The G.E. Miller Family from the Museum
I was born on Sunny View Farm and Ranch in the Sacramento Mountains on May 30, 1906 - the eight of ten children, I was five years old, and my Mother was 42 when the twins, Raye and Faye were born. I remember people came from all over the country to see the twins, as twins were rare in those days. They traveled on horseback, in buggies, and wagons. People took time to visit in those days. Often, some of them would spend the night.
I know large families are not so popular these days, but Iím thankful I grew up in a large family. We did not need to go anywhere or have anyone visit us to have a picnic. We worked hard when there was work to be done, and played games together when we had time for that. Friends were always welcome, but we never lacked for entertainment. If we wanted a baseball game, we had our own teams.
My Motherís maiden name was Martha Ann Baker. Her Father, Shepard Baker, was a Primative Baptist Deacon. He died before I was born, but her Mother, Sina (Harris) Baker lived with us for several years. She was blind, and we children helped care for her. Sometimes, she would spend a few months with motherís sister, Sarah, who married Lon Buck. He was a mortician in Alamogordo, NM. One of Motherís brothers, Riley Baker, was the first Sheriff of what is now known as Otero County.
My parents moved from Texas to New Mexico in 1890. They moved to Hay Canyon where my Uncle Riley had a home. They were living there when Joseph and Ada were born. Then they moved to a place near the mouth of the Agua Chiquita Creek for awhile. In the spring of 1898, they filed on a homestead claim in a beautiful valley surrounded by the rolling hills of what is now called "Miller Flats." They named it "Sunny View Farm and Ranch." It is located five miles from Mayhill and eight miles from Weed, NM.
My Father, Green E. Miller, was a traveling photographer and was gone from home much of the time. He took pictures of families, cattle round-ups, lumber operation, and many other interesting events. He always took pictures of the entire school group on the last day of school. He developed his own pictures in a small dark room, built especially for that purpose. Many of the mountain people still have some of the pictures. The negatives were made of glass.
My Mother often rode side-saddle and worked cows as long as she was able to do so. She could ride and rope as well as any cowboy, sitting straight in her saddle. When we first moved to the homestead, we had no milk cows. My Mother asked Mr. John Prather for permission to catch some of his range Herefords and tame them to milk. He hesitated because he feared the calves would not be as good as the ones left on the range. She assured him she would take good care of them. When he sold his calves in the fall, he told Mother she could milk all the cows she cared to. It was no easy task to tame a wild cow gentle enough to milk her. But my Mother thought nothing was impossible. She had two mottoes in life - "Where there is a will, there is a way" and "There will be a way provided." Then she would go to work and do all she could to provide the way, and trust God to do the rest. She had great faith, courage and integrity.
We raised most of the food we ate and fed the stock. We had deep snows all winter and spring rains and that good mountain soil would grow anything, except the vegetables that require a longer growing season. We had a large garden full of good fresh vegetables - corn, beans, pumpkins, squash, and hay in the fields. We also raised sorghum cane and had our own sorghum mill. It was fascinating to watch the horse go round and round, squeezing the juice from the cane into a long metal vat. When the vat was full, a fire was built under it and the juice boiled to the proper consistency for sorghum syrup. Then it was poured into wooden kegs. It was very delicious with hot biscuits and our own butter. We often used it for sweetening in place of sugar.
After harvest, my parents would take a wagon load of produce to Roswell to trade for sugar, salt, coffee beans, and other items we could not raise. We ground our coffee beans fresh every morning on a hand-turned coffee mill. We had white corn ground into corn meal by a water-powered stone grist mill, operated by Mr. J.C. Bell, just above Mayhill on the Penasco River. We carried the corn on horseback. Mr. Bell kept a portion of the meal as payment for grinding it. Mr. Jergins on James Canyon ground our flour as long as he operated the mill there.
We had a good orchard of apples, peaches, pears and plums. We also had currant and gooseberry bushes and rhubarb. If our fruit trees failed, Mother would go to High Rolls, Mountain Park and La Luz to buy fruit. We filled our jars every fall. We also picked Algerita berries for jelly and went up higher near Cloudcroft, in the Sacamento mountains to pick wild raspberries and elderberries for jelly. It was great fun to camp out while we picked berries, although it usually rained while we were there.
Sometimes we would find a hollow tree full of honey made by wild bees. When the snow was on the ground we would saw the tree down and get tubs full of delicious honey. It was too cold for the bees to harm us.
We raised our own meat. The winters stayed cold enough that we could hang a beef in the pine tree in the backyard and it would keep frozen until we ate it all. Seasons have changed a great deal since then. Hog butchering day was great fun for me. Though, I know now it was hard work for the ones who did it. I was thankful I need to baby sit.
Mother sugar-cured all the hams and shoulders and salt-cured the bacon, rendered the fat into lard and made the best sausage I have ever tasted. She also used the heads to make hogs-head cheese. She raised sage for seasoning. She kept the best cracklings from rendering the fat to make good crackling cornbread and used all the other fat scraps to make lye soap in a huge iron pot. We used it for washing clothes on a rub board and for scrubbing the board floors.
Mother also made hominy in that iron was pot. She used yellow corn for that. It seemed to have a better flavor. Every year she raised a great number of chickens and turkeys, and every summer she would take a buggy-load of butter, eggs, fryers, and fresh vegetables to Cloudcroft. She made the trip once a week. The people who had summer cottages in Cloudcroft were happy to get fresh country produce. Mother used the money to buy material for our clothes and other necessities. The always gave a tenth of her earning to the Lordís work. She tithed the produce and gave it to the ministerís family or some other needy family.
We used wood stoves and wood hauling day was fun. We all enjoyed hauling wood. We used juniper in the cook stove and pine and pinon in the heater. Pinon roots, split up, make excellent kindling for starting fires.
We would take time to pick up pinon nuts by the sack full. That was the only kind of nuts we had to eat and use in cooking.
We lived in a large two-story house, with a covered porch running around three sides of it. All the rooms were large in those days. I still prefer them. During the summer, we used the south porch next to the bedrooms for sleeping, and the north side next to the kitchen for dining. The front porch led into the living room.
Although Mother had never had professional training, she was a very good nurse and old-fashioned doctor. People from all around would send for her day or night, when they had sickness in their family. She nursed several people through sieges of typhoid fever, including one of my brothers and two of my sisters. During the flu epidemic of 1918, she nursed several cases, but none of our family had the flu. We did not contract any of the so-called childhood diseases, except my older sister and I had the mumps. I suppose one reason for this was because when an epidemic was going around, she tied a small bag of asafetida around each of our necks. She was a great believer in herbs. I do not know if the asafetida really helped kill germs, or if the odor kept people from getting close enough to expose us.
This ends part 1 of the Miller family story by Lela Miller Teel, basically in her words as found in a manuscript in the Sacramento Mountains Museum.
Here is part 2 of the Miller family story as it is related by Lela Miller Teel. Part 1 appeared in the September issue of the paper.
Every summer Baptists from several states had an assembly meeting in Cloudcroft for a week, or ten days. It was the original Glorieta. Mother would get permission for us to camp in the basement of the school house, where the meetings were held. Usually one or two other families would take camping equipment, and we would all camp together to be able to attend all the meetings. Some of the finest Baptist Preachers of the day would be there, alaso good singers. They held sunrise prayer meeting every morning on the point which looks out over all the country, with White Sands in the background. It was a very inspiring experience. Then we has 10 oíclock services and 2 oíclock services. After the afternoon sessions, a group of us kids would walk over to the train depot and wait for the train to come up from Alamogordo. The conductor would allow us to get on the train and ride up to the Cloudcroft Lodge. Sometimes we would go in to listen to the orchestra practicing their music. Then we walked back to the school house.
I am always amazed when I remember how my Mother kept such good books, newspapers and other reading material with such limited income. She read while she rested. We never had much money, but we always had the things we needed and plenty of love and good home-training.
During the dry seasons we had to haul water in wooden barrels in a wagon from the Agua Chiquita creek, if it was running. If not, we hauled it from the Penasco River. Yet Mother always had a beautiful yard of flowers, shrubs and vines. Honeysuckle and Clematis vines enclosed the south porch. When I smell honeysuckle or carnations, it makes me homesick. I have a beautiful garden of memories.
We had no ice box of course, we had instead a milk house built in the shade of a pinion tree in the yard with a roof and wire enclosed sides. Mother kept her milk, cream and butter in a home-made cooler in the milk house. It seemed to be my job to turn that two gallon churn until it turned into butter and very delicious butter milk. It was always cool in the shade in those days of cold, snowy winters. The summers were never disagreeably warm. We had a root cellar for storing our apples, pumpkins, winter squashes, turnips, carrots, parsnips and canned foods.
Mr. J.C. Bell owned the store and Post Office in Mayhill. Mother traded him produce for school supplies and material for our clothes. She could look at the picture of a garment and cut it out without any type of a pattern, and it always fit perfectly and looked like the picture. She always sang as she worked - such songs as "Blessed Assurance," "Higher Ground," "How Firm A Foundation," "Amazing Grace," "I Must Tell Jesus," and "Jesus Is Mine." I have found that singing those old gospel songs helps dispel my discouragement and build up my faith. My Mother pieced and quilted all our quilts. Sometimes she quilted quilts for Mrs. Angie Cleve in exchange for fruit. She also dried apples for Mr. Cleve for some of the dried apples.
Mother took all of us to Bible Study and Church every Sunday at Mayhill or Weed. When traveling ministers of any denomination came through the country, they spent the nights and ate meals at our house. That was another good influence on our lives.
We never attended dances, never wanted to. But, we enjoyed play parties, singings, picnics, or just riding over the hills. On bad days we would pop corn, make fudge, get a pan of apples and sit around the fire and play games. Though she never allowed a pack of cards in the house, we had dominos, finch, checkers, and rook. I have never played any game with playing cards, although I still love to play other games.
Sometimes neighbors would come in and join us in singing around the organ or playing games. We had fun whether we were working or playing. Of course, we did have quarrels, but really did not have much time for quarreling. Also, Mother really believed in discipline and didnít spare the rod.
We young people always rode horse-back wherever we went. We usually went in groups all over the hills - to parties, singing conventions, picnics, or to Church on Sunday. We enjoyed many good parties and singing conventions in the old school house at the mouth of Cox Canyon. I remember riding to Cloudcroft and back on two different occasions. It seems like a long distance (20 miles) to ride horse-back now. But when a group of kids are riding together, distance did not bother us. You can see more of Godís wonderful creation on horse-back than you can see whizzing along in a car.
When the McCorkles Family lived in the Goss Place on Cox Canyon, we spent many happy hours at their house. They had a large strawberry patch. When the berries were ripe, we would gather a bucket full of them and Mrs. McCorkle would whip a big bowl of cream to go with them. She was always jolly and ready for fun. She was a school teacher and a very wonderful Christian. The Bass boys and Ruben and Gladys Wood lived further up Cox Canyon, and were usually at the parties. Mother always went with us to the parties, riding side-saddle. Riding home at two oíclock in the morning was a very sleepy time, but it was not a good time to doze. No matter how late we got home, we had to be up early next morning to do chores and get to work. We rarely had parties on school nights.
Everyone looked forward to the Fourth of July. There was always a three day celebration at Mayhill or McDonald Flat. I guess they are called rodeos now, but we called them picnics. Some people would take camping equipment, but we lived near enough to ride back and forth. I remember the first ice cream cone I ever tasted. WOW! It was something! The concession stand man made lemonade in huge wooden barrels. I have never tasted lemonade as good as that was, with plenty of sugar. Many times we had rain every day, but it didnít dampen the spirit of fun and celebration for the independence of our great nation. They had roping, riding, and horse races.
Every year at Thanksgiving time, Mother and my older sisters would prepare a great feast and invite everyone to our home for Thanksgiving dinner. People came every direction. No one ever thought of taking a covered dish, or anything to eat. That was not the custom. My oldest sister, Maudie, could bake the best pies and cakes Iíve ever tasted. She made bean pies, and potato pies that were delicious, besides all other kinds. She was the second mother to us children. She blessed all of our lives as long as she lived.
I remember on Thanksgiving when Mr. And Mrs. Ed Gage brought their first Model T Ford - most of us had never seen one before. After the meal, we all gathered outside where there was about a mile of smooth open road. They would get as many as they could in the car and drive to the gate and back, unload them and take another load.
"Uncle George" Barkleyís birthday was Christmas Day, so every year his wife and daughters prepared a Christmas feast - and everyone was invited to help celebrate his birthday. People did not eat buffet-style in those days, instead, the older folk sat around the table and ate. Then they would wash the plates and silverware, and another group would eat. The children always waited till last. Times have greatly changed. I like buffet-style better. No one has to wait and we get through a meal faster. The Barkleys had a fine, large family who helped make Mayhill such a good place to live.
My first year of school was in the old school house at Mayhill, which had been built on an Indian burial ground. Mrs. McKowen was the teacher and taught us all the first eight grades. I think I attended Two years in the old building. Then in 1914, we had a new two-room building for our school - which is still standing. Mr. Collier was the principal, and Miss. Ollie Thompson taught the lower grades.
We rode five miles to school. We had to get up very early to milk the cows, feed the horses and pigs and water all of them, then eat breakfast, fix our lunches, get ready, saddle our horses and ride five miles. The last mile was a high mountain, and the road going down the north side was rocky and rough. During winter the sun never reached it, so it would be covered with snow and ice all the way.
We were never tardy, but often were so cold when we reached the place where we kept our horses, we could hardly get down and walk to the school building. Our teachers were kind enough to allow us to sit by the wood stove until we were thawed out. When the teacher rang the school bell at nine and after recess time, all pupils would form two lines and march into the rooms to the sound of music. We would stand by our seats and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing several songs. Then we were seated and the teacher called the roll. Several days a week we were expected to answer roll call with a current event, short poem, or motto. The teacher called each class to the front of the room to hear their lessons, while the other pupils studied.
Every Friday after 2:30 recess time, we had spelling matches, ciphering matches, or some kind of program. We had our hour recess at noon and thirty minutes at 10:30 and 2:30. We did not need organized entertainment, but always would think of plenty of good games to play together. We had baseball, basketball, marbles, pop the whip, crop the hand-kerchief, go sheep go, three deep, and flying Dutchman. We did not have much conflict, either. We were too busy having fun. I pity anyone who has not had the privilege of attending a country school. Not only did we gain knowledge, but learned to live a happy, full life.
I believe the singing conventions are the happiest times in my garden of memories. People came from Mayhill, Lower Penasco, Flying H Ranch, Weed, Cloudcroft, High Rolls, and Cox Canyon and would get a singing group together and practice special songs. Then we would all meet at one of the places for an all-day singing and dinner on the ground. Each group would sing their special song in the morning. Then we would have congregational singing after lunch. Most people would go on Saturday night and sing awhile, then spend the night with some friends who lived there. I remember when Mrs. Austin Reeves made room for forty people, including her own fine family. She took lunch in two large wash tubs the next day. A committee would decide on the next meeting place. We had happy times with good singing, fellowship, and good old home-cooked food.
I remember the year I graduated from eighth grade. It was as important an occasion then as high school graduation exercises are now. The Board of Education sent sealed tests to each teacher of the eighth grade in New Mexico. On examination day the rest of the school would not attend. When we were ready to begin writing answers to the questions, the teacher opened the test papers and passed them out to each student. We had a time limit to each test.
When we became tired, the teacher said we could rest a few minutes before the next test. He gave Jimmy Mayhill some money to go to the store and buy candy for us to eat while we relaxed. Mr. Bradley was a very fine teacher.
Every year, the entire school and teachers would take their lunches and have an all-day picnic. We usually went up Graveyard Canyon, as it had a beautiful spring of water.
One cold winter day when the snow was very deep, none of our family attended school, except my older sister and I. In some places our stirrups reached the top of the snow. There were hardly enough students present to have lessons, so we spent most of the day playing in the snow. The teachers were right in the fun with us.
During the winter, our large dirt stock tank would freeze over several inches thick. We had to take an ax to chop holes in the ice so the stock could drink. We also used it as a skating rink. One night when I was in high school, a large group of young people walked to our house from Mayhill for a skating party. Elizabeth Posey was one of the teachers who came. She owned a pair of ice skates, but no one could use them except her. I couldnít even stand up with them on, with two boys trying to hold me up. But we all just skated without skates until we were tired. Then we went to the house for hot chocolate and sandwiches. Iíll never know how those kids managed to walk back to Mayhill in time for school. It was already time for us to get our chores done and get ready for school. Iím afraid we didnít learn much that day, we were so tired we barely made it through the day.
Most of my age group married, went to work, or moved away by my senior year. At the time I didnít realize that we were the first graduating class from Mayhill. There were only four of us - Naomi Evans, Nora Kreamer, Jimmy Mayhill, and myself. On Senior Class Day our Senior Sponsor, Mrs. Hunt, prepared a delicious lunch. Jimmy Mayhill borrowed his fatherís new car and took all of us to the head of the Penasco River for an all day picnic.
I went to college and taught for awhile until in 1927 I married Houston Teel of Hope, New Mexico.
We were privileged to work for Mr. Ed Havens from 1965 to 1968, and lived on his ranch in Cox Canyon, in the Charles Bass place. OH! How happy was to be back home, among old friends, and to be free to roam the trails all over the mountain. One year we had 92 inches of snow fall through the winter. I never get tired of snow. I love to watch the beautiful flakes drift slowly down. We were completely snowed in for ten days one time. The snow was even with the tops of the fences. We didnít want to go anywhere anyway. When the snow cleared enough our children came to visit and we had fun riding a toboggan down the steep slopes.
I spent many happy hours walking up the mountain, just listening to the silence, or the gentle sigh of the breeze in the pines and the birds singing. I stored up many beautiful memories.
This is the end of Part 2 and the end of the story as it was found in the Sacramento Mountains Museum Archives.