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Copyright 2023 © by Jim Potter
Now that my children’s book is in the hands of illustrator Gina Laiso, Integrita Productions, I’m refocusing for a few days by doing some historical research in preparation for my sequel to Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish.
A Buggy Ride to Visit Christian C. Miller (1855-1931)
Today was a special day for me. I had an Amish horse and buggy ride. Harry “Historian” W. Bontrager, my Old Order Amish friend, was the driver. We’re from different cultures—Amish and English—but we’re both obsessed with researching history, especially when it’s local. In fact, we could talk history ‘til the cows come home.
Don’t tell anyone, but besides turn signals, blinkers, brakes, an interior dome light, and a slow-moving vehicle sign, Harry’s buggy has a horn.
Harry and I met through the mail when he purchased my novella, Deputy Jennings Meets the Amish. Even though we live in the same county, he heard about my book through my advertisement in The Budget, a weekly newspaper popular in Amish and Mennonite communities.
I know it’s strange, but I enjoy history so much that I often find myself researching people even if we’re not related. When I read a historical story about someone, before you know it, I’m searching old newspapers and the U.S. Census online to better understand their world and family through genealogical connections.
Harry and I share stories. He’s working on a history of the Yoder Amish (KS) community while I’m curious about the culture of the Old Order Amish. I don’t know enough Amish people well enough to categorize them, but I’m pleased that I’m acquainted with several “Plain People” who appear comfortable in answering my questions.
Lately, I’ve been researching Christian C. Miller (1855-1931). He and his father, Christian H. Miller (1819-1889), are considered the founders of the 1884 Haven Township Amish settlement (that today includes the town of Yoder). Both men, and Christian C’s wife, Mary “Polly” Plank, moved from Shelby County, IL, to Reno County in September 1883.
According to The Family Record and History of Mose P. Miller, (son of Christian C. and Polly) the first post office in Yoder, KS, was in the house of Christian C. Millers.
My first introduction to Christian C. Miller was learning of the amputation of his left leg above the knee to save his life in 1896, and that the leg was buried at the cemetery on his property 1.5 miles east of Yoder. Christian C’s successful surgery took place on his dining room table with neighbors holding him down while three Hutchinson doctors performed the life-saving task. (Yoder Amish Cemetery Records)
In The Family Record and History of Mose P. Miller, Katie E. Miller Schrock Miller, youngest child of Christian C. and Polly, repeated a family story on how her father’s left leg had gotten infected. She was born a year after the surgery, so she never knew him without crutches.
Christian C. had a threshing rig and a crew that could be gone the entire week except Sunday, depending on the distance to the next farm and the weather. “One time while waiting on a shower of rain, the crew got to wrestling. A big, rough guy picked up Dad and socked him down hard on his feet. Dad said he never forgot how he saw the stars fly in all directions when he landed. It bruised his leg which developed bone arysiplis (infection).” [Spelled erysipelas]
After the amputation, and due to Christian C. using crutches, he was given a nickname. To distinguish him from other Christian Millers in the community, he went by the name “Lame Crist” until his death in 1931. (Yoder Amish Cemetery Records)
In 1909, Christian C. sold the one-acre plot of land to the Haven Mennonite Church for one dollar. By that time, Christian C., and Polly Plank, had buried four of their children and Christian’s father in the Old Order Amish Cemetery. (Yoder Amish Cemetery Records & Reno County Register of Deeds.)
While riding back to Yoder, I thought of my only other Amish buggy excursion. It was in 1990, 33 years earlier, when Dennis Schrock, 19, gave Alex—my wife—and me a ride on a hot July night.
As Harry and I neared Buddy’s home, I was surprised that the Morgan breed horse picked up speed all on his own. It seemed remarkably fast for a one horsepower “engine” that was twenty years old.
Until next time, happy writing,
The Family Record and History of Mose P. Miller, compiled by Clarence and Edna Miller, Chouteau, OK, in 2006.
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