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.  While details of her death are not known, she is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Scottsbluff.

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!