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The James Miller Plantation on the Catawba River

When I first started looking for family on Ancestry.com I wanted to find where my dad’s family came from before Florida. We knew it was South Carolina, but that was all we knew. My search wasn’t easy because my dad was the fifth James Miller in the line, and it’s a common name, so there are James Millers all over the place.

I finally tracked them down to Lancaster County, South Carolina until 1870 when they were in York County. While looking for more details over the weekend I found an 1825 map of Lancaster County.  It was excellent quality and high-resolution and when I zoomed in on the details I realized it included the names of families who lived there.

I recognized many names I from the U.S. Census reports I’d been studying. And then I was amazed to find my family! “Jas Millers” was labeled on the east side of the Catawba River, just north of Twelve Mile Creek.

JasMillerMap

Lancaster County is south of Charlotte, North Carolina along the South Carolina/North Carolina state line. The county was named for Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Both counties are populated with Scots-Irish immigrants. Stephen Miller was born in the area in 1740. He was the first of four generations of Millers born in Lancaster County.

After General Tecumseh Sherman’s “scorched earth” policy scorched through Lancaster County at the end of the Civil War circumstances were pretty bleak. The family owned $1700 of real estate in 1870 but they were counted in neighboring York County not Lancaster County where they’d previously lived.

My next search will be for land and tax records. Until I find something to the contrary, it’s my guess the family home was destroyed during the war but they still owned the land. I don’t know if they lost the land because they couldn’t pay the taxes, or if they simply abandoned it because they couldn’t make a living on it anymore, but for one reason or the other they left South Carolina for a better opportunity. Soon after 1870 the family moved south to the area that would become Kissimmee, Florida.

James Miller, born on the Catawba River in 1824 died in Florida in 1875. He was just 51 years old. He is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Kissimmee, Florida.

There’s much more to this story, but I don’t have time to tell it now. I’m moving. After the dust settles and the boxes have been recycled I’ll write more with more pictures and details.

Jan

PS – Yes, that’s President Andrew Jackson’s birthplace just a few miles east of the Miller Plantation. He was born in 1767 and in 1825 he’d just lost a 1824 bid for president. He would win in 1828.

 

 

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Posted by on January 6, 2015 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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What’s Your Name?

So yesterday I posted a bit about the Lard/Laird branch of my family tree and coincidentally today the Genealogy Tip of the Day was about last names.  How fixed are they?  Turns out not very.

In certain regions of Europe last names changed from one generation to another or were tied to the property on which an ancestor lived…

Learn about your ancestor’s country of origin and determine what the common practices were in that region…

Even before I started researching my family tree I’d heard names sometimes changed from the old country to the new world. Different languages, different accents, unknown spellings all played a part in the names new Americans acquired upon arrival. The name Vito Corleone is recognized as the main character in the Godfather. However, in the Godfather II it’s a young Vito Andolini who arrives at Ellis Island from Corleone, Sicily. As the boy is registered to enter the United States there are language difficulties and Vito is given the last name Corleone, which is actually the name of his home town.

However, It also seems to have happened to our names as we moved from state to territory to new frontier areas as we settled the country. My research into my great-grandmother Bessie Jane Belew Rose turns up relatives and ancestors named Belue, Beleu, Ballew and even Ballou, as in Cat Ballou. Remember that movie with Lee Marvin playing the drunkest gunfighter in the west? Cat—as in Catherine—Ballou hires him to protect the family ranch and then avenge her father’s death. It was a comedy by the way, made in 1965. But back to our story… The name is pronounced “blue” like the color, and that’s how it’s spelled in some families along with a very French version of Ballieux, or something like that.

Turns out I have a branch of Blues, like the color, on a different part of my tree. And a great great grandmother, Catherine Blue—I wonder if she was called Cat. These Blues came from Scotland by way of Nova Scotia and as far as I can tell the name was always spelled Blue. This is the same family that begat Ronald Reagan and makes the former president one of our distant cousins on my Dad’s side.

Speaking of French—back to the Ballieux spelling—Phillippe Du Trieux arrived in New Amsterdam in 1624 with the first immigrants on the ship the New Netherland to settle on Manhattan Island. In a few generations Philippe, became Phillip, and du Trieux became Truax. One of the du Trieux boys married Sarah la Roux, They named a son Larue, and his last name became Truex, with an “e” and then later the name settled on the spelling of Truax, with an “a”. About the same time someone named VanderVinck arrived in the area and over a couple of generations his name evolved to become Wink, as in Sansom Wink, my great great grandfather.

Other family names that have evolved over the years are Beavins, Bevins or Bivens, and maybe before that it was originally ap Evans, which means “of Evan”, as in “son of Evan” in Ireland and Wales.

Then there were different spellings, Talmadge became Talmage, as in America’s first spies. Stillwell, was spelled Stilwell sometimes. In looking for information about my great great grandmother Nancy Qualls, I can’t overlook Quarles and Quails.

Some of my family names have seemed fixed through the years: Rose, Miller, McKay, Scott… although Scott was written Schott in a marriage record once, Rose can turn up as Ross in some families; Miller can be Millar; McKay might be McKee… It’s good to keep these things in mind when looking for specific documents that don’t seem to exist.

How about your family names?  What differences have turned up in your research?

Jan

Here’s how I’m related to some of these people.

Me > Dad > Kathryn McKay, she was called “Kat” > Olive Wink > Sansom Wink > Jacob Adam Wink > Adam Wink > Jacob Wink, Esq. b. 1733, Bedford, PA > Sebastian Wink b. 1705 in Rotterdam, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands, immigrated and returned to die in France > Isaac VanDerVinck

Me > Dad > Kathryn McKay > Olive Wink > Sansom Wink > Jacob Adam Wink > Adam Wink > Jacob Wink, Esq. who married Elizabeth Truax > Larue Jacob Truex > Phillip Truex > Jacob Du Trieux > Philippe Du Trieux > Philippe DuTrieux, b. 1586, Roubaix, Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, arrived New Amsterdam, 1624.

Me > Dad > Kathryn McKay > Donald Graham McKay > Robert McKay who married Catherine Blue > Donald Daniel Blue (great great grandfather of Ronald Reagan) > Donald Neil Blue b. 1799 in Kilcalmonell, County, Argylshire Highlands of Scotland

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2014 in McKay, Miller, Rose, Scott

 

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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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Have a Glorious Fourth of July, Oklahoma!

When I was a kid, long distance calls were a big deal. My Grandma Hamilton lived in Key West, Florida and when we spoke on the phone it was a family affair. After my dad and mom talked to her, each of us kids got a turn before dad got the phone again to say goodbye. Her standard sign-off was “meet you at the pump,” unless it was Christmas when she also added, “Have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a Glorious Fourth of July!” 

I couldn’t help but think of her when I snapped this last week.

Old Glory and the Spirit of Oklahoma
Old Glory and the Spirit of Oklahoma
 
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Posted by on July 4, 2012 in Rememberies

 

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The Palatines

If you saw Tim McGraw on the recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are? you heard about Tim’s German heritage and the Palatines who arrived in New York in 1710. Turns out part of my family arrived with the same group of immigrants.

Merckel is the name of my Palatine relatives.

Sansom Wink, born in 1819 in Fulton County, Pennsylvania, is the connection that got me there. He’s my 2nd great-grandfather on my dad’s side.

Sansom Wink

Sansom Wink, Whiteside County, Illinois

His mother, Sarah Markle, was born in 1799, also in Pennsylvania.

I followed Sarah’s family backwards through several spellings of the name (Markle, Mearkle, Mercley, Mericle, … you get the idea) and came to the family of Heinrich Felix Merckel born 1643, probably in Sachsen, Germany. Heinrich Merckel, and his son Johann Friedrich with his wife and kids arrived in New York in 1710.

When I put it like that, it seems rather routine, but like many crossings of the era, this was extremely difficult and deadly for about 20 percent of the immigrants. Over 3,000 individuals left England on ten ships (I think) and only 2,400 arrived alive. Many wives were widowed on the journey, and still more kids were orphans upon arrival.

There is much more to this story, but unfortunately my hard drive crashed in December, taking with it much of the research I’d collected. (arrrrghh!) I know the information is still online out in the wide world of web resources, but I’ve googled all over the place and haven’t come across it the past couple of days. I will track it down and tell the story with more of the tragic details as soon as I find it.

As to the area they ended up in, it was purchased from the Indians by the Governor of New York in 1677. A sawmill on a stream the Indians called The Little Sawyer marked the northern boundary of the purchase. The payment was a blanket, a piece of cloth, a shirt, a loaf of bread, and some coarse fiber.

Map - Palatine Settlements

Palatine Emigrant 1709ers

Early settlers were joined by the 300 Palatine families in 1710. The lands set aside for them became known as West Camp in the Town of Saugerties, and Germantown, on the east side of the river. In case you may have family from the same area, a list of the families appears on a commemorative plaque beside the church in West Camp, Ulster County, New York. You can find my Merckels in the list of families at the West Camp.

Prior to 1712, controlling traffic at river landings and the roads leading from the river provided the primary business opportunities for settlers. As the 1710 arrivals cleared land for new homes and businesses, sawmills became big business to process the freshly harvested timber.

Here’s one place you can go for more information about the Palatines. And here is another.

By the way, if anyone has the definitive family tree for the Merckel family from Germany until 1800 I would love to hear from you. Mine is a total wreck.

I found German children (at least in my family tree) were given repetitive names. For instance, the boys will have the first name of Johann, then a middle name that is his own, so you’ll see several Johann sons in the same family. As to the girls, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a collection of Anna Marias in one place. It’s very confusing. And when you add the evolution of the spelling from the German—Friederich/Johann—to a more Americanized—Fredrick/John—it’s even more confusing.

Since this is before the first census in 1790, I don’t have that as a reference. However I have found what appears to be good information in some church records and some early histories.

I also found a collection of Merckels who were in the Revolution: John, Jacob, Phillip, Nicholas, Harnes, Henrich, Dewalt, and Peter Merckel. But I haven’t yet sorted out who might belong to my branch of the tree.

If anyone has something to add to this part of my family story, I’m all ears. I’d love to hear from you.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in McKay

 

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