Saturday, June 11, 2011

Reunion less than two weeks away!

Some 54 Miller "cousins" from eight states are signed up for the Miller Reunion picnic in Chadron, Nebraska.  The grand event is just two weeks away (6/25/11) and will be held at Wilson Park in Chadron.

It's been a few decades since such a reunion has been held.  The last one was also at Wilson Park back in 1988.  We don't know for sure how many showed up for that event -- but we believe this will be a record. If you're planning to attend -- but haven't yet registered for the picnic -- please click on the box at right and sign up.  We need to give the picnic caterer a count of people by next Friday (6/17/11).  Be sure to include names of people in your group, since we want to make up name tags!

Whitney water tower
Sadly, all of the children of Peter and Dora Miller, our German-Russian grandparents who lived for so many years in Whitney, Nebraska, are now gone.  The old Miller house in Whitney is a mere shadow of its former self -- weeds have grown up around the single remaining portion of the structure, which is used as something of an office for a trucker.  Much of his equipment is strewn around the lot.

But if the condition of the house is a bit of a disappointment, there are plenty of other things to help stir memories of bygone years.  

Between the cemetery and "downtown" Whitney, the old water tower (shown above) casts its shadow over the most inhabited area of the little Dawes County village.  That's the neighborhood south of the old U.S. Highway 20.  While a newer water pipeline now serves Whitney residents, the tower remains as a vivid reminder of days gone by. 

The long-time home of Bill and Marie (Miller) Derrick still stands, too, appearing much the same as it did right after Dick Derrick fixed up the exterior of the structure several years ago. Next door, the house built by Dick and Kathy Derrick remains -- now occupied by a couple who work in Crawford.

"Old" Whitney School today
Across the street from the old Derrick homes are two school buildings.  One is dubbed the "old" school -- the other is the "new" school.  Nonetheless, both schools have been closed permanently.  Earlier this month, a  "Whitney School Reunion" was held in the newer building.  We've posted a few stories and photos about the school on a web site entitled Whitney Reflections.  Closure of the facility marks the end of 125 years of education in Whitney.  Nearly all of the Miller children went to school in the "old" school building.  The Chadron Public Schools, which now control the property, is trying to sell both building -- but we've heard no news about their fate.  We suspect the old building will be torn down.  The newer structure could serve as a nice community center or for some other purpose, but it's not clear that there's much support for that.  

Perhaps the least changed aspect of Whitney is Warring Memorial Church, on the corner south of the old school.  Although the entry has been relocated -- and it now has easier access for folks needing assistance -- the church is still a vibrant part of the community, conducting Sunday services and other events.  A few cousins attending the reunion plan to attend services on Sunday (6/26/11) -- but they'll have to rise early to do it.  The pastor also preaches in Harrison and Crawford, so the Whitney service is at 9:00 a.m. only.  Local folks have invited us to join them for coffee in the church basement after the service.  They'd like to know just how many of us might show up, so they'll be prepared!   Please drop us an e-mail  if you think you might join us.  Older cousins will remember that this is the church that Grandma Miller attended and cleaned for many years!

Undated photo of the Whitney Church
We're hoping for good weather so that a visit to the cemetery can be included.  Of course, the cemetery is open all the time, but a visit to the Whitney Cemetery after church on Sunday could be capped off with a nice lunch at the Fort Robinson State Park about 20 minutes away.  If you've not been to Fort Robinson lately -- or ever -- we think you'll find it's worth a visit!

While we've lingered on a bit here about houses, buildings, and "things," perhaps the most exciting part of our Miller Family Reunion is the most enduring:  a chance to get acquainted and reacquainted with cousins from all over the country.  Interestingly, not a single Miller descendant (at least, that we know of) lives in Nebraska -- let alone in the Whitney area!  Many third, fourth, and fifth generation descendants of Pete and Dora Miller have never met one another.  For others, it has been many years since we've met and enjoyed fellowship.

Those, of course, will be the most enduring remembrances of this celebration.  Just imagine how pleased Grandpa and Grandma Miller would be to know that so many of their family have been able to come together for this occasion -- a fitting tribute to them and their children.

We look forward to seeing you later this month!