BIOGRAPHY OF ROBERT MILLER
His son Robert Miller of Beloit, Kansas written in 1913
I have taken the liberty of adding information that I have come across it in my research, to this biography. It is in black ( ) in each case. This was not the complete bio. but was edited by the Hoosier Journal. If anyone has more on this family please let me know.
The subject of this biography was born in Rutherford Co., North Carolina, October 18, 1777. He grew to manhood in the neighborhood where he was born and married a lady by the name of (Mary)Condrey. They lived in that County a few years and after there had been born two or three children they determined to find a location in another part of the country. Their folks tried to persuade them to stay where they were but Robert, (as his name means a rambler) true to the meaning could not be overcome by any persuasion and they both wanted the experience of frontier life. Having accumulated some money and property, Robert saddled his horse, put his money in his saddle bags took his gun and tomahawk to mark the trail, bid his family good-bye and took the trail to the Ohio River for Western Ohio. He struck the river below Cincinnati...not finding what he was looking for after crossing the river, he followed down the river to what was then Western Ohio, but now Eastern Indiana. When about 100 miles below Cincinnati, after encountering many hardships through rain and swollen streams along the way, and killing several bear and panthers, seeing plenty of other game of turkeys, deer and kinds that inhabited the woods, he seemed to be in the element he had been looking for.
Down the river he came to a little settlement of two families where the old town of Madison now stands (the place where they sell their 'terbacker). They had built double log cabins of Buckeye logs as that was a very soft wood and they could chop it easy. One of the men was named Madison. He had his family in one room and his blacksmith shop in the other room. The town took its name from this man. The other man's house was of the same kind, his family in one room and a grocery store in the other room. He had for his stock of goods, whiskey, tea, sugar, tobacco, coffee (and it was not browned as it is now), powder, lead, and gun-flints. They did not have gun caps but used the flints to fire their guns. This man's name was Vawter, I think. The two families consisted of ten or twelve, mostly boys and girls. The land was still government land at $1.25 per acre. The land was covered with a heavy growth of timber. Some of the best walnut timber in the State the largest Sycamore of any along the river.
But Miller did not like the situation nor the looks of the Hill and thinking it might be sickly with the river on one side and the hill on the other, he climbed the hill and took a northwest course and after wandering through the woods, cutting his way with Tomahawk and butcher knife and after a few days and nights in the woods, his horse living on the grass in the woods and Miller on game of the kinds he chose to eat, but mostly bear meat for it agreed with him better than any other kind of wild meat..I have heard him say he could eat all of the bear meat he could hold and drink a pint of the oil and not make him a bit sick.
After looking over the country for a few days he located a place for a home in what afterward was Jefferson County (then Ohio) and marking out land and a place to build a home on the hill across the creek north of where the Indian wigwam poles were still standing. Mr. Miller then took his course on horseback to the land office. I think at Columbus, Ohio, and paid for his land in gold and silver (we had no paper money then), and headed for his home in the tar-heel state and after a hard ride of over 200 miles through rain and mud and swolen streams and after several days arrived home to give an account of his adventures. After his years crop was matured and he made arrangements for his wife and children, he took his leave again for the fall and winter. Full of life and vim, he took the road for his home in the woods, where he arrived sometime the last of November, 1811. He immediately began to make signs of a settlement, cutting down the timber and keeping both ears open for anything that might happen and one eye open for danger from wild animals or Indiana. He worked with might and main to open his place of habitation. One night a light snow fell and the next night more snow, but nothing discouraged Miller. Not knowing there was anyone closer than the ones at the river, supposed to be 20 miles or more away, a man hailed from a short distance in the timber. He said there were eight families of them away across through the woods that settled close together and had builded a block house for protection. He could not tell how far it was going----missing page here.
His load consisted of his wife, one girl, and one boy, a few clothes (all homemade), limited bedding, provisions, two good rifle guns, plenty of powder and lead and a camp kettle full of sprouts from his neighbors orchards for his first orchard. He hung them on the coupling pole on his wagon in front of the tar bucket. Then after a long and wearisone journey through mud, rain and swollen creeks, hills, rooks, he arrived at what they called home in the far west. Weary, worn and tired, but full of life, energy and grit they went to work to make the home attractive in the woods.
Mr. Miller was a man for the occasion. He could make anything he needed. In his business his tools consisted of a broad and narrow ax, a hand and cross cut saw, three augers, 1/2, 1/3 and inch, the same number and size chisels, two gauges, one pack and printer plane, a coopers pointer, cross and round share. He stocked the first cradle and made the first hayrake in the country except one old Abraham Walton brought from Ohio. He could make anything for the farm or shoes for the family, as well as tan the leather they were made of and even make the last to make the shoe over, and make a very neat powder horn from a cow's horn, then make the powder to fill it. He was quite a horse doctor...always ready to trade horses on a barter...never knowed him to get beat in a trade but once. He kept the best of horses for them times, and would always tell the truth in a trade or any other line. Mr. Miller had a limited education, could read, write and calculate. He was a Methodist of the John Wesley stripe, his house was the preaching place of that part of the curcuit which was a very large one. People coming 20 miles or more to meeting, camping around his house in their wagons, always bringing their guns with them. They never fired a gun in those days unless it was really necessary for protection or meat.
Mr. Miller had chopped off a small piece of timber of an acre or more for his house, stable, orchard and garden, and then began clearing the farm and to make a home for the rest of his life. His family consisted of his wife, two girls and one boy. John the oldest a boy, Mary the oldest child died at about the age of 10 years.
I call to mind some things I heard him relate in early settling of his farm. There had been a very large poplar tree blown over in the clearing and he hired his daughter Mary to burn it, so she went out with her father after dinner. They worked the rest of the day and there lay the largest rattlesnake she ever saw. She called her father to come and kill it, and upon doing so counted 28 rattles, it was the largest rattler he ever saw and the last one he ever killed.
John got to be quite an expert with his gun. He could not reach the trigger without putting the breach of the gun under his arm and could not load his gun unless he got on a log or stump, but he was a dead shot at deer or turkey. John enlisted for the Mexican war and was elected Captain of his company. They were not called into the service so he did not have to go to war.
Mr. Robert Miller had several narrow chances for his life from wild animals. One I will relate as I have heard him relate on several occasions. He was going after his horses along the path that lead to where they were grazing in the woods. There had been a storm that twisted a hickory down and it lay on the ground and the stump was about 10-12 feet high. He was 40 steps from the stump and up towards the top and there lay a very large yellow panther looking straight at him and patting its tail on the log. Being a man of steady nerve and used to the woods and always looking for something to happen, he drew his gun off his shoulder, took aim, and brought down a dead panther. Many other dangers with wild animals were encountered while the country was new and setting up.
On the north of his place about 2 miles was a piece of very heavy timber and a small creek running through that was kept running by the springs that came out of the cliffs and banks. For miles along its course the forest was full of game and abounded with bears and was where Mr. Miller and others went to get their bear meat, so that they called it Bear Creek. About the first settler on the creek was a man named Nolton. He built the first brick in that country. The old brick house is in good shape yet. One of his neighbors was named Nichols, two others who built brick houses were Dixon and McCaslin, Byfield lived in the neighborhood. Then there were the Halls and Stidmans, and Moses Wilson, his father and a few others that had settled along the creek. Neils Creek was not behind in settling.
It was not long until Mr. Miller was wanting a place educate the children so leader as he was, it was not long till there there was a schoolhouse built of logs, near a spring, for that was where their houses was all built in pioneer days. For miles around the boys and girls came to school. School was held for 60 or 90 days in the winter. They had only a limited amount of books but they knew all that was in them beofre they got any more.
Mr. Millers family consisted of 5 boys and 4 girls by his first...(wife). Mary the oldest died at the age of 18 (elsewhere in this story is says age 10). Jane lived to be about 40 years old and died after raising a family of 1 girl and 5 boys, she married a man by the name of Thomas. Sarah married a man by the name of Zenor (Marriage records show Sally Sarah Miller married Edward Zenor, 15 Oct. 1829, he was a son of Mathias Zenor/Zener and brother of David Zenor/Zener. Edward moved from the area first to LaPorte, Indiana then to Caldwell County Missouri. Sally is buried in LaPorte.)
Rhoda helped to raise Jane's children. John married a girl by the name of Whitsitt. They raised a family of 5 girls and 4 boys. (John Miller m. Polly Whitsett 1 July 1824).
There was a man by the name of Henry Miller (no relation) bought 80 acres of land. He was a German. Two of his nephews named Zener came with him. One was a married man (David Zener). The other married Sally Miller. Then Mr. Millers wifes brother (Mr. Gerringer) came and bought the land where Mr. Neil froze to death. Then a Mr. Winchester bought and settled on the farm joining him on the east. Then over south there was another small creek that two brothers settled on by the name of Walton, so of course that was called Walton's Creek. Then the McClanahans came and settled there and built a horse mill and a still house to make Whiskey, but it soon went down. A Wells family came in. A way over north there was two brothers by the name of Graham settled on another creek, so that is Graham Creek. Then south of him there was another creek that ran clear across the county and they called that Big Creek on account of its length and size. About 5 miles below Millers, Big Creek and Graham Creek came together and was called Muscatatack. I think it was for some Indian tribe.
So while the country was developing, Mr. Miller's family was doing the same. His first child that was born in Indiana was Alexander and was born in the Blockhouse that was afterward settled by Mr. Loyd, close to a cave and spring. I saw the cave and spring while visiting in Indiana in the latter part of 1911 where the block house stood. His next child, as were all the rest, was born in the house of round logs 18 X 20 feet square. After the children began to help with the duties of the home, sorrow and sadness came to the home in the sickness and death of the wife and mother. There was 3 girls and 4 boys yet at home. They stayed with the father until 2 or 3 of them were married. Then Mr. Miller married a widow by the name of Patton. (Robert Miller md. Sarah Patton 3 July 1832). She had two girls of her own. She was not a very stout woman, she and her girls gave way to the dread disease consumption and all died within a very short time, and again his home was broken. After a few years living with the grown children, Aleck, Samuel, Jane and Sally married leaving the three youngest children, James, Dora?, and Rhoda with the father. Mr. Miller soon married again to a widow by the name of Kinney. (Robert Miller married Hannah Chapman Kinney 7 Sept. 1835). She and her father (both widowed) lived some 8 miles from Miller. Her fathers name was Chapman. They being of the John Wesley Methodist order and Mr. Miller's house was the place of preaching, Mr. Chapman and Mrs. Kinney were frequently at the service of worship, he was one of the pioneers of Clark County and raised a large family. Mr. Chapman and his boys helped dig the canal around the falls of the Ohio River at New Albany, Ind. Mrs. Kinney's sister had died a few years before and left a little boy baby by the name of Saunder. His father had a large family and gave Mrs. Kinney the baby. When Miller married Mrs. Kinney, her father and the baby also joined his household. Miller adopted the boy for his own. Mr. Chapman had another daughter that lived a few miles from Millers that he spent part of his time with, as well as with some of his other children. He died at Millers in 1842 or 1843. He was the first and last to be buried at the Old Bethel Church on Bear Creek on Grandaddy Wilson's farm. (Moses Wilson's Father). His grave is marked with two cedar trees. Mr. Miller's boys Jonathan and James and his daughter Rhoda and the new mother lived happily together. The boys married sisters by the name of Thomas and raised families of their own. (Jonathan Miller md. Hettebel H. Thomas 29 Aug. 1844 and James B. Miller md. Jane Thomas 3 Mar. 1846). James died in the spring of the latter part of the forties with lung fever after a severe cold. Jonathan lived to a tolerable old age. He raised quite a large family. His children are in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas. He died in Missouri shortly after the war. Rhoda never married, but lived with James until he died then stayed with James children and made a very good mother to them. She died at a good old age.
Mr. Miller's family now began to increase by his last wife. The first was a pair of twin boys, and as he did with the other boys, he gave them scripture names, calling them Caleb and Joshua, Caleb died in infancy. Joshua is still living past the allotted time of three score and ten years. The next was also a boy, named for his father Robert. Next was a girl,named Mary Ann, I think for his first wife the next another girl was named Harriet Hoyt for a friend and neighbor Mr. Miller being now a cripple from the cut of an axe and being too old to follow the plow very good, built a house on another part of the farm for his youngest boy (Jonathan) and rented most all the cleared land to him. Things went very well for two or three years, but Jonathan, being of unsettled disposition moved away just as spring began to open and through his persuasion, he got the adopted boy to come and live with him by telling him of a great many things that sounded good to a boy of 14. Mr. Miller was left with two little boys and a farm.
One of his sons Joshua served in the Civil War, 40th Indiana, and after returning home married a girl by the name of Byfield (Martha Byfield daughter of Andrew G. Byfield & Mary Bowner). They had four children but only raised one a boy (John). Joshua and his father divided the farm after the death of the wife and mother; and he married another lady (according to Ancestry.com the second wife was Asenith A. Corya). He worked his part of the farm with the help of the boy (John) for a few years. He then sold out and moved to North Vernon and is spending his last days enjoying what he has earned. He is in his 78th year and enjoying very good health.
Robert, the youngest brother, was named for his father to preserve the family name. It means rambler and surely the father was a rambler and Robert was of the same disposition for he was always hunting something new. He was called "Big". The boys were about 18 and 20 years old when the father took a severe cold in March, 1857, and it terminated in lung fever and not being a very stout old man, he gave up to the disease. Death came to him in a few days. His grave is in the old Mt. Olive Cemetery. The mother and children remained at home on the farm until all were grown.
At 23 years of age "Big" took a notion to see some of the country. He bid the folks good-bye and started to his uncle's in the western part of the state. Walking all the way through to see the country, which was a wonder in a great many ways. He finally got to the end of the way in Green County, IN. He hired to his uncle and stayed 3 years, making several visits home. He then worked for an old farmer during the summer of 1861 and went to school in the winter, worked for the same man until Aug. then enlisted for the War in Co. A 62nd Ind. Regt., W.Y. Monroe, Captain. After the war he returned home until April 12, 1866 when he married Miss Hulday Nay. She being of the Baptist faith, her father and mother died during the War (Harrison B. Nay and Rhoda Thomas were her parents) leaving the children
alone or under the care of the oldest girls and boys. We settled in the old neighborhood for a few years until in Sept. 1870 moved to Appeinoose Co., Southern Iowa. After the usual course of sickness and farming among chitz bugs, wet weather and the loss of two children, we gave up the struggle and started for Kansas to live live in the sunshine. We were all pleased with the change so things went well for a few years til crops began to fail, dry weather, chintz-bugs, hot winds, potatoe bugs, sickness, etc., but we stayed with the rest, we got along and lived through. After ot was over how glad we was that we had to stay. We raised our family of nine children.
After several years we gave up the farm and retired to Beloit Kansas to enjoy the followship and communion of the Saints in the Free Methodist church that we took an active part in erecting. After about 3 years of retired life, on the 20th of March 1911 death claimed the wife and mother, leaving the father and husband and youngest girl alone. after a few months we broke up the home and the girl went to live with her sister, north of Omaha, Nebraska, and the father lives with the oldest girl in Beloit, Kansas.
August 29, 1913
I am 75 years old now and enjoying the best of health and expect to live the few days or years that I live in the Service of Him that came to save his people from their sins. Amen. So hoping you will endeavor to all enter through the gates into the City whose builder and maker is God. I leave it with you.
Yours Affectionately Robert Miller
There were two girls in the family. Sisters of the two boys, younger than the boys. The oldest Mary Ann was not very stout when in her girlhood, being afflicted with the phtisic until she was about 10 or 12 years old. The old family doctor (Dr. Gerrish) told our father & mother if she could learn to smoke he thought it would cure her of the phthisic, so she learned to smoke and it cured her of the tisic. She did not marry till about thirty year old when she married a widower by the name of Hill with three children. He was a carpenter. I think he lived in Johnson Co. She married in a hurry and repented at her leisure. They did not live together very long. They raised one little girl. Mary Ann left him and went home and lived with our mother until she died, then Mary Ann lived around among the neighbors and different ways and not having very stout lungs and having heavy colds at different times consumption set in and she only lasted a few months and died at her brother Joshua's near where she was born at Neil's Creek. She was buried in the Bear Creek Cemetery beside our mother. Her little girl drifted away, no one knows where.
Harriet the youngest of the family was the first of the family to marry. She married a man named Newkirk who was a cooper by trade, never owned any land of his own so they moved around a great deal to different localities. Finally his health failed and he depended on the boys to do the farming, but it was poor quality ground in a poor country and they finally moved back to the house he first built in the wood on his brother-in-law's place. After a few short years he died and in a few years Harriet died. Two boys and two girls were left, the girls soon married as did one boy. One of the girls married a very industrious young man by the name of Stout. Bill is an old batchelor who lived with his sisters. There were 8 or 9 children in the Newkirk family, 3 boys and 3 girls still live, but are somewhat scattered.
There could be much more said about Mr. Miller's family that has come to mind since beginning this sketch and if you will bear with me a little longer, I will say a little more.
Mr. Miller was a true and devoted Methodist. They believed in those days in being led by the Spirit to do and say things. So in naming his children he cose Scripture names. His oldest he called John. Then there was Alexander who was named after the copper-smith. Then there was Samuel, James, Jonathan, Caleb (who died in childhood) and Joshua. But the youngest boy he named for himself to preserve the family name. His name was just Robert. He named the girls Scripture names as well. The oldest was Mary, then Sarah, Elizabeth Jane and Rhoda. Then Mary Ann and Harriet, the last being named for one of his friends.
signed--Sincerely your loving and true friend with well wishes. Robert Miller, Beloit, Kansas aged 76 years old and two months. With malice toward none but Charity for all.
This is a picture of a small falls on Neil's Creek not far from where Robert Miller settled photo by Traca Gwaltney!