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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 
Hopsonville, Montana.

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
Date: 1921
Submitted by: Mary Zinzilieta

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