Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Another clue on the Eckerdt trail…

We found this funeral remembrance card neatly tucked between the deteriorating pages of an old German book at the end of our bookshelf.  The book — undated, but I would guess a turn-of-the-20th century vintage — is printed in the Gothic looking old German script.  The front introductory pages, as well as pages beyond 246, are gone.  The heading on page 3 reads:  "Geschichten des Alten Testaments" or "History of the Old Testament."  It likely earned its dog-eared pages through use in the Pete and Dora Miller home in Whitney, Nebraska, and was likely the repository of many  newspaper clippings and other mementos over the years — all long since gone.  So finding this was a pleasant surprise.

The card honors Helene Eckert (Eckerdt), the second wife of Conrad Luke Eckerdt. 

Conrad's first wife is believed to have been Maria Dorotea Wilhelm.  About her, we know almost nothing, since it is believed that she died giving birth to her only child — Dorotea (Dora) Eckerdt.  Dora was born in Schwed, Russia, on January 8, 1892.  Her father Conrad  then married widow Helene Neuwirth sometime in the 1890's.  By the time Conrad Eckerdt and his wife Lena left for America in 1905, they had three children.  A daughter (Dora) by Conrad's first wife.  A son (Henry) by Lena's first marriage.  And their own son, Alex, born in 1900.

In the United States, while living in Longmont, Colorado, Dora Eckerdt met and would later marry Pete Miller on March 21, 1909.

Finding this remembrance card of Lena's rekindles our interest in learning more about Conrad Eckerdt and his first wife, Maria Dorotea Wilhelm, cold though that trail might be!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cousin Cece (Miller) Kennedy dies May 16th at age 72

We’re sorry to report that Cecelia Lou (Miller) Kennedy passed away last Saturday (5/16/15).  She had been in failing health the last few years and was recently admitted to the hospital.  She had been living for some time with her brother, Albert (Mike) Miller, and his family in Ione, Washington.

The daughter of Albert and Edca Miller, Cece was born September 8, 1942 in Milford, Nebraska. Early in life she spent some time in the Chadron area and Whitney, where her grandparents, Pete and Dora Miller lived.  Cece graduated from Ione (WA) High School and was married to Leslie Kennedy.  She is survived by two daughters, Anita and Leslee, who live in the Ione area. and by four granddaughters, one grandson, and two great-granddaughters..

We understand that no funeral service is planned.  Cece’s immediate family, including her sisters Betty Jo and Mary Dot, and brother, Mike, will gather in Ione, Washington, this June to celebrate her life.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

New Miller memorabilia shared by cousin Mike Miller

Another treasure trove of family history was revealed this week when Washington cousin Mike Miller visited us and brought along a box chock full of artifacts, photographs, letters and other documents related not only to his father, Albert Miller, but also to Pete and Dora Miller.  They are, of course, the two key people for whom this web site was created.

These items take on increased importance for the family, since so much memorabilia that belonged to Al Miller fell into the hands of a non-family person who, unfortunately, has been unwilling to share any of it with uncle Al's children.  That's a separate and tragic story.

Remarkably, these several items are in wonderful shape.   Precious letters written to Albert in the Pacific during his Marine Corps service in World War Two.  Newspaper clippings.  And several photographs that most of us have never seen.

Among them is this photo (at left) of Pete and Dora Miller taken in about 1945 in Chadron, Nebraska.  Behind them is a home we immediately recognized as the Denton residence at 217 Ann Street in Chadron.  

There are several others, which we'll soon post in our Miller Gallery.

Thanks to Mike Miller for sharing these photographs and allowing us to scan them and post them in the Miller Gallery!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Remembering Charlotte Miller...

We were saddened by the news that Charlotte Miller had died last week.

According to her family, she passed away on Sunday, July 1, 2012, while being transported from her home in Metaline Falls, Washington, to the hospital in nearby Colville.  She was 87 years old.

Charlotte and brother Gerald
“Aunt Charlotte,” as she was known by so many of us, was a product of the tough Depression years.   But we never heard her complain about how tough things were – and they were plenty tough for the Flock family of northeast Nebraska, where she was born and raised.

Charlotte Lavonne was the 12th of 13 children in the family of Lyman and Charlotte “Lottie” Flock.  Born at Loretto in Boone County Nebraska on September 13, 1924, her family moved to nearby Bartlett and eventually to the community of Spalding, Nebraska, where Charlotte began school.

Lyman Flock “did a little bit of everything,” Charlotte once told us.  He worked in the wheat fields, at the Gambles store in Spalding, and on a road repair crew.  Whenever and wherever he could find a job during those early years of the 1930’s, Lyman went to work – including work as caretaker for the cemetery.  Complicating things was Lyman’s health, which took a sharp turn for the worse in 1934. He suffered from “double pneumonia” and kidney failure.  Lyman died on May 7, 1934 at 62 years of age.

His wife, Lottie, was left with little more than several children who needed to be fed and cared for, including their 9-year-old daughter Charlotte, and Gerald, who was the youngest in the family.

Within months, the widow Flock—along with her youngest children, Charlotte and Gerald – moved to Chadron, where her older sister, Mary, and family lived.  Charlotte attended school at both Chadron Prep and the city school system.  And it was in Chadron some years later that she met Fred Miller from nearby Whitney.

They wed on June 2, 1942, but with the United State in the throes of World War II, it was just a matter of a few months that Fred was drafted and was on his way to basic training with the Army Air Corps in California.  Their first child, Jean, was born in Chadron in 1943.  After training in Lincoln, Nebraska, and then Chicago, Illinois, Fred was assigned to installations ranging from Kearns, Utah, and Indianapolis, Indiana, to Fresno and Glendale, California.

Charlotte and Jean were able to join Fred when he was assigned to duty first at Moses Lake, Washington, and later at Ephrata.  Their second child, Pete, was born in nearby Wenatchee in February of 1945, and Fred was discharged from the Army Air Cops nine months later -- on Armistice Day of 1945.

After a short stint back in Chadron after the war, The young Miller family packed up and headed back for Washington, where Charlotte’s mother and other family members were living.  It was the summer of 1947.  While Fred worked at a variety of jobs, two more Miller children were born:  Wayne in 1948 and Charlie in 1950.  Both were born in Ione.

Within a few years, Fred and most of the boys were working at the Lehigh Cement plan in Metaline Falls.  And it’s there that the Millers made their home and raised their family.

Charlotte and Fred were able to watch their children grow, marry, and have families of their own.  Delightfully, the children all have remained in eastern Washington, where they’ve raised their own families.  Watching their children and grandchildren grow up – and then having them near in their later years – was a joy.

From their modest house perched on a hillside overlooking the Pend Oreille Rive at Metaline Falls, Washington, Fred and Charlotte enjoyed the home that they had created for themselves and their descendants in this beautiful region of America.  They camped, fished, celebrated birthdays and enjoyed the fruits of their labors.  The above photograph was taken when Fred and Charlotte celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.  Left-to-right are:  Pete, Charlie, Jean, Fred, Charlotte, and Wayne.  Thanks to Pete Miller for sharing these photos. 

We've added this and a few other photographs of Charlotte, Fred, and the Fred Miller family in our Miller Family Gallery. 

Fred died suddenly in late December of 2005.

And now, almost seven years later, Charlotte will join Fred as her ashes are scattered along the landscape of the Pend Oreille valley.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Millers of Lusk visit Whitney - ca. 1944

Mildred and Alex Miller and family -- Jeanette, Connie and Bruce -- in about 1944. 
Every now and then we come across a photograph that effectively captures the activities of our Miller ancestors.  Sometimes it's just a standard pose, and occasionally it's a creative bit of 20th century photo journalism at work!

This photograph shows the Alex Miller family while visiting Alex's parents, Pete and Dora Miller, in Whitney -- probably around 1944 or 1945.  A frequent backdrop is shown -- the Whitney elevator building that was adjacent to the Chicago & Northwestern Railway tracks.  At left you can see the wooden bench that sat outside the house, which was actually owned by the Whitney Irrigation District.  For many years, Grandpa Pete Miller was the "ditch rider," keeping tabs on irrigation gates that regulated water flowing from Whitney Lake.

Although Alex and family had lived in Crawford, it was in Lusk, Wyoming, that they finally chose to settle, building and living in a basement home for many years before adding on an upstairs.

We understand that dwelling in Lusk is still in the family, occupied by a grandson of Alex and Mildred Miller.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A new glimpse of grandpa Pete Miller

Sharing photographs has long been a joy of ours, and rummaging through a large number of photos shared by cousin Dori Derrick Savage during the recent Miller Family Reunion has been particularly enjoyable.

That's when we happened upon the photograph here of grandpa Pete Miller, taken in 1955 in Whitney, Nebraska.  He was 69 years old and appeared to be healthier and more robust than he would be during the subsequent two years.  Despite medical treatments in Omaha and Denver, he would not survive the cancer that afflicted him.  He died June 2, 1957 at the age of 71.

While there were several other people included in the original photograph shown here, we were so taken by grandpa Pete's smile and laid back manner, we thought we'd focus just on him.  We'll include the original photograph -- along with several other new ones -- in the Miller Gallery in coming days.

By the way, this picture was taken in front of the small stucco house that sits on Missouri Street, just across the street west from where Connell Oil Company did business in Whitney for so many years.  It was the final residence for Pete and Dora Miller, the German-Russian immigrants who sought...and found....a new life in the United States.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

54 Miller family members gather for reunion

It's been about as wet a June as old timers in Nebraska can remember.  And Miller family members got a good sampling of all that rain last weekend when we gathered in Chadron for a family reunion -- the first in 23 years.  But Mother Nature did give us a respite on Saturday (6/26/11) for the picnic at Wilson Park in Chadron; it warmed up nicely and we enjoyed sunshine for the entire afternoon.

And while the weather was a topic of considerable conversation, it was really memories of years-gone-by that dominated the conversations among cousins from Washington, Texas, California, South Dakota, Kentucky, Wyoming, Colorado, and Oklahoma.  Ironically, none of the participants was from Nebraska, which provided the nostalgic setting for the reunion.

Some of the Wyoming and South Dakota Millers were able to drive in and then return home that same day;  others arrived as early as Wednesday (6/23/11) to camp and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Chadron State Park.  There were young and old (gulp) alike, and as nearly as we could determine, everyone had a great time getting reacquainted -- and, yes, even acquainted -- with Miller relatives.

The main event was the picnic at Wilson park, the same location that many of our parents and cousins gathered back in 1988.  Of all those aunts and uncles, only aunt Charlotte Miller of Metaline Falls, Washington remains, and she was unable to make the trip to Chadron for this reunion.  

All five children of Alex and Mildred Miller attended the 2011 Miller Reunion in Chadron.  They were among these 10 grandchildren of Pete and Dora Miller who came to the reunion from eight states.  Shown (L-to-R) are:  Linetha Miller Davis, Larry Miller, Judy Bird Callaway,  Pete Miller, Mike Miller, Charlene Miller, Bruce Miller, Jeanette Miller Gleed, Jerry Miller, 
and Connie Miller Merchen.

In all, some 54 descendants/family members of Pete and Dora Miller showed up for the gathering.  They included children or grandchildren of these Miller aunts/uncles:  Marie, Alex, Fannie, John, Bertha, Fred, and Albert.  Nearly all of the group showed up for a group photo, which you'll find in this 2011 Miller Reunion gallery.  

Judy Newman Miller of Metaline Falls put together color-coded name tags that helped folks identify each other, and Brad Miller of Wheat Ridge, Colorado, brought a box full of reunion T-shirts, complete with a QR code that some of the younger generation might be able to put to use (or even some of us geezers with smart phones.)  That QR code links to this web site. 

Country Kitchen of Chadron catered the event with a nice spread of roast beef and chicken, along with potato salad, cole slaw, and rolls.  Kids had fun playing soccer and badmitton, while the older folks visited.

There were lots of pictures taken, too, and we attempted to get shots of each family group, as well as a composite photograph of everyone.  We missed a few, but there were also lots of candid shots taken throughout the afternoon.  We'll be posting many of those images in our new 2011 Miller Reunion gallery, and we'd like to include any photos that you'd like to share.  Just drop us an E-mail.  

About a dozen Miller cousins gathered at Warring Memorial Church on Sunday morning for the 9:00 o'clock service.  That's the  same church that was so much a part of Grandma Dora Miller's life.  It's a beautiful little church, but struggling to keep alive and vibrant.  We Millers nearly outnumbered the regular congregation.  Especially delightful was the social gathering in the church basement after the service.  It was a time when older cousins could visit with local folks -- like Mary Daniels -- who well remember Pete and Dora Miller and their children.  The pastries the church ladies provided were very tasty, surpassed only by the wonderful conversations that took place between Miller family members and Whitney citizens.

A few cousins wandered around Whitney, trying to recapture memories of the village in happier times -- when the Millers lived here, and there was a vibrant sense of community.  There once was a high school, pharmacy, bank, lumberyard, movie theatre, filling stations, grocery store, newspaper, and a hotel. You'll find more about Whitney in a companion web site named Whitney Reflections.   A community band once provided entertainment for area residents, and Whitney Lake was a hub for recreational activities.  Now, almost all of that is gone, and the lingering water tower casts a long shadow over a community that is struggling to survive.  The school closed its doors last month after 125 years in Whitney, and although it's already been explored, we believe that the lonely bank vault on a downtown corner contains the secrets and memories that many of us want to recapture -- but never will.

The enormous rainfall in Nebraska has pushed the weeds and cactus out of control, so it was a bit tricky navigating around the Whitney Cemetery after we left the church.  But we found the stones for Dora and Pete Miller and other family members buried in the cemetery about a mile north of Whitney alongside Nebraska Highway Spur 23A.

Charlene Miller of Lusk, Wyoming, created a beautiful wreath that was placed on Pete and Dora Miller's tombstone by Paul Miller and Karen Galey Miller.

Most of the group journeyed westward to have lunch at Fort Robinson State Park, another locale that undoubtedly was frequented over the years by Pete and Dora and many of their 11 children.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's a "fer piece" from Alaska to the Lower 48!

Since the Miller Family Reunion took place last weekend in Chadron and Whitney, we've had a chance to visit with a few folks who attended -- and others who weren't able to be with us.

Then a few days ago, we received a note from cousin Debra Derrick Marsh in Anchorage, Alaska, who said she missed being able to attend the reunion and acknowledged that the "the distance between us and the States sadly makes it difficult to be a part of family events."

Thanks to Deb Marsh of Anchorage for sharing this family photo.  In the back row (l-to-r) are:
Jack Marsh, Lindsay Marsh and Riley Marsh; in front of them are Whitney Gobbi, Debra 
Derrick Marsh, and Madeline Duran; in front of them are Jack Duran, Piper Gobbi, Nicole Duran, and Aidan Duran; in front are Justen & Ryan Gobbi, baby Zoe Duran, & John Duran.
Deb's parents, Dick and Kathy Derrick, lived in Alaska for many years before returning to the states.  Deb and her family remain in Alaska, as does her brother Rik.  Sister Dori and family -- from Rapid City -- were able to participate in the reunion.  Perhaps next gathering, we'll have them all!

Deb was also kind enough to send along information about Rik, who returned to Alaska in 2004 after living in Colorado area for several years.  She says he's "loving every minute of it!"  Working as a night manager for a local Safeway store allows him to enjoy his days in the outdoors -- especially hiking and rock climbing.

Rik's in the process of writing short stories, detailing his many climbing and guiding adventures.  He is the dad of Kirsten and Christopher, who live in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

During the reunion, we were tickled pink that so many cousins came from so far away to join us -- but there were others just simply unable to make the trip.  So Deb's sharing of photographs of her family is extra special.

Perhaps it will spur other cousins who were unable to attend to share recent family photographs with us.  We'll be more than happy to include them on the Miller Archives web site.

Not only our Alaska cousins, but more from Washington, California, and Texas couldn't make it.   Some of them have new grandchildren, spouses, etc., and it would be fun to catch up with them and their activities!

So let us hear from you.  E-mail your photos and information to galeymedia@gmail.com.  Thanks!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Three sisters...three sad stories

Over these past many weeks, we’ve been trying to provide a thumbnail sketch of the Miller family.  That effort has come in the form of a series of short narratives – accompanied by a few pictures – of each child of Peter and Dora Miller, our German-Russian ancestors who came to the new world in search of a better life.

By all accounts, they found it, although it was not always a bed of roses.

The Miller children (L-R):  Marie, Caroline,
Alex and Hank.  (1916 - Chicago, Illinois)
And this final installment is a composite summary of three Miller children we’ve not yet  discussed at any length:  Caroline, Fannie, and Evalyn.  In fact, we have very little information about them, but will share here a bit of what we know.

First, an acknowledgement of Pete and Dora’s second daughter, Caroline.

Of the 11 Miller children, the least is known about this little girl – the fourth child – born when the family lived in Chicago.  Caroline was not yet five when the family moved to a farm just outside of Watertown, South Dakota.  Two of her younger sisters were born in South Dakota:  Fannie in April of 1919, and Bertha in April 1921.

In about 1922, the family moved from Watertown to Bayard, Nebraska.  Caroline died just a couple of weeks before Christmas, on December 12, 1922, and we believe the family was already living in Scotts Bluff County by that time.  Unfortunately, we have no documents that confirm this, but we’re hopeful of learning more about her untimely death in the days to come.

The picture above is the only known photograph of Caroline.

Fannie at about age 8, holding little sister Pauline.
Fannie Miller was born April 22, 1919 at Watertown, South Dakota.   She started school near Bayard, Nebraska, and would have continued her schooling in Whitney after Pete and Dora moved there in 1927.  As we’ve sifted through the many class pictures in our photo gallery for Whitney School, we’ve not yet been able to find a photo that identifies Fannie – nor have we identified her in any of the unlabeled school photos. 

Nonetheless, we are optimistic that we’ll yet find a photo of Fannie in a class picture, perhaps in one we’ve yet to obtain.  We added several to our collection as a result of the June 2011 Whitney School Open House, and we hope to further expand our collection in the coming months.

Fannie was nearly 10 years younger than sister, Marie, and she surely looked up to her older sister over the years of her short life.  As Fannie grew into her teenage years, she was – like her brothers and sisters – somewhat confined to the “small town” environment of Whitney.  But that would not stop Fannie – and the others – from frequent trips to nearby Crawford or Chadron, where there were more stores, more people, and more activities that would be inviting to young people.

Fannie and Lettie
By all accounts, Fannie was a bright and vibrant young lady.  She made friends fast, and became good friends with Lettie Maiden, who would one day marry her brother, John, and become her sister-in-law.

In January of 1936, when she was 17 years old, Fannie gave birth to a baby boy, Jan Richard, in Milford, Nebraska.  Tragically, while Jan was still an infant, Fannie was involved in a serious automobile accident that left her paralyzed.

While a passenger in a car on U.S. 20 headed from Crawford to Whitney, the vehicle went out of control on a curve and crashed into a ditch.  Fannie’s neck was fractured in three places.  Initially treated in the Bootjer hospital in Crawford, she was transferred to Sister’s Hospital in Hot Springs, South Dakota a few days later.

Bedridden, Fannie was soon beset with many complications.  Despite considerable medical attention to a broken vertebrae, Fannie succumbed to those complications and went to an early death in March of 1939.  She was just a few weeks from her 20th birthday.

Jan was raised by his grandparents Pete and Dora Miller.  Two of his aunts, Evalyn and Pauline, were just six and nine years older than Jan, so he was very much like a younger brother to all of Pete and Dora’s kids.  In fact, we recall Jan frequently calling grandma Dora, “mom.”  Our story about cousin Jan is recounted in an earlier narrative.

Evalyn Miller - undated
And finally, a brief recounting about the youngest child of Pete and Dora Miller – Evalyn Ruth.

Born in Whitney on June 8, 1930, most of Evalyn’s siblings were already teenagers.  Her oldest sister, Marie, was 20 years and was married within just a few months of Evalyn’s birth.

As was the case with her sister, Fannie, we’ve been unable to locate a school photo that identifies Evalyn.  Part of that problem can be attributed to a short education.  Evalyn dropped out of school – probably around the 8th grade.

For a time in her teen years, she stayed with her brother John and family in Chadron, where she also took in ironing and probably had a job or two around Chadron. 

We know virtually nothing else about Evalyn during this time period. 

But by early 1951, she had met a young Airman stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City.  His name was John Snyder, who was originally from Minnesota.  They were married on August 26th in Rapid City, South Dakota.  Both were 21 years old and – according to their marriage registration – both had been divorced. 

When “Johnny” Snyder’s military service ended with a disability of some sort, the couple settled in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

Twin daughters were born to Evalyn and Johnny in the 1950’s.  Marlene and Darlene Snyder were among the few twins we know of born in to the Miller family.

The Snyder twins - Marlene and Darlene
Johnny’s disability prevented him from ever really working full time, and the trail of the Snyders through the rest of the 1950’s and 1960’s is largely unknown.  His health deteriorated and Johnny Snyder died in February 1969 before his daughters were fully grown.

Evalyn later married a man named Ivan Wilson.  By most accounts, it was not a happy marriage.  Ivan and Evalyn lived in Arizona, where Evalyn died on February 8, 1984 at Camp Verde.  She was just 53 years old.

Virtually nothing is known about Evalyn’s daughters, Marlene and Darlene.  Some of the Miller family in Texas recall Marlene living in the Houston area for a while – married and with two children.  That was many years ago, and we’ve been unable to locate them regarding the Miller Family Reunion, which is now just days away.

A reminder that the Miller Gallery contains a wide variety of historical and contemporary photographs of Pete and Dora Miller – and many of their children and later generations.

As you happen across any errors of fact in the photo captions – or in the narratives contained in Miller Archives – we hope you’ll e-mail us corrections and additional information.  And, of course, we’d welcome any interesting photographs that you’d like to share with us.

We anticipate that we’ll have a barrage of new photos to post following the 2011 Miller reunion in Nebraska, so come back and visit this site in coming days.  You may find someone you know!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Remembering Fred Miller...

Fred Miller was born near Bayard, Nebraska on June 29, 1923, the eighth child of Peter and Dora Miller.  With three older brothers aged 6, 10 and 12, there’s little doubt that young Fred quickly learned to be self-reliant.  Hand-me-down clothes were a way of life, and there surely were times when Fred had to defer to his older brothers.

But when it came to meal time, Fred recalled that no one in the family ever went hungry.

“We didn’t eat like kings.  We usually had pancakes for breakfast and some kind of cereal.  We had meat twice a week – maybe three times a week.  We had eggs….we always had milk.  We didn’t want for anything.  Maybe clothes sometimes.”

Most of Fred’s memories of growing up center around the Whitney area, to where the family moved in about 1927.

None of the Pete and Dora Miller family completed high school.  Fred went through the eighth grade before dropping out to help with chores, including the grueling task of thinning sugar beets – a task almost universally disliked by the people who had to do it.

But when the kids were of school age, getting them clothed and ready to go was a chore.   Fred remembers that each fall the family would place a catalogue order with Montgomery Ward or Sears – sometimes both.  Since neither Pete nor Dora could write in English, so it was usually older sister Marie’s job to complete the order form and send it off to the store.  A large shipment would usually arrive just about the time school started each year.

Of course, having clothes was no guarantee that the kids would show up at school.  Hiding in the lumber at the Whitney lumberyard was sometimes a favorite alternative to sitting in a desk at school for Fred and his buddies.  When the family lived outside of Whitney, the kids would have to carry their lunches to schoolhouses in the country.  Potatoes were a favorite fare.

Marjorie Vogt, a first grade teacher, would have one of the boys put more coal in the stove, placing the potato in the ash pan to bake the potato.  After about an hour, they’d wipe off the ashes, wash the potato with some water, and then enjoy a baked or mashed potato.

Grandpa “Pete” Miller subscribed for many years to a German language newspaper, the Detroit Free Press.  When the newspaper discontinued its German language edition, he bought a German Bible.

“It was huge,” Fred said, “and he would read that Bible every night.”

Fred remembered that when the Miller children were small, the family did not often attend church.   Without knowing what day it was, he’d sometimes find himself at the Stone family house up near the school.

Charlotte Flock marred Fred Miller in 1942.
“They’d be getting ready to go to church, so Dolly Stone would ask, ‘You want to go to church with Bill?'   I’d say sure, so I’d go to church with them.”

Responding to the suggestion that Pete Miller was strong willed and stern -- and that Dora Miller was far more reserved and quiet, Fred Miller laughed and responded, “Oh, no.  I’d much rather have taken a beating from dad than mom!”

Charlotte Flock was born in the small eastern Nebraska community of Loretto.   Her family also lived in Bartlett and Spaulding before moving to Chadron, where she met Fred Miller in 1941. 

Early in their courtship, Fred and Charlotte – like all Americans – were rocked by the news on December 7, 1941 that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  The United States went to war.

Fred and Charlotte were married in Chadron on June 2, 1942.  Among other places, they lived in Chadron for a time, and Fred remembers working at the old Chadron Bakery that was then located on West Second Street.  Fred and Charlotte lived upstairs, where the rising heat from the bakery ovens kept their apartment toasty warm.  Fuel oil – like many other items – was hard to come by in those war years.

In April of 1943, as the United States continued its buildup of forces, Fred Miller – like hundreds of thousands of other young men – found himself entering service.  He was sworn in to the Army Air Corps at Fort Logan, just outside Denver, Colorado, on April 8, 1943. 

Just a few months later, on July 24, Fred and Charlotte’s first child, Jean, was born in Chadron.

In addition to Fort Logan, Fred was assigned to military installations at Kearns, Utah; Indianapolis, Indiana; Fresno and Glendale, California; Ephrata and Moses Lake, Washington; and March Field, California, where he was discharged on Armistice Day 1945. 

Returning to Dawes County at war’s end, Fred and his growing family lived in Chadron, and he took a job at the Chadron bakery until there was a “blowup.”     Fred decided to move to Washington, where Charlotte’s sister and family lived.  He would pick apples, which he did for about a month, and then a job opened up in Metaline Falls.  While daughter Jean was born in Nebraska, Fred and Charlotte's other children were all born in Washington.  Pete was born in Wenatchee in 1945; Wayne in Ione in 1948; and Charlie Bob in Ione in 1950.

While Fred held a variety of jobs over the years – including working in the apple orchards in the region – most of his working career was spent at the cement plant in Metaline Falls.  He began on May 5, 1949 and remained until there more than 36 years, retiring on June 29, 1985.

In retirement, Fred enjoyed camping and spending time with his kids and grandchildren, most of whom lived fairly close.  He enjoyed fairly good health right up until his death on December 29, 2005 following a heart attack.

Charlotte Miller continues to live in their home overlooking the beautiful Pend Oreille River in Metaline Falls, Washington, where she and Fred raised their family. 

Their children help Fred and Charlotte Miller celebrate their 60th anniversary in 2002.
L-R: Pete Miller, Charlie Miller, Jean (Miller) Roark, Fred & Charlotte, and Wayne Miller.
Daughter Jean married David Roark, and they live in Spokane, where they owned and operated a grocery store until their retirement several years ago.  Their children included Kevin, Kerry and Robert.  The store is still in the family, operated mainly by two of their sons.  David works 2 days a week and fills in when needed and Jean still keeps the books.

Son Pete married Judy Newman and they remained in Metaline Falls, where Pete also worked for the cement plant for many years.  When the plant closed, he took a job at the nearby power dam operated by the county.  Pete and Judy have two children, Paul and Rhonda.

Second son Wayne Miller enlisted in the Air Force, and his tour of duty took him to a variety of places, including an overseas assignment in Germany for 7 years.  He married Christina Schutte, and they have two children, Christopher and Charlotte.  After he retired from the military, Wayne and his family returned to the eastern Washington area, and he works for the U.S. Post Office in Colville, WA.

The youngest in Fred and Charlotte’s family is Charles Robert (Charlie Bob), who also worked at the cement plant in Metaline Falls for many years.  He married Linda Wallace, and they have two children, Chad Donald and Amie Lavone. Linda passed away in July of 2010.  Charlie lives in Ione.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Remembering John Miller...

John Miller at Whitney School
in the early 1930's.
John Miller was the fifth of eleven children born to Pete and Dora Miller, and the last one born while the family was still living in Chicago.  He came into this world on June 27, 1917.  When he was about a year old – sometime in 1918 – the family moved to Watertown, South Dakota.  After about four years, they moved to Scottsbluff County in Nebraska, near Pete’s older sister, Eva Behm, and her family.

It was in the “valley” area of the Nebraska panhandle that John began school, and he shows up on the attendance rolls at the Spring Creek School in Scotts Bluff County.  He probably attended school for three or four years – before Pete and Dora made their final move, which took them northward to the Whitney area of Dawes County.  John continued school for a few years and even was awarded a perfect attendance certificate by his 6th Grade teacher, Eva Cunningham.  But within the next couple of years, John would drop out of school to help with family chores and work in farm fields around Whitney.

The Whitney years were the “growing up years” for John Miller.  In later life, he would recount a variety of incidents that reflected the active life of a Depression-era teenager.  From sneaking in to the Whitney movie theatre after hours to thread the projector and watch films – to tossing a goat into a local restaurant, there was no shortage of pranks.

Lettie Maiden and John Miller were
married in January of 1938.
Although there’s no certainty as to when they met, John Miller and Lettie Maiden probably got acquainted at one of the dances held on the Maiden place northeast of Chadron in the mid-1930’s.  John’s older sister, Marie, was married to Bill Derrick, a cousin to Lettie.  They shared a common grandmother, Dora Derrick Maiden, who lived on the Maiden homestead. 

Their subsequent courting led to a small marriage ceremony on January 13, 1938 in the Newland Baptist parsonage on Ann Street in Chadron.  Lettie’s sister, Nettie Maiden, attended the bride, while Art Gehrke was best man.  A newspaper account said that John was “well and favorably known in this vicinity.”  A wedding luncheon was served at the home of Lettie’s parents, Bill and Leota Maiden, before the couple set out for a short honeymoon in the Black Hills.

While Lettie was employed by Dr. C.E. Masters, a local optometrist, John took on a variety of jobs.  Farm hand, road construction, and filling station attendant were among many of his jobs.

“We picked up jobs doing whatever we could,” he said in later years, putting into context the rigors of trying to make a living during the difficult years during and following the Great Depression.

John and Lettie had three children:  John Elgar, born in October 1938; Linetha Faye, born in January 1941, and Larry Dean, born in June 1943.

By this time, John Miller was working for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad as a Machinist’s Helper.

When World War Two broke out, many area men were called to serve.  John Miller was on the list and scheduled to report for active service when the war ended in 1945.  Those orders were cancelled. 

With "Rusty" in 1960.
John continued his work at the C&NW roundhouse and eagerly took on correspondence courses and other training that would allow him to become a full-fledged machinist for the company.  He honed many skills while working for the railroad, including welding, and he also took on additional responsibility as a foreman.  He was an officer for the local chapter of the International Association of Machinists, an interesting role given his disdain for unions in later years.

Despite opportunities for further promotions – which would have required relocating to Rapid City – John chose to stay in Chadron, where his children had started school.  While there were brief forays into other opportunities – like part ownership of the 146 CafĂ© on Main Street in Chadron and doing contract work for the 1880 Train for tourists in the Black Hills – John remained with C&NW for more than 38 years, retiring in 1980.

Vacations were few and far between for this Miller family, but there was one trip to Yellowstone Park in about 1950.  Travel was not frequent for John and Lettie until all their kids were grown and gone – and until John retired from the railroad and Lettie from the U.S. Job Corp camp near Chadron, where she had worked for several years as a cook.

John Miller died on October 12, 1994 at the Chadron Community Hospital.  He had been in failing health the last few years of his life and was 77 years old at the time of his death.

Lettie Miller passed away just over three years later on January 28, 1998 in Chadron.  She was 77 years old.

The 50th wedding anniversary photo of John and Lettie Miller .
Taken in January 1988 - Chadron, Nebraska.  Behind Lettie and
John are their children:  John Elgar, Larry, and Linetha.
The children of John and Lettie Miller:   older son John and his wife Cheryl have lived in Lemon Grove, California, for many years;  their daughter Linetha and her husband Bruce are on a ranch outside Madill, Oklahoma; and younger son Larry and his wife Karen live in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bertha Miller found a home in Texas

Bertha, Albert and Fred Miller
Bertha Miller was born April 12, 1921 in Watertown, South Dakota, but the family lived there only a short time before moving to western Nebraska.  By the time her parents Pete and Dora decided to move to Whitney in 1927, Bertha was school age and started school there.  As did many of the other Miller children, she dropped out of school at an early age.  Years later, she remembered working in Chadron at the old Niles Hotel, which used to sit on the east side of First and Bordeaux Streets.

Bertha moved to Texas in early June of 1941, traveling with “Bobbi” Derrick and her husband, as well as Grandpa and Grandma Derrick.   She said Bobbie had asked her jokeingly to come to Texas – and she did!  Bertha recalls that when they arrived on a Friday evening, it was pouring down rain.

“I wished to God that I had never left.”  But Bertha stayed, and fell in love with her adopted home state.

Louis and Bertha Bird
Among one of her earliest jobs in Texas was working for Dairy Land, a company that packed ice cream in those small cups which then were shipped out to military bases.  She often told the story about how she and her girlfriend would write their addresses on the lids of some of those cups that went out to soldiers and sailors around the world.

Eventually, Bertha took a job as a waitress in a downtown Houston restaurant.  While working the night shift, she got acquainted with a local cab driver, Louis Bird.  Their courtship resulted in marriage on May 20, 1947.

Louis and Bertha had one child, Judy, who was born on New Years Day 1949.  For many years, the Bird family lived out on the north edge of Houston, Hage Street.  Among other things, it allowed the family to have a large garden plot.  It was a hobby Bertha avidly pursued.

Louis Bird was a truck driver for most of his working years – driving routes only in Texas, so he could be near his family.  He retired from Brown Express; he died in 1974.

By the 1980s, Houston had grown so much that the Bird “rural” neighborhood was surrounded by housing developments and businesses.  It was clear that Houston was one of the fastest growing cities in the country.

Her daughter Judy remembers that Bertha loved to work in the garden, growing and canning vegetables – taking great pride in her Texas pecan pickles and jellies.  She also enjoyed planting and caring for a wide variety of flowers.

Bertha Bird died April 17, 1989 in Houston, just five days after her 68th birthday.

Judy (Bird) Callaway holds her granddaughter, Aubree, flanked by daughter
Lori (left) and Chacy (right -- in red).  Chacy is Aubree's mommy.  The fellow
standing behind at left is Kerry Callaway, Chacy and Lori's father.  
Bertha's daughter married and had two daughters, Chacy Callaway – born in 1974 --  and Lori Callaway, who was born in 1976. 

For some 21 years, Judy worked at Chase Bank in Houston, while raising her girls as a single mother.   She took severance from Chase in January 2000, but  continues to live in the Houston area.

Judy's older daughter, Chacy, graduated from Sam Houston State University and teaches elementary school.  She and her husband, John, live in Magnolia.

Lori went to the University of Houston and briefly pursued a career in broadcasting in Idaho Falls, Idaho.  However, she soon returned to Houston and – like her older sister -- now teaches elementary school in the Houston area.

You'll find higher resolution versions of all the photographs shown here -- and many more --  in the Miller Family Gallery