Monday, August 26, 2019

The Miller Family

Prairie City, Kansas was founded in Douglas County by William Graham, L.F. Green, Salmon Prouty, and James Lane in 1855. There were big plans for Prairie City with the Catholic Mission, the Heber Institute, and the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad but those big plans never materialized due to the opening of Baker University and founding Baldwin City a quarter mile to the east. Most of Prairie City was vacated by the county in 1883.

A prominent family in the area, the Millers, settled just southwest of the Catholic Church in 1860. Not only were the Millers farmers--mostly animals and fruit--but George, the patriarch, was a stonemason who constructed many stone buildings and structures around the Baldwin City area.

Ever since I discovered this family in 2000, I have been working to get their story and history down. I'm close to having everything I need but still have quite a bit to do. Here's what I have so far.

George Miller, originally Meunier, was born December 28, 1832 in Mariesville, Quebec to Ignace and Marie Desange Meunier. George was the youngest of eight children which probably influenced his decision to leave Canada and come to Kansas. A stonemason, which was probably a family occupation based on the Meunier's dit name, Lapierre, George arrived in Lecompton, Kansas Territory in 1857. He married Margaret Lowery on February 22, 1859 and the two of them moved to Prairie City. It's possible that since Lecompton had its own celebrated stonemason in Mark Migliario, George had to move away to make his own mark in the state.

George's land on Section 5 in Palmyra Township was on the southern slope of Liberty Hill just southwest of where the Catholic Mission had been built. He built his house and started his family and career. George was a well-respected builder and farmer and contributed to numerous public and private projects in and around Baldwin City including several house foundations, at least two bridges--including the Women's Bridge over East Tauy Creek, Pulliam Hall, Parmenter Hall, Centenary Hall, and Rippy Gym on Baker University campus, the old United Methodist Church, old Baldwin High School, and the IOOF Lodge. The stone was quarried from George's property and the local newspapers routinely praised his work. George was ill the last couple years of his life and died July 5, 1909. He is buried in Prairie City Cemetery.

Margaret Miller was born in Frostburg, Maryland to Robert and Juliana Glanville Lowery in 1842. Juliana passed away in 1843. I assume Robert and Margaret came to Lecompton together where Margaret met George. Margaret opened up her house for her neighbors and took care of the property even organizing social events for the Prairie City community. After George passed away, she remained on the farm but was in ill health for most of the end of her life. She lived in Siloam Springs, Arkansas for a short time for her health but moved back to Kansas within a year. Margaret passed away on April 6, 1925 and is buried in Prairie City Cemetery.

George and Margaret's firstborn was Adele, born on January 23, 1860. I have little on Adele's early life but know that she married Francis Xavier Jardon on December 5, 1883. They lived in a stone house in Baldwin and had a farm in Willow Springs Township. Sadly, Adele would pass away on April 8, 1889. She is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Baldwin. F.X. Jardon would remarry on April 15, 1893 to Virginia Elliott. He died in 1930.

Second-born Lucy (August 13, 1861) is also a mystery. Lucy helped out with many social functions around the community and taught at the Oak Grove School in the 1880s. She is recorded as living on the farm in the 1895 Kansas Census and is mentioned as "being of the home" in her mother's 1925 obituary but I have no information on her after that.

George Xavier was born February 2, 1864. Named for his father, George X. died young on July 1, 1865 and was buried near the southwest corner of the house. Ignace, born April 2, 1871, was named for his paternal grandfather, also died young on his first birthday in 1872 and buried next to his brother. They are the only Millers buried with the name MEUNIER. An excavation in 2018 yielding no remains so the exact location of the burial is unknown. The stone has been removed, kept on private property with the hopes of having it installed in Prairie City Cemetery.

Julia was born June 16, 1866. Like Lucy, she was a schoolteacher working for various districts around southern Douglas County including Prairie City, Worden, Independence, and Vinland. Julia then taught at Baldwin High School where she eventually became assistant principal and then principal. Late in her career she served as principal of the Berryton Rural School in Shawnee County. She continued living with her brother Robert until he sold the farm in 1942 and he died. She then lived with her younger brothers Fred and Elmer for a couple of years before moving back to Baldwin City. The last couple years of her life she lived at the Topeka Methodist Home. She passed away on August 22, 1955 at the Security Benefit Hospital a couple weeks after a fire at the Methodist Home displaced its residents. She is buried in Prairie City Cemetery.

Robert, born September 17, 1874, followed in his father's footsteps running his own farm and eventually taking over the family farm until selling the land in 1942. In 1903, Robert gave the land to the Prairie City School District to open a new school which still stands today. Robert died December 18, 1949 and is buried in Prairie City Cemetery.

Elmer was born July 7, 1878 and moved to Lincoln County, Oregon where he became a dairy farmer and breeder. He married Gertrude on December 1, 1917 and they had one son, Robert. His farm still stands along the Siletz River on Elmer Miller Road. Elmer passed away on March 5, 1964. Gertrude passed away in 1995. Both are buried in Eureka Cemetery in Newport, Oregon.

George Frederick, or Fred, was born May 28, 1888. Fred moved, originally, to Boise, Idaho where he married Margaret Johnson. Fred ran a farm near Pocatello, Idaho. Fred passed away on October 27, 1976 with Margaret following in 1997. Both were cremated and interred in Prairie City Cemetery.

The house that George built came under new ownership in 1942 and has sat abandoned since about the 1970s and is currently private property. Nearby is the Midland Railway and the ruins of the Prairie City Catholic Mission. The house was built facing east in National Folk style, or I-house. Three additions were built onto the house over the years: the front porch, columns, and upstairs porch, an open porch that became enclosed around 1972, and a remodeled kitchen area. For years, the house and graves attracted trespassers and vandals ultimately leading to the house being demolished in early 2019.

The doorway to the back stairs.

April 2019.

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