Saturday, December 10, 2016

Whiz-Bang #8: Miller, A Family Chronicle

It can be easy to forget that abandoned houses were once places of love and family. My first two introductions to abandoned houses were both right outside Baldwin City. One house was at the end of Baker Street near the railroad tracks. It still had furniture and belongings in it--looking as if the family went on vacation and never returned. The other house was once part of the small town of Prairie City. It was empty except for a chair in the kitchen and a large wooden television set in the sun porch. It was like the family took everything and just left. What made you stop and think about this house and family were the two graves of two children buried near the house.

From what I can find, George Meunier was born to Ignace and Marie Desanges Meunier in Marieville, Quebec on December 28, 1832. I had originally thought, and several census forms proved it, that George was born in St. Lawrence County, New York but actually looking into George's parents revealed that he was born in Quebec. George lived in Quebec his whole life until coming to Lecompton, Kansas Territory in 1857 at the age of 25.

Margaret Lowery was born to Robert and Juliana Lowery in Maryland in 1842. Juliana died a year later in 1843. At some point, Margaret arrived in Lecompton as well, getting married to George on February 22, 1859. George Miller was a stone mason by trade and it's possible that George worked with Italian stonemason Mark Migliario who constructed several houses in and around Lecompton and the Kansas Democratic Headquarters near the Kansas River. Nearly a year after their marriage, on January 23, 1860, their first child, Adele, was born.

Adele was the one who really got me into researching the Miller family because I made her, along with George and Margaret, characters in a story--a fictionalized history of their settlement in Kansas. I wanted to know what really happened to the eldest Miller child but I couldn't find anything about her past 1885. Then I realized that there was a misprint in the book The Complete Tombstone Census of Douglas County, Kansas. In Oakwood Cemetery, in Baldwin City, they had ADELE JARDON listed as died April 8, 1839. It also said she was the wife F.X. Jardon. F.X., or Francis Xavier, wasn't born until 1857.

Francis Xavier Jardon was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on April 11, 1857 to Xavier and Marie Jardon. Within a year, the Jardons arrived in Palmyra Township, Douglas County, Kansas and became one of the most prolific families in the area. The Jardon's house still stands at nearly 160 years. Francis and Adele were married December 22, 1883 by Reverend A.G. Sawin and lived on a farm in Willow Springs Township.

Adele had eight siblings, all of them being born in the same house that stands today. Lucy, born August 13, 1862, has become another lost family member. I can find information on her until the 1895 Kansas census where she was listed as living with her parents but she doesn't appear on the 1900 Federal census. 1895 lists her occupation as a teacher. Lucy taught at the Oak Grove School in the 1880s, but from there, the trail ends. In an odd anomaly, Lucy is listed as 'Mary' on the 1870 Federal census but 'Lucy' on every other census form.

George Xavier, Adele and Lucy's first brother, was born February 22, 1864, George and Margaret's fifth wedding anniversary, but would die just over a year later on July 1, 1865. George is buried near the southwest corner of the house and under the name MEUNIER, one of only two Miller children with that distinction.

Julia, who lived in the Miller house longer than any Miller child, was born June 16, 1866. Prior to 1897, Julia was a schoolteacher for the Central School in Willow Springs and from 1898 to 1899, she taught at the Prairie City School. She lived in the family home until her death in 1955.

Ignace, named for his paternal grandfather, was born April 2, 1871. Ignace would meet the same fate as his older brother exactly one year later. Buried next to George, they share the same stone with MEUNIER.

Robert August was born September 17, 1874. He was George and Margaret's first son to survive past two years. Like Julia, Robert lived his entire life at the Miller house, taking over where his father left off. Rumor had it that Robert raised pigs and that his Baldwin City neighbors weren't too happy with him when the wind changed direction. Robert would pass away in 1949 and is buried, with most of his other family in Prairie City Cemetery.

Elmer was born July 7, 1878. Somewhat following in his father's footsteps, Elmer was a dairy farmer and moved to Lincoln County, Oregon sometime in the 1910s where he lived for the rest of his life with his wife, Gertrude. Elmer and Gertrude married on December 1, 1917 and had one son. Elmer passed away March 5, 1964, Gertrude following December 22, 1995. Both are buried in Eureka Cemetery in Newport, Oregon.

Another George was born May 28, 1881. He purchased his own farm near to his parents land where he farmed for the rest of his life. George is buried in Prairie City Cemetery near his parents and brothers and sister.

Fred, the last Miller child, was born May 28, 1888. He married Margaret Johnson and moved to Boise, Idaho where he farmed until his death on October 27, 1976. Margaret died in 1997. Both are buried with the other Millers in Prairie City Cemetery.

This information will be available in a somewhat different form in the revamped "87" tag at the top of the page.