Bessie Elkins Milar
On November 3, 1890, Bessie ELKINS MILAR was born the daughter of
George W. and Sarah R. ELKINS. Her infancy and early childhood were
passed in the atmosphere of a christian farm home near Cutler, in
Perry County, IL. From earliest youth she displayed a studious temperament
and successfully completed the courses in the rural school of Perry County.
At an early age she became a Christian and ever remained a faithful worker
for God's Kingdom, maintaining her membership in Wesley Church until her death.
In 1904, her parents settled in Mt. Vernon, IL, and having finished the grade
at the east side school, she entered the township high school, graduating with
the class of 1910. Enshrined in the love and esteem of her classmates, their
classbook said of her "There is no truer hearled." Extra good student, quiet
and very agreeable. Bessie has a quiet dignity that commands the respect of all.
"We predict that she will be a school teacher" was a tribute they paid her.
Always a girl of exemplary virtue, she was a power of good wherever her personality
was exerted, and the virtues and attributes which sparkled through her school life
remained the beacon lights of her life when she took up her career. The prophecy
of her high school classmates proved accurate for Bessie decided upon the education
of the nation's youth as her vocation. But here was a deep feeling of obligation
beneath her decision and in place of seeking appointment in a city of rural schools,
she selected the Indian service as her field of endeavor, and offered her services
to her country.
She passed a competitive examination at East St. Louis, IL, in the fall of 1910 and
accepted appointment as teacher at the Stewart Indian School, Nevada. Courageously
and uncomplainingly she endured the hardships and trials of life among the Western
Indians, and in her letters home constantly spoke of her devotion to her wards and
pride in their progress. She remained at the Stewart Indian School for 18 months
when she was transferred to the Tongue River Indian School on the Northern Cheyenne
Reservation, Montana where she continued her work as an instructor for more than a year.
In 1914, Bessie learned that the pioneers who were settling on homesteads in
Rosebud County, Montana, urgently needed teachers for their children. Knowing that
acceptance of a position in one of their schools entailed even greater hardship
than was attached to the Indian Service she considered only the good she could
accomplish and assumed charge of the Smith Creek School and later of the Castle Rock School.
In the fall of 1914 she filed on a homestead, had a cabin constructed on it, and in
addition to her duties as a school teacher, she took up the burdens of a homesteader.
Night and morning, regardless of the weather, she rode five miles to and from her school.
Not withstanding the demands of her teaching duties, she found time to comply with
the homestead laws and obtained a patent to her land.
In the fall of 1914, she made the acquaintance of W. Boyd MILAR, a rancher of
Rosebud County, Montana, and they were married in May 1916. Following her marriage
she disposed of her homestead and moved to the little ranch of her husband near
Last June, she returned to Mt. Vernon to be with her parents. On January 9, 1921,
her baby daughter was born but in giving life, she made the supreme sacrifice and
died January 14, 1921 at 3 p.m. leaving to mourn her, a husband and daughter, father
and mother, and a sister and brother.
During the ten years that Bessie devoted to her life work, a week seldom passed
that she did not find the time to write at least one letter, if not two letters,
to her beloved mother.
Source: Mt. Vernon Register News
Submitted by: Mary Zinzilieta