Memories of a Yellow Springs Family — Part 8

Della shares a couple of newspaper articles about Little Antioch, then moves on to begin remembering downtown businesses and their owners, including the De Normandy family associated with what is now the Yellow Springs Hardware.

In an article about the De Normandy family is a letter about early student life at Antioch.

All entries in the series are indexed on the “Blog Multi-Part Series” page (click on tab above and scroll to second group).

Little Antioch and the House of the Reed Family

[transcription of article)

News of June 34, 1910
History of Little Antioch

When the word went out that the Little Miami Railroad would pass this point it was the signal that here would be a place for business, hence the rapid building of the town. In all directions from early morning until the evening was heard the sound of the saw and hammer. Every man was busy fitting up a place for his own special industry and in making a home for his family or assisting others in it. This gave work to many aritzans. To supply the needs of all these came the merchant and grocer, and by the time the railroad was finished. In 1846 several persons were located here and modern Yellow Springs was well established upon the west side of the stream.

One of the early demands of this hastily built town was a school for the young children, and Judge Mills, ever alive to the necessity of educating, put up a one story building on Xenia Avenue for a private school. It is the same one now belonging to and occupied by Miss Elizabeth Reed (1930 Leon Reed) who added a second story and otherwise improved it.

It was in this building that as very little children, Ellen, Judge Mills’ eldest child, daughter of his first wife, and Kate Starry daughter of his second wife by a former marriage, and a little later Emma, daughter of Col. J. E. Wilson, with a number of other children began their studies. Soon after this a public school building was put up on the west side of Elm street and many children, who had attended the Knox school, a mile east of town on the Clifton pike, went to Elm Street school when it opened.

Mrs. E. I. Woodbury, wife of Dr. Woodbury, first dentist of this place, was the first teacher of this private school, and then Mrs. Andrews, who is still fondly remembered by the tots of that time, who are now gray haired men and women.

In the very early 05’s when Antioch College was in course of erection Judge Mills with an eye ever to the improvement and beautification of the town, conceived the idea of “Little Antioch”, as a school for small children. To that end he employed as architect, Mr. Hiram Brown who had built for the occupancy of his own family the house now belonging to T. P. Carr, (Dr. Adams) at corner of Corry street and Dayton street. Mr. Brown was a man of plain and unassuming manners but possessed of fine ability in his profession, in fact he was a genius.

He grasped the idea and, being given “carte blanche” by Judge Mills evolved “Little Antioch”.

When the building was finished, there gathered in it the young children of Judge Mills, Col. Wilson, Hon. Aaron Harlan, of Benjamin Ready, who came here from Cincinnati and owned and operated the depot and store connected with it, Nathaniel, the sone of Wm. R. King, Lizzie, daughter of Prof. C. S. Pennell, who was teacher of Latin in the college, Ainsworth, the little son of Prof. J. C. Zsachos, Nanie Applegate, Hallie Blake, and for a time Ziegler and Casmir, the two little nephews of the renowned Louis Kossuth, whose two sisters, Mme. Meszleny and Mme. Zulvavawk, came from Hungary to America when he did and remained .

When at this placed their home was at the Yellow Springs House. Several college professors with their families boarded there. A little later on Mr. Frank Grinnell and family made their home at the hotel while their house was being built at Spring Lea; their two older children attended Little Antioch, and these children, already mentioned, with a number of other well-cared for little ones, made up the attendance there in the first years of its existence. Mrs. Andrews is mentioned as the first teacher. She going to it from another school, but was only there a short time. She was followed by Mrs. G. S. Blake, who with her husband and little son boarded at the Yellow Springs House. She was the niece of Horace Mann, and sister of Prof. C. S. Pennell, and Prof. R. S. Pennell, afterward A. S. Dean. Mrs. Blake is well and fondly remembered to this time by her pupils of Little Antioch.

Then came Miss Marion Fuller, sister of the two talented writers, Frances A. and Meta V. Fuller. But probably no teacher at Little Antioch is better remembered or was better loved as a teacher than Miss R. S. Rice. She always had order and never needed a rod for chastisement. She won the love of her pupils and kept it.

After some years Little Antioch was occupied as one of the departments of the public schools, when, at different times students from the college taught there, one of whom was Mrs. J. W. Chambers.

In 1869, Mrs. Wells and her sister, Miss Harriet Wells, visited their sister here. They so much admired Little Antioch, that they bought and fitted it up as a dwelling. They lived there and enjoyed it for many years.

Mrs. Wells’ two children, Russell and Emma, grew up there and received their education while there. After his graduation at the college Russell was retained there as a professor until he went to the editorial work in Boston, when the family went east and the house was rented.

Judge Mills deserves the thanks of the public for having made Little Antioch a marked and beautiful feature of the place, for it is unique and beautiful after the lapse of more than half a century. Its location was well chosen and could not have been improved upon. All who pass up and down may enjoy its beauty. The old oaks around it are beyond price.

Those who as happy children, playing beneath their shade, “have flown like morning clouds, a thousand ways.” Ellen Mills Hollingshead lives at Danville, Ky. Kate Starry’s home is in New York city. Elisha and William Mills were caught up in the general westward rush where the former died and the latter became a railroad man. Nannie Mills Sloan’s home is in Chicago, her sister Julia Mills Chapman lives in Cleveland, and Charles Mills, the youngest, who was quite gifted, attained high recognition in the Congregational church in which he was a minister, also in the legislative halls of the conservative state of Massachusetts. His home for many years was at Newburyport, Mass., where he died.

“Little Antioch” stood in the point where Walnut street joins Xenia Avenue where the home of Mr. John Snyder is located, it having been torn down to make room for the Snyder home.

[transcription of article]

Old Reed House Was Originally A School
By J N Wolford

The old Reed house, a landmark of early Yellow Springs, is soon to pass into history. Situated next to the Miami Deposit Bank, which recently bought it, it was built, first for a private school, in the 1840’s by William Mills, the founder of Yellow Springs, and was one of the very first public buildings on Xenia Ave. The first business house stood on the site of the Deaton Hardware store, it was a small frame building.

The little school building was a one-story, one-room affair which eventually became the living room of the Reed house.

It is know that Mills had early decided to make the new town an educational center even before the location of Antioch was considered. He had been instrumental in having built the Elm st. school in 1845, now the home of Mrs. Harry Hackett, and which was the first public school in town. It was in operation at the same time as the Xenia Ave. school. Mills had plans for the construction of an academy, as a part of his educational center, but when he found that Antioch might be located here he concentrated on accomplishing it.

When Antioch was built in 1853, Mills decided that the little Xenia Ave. school building was not appropriate so he had “Little Antioch” built on the site of the present Snyder house, in the triangle between Xenia Ave. and Walnut St. It was a very unique building, built somewhat on the lines of Antioch.

The abandoned school building was used for different purposes thereafter: as a doctor’s office; as a meeting place for the Christian Church denomination before they built their church (now St. Paul’s) in 1856 and as an office for the great three story foundry that stood on Corry St., east of Antioch, in the 50’s and which was destroyed by fire in 1860. Its history is an interesting story which is too long to be produced here.

In the late 60’s the little building passed into the possession of the Reed family and by them enlarged to the big house it has become. Recently the house was bought by the Miami Deposit Bank from the heirs of the late Leon Reed and is being dismantled by Percy Mercer. He expects to reconstruct it on a lot near his home on Marshall St. The bank will use the lot for expansion.

When the new bank building was constructed a few years ago, another landmark was taken down. It was a two-story, two-room store building, where in the early days a general store was conducted by E. Tulley. He had built for his home, in the early 50’s, the large handsome old brick house on High St., now the Laist Apartments, and in that day it was considered one of the finest in town. It is related that it was so lavishly furnished that the owner, having contracted a large debt, was unable to meet the bills in the panic of ’59, when William Mills also lost most of his fortune.

And time marches on.

The Van Meter Block

Another hazy memory puts the Post Office next to the Reed home in one room in what was known as the Van Meter Block.

Mrs. McNair was the Postmistress. She was a sad faced lady who had lost her husband in the Civil War. She hadn’t much patience with children so we never lingered long after she gave us our mail.

The Van Meters seemed like very old people to me for he had white hair and a long white beard. They were Christian Church people and our good friends.

Sometimes on Sunday after church, they would go with us in our carriage for a picnic dinner in Taylor’s Woods.

They enjoyed Mother’s home cooking while we children thought the dried beef, cheese, crackrolls, and big lemon crackers, unusual and really a treat for they came from the store.

Mr. Van Meter kept a fairly good stock of groceries and a meager stock of other merchandise.

He did an honest and honorable business even tho his salesmanship was at times somewhat amusing.

If a child came in to buy a spool of blue thread when he had nothing but green thread to sell, rather than send the child away empty handed, he could persuade him that “green would do just as well” — and perhaps it did.

De Normandy

At the corner of Short St. and Xenia Avenue stands what is known in Yellow Springs as the De Normandy building. It was erected in the late 1850’s by Dr. James De Normandy a physician of Huguenot descent who gave up his practice in Buck Co. Pennsylvania to come to Yellow Springs to educate his family under Horace. Mann.

The structure was originally a three story business building, a part of which was intended for use as a dormitory for students.

Fire partially destroyed the building in 1859 and the part that was rebuilt was made only two stories high.

Miss Lizzie De Normandy, daughter of Dr. James De Normandy retained ownership of this business block thru out her lifetime and made her home on the second floor of the two story portion.

(Facts gleaned from an article contributed by Mrs. Bessie Totten to the Antioch Alumni Bulletin)

Every school child knew Miss Lizzie for in the room below her living quarters she operated a small shop.

Here we bought our slates and pencils, our erasers and other small school supplies. She kept some other trifles too — things that might be attractive to a child. How well I remember a small wooly lamb! It had originally been white but many years on the shelf had reduced its coat to a dingy gray.

There was candy too, dealt out sparingly by the penny’s worth.

Living in quarters above the shop apparently was no great hardship for Miss Lizzy had made a small hole in her floor where thru the ceiling of the shop she could view a prospective customer announced by the tinkle of her doorbell.

If a sale were likely she came down and attended to the business.

The many stories that have come down to us give interesting sidelights to this unusual and really remarkable character.

Endowed with a keen and active mind she studied and travelled widely.

On the frequent occasions when she “ran over to Paris” she visited Galleries and made many copies from famous works of the “Old Masters.”

With these pictures she later on adorned the walls of her living room at home.

Small town gossip used to tell that Lizzie made these trips abroad entirely unencumbered by baggage. Certainly she stored many treasures in her own small active brain.

These she like to share with her friends in Yellow Springs when she invited ladies to little parties at her home.

At these parties food was meager and not too attractive, but conversation was brilliant and witty.

The sparkle of Miss Lizzy’s black eyes and the cackle of her ready laugh could give zest to any party.

[transcription of article]

by Bessie L. Totten, ’00

Just ninety-eight years ago last November, a young boy, James De Normandie, Jr., wrote a letter to his sister describing his first few days at Antioch. The letter was dated November 5, 1853. He writes:

I know not how to thank thee for thy letter coming as it did just at the proper time, while I was a “stranger in a strange place.” I think not however that I will not be quite as thankful for another while I am quite at home at the “great Antioch College.” Thee asks “if I was present at the dedication.” I arrived here on Tuesday and on the following day the exercises took place as follows: first prayer by Rev. . Lane of Pennsylvania. (This Mr. Lane was the first person I had, or even yet have seen, that I ever knew before.) Then presentation of three beautiful Bibles to the institution by Elder Phillips and reply by Horace Mann. Music by the band,Inaugural address by the president and benediction by Rev. A. A. Livermore. The services were very interesting and the attendance very large and the day pleasant.

On Thursday evening we surrounded for the first the the great Antioch table, and perhaps it may not be unsuitable for me to say that for the money at least, the boarding is very good. We lived however much better for a time upon the remains of the dedication feast which lasted some two weeks. At 9 o’clock on Thursday morning the examinations commenced. That examination which had caused me so much anxiety. When I left home I thought I was fully prepared to enter, or of course I would not have applied but when the first day of examination was over and I began to see how closely we were to be examined, I almost was certain I should not be admitted. Thursday morning we were questioned upon English Grammar. These questions were simple and few in number. I soon answered them and before ten o’clock was through for the morning.. The remaining candidates soon came out and we had much sport talking of our slight examination and supposed we would have nothing harder, but when the afternoon arrived we found our great mistake. The Mathematical examination was quite minute and lasted until Friday afternoon. Then came modern and Ancient Geography, 12 questions in the first and 16 in the second. On Saturday morning 22 questions in Ancient History, and in the afternoon the “lingual examination.” We did not finish entirely and were told we would be farther examined on Monday. On Monday however they concluded we had done as well as we could do and after examining our papers, with six others I was admitted to the first “Freshman class of Antioch College.” It was quite a happy time for me, although I still would rather attend the preparatory school one year if I could. We are marked on a scale of eight and I believe the rule is, that as many as we miss are to be taken from it without we miss four, when we are marked “O.”

Perhaps a rapid glance of a day’s duty will not be unpleasing to thee. At ½ past 6 the bell rings to call the students up. I believe I have not risen later than ½ past 4 since I have been here. At seven again for breakfast. It is pleasant to see so many persons, teachers & taught, assembling around one common table (about 230). After all are seated, a blessing is asked by Horace Mann in the morning, Prof. Holmes at dinner, and Prof. Pennell at supper. Meals last ½ an hour. At ½ before 8 the bell rings and we all assemble in the chapel, a very beautiful room. “Punctuality” Mr. Mann says, “we are going to learn from the Sun,” so at 8 the bell again strikes, the door is locked and the services begin. 1st reading of Scripture by President Mann, singing by the choir and a prayer by one of the professors. After chapel exercises the Freshman class have their Mathematical recitation until 9. Then an hour to study their Greek recitation, and an hour to recite it. At 11, recess until ½ past. Then Latin recitation until ½ past 12. Now we are through for the day as regards reciting, but now comes the study time. It takes about 8 hours to get those three recitations. On Friday we have rhetorical exercises. It will not be long ere we will have to speak before all the rest. The school is quite anxious that the Freshman class shall speak in public. I hope we will not have anything of that kind to do this term at least. My time is very much taken up and I hope thee will write to me often without regards to my answering. I received C’s letter and will write as soon as possible.

With much love to all, affectionately

James de Normandie Jr.

The De Normandie name is familiar in the annals of Yellow Springs. The writer of the above letter was one of nine children born to Dr. James and Sarah Yardley De Normandie. He was just seventeen when he landed in Yellow springs armed with the spirit of curiosity and determined to get an education under Horace Mann. He earned his A.B. In 1858, M.A. In 1861. He wa appointed an Antioch trustee in 1874, resigned in 1880; served a second term in 1899-1900. From Harvard he received the degree of D.D. In 1862 and S.T.D. In 1898. He served the South Parish, Portsmouth, H.H., church from 1862 to 1883, then accepted a call to the First Church, Roxbury, Mass., 1883-1918. He was Editor of the Unitarian Review, 1878-1886, Trustee of the Boston Public Library, president of various…[article cuts off here]

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Memories of Yellow Springs Family — Part 7

Della shifts her attention from the family to the town, with her observations on the Mills House and the families that owned it and Little Antioch.

All entries in the series are indexed on the “Blog Multi-Part Series” page (click on tab above and scroll to second group).


Winter Time at Aunt Chattie’s home, at the back entrance.

At the front gate, Hazel, Della, Bertha (cousin) and Elsie


















Family Group


The Lawn

Yellow Springs a lovely spot in most seasons was especially beautiful in Autumn.

The falling leaves from stately oaks and brilliant maples were a source of joy to the school children as they pushed their way thru great piles on sidewalks and paths.

Streets and sidewalks had not yet been paved and leaves could lie until property owners were ready to burn them.

This spacious home was built by Wm Mills the founder of Yellow Springs, in 1860.

It was located on a twenty acre plot of land in the very centre of the village. Here the Mills family resided for some years until financial losses forced him to give it up.

It was sold in 1866 to Wm Means of Cincinnati and it became the home of the Means family as we remember it. Many years later it became the property of Antioch College and was used to house the Antioch School and has been known as the Mills House.

The beauty of setting of the old time residence has been largely obscured in recent years by the location of a new village High School in the northeast corner of what we used to know as “the Lawn.”

Tradition lost out in a contest and “other interests” prevailed. 1953-54

The old Mills home is no longer the focal point of beauty of the “Little Town in the  Woods.”

Memory holds for me a clear picture of “the Lawn” in all its beauty. There was a high picket fence completely surrounding the property, the east side of which bounded our pathway to our school on Dayton St.

This pathway, while lovely in some seasons, was a cold cold stretch in winter.

Muffled in long underwear, flannel petticoats and woolen dresses, we wore long wool hose and high shoes. We wore knitted woolen hoods, too, and knitted mittens. Even so, I sometimes got cold.

This road, too, was sometimes a fearsome one.

The Means family kept two immense and vicious dogs. One growl from across that fence was sufficient to send a timid child at one bound clear across the street.

This home of the Means family was secondary to the one maintained by them in Cincinnati where for a time Mr. Means was Mayor of the city and society life was on a pretentious scale.

As family fortunes changed they spent more time in Yellow springs and the daughters at times attended school at Antioch.

They were fond of horseback riding and often passed our house on the mounts.

They were attired in the formal equestrian style of the period — long black garments and high black hats.

Little Patti on a big white horse wore a short skirt, a scarlet jacket and scarlet Turk’s cap.

It was all quite impressive but I had just as much fun when in a gingham gown I took my turn for a gallop on “Old Molly.”

Mrs. Means was a kindly woman and a good friend to the needy and a good Presbyterian.

One daughter, Pearl, studied Elocution somewhere in the east and had some experience in a dramatic field.

During the nineties she conducted courses in Elocution and Dramatics at Antioch.

An unstable personality prevented her from doing what her talents would have enabled her accomplish.

We possess programs of many entertainments staged by Pearl Means bringing out talent in students heretofore undiscovered.

[Transcription of article]

The magazine of Western History in an issue of 1887 published the following interesting account of the Means family. Mr. Means once lived in Cincinnati and served as Mayor of the city.


John (de) Maines, or Means, a native of Exeter, Devonshire, left England and settled in the Pennsylvania colony in 1735. A descendant of Baron Joel d Maine, he bore a name made illustrious by the deed of his ancestors. Doubtless some of his relatives had preceded him, for the Means family of Scotland had suffered greatly during the struggles of the Covenanters. We find “this scion of a noble house” soon after his arrival, in the Scotch Presbyterian settlements—one of as noble and heroic a band of exiles as ever peopled a country. Dropping the “territorial prefix, de,” John de Maines is henceforth John Maines or Means, who, upon his death, left a son William Means. Owing to the French and Indian Wars, William Means removed to South Carolina shortly before the revolution, and located upon a plantation near Spartansburg, where he married Anne Newton—a relative of Sir Isaac Newton—also of Norman descent, the founder of the family being William de Nieuton, mentioned in old Norman Rolls in A. D. 1198. Their son, Colonel John Means was much in public life, serving several terms in the legislature of South Carolina, and as colonel of the militia in the War of ’12.

Colonel Means owned slaves and maintained a large plantation; but in time, he yielded to his conscientious convictions, became a practical emancipationist in the liberation of his slaves, and in 1819, removed to Ohio and settled in Adams county. From 1826 to 1828 Colonel Means was a member of the Ohio legislature. He died in 1835, leaving a reputation as a man and a citizen in perfect accord with his honorable descent and his elevated disinterested love of country and human kind. In South Carolina, Colonel Means married Anne Williamson, also of Anglo-Norman origin. Their son, Thomas Williamson Means, Esq., is the venerable banker and capitalist, so widely and favorably known in the west. When he lately retired from active business he was perhaps the oldest banker in Ohio, and one of the largest iron manufacturers in the Ohio valley. In 1829 Mr. Means lit the fires of the first iron furnace opened in the Hanging Rock region. He organized and was first president of the Second National Bank of Ironton. Mr. Means married Sarah Ellison—also of Norman descent, the name being variously spelt Elison, Allison, Alanson, etc., variations of de Alenson of Alenson castle, in Normandy.

The reader will observe the historical coincidence that the De Maines and the De Alensons originated in Normandy—Castle Maine and Castle Alenson being within five miles of each other, during the wars waged by the Normans for the Conquest of Le Mans.

Thomas Williamson and Sarah Ellison Means are the parents of Hon. William Means of Cincinnati.

The summer residence of the Hon. William Means (or {“The Woods,” as it was called by Murat Halstead, Esq., editor of the Commercial Gazette, when visiting that beautiful country seat) is situated upon the banks of the Little Miami river in Greene county. In speaking of the well-known watering place, Yellow Springs, the author of Illustrated Cincinnati said:

In the center of the village is a park of twenty acres, which for magnificence and grandeur exceeds any grounds of the kind in size in Ohio. The foreign traveler, while gazing upon it is reminded of those noble grounds so rich in luxuriance and shade to be seen only in England. In the middle of the park rises the elegant and spacious mansion of the Hon. William Means.


Little Antioch

 Only tradition and memories can now revive for us the Little Antioch of our childhood days.

It was torn down in 19__ and the residence of a John Snyder was erected on the plot.

During that period of my life that was spent in the town of Yellow Springs, Little Antioch still stood at the point as is shown in the picture.

We passed it on the west side as we went to school. We passed it on the east as we went to town.

It was a landmark in Yellow Springs, a very lovely spot in the summer season.

Those who value tradition regret that the spot was not preserved for some sort of memorial or a building of significant civic importance to the town.

As memory leads us down the pathway toward the village we pass some reminders of interesting phases of Yellow Springs life in the days of our childhood and youth.

There was the Reed home where Mrs. Lizzie Reed conducted a millinary business in the front room downstairs and lived with her two sisters in the rest of the house.

Mrs. Reeds’ establishment furnished all of our hats — and bonnets too until we older children were grown.

Not many hats came ready made. We bought the base hat and Mrs. Lizzie trimmed it and we didn’t look too bad either.

She was an intelligent lady as were most of the merchants with whom we dealt in Yellow Springs.

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See Us at Street Fair Saturday

The YS Historical Society will have a booth again at this Saturday’s Street Fair.

In addition to books, maps, mugs, and Antioch Publishing advent calendars we will be introducing a special postcard (shown above)  featuring the batik work of Robin Zimmerman (who will be in town selling her own batik work on clothing and prints)

And for those who want a quick look at a slice of Yellow Springs history, we will have a series of display boards with a look at the history of Yellow Springs schools.

Check us out!

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Memories of a Yellow Springs Family — Part 6

Friends, family and colorful characters, with a brief fashion statement. 

All entries in the series are indexed on the “Blog Multi-Part Series” page (click on tab above and scroll to second group).

Church friends and neighbors often included the Alkires, Mrs. Lewis, Lida Ellis and our church ministers and their wives.

One minister in particular stands out in my memory — “Father” Knight we called him.

He was a saintly looking man and he always led in prayer before the evening was over.

The face of this man was my conception of what God must look like.

Similar supper parties at our house often included Dr. Harris our family physician. He it was who brought each one of us children into the world and he ministered to our physical ills until each one of us was grown. His genial disposition often served as a tonic for our mother when medical remedies seemed to fail.

Dr. Harris was a Civil War Veteran and like Uncle Jay, he was full of interesting stories and entertained all evening. (Tribute by G. D. Black)

Lida Ellis was Father’s cousin. They had grown up on adjoining farms near Donnelsville and were good companions and friends through their lives.

Marriage took her to Kansas for a period of years. On their return to Yellow Springs to live, old associations were resumed.

The family came with their two children to call on us one Saturday afternnon and I shall never forget my impressions of Carrie and Herb.

Carrie wasn’t much older than Elsie but she dwarfed tiny Elsie in size. She seemed a giant to me.

Herb, too, was tall and he had a voice that bespoke his rearing in the wide open spaces of his western home.

We played “Hide and Seek” and it was demonstrated that our little house was no place for a big robust boy.

Carrie was a steady sort of girl, rather dreamy at times we thought her but our parents liked to have her go with us when we went for walks on Sunday afternoon in the Glen, at that time open to the public.

I never grew tired of walking in the Glen and could hardly wait for spring days to bring out the ferns and the wild flowers. Spring Beauties, Violets, Hepaticas, Trilliums and Columbines came in rapid succession. Sometimes we paused to gather water cress at a clear spring before we reached the very rustic and rickety crossing over the gully by and which was the path which led up the the famous Yellow Spring.

The Glen

Mrs. Lucina Lewis

Yellow Springs has had throughout the years its full store of individualists, forceful thinkers who could stand by their principals regardless of the prevailing trends of the times.

Early years had brought into the settlement a wave of cults, the “Owenites” the water cure enthusiasts, and others but they had been only temporary in their influence.

It was the spirit of the founders of Antioch College that gave impetus to the type of thinking that came to characterize many of the people who were attracted to the village to make their home.

The history of early Antioch is replete with tales of courageous souls who could stand firm for their principles in the face of prevailing opinion.

Outrage to custom in the matter of dress for women was demonstrated by the Bloomer Girls. Ridiculed by fellow students they pursued their courses in College along with men of their classes only to face disappointment when refused permission to present their essays on the Commencement platform along with the other graduates.

Two examples of the courage it took to defy the tradition of “skirts for women” were even with us in our childhood years.

Our close neighbor Miss Eva Gates wore the Bloomer costume until the time of her death. Her sister our good friend Mrs. Lucina Lewis was also a Bloomer Lady. They had adopted the costume in their early life on a farm as an aid to comfort and convenience, and they saw no good reason to make a change.

Pictures of the Bloomer costume are scarce indeed. This, my only picutre of “Aunt Ciny” does not look right to me. I never saw her in a white dress.

Her daughter it seems, did not approve of bloomers and her mother, grown old and ill, could not combat her influence.

The daughter had strong conviction of her own, too, but trousers for women were not among them.

With the daughter, literary excellence was the goal. She studied and travelled and became a writer and ultimately a professor of Literature at Antioch.

But — it is to the memory of her mother that our family look with love, honor and devotion.

In my mind is a dearer picture of our friend as she trudged thru snowdrifts on a winter morning, stopping at our door to ask about our sick mother or perhaps an ailing child.

The village was a mile from our house and an offer to do an errand for us or bring mail from the post office was gratefully received.

On her return trip she stopped at Mrs. “Woises” (Mrs. Wise) and nothing would do but she must stay to dinner.

There was warmth and comfort about the big base burner and conversation was interesting and easy — A little gossip perhaps but mostly just the things that need to be passed along among neighbors when telephones are nil and the going is rough.

Uncle Milton Miller and Aunt Dean.

This Uncle and Aunt lived in the “west” (Illinois) where Uncle Milton spent a good part of his life as Pastor of the Unitarian Church at Geneseo, Ill.

He had been one of the early graduates of Antioch and for many years was a member of the Board of Trustees — the Unitarian Board.

They always came to Yellow Springs in June to be present at Antioch commencement and to visit with the various relatives who lived nearby.

While they were a childless couple, throughout their lives they assumed many responsibilities for the welfare of children.

Their generosity brought much comfort and happiness not only to their own family connections to to friends in their church and home town.

At Christmas time a big box always came from Geneseo with gifts for all the relatives in Yellow Spr., Springfield, and for Aunt Kate’s family wherever they lived.

Aunt Dean had a practical mind. She always bought good material and in quantity. Sometimes there would be a gift of material for a new dress of all of the girl cousins — all of a pattern.

Mother contrived to vary ours in appearance. Dresses worn in the group picture pg. [30] were all made of a soft woven material, blue & white check.

When made up they were lovely and we wore them proudly. But when the cousins all happened to wear them on the same day at County Fair people started at us and remarked “What a big family of girls those people have.”

Mother at home in the early 80s. Deanie, her constant companion,.
Correction by D.M.B. – picture take at Uncle Sam’s in Springfield while Mama & I were on a visit.

Cousins during the early eighties.

Top. Bertha Miller (cousin)

Left. Della Miller\

Right. Charity Judy (cousin)

Below. Elise Miler (sister)

Scene in our house on occasion of a winter visit from our cousins Orion and Bertha Miller & Charity Judy. Orion liked to bring his violin and he and Father with his flute gave accompaniment to the girls on the popular songs of the period.

We also played cards of “Authors” and “Geography” — Not a bad idea for much of that information gained when we became proficient became permanent in our minds.

Pictures on the right were taken in our home, by our cousin Orion P. Miller.

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Memories of a Yellow Springs Family — Part 5

Della describes her extended family.

All entries in the series are indexed on the “Blog Multi-Part Series” page (click on tab above and scroll to second group).

Uncle Jay Wise and Aunt Chattie, Father’s SisterUncle Jay Wise and Aunt Chattie, Father’s Sister







The home on the farm












Uncle Jay, Aunt Chattie, Grandma with Elsie







Aunt Chattie at the time of her marriage in 1864











[Transcription of Obituary]

“Twenty Five Years Ago
Springfield Republic-TimesMay 19, 1891

Died, on May 4, at his home near Yellow Springs after an illness of five weeks, Jacob Wise, aged 57 years and 4 months.
Mr. Wise was born in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. His father and family came to Ohio in 1840, and settled on a farm two miles west of North Hampton, Clark county, where Jacob spent his early years.
On April 18th, 1861, he was on of the first-call soldier boys of Captain J. C. Vananda’s company who marched into the old Columbia street meeting house to receive the blessing of heaven invoked by Rev. Ferguson.
After Mr. Wise’s term of enlistment expired in 1864, he was married to Charity Miller at the family residence near Bethel township, and the couple went to housekeeping on the place where he resided at the time of his decease. In his departure the widow has lost an affectionate husband, the neighbors an honest, upright citizen, the G.A.R. a faithful member, the country one of that long list of brave soldiers whose memory is revered by all  those who love a glorious union. Those living, of a large family of brothers and sisters, are: David and Mary Wise of New Carlisle, and Sarah Wise Miller of Stanford, Ill. Squire Wm. Wise of Medway and Frank Wise of Andrews & Co., this city, are nephews.”

The home of Aunt Chattie and Uncle Jay was like a second home to our family.
Uncle Jay did general farming and fruit farming. He also operated a profitable dairy and poultry business.
Their small farm was well stocked with fruits of all sorts and during berry picking season things fairly hummed with activity.
Aunt Chatty always kept a good maid, “hired girl” as she was termed at that time.
The canned fruit, jelly, preserves and pickles stored for winter in the big cellar seemed enough to feed the town.
From midsummer until late fall there were bundles of apples somewhere and of corn drying for winter.
Few of the present generation have ever enjoyed a pie made of home dried apples.
At picking time Uncle Jay divided into bins the long east porch. Here the apples were stored until finally sold or put by in the cellar for home use.
There wasn’t much spraying done in those days. Perhaps the bees and birds took care of the pests.
To my  mind there have never been such apples as grew on that farm.
Uncle Jay and Aunt Chattie were staunch church people, attending services every Sunday arriving in time for Sunday School too.
As they passed our house on their way they picked up whatever children were ready to go along.
At first Elsie and I were the passengers and we sat on a little seat down in front.
The carriage was a small phaeton type which must have gone out of style completely for no pictures of them can be found.
Hazel finally joined the Sunday School goers. Before long she had learned to sing all of the songs in the singing book, verse by verse, and would often wake up the whole family in the morning with her concerts when the rest of us wanted to sleep.
Elsie and I spent many Sunday afternoons at that home. There was an organ there and Uncle Jay would build a roaring fire in the parlor stove so it would be warm for Elsie to go in there to play it.
I didn’t care much for Elsie’s playing as I amused myself with the Stereopticon and with the cards in the gray perforated cardboard case on the centre table.
After supper Unvle Jay would light his lantern and take us home where the rest of the evening was spent with our magazines and with books often borrowed from our Sunday School library.
For magazines we had for the youngest “Babyland” and “Our Little Ones and the Nursery” and as we grew older we all enjoyed “St. Nicholas” and “Youth’s Companion.”
To present day children this might seem to be a dull evening with no music box of any kind to enliven it.
Edna Dean Miller   Age – 3 – 4 months 
When “Little Deanie” joined the family circle she promptly became the favored child.
With all the attention bestowed upon her it was small wonder she learned very early to express her preference or her displeasure.
Uncle Jay was always in favor with her but Aunt Chattie often had to use small bribes.
When Uncle Jay would take Dean over there to spend the day she had scarcely entered the house before “Cooky Chatter” was an instant demand.
Aunt Chattie took into her house to assist her a young German girl Clara Goetz.
Aunt Chattie sent her to school and to Sunday School and gave her a good home until the farm place was given up after Uncle Jay’s death.
Our family discovered Clara again after many years married and gaining first distinction for the Clark Tavern at Jacksontown Ohio.

Clara and Dean at the Rockery at home







Clara liked to assume full responsibility for Dean’s care when she was with her. She always justified the trust.

[Transcription of article]


She Could Count Them in the Thousands
JACKSTONTOWN IS NOTED for chicken. When you mention Jacksontown many comment: “Oh, that is the town where you get good chicken.” They are certainly right. In some places frying chicken come and go but not in the Clark Tavern across the street from the old one which was torn down. Clara Clark has been frying chicken 34 years. I stepped back into her large kitchen. She had her big skillet already heated up and was awaiting a shipment of 50 chickens. When asked how many chickens she had cooked. She said: “Well, some weeks, 100 or more. That would make me frying thousands in the 34 years I have been doing it.”
The Clark Tavern comes right to the edge of the road. The big dining room is old fashioned. The oil cloth table cover looks the part.”



Dean and “Ringling Bob” the only cat I ever permitted to make itself at home in the house.






Aunt Chattie’s home was the scene of many dinner or supper parties. Noontime was dinner time in most homes of that period and it was a bountiful hot meal.
Supper parties were a bit lighter in character and were frequently served cold except for the beverage – tea.
Elsie and I often helped Aunt Chattie take down and make ready the company dishes from high shelves in a closet.
There were treasured pieces among them which have passed down among the nieces – (All are listed).
While the grown folks were eating, Elsie and I amused ourselves by dressing up in the finery of the “lady guests” cloaks, hats and furs.
Even today I seem to catch the odor of musk from the small mink muffs and the stoles.
Some favorite cousins came to these parties. Leda Ellis and the Keifer Sisters, Lucretia, Ella and “Lib” as they called her.












[Transcription of article]
”General Keifer Now Near 95.To The Star: It should be of interest to your readers to know that Gen. J. Warren Kiefer, referred to in your editorial of Sunday as speaker of the house forty-nine years ago, still is living at his old home at Springifeld, O., and will be 95 years old next January 30 if he lives until that time.
He is one of the great characters this country has produced. He wa a general in the Civil War and major general in the Spanish War., in command at Havana. When he was speaker of the house he was next in line for the presidency, in the event of President Arthur’s death. Mrs. Keifer was ‘first lady of the land,’ as Arthur was a widower. General Keifer is my uncle, my mother’s brother.   W. K. Palmer  Pickwick hotel.”


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Memories of a Yellow Springs Family — Part 4

This section proves to be something of a challenge to share, given the current state of race relations in the United States. The descriptions of people will naturally make readers uncomfortable, but it seems wrong to cut this section from the full project, because it is an unusually detailed reflection of the times (written circa 1950 and describing life in the last decades of the 19th century.

All entries in the series are indexed on the “Blog Multi-Part Series” page (click on tab above and scroll to second group).

Our Neighbors in Early Years
Mrs. Perryman a neighbor across the street had pretty flowers too. I liked to go there with Mother to call and to see her flowers. I loved her Lemon Lilies but some way I always had a feeling that Mrs. Perryman didn’t really like to part with any of them.






The Hume home furnished us two playmates Jessie and Harry who always played with Hazel. Ida Perryman became a lifetime friend of Mother. Other early neighbors included a Smith family whose Molly sometimes helped out for the neighbors, her mother always careful to stipulate that “Molly could do light work.”
Then there were Horneys, Hamiltons and Dickmans who were English people, who always called Elsie “Helzey.”
Next came Miss Eva (“Evy”) Gates, a “Bloomer” lady and sister to Aunt Lucina Lewis also a “Bloomer.”
A tiny cottage housed Aunty Purcell and her husband. The small slipper chair in my possession came from that home.
Then came our very close friends, the Applegates. Mrs. Applegate came four times to our home to put the first clothes on the new baby just arrived.
Down the road to the south on a small farm lived Mary Currie. Here we bought butter and wonderful cream.
Mary loaned us her old-time sidesaddle and thereby contributed great joy to those big enough to ride on old Molly.
We perched on the gateposts at our driveway and took turns at rides between that point and the Applegate corner.

The Colored People
There were many negro people who lived not far from us in Yellow Springs.
Some had found their way to Xenia during the days of slavery by means of the Underground Railway. Others followed when the war was over and they settled in and around Xenia and Yellow Springs wherever they could find work to do and a spot to raise their families.
One street between our home and town was known as “Little Africa” or “Coon Town.”
There were lots of colorful characters in the negro section of the town’s population.
Never to be forgotten wa Aunt Liza Brooks who shuffled into town whenever church services were in progress. At “Revivals” or “Protracted Meetings” as they were called Liza led the shouting and put real drama into the scene.
She kept plenty of fervor, too, at baptisms down at the river. These occasions drew large crowds from near & far of many who were curious to see a big show. One wonders whether there was spiritual rejuvenation from these spectacles.
Old Jim Hart was the town’s tallest man and the strongest too. Small wonder for Jim was reputed to be able to consume more food at dinners for harvest hands than any man who came in from the fields.
Jim’s wife – “Aunt Ellen” was a marvellous cook and in great demand when a “hired cook” could be afforded, but Alas! Aunt Ellen was a “Toter” and the housewife had to carry a bunch of keys.
John Newsome too was tall and strong. He always delivered our coal and his “wimmen folks” were help for cleaning and laundry tasks.
Tinnia, the oldest daughter, came to us when a girl of sixteen and Mother taught her to work. She continued to give service in our family at intervals and in various capacities for many years until age and poor health prevented her from working.
Sometime after marriage she acquired the small house just south of the Antioch campus. Here she lived with her family until January [1938?] when she sold it to Antioch College. (The family married and settled nearby.)
[Text of newspaper article]
Land is Transferred to Antioch College
(Image Caption) YELLOW SPRINGS—The deed to the last remaining land on the Antioch College campus held by private owners was transferred during the week to representatives of Antioch College by Mrs. Tinnia Lawson (center). Miss Martha Drake, college office manager, notarized the final signatures in the transferral of the property from Mrs. Lawson to Morton Rauh, Antioch business manager.
YELLOW SPRINGS—Last of the land in the south campus of Antioch College which was held by private owners became the property of the college during the week.
Three houses between the college’s Science Bldg. And the Gymnasium were sold to the college by Mrs. Tinnia Lawson, who has owned the property since 1894.
One of the houses on S. College st., where Mrs. Lawson is still living, has been the family home for 59 years. Witnessing the sale were Elmer Lawson and Mrs. Herman Cordell, both of Yellow Springs, son and daughter of Mrs. Lawson, who were reared in the house.
The children were born in a house which also later became the propert of the college and for many years was known as the “Corner House,” the headquarters of the students’ campus publications. It has since been torn down to enlarge the campus area around the college cafeteria.
Purchase of this last piece of property consolidates the campus area in preparation for the buildings proposed by the New Century Fund Drive, which the college is now conducting. According to the college’s master plan, the space was earmarked some years ago for the college’s library building.

Vivid memories picture the Brady family Edmund and Adeline and their four children.
They were ex-slaves and many were the storeis they related to us about life in the deep south in pre-bellum days.
They told of a deadly epidemic of cholera that struck their plantation. The Bradys thought it was caused by their eating green apples and to my childish mind the story was caution against eating green apples.
One son Napoleon, “Poly” to us, was a neighborhood nuisance, but he did chores now and then.
The older girls worked as maids but Dora roamed at will telling tall stories to anyone who would listen to her spinning them together with a prolonged Aa-n-d-o-r-n-u-m.
Edmund Brady was a courtly soul reminding one of “Uncle Tom” in the famous story. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Life among the negroes in the Yellow Springs of that period often suggests of a counterpart of scenes described in the book.
When on summer evenings families gathered at their homes or at the neighborhood pub the songs , the mumblings, and the chants that floated to us with the breeze might well have come from “The Quarters” of slavery days.
The negro people of Yellow Springs were, for the most part, honest and industrious.
Except for work at the Powder Mills opportunities for profitable employment for men were few and usually seasonal.
Families were large and at times much poverty existed.
Keeping the wolf from the door at the Curl home was a pet welfare project with Mother.
She could not endure the waste of anything from the wardrobe to the table that could fill a need with the Curls.
Mrs. Curl was a semi-invalid from “Consumption” but her spirit was courageous.
Honest to a fault she refused to accept any charity without giving some service in return.
Often she would send one of the many children to our house to perform some task to re0pay for a small donation.
Ben was a good scrubber for kitchen and porches.

Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Lucy Moore [Editor’s note – see previous post for more informiaton on Aunt Lucy]

Near the turn of the road leading from the Xenia pike east toward the farm house of Aunt Chattie and Uncle Jay Wise lived the negroes, Aunt Lucy and Uncle Jimmy.
Old Jim Moore as he was commonly known was an old scamp to be sure, with a reputation for dishonesty and unfaithfulness that was county wide.
Jim did odd jobs of work for anyone who would tolerate him. He also collected bones and rags in a dilapidated old spring wagon always about to fall to pieces.
One’s greatest concern tho was for the poor half-starved horse that seemed just ready to give up the ghost.
Jim’s slovenly and dishonest habits were a great cross to Aunt Lucy who wanted to be clean and live like respectable colored folks.
As if to apologize for Jim, she would sometimes give us the chapter in their lives that had linked them together.
Both had been slaves under a cruel master. Jim shielded Lucy from his cruelty and finally contrived to get her free.
Lucy was always loyal to him but she kept her own private quarters where Jim was not permitted to enter. A little  parlor up a winding stairway was neat and clean. We children were sometimes taken  there to see little treasures of her own.
I liked to see the things, but the stairway was dark and to my mind would come the old story of “The Spider and the Fly.”
Jim liked to torment me as he passed by our house telling me he would get me and take me to his cellar where he kept little girls and fed them on sticks and bugs.
How I would scamper!

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Memories of a Yellow Springs Family — Part 3

All entries in the series are indexed on the “Blog Multi-Part Series” page (click on tab above and scroll to second group).

For those who are curious, the 1896 map of Yellow Springs indicates just where Della’s family lived on Xenia Avenue.







I have vivid recollections of some very early trips to Springfield when Elsie and I were the only children in the family.

I sat on the seat between my parents and Elsie sat upon a stool at their feet.

We started before daylight and the weather was very cold.

Old “Molly” our Sorrel mare was not very speedy altho she was reputed to have once been a race horse. To me she never justified the reputation but she was gentle and finally got there.

Along the road to Springfield we passed many stretches of woodland and there was a toll gate about halfway where we always had to pause to pay toll.

In summertime bands of gypsies often camped along the roadsides. When we came upon these camps Molly had to display her best speed.

Stories floated around about kidnappings of children and gypsies rightly or not, often bor the blame.

One spot along the way we always avoided for night driving.

This was a swampy gully near Beatty Station which was full of small trees and underbrush.

Sometimes if we got hungry we would stop at the one and only store in Beatty but almost all we could buy was bologna and ginger snaps – (very hot).

The Ebinezer hill seemed very high to me and also to Molly and the cemetery and church very lonely.

Our mother had a love of the beautiful which she expressed in countless ways. The way she could continue to make something pretty of so little amounted almost to talent.

This was an era of “knickknacks” in decoration.

Crocheted and embroidered doylies, antimacassars, lamberaquins and pieced cushion covers were common in most homes.

The centre table usually held photograph albums often plush bound. Autograph albums and fancy baskets of decorated cards which it was the custom to exchange with friends.

Grandma Miller divided her time between the homes of her children, spending most of it with those who lived in Ohio.

When we children were quite small she spent short periods at our house but Aunt Chatties home nearby was larger and could more easily accommodate her.

However there is a fine tradition in our family that Grandma rocked the cradle, knitted and read at the same time, and it was at her knee that we children all learned to read.

Grandma was always gentle and kind and we were very fond of her.

The cradle she rocked in our baby days also cradled father’s first grandchild when Elsie’s first daughter Elizabeth Lucile Palmer was born at Greenville, Ohio on May 12th, 1897.

The it came to me to be used by our first son Donald Peery Cottrell, born February 17 1902 at 83 W. Third Ave., Columbus, Ohio.

Hazel used it next for her second child when Dorothy Dean Hopkins arrived on March 31 1906 at Massilon, ohio.

This cradle was eventually given to me by my father, and I have passed it on to our son Donald. At his home it has been used by their two children, Alan Peery Cottrell, born January 16th 1935 (Father’s first great grandchild) and by his sister Dorothy Ann Cottrell born December 18th, 1938. At the time of their birth their house was at 106 Morningside Drive, New York City.

The cradle is now in possession of Donald and his family (1950)

Aunt Kate had two children and during our childhood days, the family lived in London, Ohio.

Charity Joanna Judy
Herbert Bolivar Judy

They came regularly in summertime to visit at our home and Aunt Chattie’s “Herbie” always with closely cropped hair for his summer comfort.

Mary Elsie Miller (centre)
Della Stone Miller (Left)
Hazel Kate Miller (Right)

These pictures were taken in Springfield, Ohio. It being the largest nearby place was the one where we went most often to shop.

Uncle Sam’s home was on a farm just south of the city and our trips for business usually included a stop at that home.

My hair was long and heavy and very blonde. Elsie’s hair was darker and not so heavy as mine so it was kept “shingled” as was Hazel’s too.

Our hose were high style for the period. They were knitted by Grandma from heavy woolen yarn.

In our home clothing for the family was most carefully considered. It often performed triple service, being remodeled and handed down from one child to another.

Sometimes it went through the dye pot in passing, but something always came out that was useable and attractive.

Mother looked well to the surroundings outside the house too and our little place always stood out as a beauty spot.

She subscribed to “The Ladies Floral Cabinet” and read it religiously in winter and put the ideas into practice in summer.

Faithful Molly and a spring wagon brought in loads of rich soil from “Taylors Woods” and interesting rocks from “The Glen.”

From these a rockery was formed making an ideal spot for vines and many kinds of lovely ferns and wild flowers.

Mother loved blooming plants too and was always an eager customer when a travelling flower wagon came by in the spring.

Guests at our house usually went away with a bouquet and there was always plenty to send to beautify the church for services and form table decorations at church “Sociables.” Also many were the flowers that brought cheer to the sick.






Mother liked to drop a small leaf into her freshly made apple jelly in the fall.

It imparted a flavor all its own, fresh and delicious.


[Text of poem by Dorothy P. Albaugh]


If happiness has fragrance,
Then its elusive scent
Must be to every person
A little different.
It may be orchids, roses
Or lavender to some
Who sense it, but I always
Smell rose geranium.
With crisp green leaves as lovely
And intricate as lace,
When I smell their fragrance
I see my mother’s face.
And when I am quite happy
Across the long years from
My childhood there is wafted
Rose geranium.



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Memories of a Yellow Springs Family — Part 2

[The Della Miller family memories are an unusually comprehensive document, containing both elements of scrapbook and journal, with a tone much like a volume from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” series in the way it shares domestic details and dramas.]

A sketch of the floor plan of the cottage accompanied the pages

The above lines appeared in a copy of the Columbus Evening Dispatch and they brought to my mind a vivid picture of father during the early years of our life in the little cottage home. The author has kindly furnished this copy for me to preserve in my Memory Book. Her little poems often strike a note that is heart warming.

The Gravel Pit – South of Town

One summer time project sometimes took us to the Gravel pit. Here a man with a team and a day’s work to spare could take care of his Road Tax. For highways at that time were gravelled.

I liked to go along on some of these trips and gather pretty stones that came up in the digging. The top of the Pit seemed very high to me and I would be reminded of the fate of Jill of Mother Goose lore.

I feared I, too, might “tumble after.”

Our cottage home was built upon two levels, with two steps between.

This staggered level was a nuisance for house-keeping but a delight for us children.

Around and around we would go up and down and around again, laughing, screeching, and tumbling to our hearts’ content and often to the complete confusion of our nerve-worn mother.

This house underwent many alterations and remodellings, always coming out with more space and better arrangement.

Our mother was a master hand at planning. She was seldom in good health and often was forced to cut physical work to a minimum.

But with a basket of mending comfort piecing or crocheting before her, she could conjure up an extra closet, or a convenient cupboard, a larger window, or a partition removed and bedroom extended.

Our father took care of this kind of work in the summertime along with the tasks in a large vegetable garden and the harvesting of the fruit crops of the season. Summertime could hardly be considered vacation time for him.

Nothing but a sturdy constitution and a courageous spirit could have taken it all.

Sometimes small business projects were used to bring in a little extra money but mainly his efforts were confined to the homeplace.

He was indeed The Keeper of the Flame.

 He nightly wound the family clock. (On the dining room wall) He banked the fires in winter and tested every lock.

When all was ready for the night he it was, who blew out the light.

I don’t remember that the above ever [?] much of all industry but it may have furnished extra dollars for summer time income, when a teacher’s pay check came to a stop.

While our home was tiny it was extendable and could usually meet the need an occasion demanded. There was always room for company. When relatives came to visit we cousins could line up in a bed on the floor and we considered it a lark. Children often ate at second table when grown-ups had finished. Food was worth waiting for, for Mother was a wonderful cook.

One bit of alteration in the house was allowed to go a little too long. In the room which was our original kitchen there was a pantry space in one corner of the room.

This pantry was built around a trap door over steps leading to the cellar. Shelves for food and supplies lined the pantry walls and were easily reached when the trap door was closed.

The family was used to the arrangement and nothing ever happened more serious than the occasional tumble down the short flight of stairs by one of the children. But an occasion did arise and –

Thereby Hangs a Tale.”

March 15th 1880 was the date of the tenth wedding anniversary of our parents – their “Tin Wedding.”

Friends and neighbors had learned of the coming anniversary and a big surprise party was planned to celebrate the occasion.

Everyone came with gifts of tinwear and lots of food prepared for a big feast.

Mother had been warned early in the day so that some things could be in readiness, but when our father came in from school that evening the surprise was in every way complete.

There was snow and a blustery gale outside but inside the little home all was light & warm and gay.

In my mind this party still stands out as the biggest and best party I ever attended.

Just one incident occurred to mar the perfect occasion.

Someone left the trap door open and when the ladies were putting things away after the feast our good friend, Mrs. Lewis, (Aunt Lucina) reached for a shelf and stepped into the cellar below.

All was confusion at first but some capable soul came forwstd and took care of the injury.

Our good Dr. Harris was an invited guest but was unable to come as on that day he was again becoming a bridegroom himself.

Dr. Harris sent as is gift a round silver dollar, with the following lines –

“It might have been bigger
And not quite so thin,
But still it is genuine’

Old Fashioned Times

The pantry incident no doubt put wits to working for in time the pantry came out, a kitchen was added to the east and the dining room extended to the south and given an outside entrance.

A large double window was added on the south side and this made a wonderful place for Mother’s flowers in winter.

Facilities for sleeping shifted from time to time.

The earliest recollection that comes to my mind is of a small bedroom where Elsie and I used to sleep. This room had been partitioned off of the front room where our parents slept.

Visions of frost patterned windows on winter mornings tell me that it must have been cold in those rooms but we children gathered to dress in the dining room where there was a roaring wood fire in a drum type stove.

Later on this type of stove was replaced by a big base-burner which really heated the whole house.

This stove had an oven with a space above where you could boil a tea kettle or do slow cooking as of rice or cracked wheat for winter suppers.

Here we heated soap stones – when bed warmers were needed and in the oven we baked beans that were superb.

A drum type wood stove was probably the kind used first in the living room, then an open coal stove – the Franklin – took its place and imported cheer to the whole room.

Even tho there was no deep fire place we had a mantel piece and here we hung out stockings on Christmas Eve.

Santa Claus was to us as children an unquestioned reality.

With well stocked pack, his sleigh and six prancing reindeer, he rode gaily over the house tops.

The way he gained entrance to the chimney in each home stood then as it does today as his own deep secret which he does not intend to reveal.

Our home was always cozy with cleanliness a constant goal. The thorough cleanings of fall and spring extended to every crack and corner.

Pads under carpets were not then in general use but fresh clean straw was placed under carpets upon a well scrubbed floor. This straw helped to keep floors warm thru the winter.

One can’t forget the scrunching sound when one first walked on them. Neither can one forget the straw ticks used for extra beds nor the feather ticks that kept one so good and warm.

A faithful colored man Charley Minor came at housecleaning time to help with heavy tasks. He wielded a white wash brush when needed but our father did all the painting and wall-papering himself.

A letter written by Mother to Aunt Kate Judy in 1874 gives glimpses of our family life when I was a baby.


[The letters were folded up and rough transcriptions are provided, but because they were written to conserve space,  flow of thought is not always preserved in the transcription.]

Della letter (child’s spelling preserved):

Yellow Springs O.
No. 4 1882

Dear Grandma

I though I would write to you as I had nothing else to do. Maggie has come home and we are having a nice time. She brought some chest nuts and hazelnuts. Elsie and Maggie have gone down town and Hazel has gone to bed. Elsie took her music lessons this after noon. We was sorry we dident see you before you went away. We dident hear you at all when you went pas. We have got are stove up in the bedroom and pa is sitting in there. He is very busy for they have bin having examination at the collage. We have got are our sweet potatoes in the house and our squashes. Ida Wilder has bin down visiting and she came over with her baby.

Maggie had a splendid time and wished she had stayed longer. Ma has got a good woman here to sew she charges 50 cents a day and takes her dinner with us. Ma says she is a good sewer and is fast.

We haven’t commenced on our new dress as yet for she cands sew all week at a time. We turned Hazels cloake and made it over and it looks as nice as a new one and they fixed my skirts and made them warm for winter and made me and Hazel some new aprons. I haven’t much to say and so I will close.

Good by.
Della Miller

Peery Miller letter:

Dear Mother

I write to acknowledge the receipt of the rocking chair Quite a surprise I assure you. It is something in which there is solid comfort and I propose to get it out.

Arthur brought it from the Express office and, as I came home late from the College, I knew nothing of it. So Ella threw a comfort on the chair and told me to sit down, a command I readily obey. I supposed it was the old rocker but she quickly drew aside the comfrot and revealed the present – a happy surprise for which accept many thanks. I appreciate a good chair when tired much more than I did ten years ago. Don’t feel old particularly but its more comfortable. Elsie has written to Charrie & they have gone to Chatties, as they always do on Sunday Evenings.

We have commenced School work again. Would enjoy it if I only got enough money to keep out of debt. I think it is too bad that the Christian Church, as badly as they want & need Antioch, dont try to do something to pay the teachers living prices, enough that we could work with unhampered minds – but so it is – so it has been, & I fear, so it always will be. We hope to have an increased number of students but many old ones are not back yet.

Waited to spend New Years at home. I have managed my cards so as to have only four hesitating this term. Last term had five, but have two juniors to teach Ancient History which will require extra hard work. Glad to hear you had a good time on your birth day dinner. Would have been there if money had been plenty. Hope you will keep well & enjoy many birthdays yet.

Truly yours Peery Miller

Assorted portions written around the other letters:

Sunday Evening.

Sister Kate,

Chattie has written you a letter and left it for Peery to mail. I will add a few lines. Suppose she has given you all the special news. Peery and I did not go to church tonight – went this morning – lilk Mr. Jones sermon on baptism very much. I think it took well. We have just got Della & Elsie to bed, Del has gone to sleep Oh! No the scamp has just raised up laughing. She is so fresh. It hasn’t any bath th ough yet. Summer has come all at once I guess. Has been very warm today. Had a nice big flower and fixed

We haven’t cleaned house yet. I dread it. Have sewing to [begin?] have to get at it soon. Come down when you can. Love to all a kiss for Charrie

Ella Mother

Yellow Springs
June 14th 1874

Sister Kate,

As I have a little time now and Della is asleep I will write a little to put in with Chattie as she said she was going to write you this afternoon. There were all here for dinner. Had peas, strawberries, and cherrie pie.[Antie?] went to Chapel and Chattie’s went home to watch the strawberries. Peery May and Elsie are out getting cherries. We have a few are hardly ripe. Will have no sour ones. We enjoy the fresh fruit, not having much canned last winter. Raspberries promise an abundant crop. Ours are very full. Peery reset the strawberry bed last week. We have had none of them this season. We hope it will rain for they will grow right along. The rain last week was quite a blessing. It has been cool enough for fire yesterday and today, but is getting a littler warmer now. We did not go to church this morning. Peery had the Neuralgia and I did not feel very well. Had had a store put up. We went one night to [?]. There were not a great many out that evening. Guess I will fix up [field week?] take a walk. Have been in all day pretty much. My flowers make some progress. Seed didn’t come good.

To Springfield Friday afternoon to have baby set for some more pictures. We think she did all right at the second sitting. We ordered ½ dozen. If they are good will send one to Troy. She is getting to be awfully cute. Folks say she is quite handsome & looks just like me. I am afraid you will think that comparison rather contradictory. She has the ear ache most too much to suit us. Her ear gathered & broke a couple times. Hazel is writing a letter to Lova this evening – she received a Christmas card from her. She is having a terrible time spelling out the words. She has learned to read quite well in 2nd reader but cannot spell well from memory Last Sunday evening a couple of Ella’s cousins, Wharfs [?]] from the place that Maggie visited came. They were in the neighborhood of London so drove over here & staid two nights. We enjoyed having them as Ella had not seen one of them since she was a little girl. They gave us pressing invitations to visit them during the summer vacation. Elsie is writing a big letter to Charrie, telling about her Springfield trip, I suppose. I have the head [ache?] a letter tonight – would have put off writing until tomorrow but was afraid would be too busy. I would like to see you very much & don’t think because I don’t write that I for once forget I still have a kind & loving Mother.

Dear Mother,

If I am going to get your Christmas letter off I must get at it immediately. We are all at home again after a short visit to Springfield. We took a sudden notion to go there on New Year’s day as the weather was so delightful. Baby stood the trip first rate! The girls staid all night at Sam’s & we (Ella baby & I) at Clint’s. We had a good time. Was glad to get away from home for a change.

Vacation is rapidly passing will soon have to get down to work again. I have not done much fixing up about the place as I expcted to do. I got a broad board to make a bread-board for Ella. That was to be my Christmas present. Haven’t got it dressed out yet. Will have to do that tomorrow some time. Tuesday will have examination work at the College & Wed. School opens for the Winter term. Will have five classes to teach this term.

I forget whether you left for Sam’s before I finished my stable or not! I find it one of the best improvements I have hammered out yet.

We are free from cats & dogs in the old wood house – a great relief. You remember I cut half of the old wood shed down & boarded up the rest all tight. I tell you the animals have held several indignant meetings over the change.

I decapitated two half grown cats & have another one in prospect. They will come & mew around the doors, till they get a chance to slip in.

Dell was attributing our bad luck to the cat treatment, but when we received Milton’s present – she changed her opinion. These presents were very encouraging to us. Ella has put baby in the crib and I am trying to write, rock her to sleep, but I guess I’ll not succeed. I have heard you relate how you used to tend babies & do half dozen other things at the same time, but guess writing letters wasn’t one of them. We hurried

With much love I close Peery Miller

We will go tonight Jones from Dayton preached. Chattie and I called on Mrs. Jones and Killen Friday afternoon. Mrs. K. is very pleasant and sensible. We go next Tuesday afternoon to help Mrs. Jones sew. I have a dress on hand for Elsie I would like to finish tomorrow, light calico, Chattie’s present – You will have more liberty if your girl proves to be good. It is very hard to get much sewing done when one has the most of the work depending on them. It is cloudy perhaps will have more rain, our cistern didn’t reap the full benefit of the big rain. Peery had contrived a strainer out of an old fruit can and it was stopped up with blossoms off of the trees so did not catch much water but got a little. We were entirely [?] None of us went to the Sociable Friday evening. It met at Rice’s the Methodist yard the same evening must have had a good. Time. Would have been more [?] if they

up yesterday and today [Staley?] Smith walked through it. Peery puts all his spare time on the cot, worked too hard yesterday was most sick at night. We thought he didn’t have time to to to church meetings.

May has just got home from church, says there were a good many out. Peery is commencing a letter to Milton. I had a long letter from Mary last week. She is married and gone to her new home seems favorably impressed with his children, the youngest is between two & three years old.

Peery and I want to attend the [singing/] class. Have been once. It is made up mostly of young folks. I guess you wll have work to keep you busy this summer. Should think Katie would hardly be help enough


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Memories of a Yellow Springs Family – Part 1

When looking at local history, artifacts and photographs are to be appreciated, but are essentially incomplete without a narrative describing their context.

The Yellow Springs Historical Society was recently the recipient of color photocopies of a most remarkable handwritten document – 100 pages of family memories with accompanying photographs and postcards, which will be shared on this blog over the next series of posts.

The document was written by Della Miller (sister of Dean Miller Birch, who married Jon Hugh Birch and lived in the Birch home on Dayton Street) starting in February of 1948 as a continuation of her father J. Peery Miller’s autobiographical writing (now held at the Heritage Center in Springfield and available as a PDF download).

The Historical Society is grateful to Della Miller’s granddaughter Barbara Harrison for taking the time to make the copy of her family’s history to share with us.

Recollections and Traditions

The point at which tradition begins to fade and memory begins to take over can seldom be clearly defined. One follows so closely upon the other that there is often much overlapping of detail.

Fortunate is the family that has acquired and preserved in permanent form authentic records of vital statistics. Upon such a foundation may be placed the traditions and the recollections that have been gathered together thruout the years.

It is with a feeling of gratitude that the members of my own family point to the genealogical records prepared and published by our father in his late maturity.

In addition to these records he has handed down to us a more intimate and detailed account of the events of his life highlighted thru it all by traditions and his own vivid memories.


February 19th 1948

It was with great interest and satisfaction that I re-read today this narrative written by my father at the age of seventy-five.

Beginning with early childhood in the home of his birth near Donnelsville, a small country village west of Springfield, Ohio, he has given us a vivid picture of life in that rural community between the years 1847-1865.

With the death of his father in 1864 came increased responsibilities.

The war between the states called him for a period of service, brief but strenuous and significant.

Removal from the country home in the fall of 1864 brought the family to Yellow Springs for a home and to Antioch College for education.

Following College years a short period of country school teaching in Illinois preceded his marriage on March 16th 1870 to Elizabeth Ellen Stone of Olney Ill. at the home of Thomas J. Stone, her brother with whom she made her home. Immediately following their marriage the young couple made to Yellow Springs where they established their home in a small cottage on Xenia Ave. near the south border of the village.

At this point a brief but unproductive business experience literally thrust the young husband into a calling for which nature must have designed him for school teaching upon its various levels became his life work.

Our father’s contributions to the profession is one to which we, his family, can justly point with pride.

In this cottage home four daughtters were born and life was lived as life had to be lived in a home of that period where an underpaid schoolmaster was the one and only breadwinner.

In those days no supplementary job for the housewife made it possible for her to swell the family income.

Despite the many hardships, this was indeed a happy home and countless details present themselves to remind us of the pleasures, the interests, and the benefits we all enjoyed.

Since the records from my father’s early life have brought such satisfaction to me I am prompted to feel that some of the same type of interest in family tradition may have passed along to my children so that sometime they may be glad to view a picture of the days of their mother’s childhood and youth and learn in detail something of the life of that period.

Many of the notes are mere recollections as they have come to my mind. Some are impressions received in childhood that have remained with me thruout the years. Time may have colored them somewhat but in the main they are accurate.

Since Yellow Springs was destined to become the home of our family, a bit about the early history of the town and its development may provide interest and understanding of some of the things mentioned in the personal story.

These items of history, tradition or whatever they may be grouped together in separate section. Pg _


Once Upon a Time in Yellow Springs

Elizabeth Ellen Stone Miler
John Peery Miller
Married on March 15 – 1870

Picture taken at Springfield O. shortly after marriage.





A vision of the first little home can only be viewed thru the mind’s eye for no early pictures have come down to us. For me memory supplies the omission.

A four room frame cottage located on a three fourth acre plot along the main highway between Yellow Springs and Xenia about one mile distant from the village.

There were a few forest trees on the place the grandest of which was the big white oak tree on the lot line toward the front of the house.

The shade of this tree furnished a center for play activities for neighborhood children as well as ourselves.

A good fence always enclosed our place, the picket variety across the front. Children were taught to observe the boundaries.

The front yard, tiny as it seems to us now, served to accommodate such games as “Blockman,” “Prisoner’s Base” and sometimes even “baseball” (with a fence paling for a bat).

Croquet was an absorbing sport as we grew up. Sometimes the odor of burning food entrusted to our care in the kitchen would send Elsie or me scuttling back to that base, to preserve the dinner.

In the fall when leaves from the great oak came down we children loved to gather them into piles dividing them into sections to form walls for all sorts of play houses.

In winter time chips from the base were hacked here and there and gathered to make a tea to be used as a gargle for a bad sore throat, the astringent from this old time remedy never failed to reduce the swelling.

I can testify to its virtue as I was a regular winter time victim of the malady.











Fruit trees were planted very early on the home place. A Harvest-apple tree yielded great golden apples. A small apple tree grew near the front fence and also a tree of Blackheart cherries. There was another tree of sweet cherries and this one grew quite tall.

The most daring feat of my childhood was to climb to the topmost branch of that tree and sway with the summer breeze.

A group of apple trees in our back yard was known as “our orchard,” with Russet apples & “Northern Spy.”

Peach, plum and some cherry trees together with grape vines and a full assortment of small fruits were scattered thruout the place.

Our favorite fruit was the Sloe plum which originated on the farm of Uncle Henry Miller in Illinois. In the fall a touch of frost made these plums delicious.

A few Sloe plum trees are still to be found in Yellow Springs. (1960)

Sample page from document

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Dramatic Mystery

A photograph from the Howard Kahoe glass negative collection shows some sort of outdoor dramatic presentation, but there is no caption to indicate the event, the participants or the locale.

The tree at right certainly seems to have provided an excellent viewpoint for a daring few.

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