in the Civil War. The Civil War vet must have been very brave to live amongst them? The family stayed about 8 years here at Hope. There were epidemics of fevers: diphtheria, scarlet, malaria. My grandfather William though only 8, would remember the sickness and death of his eldest brother, Joseph, May 2, 1888. Joseph was taken in his youth, 19 years of age and as his mother nursed him there wasn’t anything Emily could do. He was buried at Halletsville, Lavaca County, Texas. Life was difficult and Josiah became despondent. According to Josiah’s letter he lost contact with his family for over 20 years, a fact he wanted to rectify.
This letter came to me through reaching out to family of Josiah Miller, It was in the possession of one of the cousins descending from Angeline Miller, sister of Josiah. (Angeline was the sister that wiped the brow of their father Wendell Miller as he was dying, in my blog, Don’t Give up the Ship). Josiah’s father Wendell Miller died in 1889, a fact he would not have known.
Rush Creek Apr 27th, 1892
Dear Bro and Sister
On my return from the run into the new lands that was opened on the 19th inst. I was surprised and overjoyed to receive a letter from you. For twenty-two years on the account of a foolish whim I have been as one lost to friend or relations as the the last I heard from home was ’70. when I wrote to Bros George and never recd any answer as a few days after that my wife and I left for a ranch far removed from any mail communication and there I lost track of everybody. At that time i had a good start but the Mexicans stole all I had and left me flat broke. I then became desperate and careless fo that became of me till recalled to my senses by the fact that I had a family to support and I went to work to try to retrieve my losses by hard work again and since that time I have been up and down oftener down but always struggling and at present I see but little in the future to cheer and nothing but regrets behind. I have been in this territory three years farming with poor sucess and last year the most disasterous of all as I planted cotton heavily and instead of getting ahead I came out $500 in debt and unless I can make a heavy crop this yer I will be down again. Our family consist of my wife Emily, myself and six children. viz: Eddie 21 in July; Hiram, Celia, Willie, Ire-Lee and Albert the baby. Our oldest died four years ago at the age of 19. I named him after my twin Bro. Joseph.
Eddie and I made the run into the Cheyene Country and got us fine claims of 160 acres each. I want to start to the land office tomorrow or day after to file a declaratory and try and hold them. This is fine country here but it belongs to the Indians – all a white man can do is to lease it. I have four hundren acres fenced and two hundred is cultivation. I get the use of it for five years for breaking and fencing rent free.
Please give me the address of all the boys alive and I will write to them. I wish I had some good news to write you but as I said I see but little to cheer only the fact that I am still held in rememb (crossed out) the fact that I am held in remembrance by some of my friends although I do not merit it.
Tell neice Edith I will write to her soon. Give my love to all – also wife and children write soon.
J.C. Miller Beef Creek I.T.
President Jefferson had an agrarian democracy dream but how could republican liberty and democratic equality be reconciled to the changes that were needed in society? Sounds like the same problem of today! His Declaration of Independence stated, “that all men are created equal.” Western expansion provided an escape from the industrial revolution of the British which was a terrifying example of working conditions. As long as hard working farmers could acquire land at reasonable prices, then America could prosper as a republic of equal and independent citizens. His theory had three flaws: women and children often lived in poverty, an equal place for the Native American could not be accommodated and slavery.
Josiah Miller and family were moving into the Midwest, into the Oklahoma territories, all vying for some patch of land they could call their own and live out the Jeffersonian view of independence.
The Chickasaw had become involved in the power struggle between the British and French. and sided against the French and the Choctaw during and before The Revolutionary War. The era of the US-Indian Wars exceeded $20 million. In the 1830’s the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw and Seminole were forcibly removed to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), in The Trail of Tears. In 1866 the western half of Indian Territory was ceded to the United States, which opened part of it to white settlers in 1889.
Why Rush Creek? Perhaps Josiah kept in touch with some of his Civil War buddies. Fort Chickamauga was the horse cavalry post to which wounded Union soldiers were assigned and in 1881 was a training ground, for the cavalry army. The fort was close to Beef Creek one valley over and down Pahl’s Valley which had been settled by David Mays in 1872. Amongst the pecan and cottonwood cabins with an earthen floor, the Mays had launched a beef cattle industry, buying Texas cattle, feeding them out and shipping the fattened steers to markets. Their ranch in the rolling hills south of the Washita River in the Chickasaw Nation was described as rank bluestem grass that grew so tall that a person on horseback could not be seen approaching. There was also short prairie grasses. By 1878 Beef Creek had a post office. Supply wagons for the forts and military posts came through Beef Creek. Maybe the Millers followed The Chisholm Trail that came up from Texas to Oklahoma. The open range ended in 1890, and adding to the community growth was the Josiah and Emily family coming in 1889 to farm in Indian Territory. From the letter, the cotton crop did not thrive. It was here on a hot July 2nd, 1894 that their son, Albert Asa Miller 1876-1894 aged 17 died of fever at Beef Creek, Indian Territory, Oklahoma. Once again Emily was unable to nurse him back to health. They laid Albert Asa Miller in the Mount Olive Cemetery at Thomas, Oklahoma. When the Miller’s returned to the site many years later the red sand had nearly obliviated the dates on his upright granite stone.
Josiah and Emily moved on to a town named Thomas. The first general store was served by the postmaster, named William Thomas ,established Feb 1894. during the Cheyenne-Arapaho opening in 1892, Joseph W. Morris claimed a homestead on the town site. I am deducing that Josiah and Emily Miller, were his neighbors, after the rush talked about in the above letter. Early settlers included the Amish, the Dunkards, the River Brethern or United Brethern. The Jabbok Orphanage was established by Rev A. Eisenhower there.
Hiram, the third son, at age 20, was thrown from a horse and suffered a broken back, in 1893. Josiah and Emily cared for him. When they came to Manyberries, Alberta he was allowed a homestead but could live at home because of his disablity. He hired his work done and his farm prospered. He drove a horse and buggy to get around the community. When the dry years came, after his father died, he moved to B.C. with his sister, Celia. He developed diabetes and died in 1921 at Penticton, age 48.
At age 60, Josiah C Miller is on the 1900 census at Deer Creek, Custer, Oklahoma with wife Emily, married in 1868, farmer, can read and write, with children Hiram, William, Ira Lee and lists daughter Celia as servant. Celia’s husband had died and she was back living with her parents.
The family was becoming grown. William and Ira Lee struck out and for two years rambled through the Dakotas and Kansas. They worked in the copper mines of Butte, Montana. Butte was a violent place and after witnessing a murder, William and Ira Lee left and joined the rest of his family at Asquith, near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The oldest son, Edward Miller had married Annabell Carnahan and had two grandsons for the getting elderly couple, to enjoy. He moved to Tyvon, Saskatchewan as that Canadian province was opening up for homesteading, 1903. When his wife left him, Josiah and Emily now 66 and 56 joined him before 1906 to be found on the census there at Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan Section 35-Township 11-Range 13 W2. They had 2 milk cows, 2 cattle and were living with Edward and his two boys Lawrence and Jesse, along with Hiram age 32, who was in the wheelchair since age 20 when a horse accident permanently crippled him. Emily cared for him faithfully. Ira Lee was a young man of 23 and they employed a hired hand named Clarence Day age 25. Their son William, filed on his own homestead there. The family stayed long enough to prove up their homestead, and make a profit and moved again.
By 1910 the Miller family were homesteading at Manyberries, Alberta each filing on their own quarter, Josiah was 70 years old when he started over again! (To be chronicled in blog 4 of Josiah Miller.)
Imagine the life of Emily surrounded by prairie and all those men and boys that needed fed? So far from Wilmington North Carolina where on a plantation she would be raised as a southern lady walking beautiful beaches to watch the turtles race to the ocean; to the rough and tumble Texas frontiers; the blowing red sands of Oklahoma; to a foreign country of Canada. My great grandmother, Emily Atkinson Miller 1849-1937 must have been a remarkable lady! believing in “whether thou goest, I will go to; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge too.” There would be no running water but a stream; no electricity for lights and ease. She had nursed two children who contacted the fever, and couldn’t save them, one her oldest and left him buried in Texas and then her son, Albert Asa buried in Oklahoma. She watched her husband labor for breathe during the Spanish influenza of 1918. His death certificate said cause was apoplexy or a stroke. Emily would be a widow for the next 19 years of her life, looking after Hiram, in his wheelchair, till 1918, for 25 years. Hiram died in 1921, She lived beside or with her sons, William and Ira Lee at Manyberries, until they to dried out in the dust bowls of Southern Alberta and moved on. She lived out her life with her daughter, Celia, dying September 13, 1937 at Spokane, Washington, USA. Her death certificate says she died of senility not of disease. What an 88 years of life!