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Tag Archives: Kissimmee. FL

A Day at the Beach, circa 1910

I knew my Oklahoma great-grandparents. Both sets were alive and kicking until I was in high school so they were real people to me. My Florida great-grandparents, however seem so long ago. They were older than my Oklahoma great-grandparents, they died before I was born, but I think more importantly, that side of the family is in Florida. I didn’t grow up hearing stories about them. To me they are just names on a family tree. So here they are. Olive Mae Wink and Donald Graham McKay.

Olive and Donald McKay, on AmericanSaga

Ollie and Donald McKay about 1910

Both were born in Whiteside County, Illinois. Donald in 1869 and Ollie, as she was known, in 1870.  They married in 1890, about the time my other great-grandparents were born. According to the History of Whiteside County, Illinois, Donald previously taught school and had been in the life insurance business. In 1908, however, he had purchased land and was farming.

He didn’t stay a farmer long. He made some trips to Florida and soon he packed everyone into the Model T and moved. He was in real estate now.

By this time they had five kids: known to me as Aunt Iva, b. 1892; Aunt Mildred, b. 1896; Aunt Gertie, 1899; Uncle Donald, b. 1902; and Grandma, Kathryn, called Kat, b. 1905.

McKay 4

Couple at far right: Donald & Ollie McKay, at the beach with friends. About 1910, Florida.

I think they were in Jacksonville for a short time, but very soon they were homesteading in Kissimmee.

McKay 3

Donald & Ollie Wink McKay homestead in Florida. McKay family gathered in the front yard.

I wonder if they made the move in one of those cars. My brother said Aunt Gertie told him during the trip–that must have taken forever–they stayed for a while in Georgia to make adjustments to the car. Adjustments as in they had to get new axles made?!!

Roads in the south were the width of the wagons that hauled a bale of cotton. Which was not the same width as roads in the north. But they weren’t roads as we know them, for the most part they were ruts in the dirt. So the wheels of the car had to fit in those ruts or it was very rough traveling, if you could use the road at all.

The McKays moved from Kissimmee to Orlando between 1921, when Aunt Gertie married there and 1927 when Grandma married in Orlando. Donald was ahead of the Florida real estate boom of the 1920s, but unfortunately he couldn’t get out before it crashed. At one time he owned the land that Disney World now occupies. In 1926 real estate prices crashed in Florida. Donald was going broke. And then the stock market crashed in 1929 which must have compounded whatever trouble he was having.

Donald G. McKay died in a hunting accident in September 10, 1930. He was 61 years old. The story is he was climbing through a fence and the gun went off. Hunting accident is the official cause of death listed on his death certificate, but the family generally believed it to be a suicide.

In high school I learned there were many suicides due to the 1929 stock market crash, but I had no idea there was likely one in my family.

Jan

P.S. While I have no idea who the photographer was, the photos came from descendants of one of Olive’s older sisters, Axaphia Wink Kennedy. Her son DeWitt was friends with his McKay cousins, Aunt Gertie in particular and they stayed in touch for a while after the move. He went to Florida to visit about 1911. Years later, his daughter Jayne came across the pictures and assembled them into an album. She emailed me a copy and these are the only images I have of my great grandparents, Ollie and Donald McKay. Thanks, Jayne!

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2017 in McKay

 

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Happy Birthday, Dad!

James White Miller VI

Here’s my dad just as he was about to graduate from Orlando High School in 1949. This is a page from his senior Memory Book.

James W Miller HighSchool

Look at those saddle oxfords! And the cuffs on those short sleeves. Signs of the times.

JamesW Miller Memory Book (2)

He was born July 10, 1930 in Kissimmee, Florida. He died April 14, 1989 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The first James White Miller was born April 27, 1824, on a plantation on the Catawba River in Lancaster County, South Carolina. I think Belair was the name of the family home which was established by his father, James Miller who married Sarah White.

James Miller 1825 home site The Millers went from South Carolina to Kissimmee, Florida where they remained until my dad joined the Air Force. He was stationed in Wichita Falls, Texas, and during a weekend pass he and a few buddies decided to see how far it was to Oklahoma City.

While cruising downtown the four guys ran into four girls who were on their way to the bus stop after a movie. My mom was one of those girls and that’s how my little branch of the Miller tree ended up in Oklahoma.

Happy Birthday Dad. I’m so glad you made that random trip to meet my mom.

Jan

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2017 in Miller

 

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My Family Moves to Florida

My dad’s birthday was yesterday. He was James White Miller V and was born July 10, 1932 in Kissimmee, Florida. He liked to tell people he was from Kiss-a-me, and then he’d pucker up. He died in 1989 and thinking about him this week inspired this post about my Florida ancestors.

In 1842 the US Congress enacted the Armed Occupation Act with the purpose of populating and protecting the eastern shore of the Florida peninsula. It was like the Homestead Act that settled the plains that we learned about in U. S. history. Someone occupies and defends 160 acres of land, builds a dwelling, cultivates the land and after five years they own the land free and clear. The act was only in effect nine months and less than 1,200 permits were granted. As far as I can tell no one in my family took advantage of it but it was part of the process that encouraged settlement in Florida.

Ask me about Oklahoma history and I can rattle off all kinds of facts and figures and trivia, but Florida not so much. My dad was born there, so I know a little as it pertained to his life, but not much about the really olden days. Turns out bunches of the early pioneers to Florida came from Georgia, which makes sense, since it’s the closest state. Some of my ancestors were in that mass of Georgians who moved south.

My grandmother Kathryn McKay was born in Illinois in 1905 and her family moved to Florida just after 1910—as near as I can figure—but my Miller and Bass great grandparents came much earlier. The Millers came from York County, South Carolina between 1870 and 1875. Census records show they were quite the land holders (and slave owners) in Lancaster County, South Carolina for decades leading up to the Civil War. One of my ancestors, Stephen Miller—born in 1740—died at Belaire, Lancaster, South Carolina. I can’t find any town or city by that name, but when I googled it, the name Belair turned up a lot in the Lancaster area. I wonder if Bellaire was the name of their plantation. A few generations later, census records suggest the Millers lost the family home during or after the war. In the 1870 census, six years after the war ended, the James Miller family was counted at Ft. Mill, South Carolina in York County. And five years later, in 1875, my great great grandpa, James Miller, died and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Kissimmee, Florida. He was just 51. His son, James White Miller II would marry Honoria Quary Mills and become an early sheriff of Osceola County.

As to my other Florida great grandparents Quinn Bass married Jane Richards in Sumter, Georgia in 1845.Their son William, the first of 13 kids (I think), was born in Florida in 1848 according to the 1860 US Census.That year the family was counted in Brevard County which had a total population of 246. U.S. Census records show Quinn and Jane were counted in Brevard County in 1860, Orange County in 1870, and in Osceola County in 1900. At first I wondered why they moved around so much during those years. They were living on the frontier so new arrivals had to build a house from scratch—probably a log cabin—to live in. It was not an easy thing to “move” unless there was a very good reason for it so I started doing some digging.

I’ve found a wonderful website, part of the Newberry Library in Chicago that has an Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. I use that page frequently. There is a map of the United States and after you click on one of the states you’ll get a state map and when you click on “View Interactive Map” you’ll get a map of the state with the date the territory was established and counties in place at the time. You can change the date to show how the counties changed through the years. Here’s what Florida looked like in 1825.

Did you know most of the east coast of Florida was part of Mosquito County? As accurate as that is, it’s probably a good idea they dropped the name as more counties were created.

Anyway.

As I clicked through the years and looked at the county boundaries I found there is a little sliver at the top of present day Osceola County—a sliver that includes Kissimmee—that was first part of Brevard County, then part of Orange County, and finally ended up in Osceola County. I tend to think Quinn and Jane Bass set up housekeeping somewhere along that sliver in the vicinity of Kissimmee and the future St. Cloud and were in the same general area all those years. In 1867 their daughter Effie, my great-grandmother, was born there.

Effie Bass married James White Miller II in 1885 when she was 18 years old. They had three children, Corrie Elizabeth (Aunt Corrie to my dad), James White III (my grandpa) and Honora Jane, who died when she was two years old. The baby was named after her two grandmothers: Honoria Quary Mills Miller and Jane Richards Bass. She died in 1899 and so far I haven’t found anything that tells me why or how she died. Five years later, in 1904, Effie died at the age of 37.I don’t know how she died either.

Sheriff Miller married again, to Marion Miller Butler (yes, her maiden name was Miller), who was born in Vicksburg in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. Union soldiers quartered at her house during the war and called her “Little Reb.” In fact, her middle name was Rebella. Grandma Miller, as we would know her, lived to the ripe old age of 101. She received a birthday card from President Kennedy when she turned 100. He would be assassinated later that same year.

The McKays were the last of my grandparents to arrive in Florida coming shortly after 1910. After the previous generation settled Whiteside County, Illinois, Donald Graham McKay (his father was born in Nova Scotia) decided to take his family to Florida. He was anticipating, and hoping to take advantage of, the land boom which continued into the 1920s.

The McKays were the first of my ancestors to arrive in Florida by car, traveling from Illinois in a Model T. My brother remembers hearing they had to spend some time in Georgia (Atlanta or Macon I think) to have the axles rebuilt to fit the ruts that formed the roads in the south. Evidently the width of a bale of cotton and the wagon that carried it dictated the width of the ruts of roads in the south. I don’t know what determined the width of roads in the north, but it wasn’t a cotton wagon.

In the 1930 the kids were all grown, and Donald and Olive McKay lived on Poinsettia Avenue in Orlando. Their home was valued at $20,000 on the 1930 census, easily the most affluent home in the area. They lived just around the corner from their daughter Gertrude and her family. Robert Dyer, his wife—we called her Aunt Gertie—and their five kids lived around the corner on Sheridan Avenue. The house on Sheridan was always our first stop when Dad took us home to Florida for vacations.

So that’s how my family got to Florida. They started arriving in the 1840s and my dad left when he joined the Air Force after he graduated from Orlando High School in 1949. He met my mom while he was in the service. That is a story—totally romantic—for another day.

Do you know how your family got to where they are now? I’d love to hear your stories.

Jan

xo to you Dad! 🙂

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2014 in McKay, Miller

 

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My Grandpa Was a Doughboy

We never knew our Grandpa Miller. He died in 1935 when Dad was just five years old.

We don’t have a lot of pictures either, but there are a few from 1918. He was in the army stationed at Camp Greene in North Carolina.

JMiller1918

This James White Miller—my grandpa—was born in Kissimmee, Florida, June 30, 1895. He was 21 when he enlisted and very shortly turned 22.

The United States entered World War I in April 1917, and my grandpa enlisted in June. I think he served all his time as part of the Quartermaster Corps at Camp Greene in Charlotte, North Carolina. He may have been assigned to the base hospital there since that’s what’s stamped on the back of one of the photos we have.

While my dad isn’t the spittin’ image of him, I see a lot of similarities. I don’t know how tall he was, but his lanky hands remind me of dad. My dad was 6′ 3″. Wish I could tell how tall his dad was.

JMiller1918-2

This photo also reminds me of dad. A good lookin’ guy just hangin’ out. Leanin’ against a tree.

While he didn’t have to fight in the trenches in Europe, as far as I can tell, he was at the camp when soldiers returning from the battlefield brought the Spanish Flu home with them in the fall of 1918. The pandemic killed over twenty million people worldwide and over half-a-million died in the United States.

September 28, 1918 the first case was reported in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and the disease spread like wildfire. Entire families were wiped out. On October 4, the city of Charlotte was quarantined for two weeks. Schools, churches and public meetings were all canceled. There were 230 cases reported by 3 pm on a single day. Volunteers who survived the flu were asked to help and extra beds were set up in hospitals.

Camp Greene was also quarantined for two weeks and while the war was already winding down, the pandemic hastened the closing of the camp. Many soldiers died of flu in camp, and many others were shipped overseas to get them out of harm’s way. Ironically they were shipped off to war to avoid dying of the flu.

I’ll keep looking and see if I can turn up some more details about his military service. I have a few more pictures and I’ll save them for the update.

 

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2013 in Miller

 

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Finding the James White Miller Family Roots

There are still more family threads to untangle, but I have tracked down all of the James Whyte/White Millers.

Yay!

Check it out.

Miller Family Tree Page One

On this page the Millers started in Lancaster County, South Carolina before the Civil War. They moved to Osceola County, Florida, and my dad made his way to Oklahoma. The spouses moved to Florida from Illinois and Georgia as children, and one moved from South Carolina with her husband.

All of the folks on this page are buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Kissimmee. That is, all except dad. James White Miller, born in 1930, died in 1989, is buried at Resthaven in Oklahoma City.

I’ll post the next page in a few days. In the meantime, if you have questions, anecdotes, or stories to share about any of these folks, I’m all ears. I’d love to add them to the family story.

Jan Miller Stratton

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2012 in Miller

 

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