My Neller-Miller Ancestors

My mother's father, August Miller (April 22, 1850 - July 14, 1929), was born in Germany [Prussia].

I've always maintained that there are two distinct strains of German people. The one strain is the "military type," like Kaiser Wilhelm and Hitler. The other strain is the hardworking farmer type that are fat and drink beer and eat sauerkraut. My ancestor was the military type. Typical Germans hold grudges and will never change their minds no matter how much you can prove they are wrong. [1.1-1]

My grandmother's German parents arranged her marriage because he was older and more mature and a "good catch." She (Emma Miller) married real young. She claimed she was pushed into it and there never was any love connected to the marriage. [1.1-3]

Grandmother Miller lived in Austin, but she had taken trips to California to visit Uncle Edward and to Ohio to visit Uncle Robert and she came by train to see us periodically. We really looked forward to her visits. She was so "grandmotherly" and had so much to tell about the things she had seen on her trips -- and she always brought us something. I could hardly wait for her to open her suitcase. And she was never crabby! After she divorced my grandfather, she made her living by nursing old people in their homes when they were old and feeble. [1.53-4]

I never knew much about my German grandfather except that he boozed some. They moved to Ashby after the kids were raised and then my grandmother kicked him out and sued for divorce. Pa said my grandfather came up to the livery barn and begged Pa to help him get back in. He said, "Bennie, if you can get me in again, I'll sew my mouth shut." But it was too late; he had to live alone ever after.

He and another old guy (John Bowman) went somewhere to run a flour mill, but Ma said she heard they both ran after the same old widow there. They had a falling out and they soon both came back to Ashby. [1.21-5]

When the Roy Peterman family moved to town, they lived in the second house south of the old creamery. It was owned by my grandfather, who lived upstairs. He got quite sick one day, and Roy Peterman told Pa they would have to do something with him. Ma hadn't spoken to him for years, but they went in and took him to Wright's Hospital in Fergus [Falls]. [1.84-4]

His main ailment was asthma, I guess, and when he got well enough, they took him back home again. Before too long he was sick again so they brought him out to the farm and put him in Marj's room. He was real penitent and agreeable, and some of his old friends, both from town and out around the neighborhood where they had lived and run the flour mill, would come to visit him. [1.84-5]

We had always heard Ma's one-sided version of how bad he was and almost considered it a sin to talk to him. When he used to be sitting along the street in Ashby, he would sometimes call me over and give me a dime. I always took it and said, "Thank you," and kept on going. I'm sure he wasn't half as bad as I had been brought up to think. The main trouble, I'm sure, was booze. [1.84-6]

After he had been with us a month or so, his asthma got worse and worse and he gradually turned into a regular raving maniac. He had been a member of the Masonic Lodge and thought he was in jail here. He carried on all night, yelling, "Let me out, oh, my dear brother masons, come and let me out," etc. [1.84-7]

Someone had to watch him night and day for a month before he died. One day he got out of bed and Pa caught him just as he was crawling through the north window, upstairs. Nels Eian, Sr., came out and watched him quite a few nights in the spring so Pa could get a little sleep and some work done. [1.85-1]

Ma had always told everyone that he had disinherited her, but after he died they found out he had changed his will when he found they were going to look after him. He gave her everything he had, that old house and a few hundred dollars altogether. They buried him in our lot in Ashby. [Marjory said he willed everything to Bennie Johnson, not to Amelia.] [1.85-2]

As soon as he died (July 14, 1929), Ma made Marj move right into the room again. That was pretty tough and it would seem to me almost a reason to run away from home. [1.85-3]

My grandmother was here some years later [1938] and got sick and spent about a month in bed in the east bedroom. She thought she had cancer and resigned herself to it. She took a lot of care and Mrs. Henry Thompson, a registered nurse, came and stayed with her quite a bit. She was really calm and considerate and when she died [November 23, 1938] they took her to Austin, Minnesota, and buried her by her daughter Nellie. [1.85-4]

My Johnson Ancestors

My dad's father (Jens Johanson) was born in Norway. The traits of a Norwegian are to fly off the handle and get mad and get it over with. My dad wasn't like that and would do anything to keep peace, but it is a Norwegian trait. [1.1-2]

My Norwegian grandparents got married in Norway when he was 52 and she was 22. He was born in 1817. They got on a sailboat (sailing ship?) as soon as they were married and sailed to America. I never heard much about the Norwegian background except that some of the relatives there lived to be really old, like over 100 years. I sure wish I had asked more questions. I have always wondered if there were some real scandals across the ocean. [1.1-4]

My grandparents on my father's side settled near West Salem, Wisconsin, on a farm that was all sidehill and woods with a little field up on top of the hill and the buildings down near the bottom. They had to haul their hay down on sleds, as the horses couldn't hold a load back on wagons.

The Norwegians homesteaded the hills because it was like Norway and they were homesick. Pa said the Germans settled on all the good valley land and plowed the rich, black soil with big, fat horses and the Norwegians had to eke out a living in the woods and hills with skinny horses, and cut wood and posts for the Germans for almost nothing. [1.1-5]

Pa was the middle one of seven kids, four girls and three boys. His mother told Ma he was worse than any other two she had to raise. His father died when he was 13 and his mother married a bachelor who hated kids. He often threatened to hang himself and Pa's oldest sister would tell him to go ahead and she would help find him a rope. He never did, though, and both he and my grandmother lived into their 80s. [1.1-6]

[Editor's Note: Dad sent me the following information on his grandparents in 1976. He said he got it from his cousin Thelma (Mrs. George A. Surdam), in Oregon.]

Jens Johanson, born January 22, 1817, in Hedermarken, Norway, near Butterud Farm [which still exists], died May 22, 1894, and is buried in West Courlie [Wet Coulee], Wisconsin.

Anna Louise Olson, born August 2, 1847, in Trondhjem, Norway, and also baptized there, died September 22, 1928, in LaCrosse and is buried in West Salem, Wisconsin.

They were married in Gudbransdalen, Norway in 1869.