"Was More Than Four Score and Ten Years Old, and Knew Many Noted Men of Illinois
"In the year 1817 several members of the Miller family emigrated from the vicinity of Harper's Ferry in Loudon county, Va., to Champaign county, Ohio. The emigrants consisted of Valentine Miller, his wife and some of his family including several sons-in-law. It was a sort of exodus of the Miller family since the father and mother resolved not to be left behind if the children came West.
"Valentine Miller was of German descent and followed the occupation of a miller continuing it for years after coming to Ohio. He bought a tract of land in Champaign county and divided it among his children retaining a farm for himself. He and his wife are buried in a family burying ground in a part of the Miller estate near Millerstown, Ohio, which took its name from the family.
"The wife of Valentine Miller was Sarah Conard. She was of English and Welsh descent and came of the early Virginia colony of which obtained its wives by paying for their passage with tobacco.
"One of the sons-in-law of Valentine Miller was George Gideon, also a Virginian, and a lieutenant in the then recent war of 1812. He and his wife had three children when they came from Virginia. The sixth child was Ann., who afterward married Abraham Parker and is the subject of this biography.
"Ann was born Nov. 6, 1821 and lived till she was seven years on the farm `over Mad river' given her father by her grandfather. He father then sold the farm and moved about twenty miles away to what was known as Darby Plains in the same county and within a mile or two of Woodstock, Ohio.
"Here amidst beautiful surroundings and in godly hose she grew to womanhood one of eleven children. Her father and mother were Methodists and the children were christened in the faith and brought up according to its tenets. All the famous preachers of that day and region were known and entertained at her father's house, for he was a man of means and of large hospitality. One of her anecdotes was of the Rev. James Findley, a minister of the old school and the only man whom she remembers as wearing knee pants and buckled shoes.
"In those days the Bible was not only read in the homes, but in school it was used as a text book. The first book into a child's hands was Webster's spelling book. Through it he laboriously spelled his way into reading. When he got so he could spell out the stories in that he was promoted to what was called the English Reader, which from her description was a sort of American Sandford and Merton. After this the pupil read from the New Testament and later he was allowed to read in the history class. The history did not go beyond Andrew Jackson's administration.
"She remembered John Quincy Adam's election. She was a very small child, and in their neighborhood was an old colored man, Louis Adams and her older brothers had teasingly told her that `Daddy' was going to vote for Louis Adams for president, and she climbed up into his lap and asked him if he was. He told her no, that Mr. Adams was white and was a very fine gentleman.
"In those days it was customary for farmers to provide whiskey for the harvest hands. As all the grain was cut by hand many men would be employed. When she was quite a small girl her father resolved to cut that custom out and after that coffee was served instead.
"She grew up strong and beautiful, a fine horseback rider and a sharer in her brother's sports. She took great care of her three younger brothers. She has said that when she was a little girl she used to think when the little boys were large enough to be out of danger of infantile accidents that all her troubles would be over. Out of the abundance of her physical strength she gave that strong protection to the weak which all her life distinguished her as a mother and endeared her to her children and those dependent upon her. While her strength lasted she never failed her neighbors in their hours of sickness and need, and down to death's call she retained what friends time had spared. Of those who knew her as a child only one remains, Mrs. Alice Johnston of East Main street who one Christmas day passed her ninety-fifth birthday.
"She was essentially a Martha among women and when her failing strength began to curtail her activities she chafed under the restriction.
"She taught her children to read the Bible and to follow its teachings and up to the last twenty years of her life, frequently attended the services of the church and entertained its ministers at her table. No one in all her long life ever knew her to be guilty of a small or mean act. She was outspoken to a marked degree and strong in her prejudices, and often harsh in her judgment, but in her personal acts she was essentially good and sound in every respect.
"About eight years ago she had two quite serious accidents in one year and these were followed by a serious sickness. After this, those nearest her noticed a marked difference in her mind, although at times it was seemingly as cleat as ever and her memory of the past remained strong.
"In her younger days she used to tell many wonderful stories of her times which were full of interest to all who heard them. Tales of the ancestors of herself and her husband. Stories of women and children in frontier forts, old legends of colonial days told her by her grandmothers. East and Christmas customs of her family. Jewish superstitions handed down form some far off Hebrew ancestry. Her parental grand-father was a revolutionary soldier who lived to a great age. He used to tell her little son stories of the hardships of that time and sing him the old camp songs of the army, and as he talked the old man would weep and say, `But you may be a soldier sometime, boy.' And 20 years after, the same little boy in sixty-one went out to be a soldier too.
"After she was married several years she and her husband and three children came from Ohio in October 1846 to Clinton, Ill., where some of her brothers and one sister had preceded her. They came in a wagon, bringing as many of their household goods as they could bring. In those days Clinton consisted of a dozen or so houses and when they came in sight of town coming in by way of DeWitt, then known as Marion, she thought the town was a gentleman's farm with its outbuildings, and was surprised to learn it was Clinton, the end of their journey. The first winter they lived in what old residents may remember as the `Bill Catterlin' house on East Main street on the site of the John Phared house. Here one of her children was born.
"There was but little fruit to be obtained, except wild, but she had brought what she could with her, among it some dried apples and peaches. The flour had to be hauled from Pekin and was very poor quality at that. Consequently pies and cakes were scarce, but she had made some pies out of flour that she says suggested dirt, it was so dark and soggy, but her boy being fond of pie was eating a piece of it by the woodpile and the dog jumping around him seemed to be begging for some and he remarked, `You can't have any of my good pie', and was immediately called into the house and admonished not to disgrace the family by such remarks overheard about the stuff he was eating.
"Later they moved three or four miles east of Clinton and lived on land owned by Mr. James Scott, an ancestor or many old residents of this county. Uncle Jimmy Scott as he was known to many was a wealthy man owning much land hereabouts and it was owing to his kindness that her husband was advanced enough money to buy what she always spoke of as the Simpson farm, because it was afterward sold to the late Henry Simpson in whose family it still remains. The Simpson eighty was purchased by her husband sometime in the late forties or perhaps in 1850 for one hundred and twenty dollars. They built a substantial house upon it, which was occupied until a few years ago, planted a fine orchard and otherwise improved it. Five years later he sold it for the sum of thirty two hundred dollars, and in 1856 purchased the farm in Texas township, a part of which she retained as her dowry until her death.
"For one year after coming to Clinton she and her husband kept the hotel. It was the year the old brick court house was built, and when it was finished it was dedicated by a ball, and supper was served at the tavern. Leonard Swett was boarding with them at that time and many old residents of Clinton were at the ball. She danced with the late C. H. Moore on that occasion. R. J. Oglesby, afterward governor of the State was one of the fiddlers at the ball.
"Abraham Lincoln coming here to court stopped with them also and was a personal friend of her husband. The late Dr. Warner was their family physician, and her family and others have heard her tell many stories of their adventures together by primitive sick beds. The doctor was subject to severe nervous headaches and one of her anecdotes was of her difficulty on one occasion in providing him with a midnight lunch and coffee.
"During the Buchanan campaign she was visiting at Dr. Warner's house when he lived in the brick house which stood on the site of the Dr. Tyler residence. There was a big Democratic rally and the participants were trailing past in wagons, afoot, on horseback in all the abandon of a pioneer rally, going out to the old fair grounds south of town.
"As the procession approached they did a lot of yelling for their candidate and Mrs. Warner asked her to reply as she did not want to appear and perhaps injure her husband who was running for some office. So, stepping out of the door she waved a dress skirt upon she was sewing and cheered for Freemont. Some of the women in the procession answered back, `Hurrah for Fremont and the nigger wenches!' For a moment she was nonplused then rising on her tip toes and whirling her dress skirt she replied in a voice that could easily have been heard a quarter of a mile away, `Hurrah for Buchanan and the scrapings of the face of the earth.' and the opposition was silenced. Retiring to the house she found Mrs. Warner convulsed with laughter, and gasping out that she wondered if they had not queered the Doctor politically after all.
"In those days Col. V. Warner then a youngster, used to ride out behind her on her horse occasionally and spend a night at the Simpson place. She said he had a disconcerting habit of refusing every dish that was offered him at table and just as his hostess was beginning to be in despair of feeding the child he would brighten up and politely request a part of the first dish he had refused, and so on through the list until he had made a very satisfactory repast.
"After they left the hotel they moved into a house owned by a Mr. Brown, and his son boarded with them because he had begged her to take him, though the hose was small and she had five children. He and Leonard Swett were great friends and Mr. Swett came also begging for food and shelter, especially food as she was a famous cook, but she was obliged to deny him.
"She often spoke of the famous Wyant murder trial where Swett won his first laurels as a criminal lawyer. During the course of the trial he was a guest at her table and he was so nervous he could not remain at the table during the entire meal, but would arise an walk the floor. He told her he had read the Bible entirely through twice during the progress of this trial in order that he might have every help that scriptures could give him in any way. She said to him, `Swett, why do you work this way to save a murder? For you know he killed the man,' and he replied, `This man looks to me to save him.' She said the secret of a great career was revealed in his answer-faithfulness to an obligation.
"After she and her husband left the hotel Lincoln and Judge Davis used to stop occasionally at her father's house, for her children had followed his children westward, even as his father had followed him. She often told a little incident illustrative of the characters of Lincoln and Judge Davis. Judge Davis was very fastidious in all his habits, while Lincoln was often forgetful of the smaller observances. One morning at breakfast there were soft boiled eggs and cups for them were placed at the plates. Lincoln was busy talking and began to break his egg into his plate when Judge Davis hastily pushed the cup toward him remarking `Mr. Lincoln, here is a cup.' Lincoln obligingly dragged the egg towards the cup, but was too late and trailed it fearfully over the tablecloth. The Judge nearly fainted, but the hostess covered up the damage with a napkin and the meal proceeded.
"She heard Lincoln make the speech in which he said this government could not exist half slave, half free. She saw the war of the sixties to its close, giving her one boy to the service of his country and having the joy of seeing him return safe from the war.
"In her later years she grew very weary. Her long, long life was drawing to its closed in strain and weakness. The old stories were told less often and sometimes details were missing, but to the last her nearest neighbors were wont to say, `Aunt Ann is a wonderful woman.' Had she been born in this restless today, the world would hear more of her. But she lived a conventional life, going from a father's protection at an early age to that of a kind husband who so far as his circumstance and the time permitted, shielded her from all responsibilities save the purely domestic ones, she passed her life unknown to the great world around her, but in her narrow circle it was a wonderful life nevertheless. Though high spirited and what some would call `difficult' yet for more than thirty years she and her husband lived together in perfect peace, and she was tenderly loved by him until his death. In all those long years he never lost patience with her, or his belief in her sweetness and goodness. Forty two years ago in this month she buried him in Woodlawn cemetery and on one side of the stone at his head she had cut these words, `Ann, wife of Abraham Parker' with a space for the date of her death. Someone suggested to her that she was unwise in putting it thus, as she might marry again, but she said that she had made no mistake. Soon, after her husband's death and all through the fort-two years since his death, she has often said that she would die in winter when the snow was on the ground because she had dreamed that she went to her husband in a fair green country and she told him that there was snow on the ground and it was cold when she came away. For several winters she looked for the call and it came ate last on Jan. 19, 1912 after she had completed ninety years on Nov. 6, 1911. While she yet bid fair to be with her loved ones for a considerable time, a severe shock from a fall a few days before her death so unnerved her that she soon succumbed to its effects.
"Deceased was the last of a large family and is survived by the following children: G.W. of Kingsburg, Cal., Mrs. Elizabeth Byerly of Kenney; Mrs. Kate Smith, Mrs. W. J. Blue and Mrs. Jessie Booth of Clinton. A daughter, Mrs. E. G. Argo, of Clinton died a few years ago. She is also survived by 25 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.
"Funeral services were held at the late home 120 West Cherry St. Sunday, Jan. 21, Rev. G. W. Flagge officiating. The pall bearers were Grant Cardiff, J. M. Williams, Jos. E. Johnson, Uriah James, N. R. and W. F. Hughes, all representatives of families whose parents for many years had known her most intimately." - The Clinton Register, 26 Jan 1912, p.5
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