Transcribed by Michael A. O’Neill in January 2016
Transcribers note: This transcription of Emma’s book was created using Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software, which will result in capitalization errors; misspellings of proper names; and odd usage of prepositions or common words. Originals can be found at the location(s) listed on Worldcat, as well as in the Seattle Genealogical Society‘s library.
In the previous chapter mention was made of the difficulties that Rev. Green had while serving the Ebenezer Church in Portland. A similar period of church strife began in 1900 along with the arrival of my father, Rev. J.C. Schwabenland.
Father was born 11 November, 1871 in the village of Straub on the eastern shore of the Volga. From childhood on he was a bookish introspective boy who was much influenced by the religious revivals that were taking place in the Russian colonies. He came to Fresno, California when he was 20 years old and worked for year of the Southern Pacific Railroad in order to pay back the money of the borrowed for his passage to the United States. At this time of Rev. Jacob Legler was pastor of the Fresno Cross Church, and it was at his house the father first heard of a Congregational Church Seminary at Crete, Nebraska. He immediately decided to carry out his lifelong ambition of becoming a minister. He finished his Academy course at Wilton, I went 1895, and was graduated from the Chicago Theological Seminary in May 1898. The expenses for his education were met partly from scholarships and partly from summer jobs either as a farmhand or the German teacher. His family had come to Fresno in the fall of 1893, but they were unable to give him any financial aid, and if it not been for his tenacity of purpose, he might’ve decided that the difficulties of acquiring an education were insurmountable. As it was, only to Volga German boys, Adam Trout from Norka and John block from Blumenthal, had preceded him in the ministry of the Congregational church, although several other men, such as Rev. John Koch and Rev. Jacob Legler, had been ordained on the basis of the Russian education.
Throughout his entire life father remained under the influence of such 19th-century evangelists as Ruben a Tory and Dwight L Moody, both of whom believed in the necessity of personal conversion and the confession of sin as a prerequisite of a Christian life. Between the years 1898 in 1900 he carried out his religious ideas by conducting revival meetings in North Dakota among German-speaking immigrants from southern Russia. He was ordained a Congregational minister in Glen Allen, North Dakota, and helped with the erection of German Congregational churches in the town of antelope, bluegrass, and Leipsic. He had hoped to do equally successful work in Portland, but when he arrived in the fall of 1900, some of the brethren felt that the church services should be conducted by them alone without the assistance of a pastor, and throughout the entire eight months that he remained, there was always a great deal of criticism of the new pastor.
Although a new parsonage had already been built, father spent his first few weeks at the home of the Millers. But he soon decided to leave for California and bring to the sisters, Mary and Christina, back to Portland to keep house for him. During the two weeks that he was gone, Mr. Peter Yost and a group of his friends left the Congregational church and started an independent brethren Church of their own; so that when father and his sisters arrived, the original membership of the denomination had greatly decreased.
However, his troubles were still not over. Peter Yost’s brother continue to be very critical of everything the father did. Even an attempt to introduce individual collection envelopes in the Sunday school was denounced as a dangerous practice, since it was claimed that the children would be encouraged to steal. Matters finally reach such a pass that the church was locked one Sunday morning and the brethren refused to allow father to conduct his services. In investigating committee of neighboring pastors branded the charges against him is absurd, but he was so hurt and bewildered over what had happened, that he immediately resigned and returned to California with his sisters.
During the months that my Aunt Mary and on Christina lived in Portland they became very well acquainted with the Miller twins and their best friend, Katy Yost. The five girls have their picture taken together shortly after Christmas, when the twins were 18 years old. Father took this picture with him when he left California for his new parish in Odessa, Washington, and during the following year he often found himself looking at the photograph. In spite of the remarkable resemblance between the two Miller girls, he felt the side decided preference for mother. And when some of his church members suggested that a minister really needed a wife, he was in complete agreement with the idea.
On the first Sunday of maniac 1902 there was a German Congregational Church conference in Portland, Oregon. Father used the occasion to mention to the local pastor, Rev. John Pfaff, that he felt he should get married. To his great joy the posture immediately replied, “Brother Miller has two daughters.” Rev. Pfaff then went on to point out that Aunt Katy would make it particularly suitable spouse, as she was able to play the organ! However, father soon made it clear that it was Dora in whom he was interested; and without more ado he set out to present himself to the very startled recipient of his affection.
In the resulting conversation mother agreed that father could write to her, but she refused to give him a definitive answer until she had time to consider his proposal. After father returned to Odessa, is long, almost daily letters eventually had the desired effect, and one year later, on 27 May, 1903 the wedding took place in the Stanton Street home. The ceremony was performed by Rev. John Koch at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, a supper served at 530. And Katy Repp and Katy Yost were the two bridesmaids and a Mr. Gassman from Odessa acted as best man. Mother’s dress of white crêpe de chine and appliquéd lace was the first one she had ever worn which differed from that of her twin sister.
That night my parents left on a honeymoon trip to Fresno, so that the bride could meet her new relatives. On the way back to Portland mother happened to ask father a few timid questions about his financial situation. To her dismay she found that he had put aside no money at all with which to start housekeeping in Odessa. She had always been taught that only shiftless people bought things on credit, immediately decided to borrow $100 from her father in order to pay for their furniture. In this way the first of the many financial decisions which he was to make for the rest of her life had its start.
In the meantime, the social life of the remaining Miller children continued to revolve around their church. In 1904 Aunt Katy was elected treasurer of the Christian Endeavor Society which met on Sunday evenings. As she got ready to leave the meeting, one of the members, George Rapp, suggested that he walk home with her because he wouldn’t want her to get robbed on the way! The Miller home was just one block from the church, and if Katy really didn’t need an escort, but she agreed that it might be a good idea. It was with this kind of a joking beginning that Aunt Katy at our future Uncle George Repp began to go together.
George Rapp’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Rapp, had left Norka for Sutton, Nebraska in May 1886 when George was three months old. Their oldest daughter Pauline was born in Sutton on 4 July, 1889. In the spring of 1890 the family moved to Portland, and it was here that two other children, Adam and Lena were born. After their arrival in Portland, Mr. and Mrs. Rapp, in company with about 15 other families, least some land from Montgomery estate and built their first homes that the Russell Street directly along the waterfront. Here they continue to live until the spring of 1894, when the Willamette River overflowed and carried many of their homes down the river. The entire group of older Germans then moved to the district around Union Avenue were the earliest settlers would come in the 1880s had already made their homes.
In later years, Uncle George would often tell jokingly about the experience that his father had had as a G-Man, without bothering to explain that the “G” stood for “garbage” and not “government.” Or he would brag about the delivery service that he ran in the 1890s. In this case the “delivery service vehicle” was a toy wagon on which he would bring washing home to his mother and carried a clean clothes back to her customers. Unless one new Uncle George very well, it was easy to believe these stories which he told with such a serious face.
One of the most remarkable things about many of the early Volga German families was the speed with which they rose from their humble beginnings. This was especially true of the Conrad Repp family. On 1 February, 1899 (just nine years after his arrival in Portland), Mr. Repp had saved enough money to buy a store building with grocery stock on Union Avenue. Uncle George was 13 years old at the time, and left school in order to work in the store, for the next six years he went tonight in order to study high school subjects. After Mr. Repp added to meet department, Uncle George learn to cut me, and ran this section of the store for his father.
On Katy and Uncle George were married on 3 June, 1905 by Rev. John hopped in the Albert home. The bridesmaids were Pauline Repp and Millie Popp, and the best man was Jack Ness. After his marriage, Uncle George continued to work at his father’s store until July 1908 when Mr. Repp sold his business and property and bought a 300-acre farm in calamity, Washington. Uncle George and Aunt Katy moved with the family to calamity, but on 1 February, 1910 decided to come back to Portland. They lived in a three-room house on grand Avenue next to a large two-story home which Mr. rapid built in 1905. By this time Uncle George’s sister Pauline had married Mr. John Singer, and the two brothers-in-law not the grocery store that Mr. rapid owned earlier.
The two families did very well, but in 1915 Uncle George decided to go into business for himself. He sold out to Johnson her, and after taking a leisurely trip to California by car, bought a meat market that is Uncle Louie had formerly run. Two years later he bought a new home on Beech Street and built his own meat market at the corner of Union Avenue and Beach. During the first world war wages were high, and many people, such as the shipyard workers, were earning more money than they had ever done before. Uncle George acquired the reputation of having the best mean the neighborhood and he built up an extremely good trade. Aunt Katy assisted them in the shop, and, by living frugally and investing the money wisely, he soon became quite wealthy by Volga German standards. During the war years of federal income tax was passed. Uncle George happened to be wearing his working clothes when he went to a Custom House to paste tax. He noticed that people were being divided into two groups according to the size of their income, and he took his place in the high-ranking group. An income tax employee came to him and said, “excuse me, sir, but I think you belong in the other line.” It was a source of some satisfaction to Uncle George to assure the young man that he was standing exactly the right place.
The next marriage in mother’s family was that of Uncle George and Aunt Katy Miller. And Katy’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ludwig Sauer, had also been born in Norka. The left rush in the year 1886 bringing with them their oldest daughter named Lizzie. The First American home was in Topeka, Kansas, and it was here that Aunt Katy was born on 3 July, 1888. After spending four years in Kansas, Mr. and Mrs. Sauer also decided to journey westward to Portland. The youngest daughter of the family, Lydia, was born after their arrival.
The Sauers attended the same church as the Millers, and consequently Uncle George Aunt Katy had known each other since childhood. They became engaged in the fall of 1909, and were married on 15 June, 1910 by Rev. John Hall. Up to this time all of the Miller children had been married at home, and this was the first wedding in which the ceremony was performed in a church. According to the picture that was taken after the ceremony, Uncle George and Aunt Katy must’ve been an unusually handsome bridal couple.
At the time of Uncle George’s marriage, Grandfather Miller was the owner four houses on seventh Avenue between Morrison Stamm streets. In 1905 p.m. grandmother had moved into their new home facing the Ebenezer church, and in 1908 two intervening houses have been built as an investment for their old age. Uncle George and Aunt Katy Miller rented one of these newly built houses and lifted it from 1910 to 1927. It was here that all three of their children were born.
Uncle George graduated from the eighth grade in the year 1902. His first two jobs were with a wholesale drug company and a Wholesale Coffee and T Company. But in 1908, following the example of his brother Adam, he became a sheet metal worker. From 1913 to 1916 he and Uncle Adam owned a metal shop of their own which was known as Miller brothers. The profits from this venture were so small that in 1916 Uncle George decided to take a four month’s business course in bookkeeping. He then went to work for Uncle Johnny who had started his own firm The Coast Fir Lumber Company. Uncle George worked as a bookkeeper for about a year and then went out on the road is a lumbar buyer. His success was so outstanding that Uncle Johnny praised him as being the best lumbar buyer in Oregon. In nine years that Uncle George spent on the road would approve of invaluable service, because if they gave him the basic experience which he needed when he went into business for himself.
In the year 1909 the picture of the preceding page was taken. Uncle Adam was then 29 years old; the two girls, 27; Uncle George, 21; and Uncle Johnny 18. It is easy to see from the close and bearing of the members of the family the tremendous changes taken place in their economic and social position. Aunt Katy Repp is wearing a black the feta blouse with a white-collar decorated with her own drawn work. Grandmother’s hair is in a soft wave over her for head, and mother has on an attractive silk dress. This picture hung on the walls of our house all through my childhood, and I was always very proud to tell visitors that the people in a belong to my mother’s family.
By this time the interior of the Miller home was also quite different in appearance. The furniture was well-made and typical of the era. Serving utensils for the table were of plated silver, and there were cut glass bowls, and dairy dishes and a water pitcher. On the organ in the living room or two red flower vase is a Bohemian glass which Uncle Johnny had brought back from the world’s fair in Seattle in 1908. The bosses had the word “foster” and “motor” on them and were much admired by everyone. It might be mentioned in passing that all of the Volga Germans who settled in Portland became Americanized much more rapidly than did the members of the group who acquired farms in Colorado, California, etc. Since the Portland people were thrown into immediate contact with their American neighbors, they learned to speak English very rapidly and they soon gave up many of the European customs that were continued in other parts of the United States. Mother happened to be living in Portland in 1909 because father had accepted a position as Gen. Missionary of the Pacific Coast States. He was paid $1000 a year, which is quite a comfortable income at that time. For the first few months we lived in one or grandfather Miller’s houses, but in 1910 mother and father purchase their own homes at the corner of seventh Avenue in Skidmore. By this time there were three children in the family: George Raymond (called Ray) who was born in Odessa, Washington on 26 September, 1904; Emma Dorothea, born in Beaverton Oregon on 16 February, 1907; and Walter William born in Wharton, Washington on 14 March, 1909. The fourth child, Ruth Miriam was born in Portland on 6 January, 1912. Ray was the most precocious of us for children and learn to read much faster than the rest of us did. Mother was inordinately proud of him, and once when Uncle George Repp jokingly remarked that Ray would make a good butcher she answered in an extremely huffy voice the Ray was going to be a minister just like his father years later, Uncle George was much amused when Ray did become a butcher.
Mother was always a wonderful storyteller, and when we were children we used to love to listen to her accounts of our various parts—of how Grandmother Miller arrived in Beaverton without knowing that I was Artie born, and Ray ran down the street shouting at the top of his lungs, “D i.e. Emma Dorothea is to common! The Emma Dorothea East Coleman!” And how grandmother folded her hands and responded, “got cited Loeb on to dunk!” And how there was a silver thaw in Portland on the night Ruth was born and Aunt Katy Repp had to grope her way down the dark icy streets bringing to kerosene lamps, because all the lights were out in our part of town. And then there was the night in Wharton when Walter was born in the doctor had given up all hope for mother’s life because she had contracted blood poisoning. The father spent the whole night on his knees praying, and on the following morning mother was still alive.
Before telling the story of the next minute marriage in the Miller family, it is necessary to turn again to the history of the Ebenezer church. After father left in 1901, the members were very fortunate in having the services of Rev. Jacob Pfaff, one of the most outstanding ministers in the German Congregational field. Rev. Pfaff was born in Germany became the United States in 1846 as a child. He was converted while serving as a Union soldier in Civil War and decided to become a minister. Most of his pastoral work was done in Iowa, but the 2 ½ years they spend Portland left a lasting impression on many members of his congregation. His son Edward became a professor, first at Wilton College in 1902, and that Redfield, South Dakota 1905. It may have been due to the influence the Pfaff family that Aunt Emma’s oldest son, Fred Schnell, decided to attend Redfield college shortly after Prof. Pfaff arrived there.
After the departure of Rev. Pfaff, the next minister was Rev. John Hopp, whose name was to be associated with Portland church history for the rest of his life. Rev. Hopp was born in the colony of Frank in the year 1871. While he was still living in Russia he married Charlotte Miller. Their oldest child, who later became our Aunt Anna, was born there in 1892. One year later the family came to the United States and settled in Lincoln Nebraska. It was while he was living in Lincoln that Rev. Hopp decided to enter the ministry of the Congregational church. He studied at the Chicago theological seminary from 1898 to 1903. There were four small children his family at this time, and it is easy to imagine the sacrifices and hardships that he and his wife faced during these years. His first church was at Park Ridge, Illinois, which he served from 1902 to 19 a three while he was still in school. In 1903 he brought his family to Portland after accepting a “call” from the Ebenezer church. Rev. Hopp established a record for himself by remaining in the Ebenezer church for 11 years. But in 1914 the quarrel broke out over the retention of the pastor. Under the leadership of Rev. Hopp, a large part of the membership then organized the Zion church which still stands the corner of ninth and Fremont St., Reverend Hopp was a handsome man who met people easily and had a suavity of manner that helps to explain why he was able to keep the loyalty of his parishioners until his retirement in 19 of 36 because of his long residence in Portland, he was of great help to the members of the church who wish to take out citizenship papers or needed legal advice.
The marriage of Uncle Johnny and Aunt Anna took place in the Ebenezer church on 19 May, 1912. I was five years old at the time and can remember the event very clearly. To my everlasting glory I was asked to be the Flower Girl, and in a white embroidered dress I led the procession down the aisle. The only thing puzzling me was that after the ceremony was over, I was forced to walk out last of all. This seemed to me extremely unfair. After the marriage, Uncle Johnny and Aunt Anna moved into the Miller home at the corner of Morrison seventh in which Uncle Johnny had been born. They stay here until 1919.
At the time of his marriage, Uncle Johnny was already working in the lumber business. You take a business course after graduating from grammar school; and in 1907, when he was only 16 years old he went to work as a stenographer for the wholesale lumber firm of dance and Russell, which later became the largest lumber company Portland ever produced. With the hope of getting ahead faster, Uncle Johnny left this company in 1912 and began to work as a salesman and right-hand man for Mr. CC Crowe. Three years later Mr. Crow failed in business, and then Uncle Johnny organized the Coast For Lumber Company, inheriting whatever goodwill the Crow firm had. He took in as a partner Mr. Charles Putnam, a single manufacturer, and on the up advice of Mr. Putnam bought a single mill at Scam Mocha Way, Washington on the Columbia River. The lumber market was in a decline at the time, and by the time a raft of logs had been sawed into shingles, the price of shingles would drop and would have to be sold at a loss instead of a profit. This went on for a year or more until all the resources were exhausted and they went bankrupt. Uncle Johnny then started over again and went into the wholesale lumber business for himself under the name of Coast For and Cedar Products Company.
After the marriages of Uncle George and Uncle Johnny Miller, new grandchildren began to arrive the following order:
- Francis Miller, 14 February, 1912 (Uncle George)
- Evangeline Miller, 13 October, 1913 (Uncle Johnny)
- Earl Schwabenland, 22 June, 1914 (born in Denver, Colorado)
- Robert Miller, 15 July, 1915 (Uncle George)
- Walter Miller, 4 November, 1915 (Uncle Johnny)
- Thomas Miller, 22 August, 1917 (Uncle Johnny)
- James Miller, 10 March, 1920 (Uncle George Klump)
- Ann Schwabenland, 9 June, 1922 (born in Portland Oregon)
- George Miller, 8 June, 1925 (Uncle Johnny)
One of the most amusing stories about this last group of babies is that when grandfather heard that Aunt Emma Uncle Johnny were going to name their daughter Evangeline he answered with a patient sigh that he would simply have to call the child “Wäschlein” because that was as close as his German tongue could pronounce her name.
The story of the night James was born is something of a saga in the George Miller family. Uncle George was in Corvallis that day on a lumber-buying trip and telephone home at 9 o’clock to find out how his wife was getting along. His sister-in-law Lizzie answer the phone and set a new baby boy had arrived just a few hours before. In great excitement Uncle George God in his model T Ford and headed north for Portland.
The old model T’s produced electricity from magneto’s (not batteries) and wires were connected directly to headlights. The faster one raced the engine the brighter the light burned. Uncle George was driving as fast as possible and the extra electricity caused his lights to go out just as he reached the town of Hubbard. By this time all garages and stores were locked up for the night and there was nothing to do but keep going. In the darkness he could dimly see the telephone posts on either side of the road and he used these as guides. A few miles out of Hubbard he heard somebody call, “whoa! Mark Wo!” Just in time to keep him from running into a man on horseback. After an angry exchange of expletives, Uncle George lit out again. About half a mile further on, he ran off the road and almost tipped into a ditch filled with water. A good Samaritan driving a big truck came along, and after sizing up the situation, drag the car up the road and, getting out his tool chest, shifted the wires leading to the headlights so that one of the lights started to burn. He then helped crank the Ford while Uncle George set up the spark. Evidently the spark was advanced too far because the engine started racing in the extra electricity burned out the second bulb. Uncle George offered the truck driver two dollars for his trouble, but under the circumstances the money was refused.
Since he was still determined to reach Portland that night, Uncle George set out again in the darkness. He was just rounding a curve about 2 miles from Oregon city when he again felt the car slipping. He stopped immediately, and getting out, saw that the Ford was balanced on the edge of a cliff with the Southern Pacific railroad tracks about 12 feet below. By this time Uncle George was trembling and he knew that he had done enough driving that night. He stood at the roadside wondering what to do next when providentially a private bus came along, carrying a group of basketball players who had been down to Salem playing the Chihuahua Indian school team. The players took him as far as East Portland and he hiked home from there because no streetcars were running at that hour of the night. He reached his house at 3 AM, and was extremely happy to see his wife and newborn son, in spite of all the trouble he had had in getting to them.
It is necessary now to go back a few years in time because there are still two marriages that have not been mentioned. In 1910 Aunt Emma and her first husband, Peter Snell, were divorced. Two years later she married Otto Schneider, a salesman in the appliance store of blue and right. Uncle Otto had no close relatives in Portland and he enjoyed being considered a member of the Miller family. He and Aunt Emma bought an attractive home on Knott Street in which they live together until Uncle Otto died in 1937. During the last years of her life, Fred and Olga Snell lived in this house and took care of Aunt Emma until her death in 1948.
The other marriage was that of Uncle Adam. In the summer of 1915 he seems to have become a confirmed bachelor. He was 35 years old and was still living at home with his father and mother. The situation was now destined to change. A second cousin of his by the name of Margaret Rice back left her home town of York, Nebraska in order to visit the San Francisco world’s fair. She was accompanied by three girlfriends, and on the way back to Nebraska stopped at Portland in order to visit her mother’s sister, Mrs. John George. Uncle Adam met Aunt Margaret at this time and took her out on sightseeing trips of the city. He became very interested in this distant cousin, and after she returned to Nebraska, began to write to her.
Our future Aunt Margaret was the granddaughter of the Vetter Hanarm who had accompanied Grandfather Miller to Sutton and had died shortly after his arrival. His oldest daughter Dorothea had married a man named John Reisbeck and came to the United States with her husband and two children, Conrad and Elisabeth. Their third child Catherine was born in Sutton. Then the family moved to York, Nebraska where Aunt Margaret was born November 25, 1891. The four youngest children, John Jr., George, Dorothy and Helen were also born here.
In spite of the fact that Uncle Adam was eleven years older than Aunt Margaret, she also fell in love, and before long plans were made for a wedding. Uncle Adam came to York one week in advance, and on June 21, 1916 the marriage took place in the Reisbeck home. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Schmaltz, who was at that time pastor of the German Reformed Church in York. After their marriage the young couple came to Portland where a small reception was held for them at the Miller home, and then they set up housekeeping in Seattle.
From 1905-1916 Uncle Adam had been connected with the sheet metal business. At first he worked for a tinsmith named Abbot, and then he and Uncle George Miller owned their own shop. After it closed, he worked briefly in a sawmill in Westport, Oregon. It was at this point that he and Aunt Margaret met. After their marriage he had a job in Seattle as a school custodian from July 1916-February 1917. Then he moved to Galton, Oregon in order to work in a sawmill that Uncle Johnny briefly owned there. This position came to an end in the latter part of 1918, and as Grandmother Mill became ill shortly afterward, Uncle Adam and Aunt Margaret moved into grandfather’s house for the winter months. In March 1919 they returned to Seattle where Uncle Adam again became a school custodian.
Four years later Uncle Adam’s roving period came to an end. In March 1932 he and Aunt Margaret moved to Everett, Washington, bought their own home, and Uncle Adam began to work for the Puget Sound Power and Light Company. He was to keep this position for twenty-three years, until his retirement in June 1946.
Aunt Emma’s son Louie was the only one of our Miller relatives who served in the United States Army during the First World War. He returned home uninjured; but Grandmother Miller was to become an indirect victim of the war. She fell ill in December 1918 of the Spanish Influenza which took such a terrible toll of lives. Bronchial troubles seemed to have run in her family, and in grandmother’s case the influenza soon turned to pneumonia. As soon as mother heard the news, she came from Lodi, California where we were then living, bringing five-year-old Earl with her. When it looked as though the crisis was over, mother returned to her own family, but she had hardly reached her home when a telegram arrived laying that grandmother had died about 5 p.m. on January 28th.
After the funeral was over, Aunt Katy Repp wrote mother a long letter which my sister Ruth and I found last year in a box containing some of mother’s things. In 1919 it was still customary for the body of a deceased person to be brought back to the home, and Aunt Katy described how grandmother’s coffin was placed in the living room of the Stanton Street house. She wrote, “I wish that you could have seen her, Dora. She looked beautiful.” That evening friends and relatives gathered at the house to pay their last respects, and a late supper was served around midnight. The Repps didn’t get home until 2 a.m., but at six o’clock Aunt Katy was already up and went back to grandfather’s house. Shortly afterward some little neighbor girls rang the doorbell and asked if they could see Mrs. Miller. As the morning went on, other relatives arrived, and then the pallbearers came and carried the coffin across the street to the Ebenezer Church. The letter went on to described the service, the beautiful flowers and the trip to the cemetery. Aunt Katy had enclosed several roses from one of grandmother’s floral wreathes, and my sister and I were very touched by the fact that after thirty-nine years the roses were still fragrant.
Before she died grandmother had been very concerned about grandfather’s future care, and she once told Aunt Katy that she wanted her children to always show him proper respect. Her German words were, “Tut ihm alle Ehr.” It would have given her great satisfaction to see how this wish was carried out. In the warm-hearted fashion that was so typical of Aunt Anna and Uncle Johnny, they moved into Grandfather Miller’s home, and in 1922 when they bought their own house on Brazee Street, grandfather went along with them. During the three years that he lived with Uncle Johnny he never once felt that he was unwanted or that his presence was a burden. Aunt Anna is a rather talkative person, and she constantly consulted “Voter” on the daily activities of the home. Since he had always done a great deal of carpentry work, he was able to take care of minor repair jobs around the house, and in this way felt that he was a necessary part of the family.
The early 1920s were years of great prosperity for most people, and during the summer months many of our Portland relatives went to the Oregon or Washington beaches. Uncle Johnny owned a beach house in Seaview, Washington, and the George Repps had a house in Delake, Oregon. Uncle George Miller and his family preferred visiting more than one beach, and they would rent a house for the summer in many different towns along the coast. The women of the families would leave Portland for as much as a month at a time taking the children with them, and the husbands would come for the week-ends. My Portland cousins must remember these summer vacations as one of the high spots of their childhood. Even Grandfather Miller was taken along to the coast. One of the best pictures ever taken of him was a snapshot showing him sitting on a log near the water’s edge with his grandson Tommy.
On Feb. 5, 1921 grandfather was eighty years old, and in celebration of his birthday, Aunt Anna and Uncle Johnny invited all the members of the family to their house for dinner. We Schwabenlands were living in Portland at the time, and I am sure that most of my brothers and sisters, as well as my cousins, can remember this day. Extra silverware and contributions of food were brought by all the women, but it was Aunt Anna who planned the menu, arranged the flowers, and was responsible for the beautiful way in which everything was served. In the afternoon, pictures were taken of the entire group, and then of smaller specialized groups, such as the original Miller children, the people whom they had married, the older grandchildren, and the younger grandchildren. It was a very happy day for everyone, and there were many jokes about “in-laws” and “out-laws” and which of the two groups was more handsome. The snapshots that were taken that afternoon must still exist in the albums of many members of the family.
During the summer after grandfather’s 80th birthday, American newspapers and magazines began to carry stories about a famine in Soviet Russia, which was particularly severe along the Volga River. The idea of forming a relief organization to help the German people in this area was first suggested by Uncle George and Aunt Katy Repp. The discussed it with Uncle Johnny who sent a night letter to Herbert Hoover’s American Relief Administration asking if a representative of the Volga Germans in Portland could be sent to Russia to distribute food under the auspices of the American organization. Three days later, a meeting was called in the Zion Congregational Church, and the Volga Relief Society was organized. Uncle Johnny was elected president, and Uncle George Repp, secretary. The permission to send a representative to Russia was granted on August 21, and on August 25 Uncle George Repp was unanimously chosen to go to Russia. He left New York on September 17, 1921, and remained there until July 17, 1922. During this period Aunt Katy acted as secretary of the organization and wrote out the Food Drafts by which the people of Portland sent $29,000.00 to their relatives in Russia. Throughout the winter of 1921-1922 weekly meetings of the Volga Relief Society were held in the various churches. Uncle Johnny always presided over these meetings, and also sent out periodic bulletins to all parts of the United States. Neither he nor Aunt Katy were paid for the enormous amount of time that they devoted to the society. And there is nothing in the history of our family of which one can be more proud than of the work done by Aunt Katy, Uncle George Repp, and Uncle Johnny at this time.
In spite of Grandfather Miller’s advancing years, he was still very active both physically and mentally, and always attended church services regularly. On the New Year’s Eve which ushered in the year 1922, he left Uncle Johnny’s house to attend a Midnight Prayer Meeting. On the way home from church he started to cross a street just as a speeding car came by. Grandfather’s umbrella kept him from seeing the car in time, and he was seriously hurt in the resulting accident. He was taken home by Mr. Ted Diamond, the driver of the car, and a doctor was immediately called, but his injuries proved fatal. Death came four weeks later, on January 29, 1922.
Any man or woman who passes his 80th birthday has seen many changes in the world around him, but this was particularly true in the lifetime of Grandfather Miller. He once told his children about the various methods that had been used to bring light to a house during his lifetime. When he was a little boy in Russia the poorer families would burn logs of pitch, while others had to rely upon candles. The use of kerosene lamps was introduced in the middle of the 19th century. Next came gas arc lights, and finally in the year 1910, electricity was introduced in his Morris Street house. Between the years 1841 and 1922, greater changes had taken place in transportation than in the previous five thousand years of recorded history. The pharaohs of Egypt, the Roman legions under Julius Caesar, and the French soldiers of Napoleon had all relied upon the horse as a means of travel, but grandfather had seen the widespread introduction of the railroad and the invention of the automobile and the airplane. Equally drastic changes had taken place in communication through the telephone and the telegraph and the laying of the Atlantic Cable. The harvesting of grain was never the same again after farmers began to use the reaper, the combine and the tractor. And even here in the United States he had seen the city of Portland grow from 66,000 to over 250,000 inhabitants.
His funeral took place in the Ebenezer Church which he had helped organize in 1892. As his coffin was carried down the aisle, it was followed by his many children and grandchildren. All of the ministers of the various German Congregational Churches were on the platform to participate in the service, and the church was packed with his many friends and acquaintances. Grandfather had the respect of everyone who knew him. He was a man of peace—a quiet person who had the rare ability of knowing when it was better to remain silent. He was a good man, in every sense of the word.
Although I was present at his funeral, I have forgotten in the course of the years most of the details of the funeral service. But I do remember that the beautiful 90th Psalm was read in German:
“Herr Gott, du bist unsre Zuflucht für und für. Ehe den die Berge wurden und die Erde und die Welt geschaffen wurden, bist du, Gott, von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit. Der du den Menschen lässest sterben und sprichst: Kommt wieder Menschen Kinder!
Denn tausend Jahre sind vor dir wie der Tag der gestern ergangen ist, und wie eine Nachwache… Unsre Leben währt siebzig Jahre, und wenn’s hoch kommt so sind’s achtzig Jahre, und wenn’s köstlich gewesen ist, so ist es Mühe und Arbeit gewesen, den es fähret schnell dahin als flögen wir davon.”
 the first automobile in the Miller family was in Overland which Uncle Johnny bought in 1914.