Tag Archives: James Miller

Somehow Christmas Always Finds Me

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Somehow Christmas Always Finds Me

December 24, 2020

This morning I got up and sat on the edge of the bed and read the news on my phone as I always do. Nothing much had changed as I scrolled through the various news outlets. I hit my email and found out that I had a message from someone on Ancestry.ca. If you read my blog this week I am finally putting my maternal family tree together.

I dangled my feet off the side of the bed and remembered the black smoke coming out of the family burn barrel in the Albert Street backyard during the last days of September 1963. I can still see my father through the white sheer curtains stoking the fire and tossing photograph albums and the beloved handwritten family genealogy book that cousin Iveson Miller from Island Brook, Quebec had done for my mother. Death does strange things to the mind, and it was obvious that my Father was wiping away any trace of my Mother who had just passed away at the age of 34.

As a very young child I still remember taking that family book out of the piano bench and reading all the family entries written in fountain pen ink. It was just names to me in those days, but year after year those names became more important to me. For many years I have been the last standing family member of the Knight family from Cowansville, Quebec. It’s not easy to watch family members die from cancer, always wondering when it is going to be your turn. But, through the years of cancer, heart attacks, and strokes I am still standing. In the back of my mind I feel there has got to be a reason somewhere other than irritating people with my eclectic personality.

Last week I began the maternal family tree and found out that I actually had a bonafide settler who made a name for himself on my mother’s side. James Miller and his wife Mary Henderson were prominent founders in the Eastern Townships from the bottom up: designing buildings, working on the railroad and birthing babies.

For years I have been posting online trying to find the handwritten notes of Iveson Miller to no avail. This morning I got a note that someone has them and will be sending them to me. That was the best present I could ever get besides my Pioneer Woman salt and pepper shakers Steve gave me. This will be a gift for someone in my family down the line who is interested.

After sitting on the edge of the bed smiling for a long time I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror at a face I seldom recognize these days. I looked closely, shrieked, and got the flashlight and tweezers out. I am not going to explain this line of events, but any woman will know what I am about to write. There above my lip was the longest transparent facial hair I had ever seen. It could have knit a sweater it was so long. Obviously I am getting my proper vitamins to grow something so humongous.  

It reminded me that today was Christmas Eve and my Grandmother Mary Louise Deller Knight would be outside the kitchen door with her axe. A prime turkey would be sitting on a stump and she would cut that sucker in half with one fell blow. Half would be for Christmas day and the other half would be jammed into a tiny freezer for Easter. After the final blow to Christmas dinner she would take out my Grandfather’s round shaving mirror and pluck her chin hairs. It was an annual tradition to the soothing sounds of Mantovani.

This morning as I plucked that sucker off I put it on the bathroom mirror to show Steve in case he was interested. As he loaded the dishwasher in his usual anal ritual of making sure cutlery was placed neatly and in order I told him the story. I reminded him once again that when I am on my deathbed all facial hairs must be removed or I will come back and haunt him for the rest of his life. He said nothing as he loaded dishes in next and nodded his head to my wishes. You have to remember after almost 23 years he finds the best way to deal with my constant stories is to just nod and move on. Probably for the best.

So to the person in the Eastern Townships that found me thank you for a wonderful Christmas present. Genealogy is like a magic mirror. Look at it, and sometimes some pretty interesting faces appear and honestly… they probably all have chin hairs.

 Merry Christmas!

Linda

Related reading

I Am Who I am Because of You

My Name is Bernice — A Letter to a Daughter

The Old Church in Island Brook That Needs a Home

What Do You Do if You Just Can’t Walk Right In?

We Are Family

The Summer of 1964

Because You Loved Me…..

A Curio of Nostalgic Words

The Personal Ad of June 9th 1966

Did They Try to Run the World?

Memories of Mary Louise Deller Knight’s Wood Stove

The Story of Trenches –Fred Knight Legion Branch #99 Cowansville

Mary Louise Deller Knight — Evelyn Beban Lewis–The Townships Sun

On the Subject of Accidents and Underwear

The Conversationalist

James Miller Steam Engine Man from Perth

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James Miller Steam Engine Man from Perth

 

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Clipped from The Ottawa Journal10 Jun 1961, SatPage 19

 

In 1961 all eyes were on James Miller as he drove his 1918 steam engine in the Little League Baseball parade. He was proud of that steam powered tractor and threshing machine that he had purchased a few years back. The last public appearance the old gal had done was she had been displayed at the Toronto Exhibition in 1918.

It’s not that the old gal had not had a good life. Thomas Cullen had initially bought her and she was later used sawing logs for O.P. Dowdall of Perth. After that her engine remained idle. In 1956 necessary renovations began and it cost Mr. Miller way more than the purchase price. All the boiler tubes were replaced and the machine received a complete overhaul. In order to keep the original wheel lugs Mr. Miller designed a special plate type rim to fit over them. He cut the tread portions from old automobile tires and fashioned them to the rims on the machine so  it could be driven over town streets.

At the time of the article in 1961 the steam engine fan’s new project was a horse drawn portable steam engine built in 1900 by the Robert Bell Engine and Thresher Co. Ltd. of Seaforth, Ontario. He purchased at an auction near Leitrum and she was soon to sit side by side with the 1918 steam powered tractor.

 

If you have any more  information about Mr. Miller and his steam engines, please leave comments so we can add to the story. Thank you!

 

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Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun and Screamin’ Mamas (USA)

 

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PHOTO From Perth Remembered: Threshing Time at the farm of Robert Hendry on the Scotch Line in 1901. Notice the large portable steam engine. Present in the picture are Jim Dennison, Ormond Hossie, John Hendry, Frank Ritchie, Lorne Scott, Jim Steele, Bob Wilson, Jim Munro, Jim Wilson and Robert Hendry, also boys in front Ernie and Gilbert Munro.

 

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From Perth Remembered–Grain Threshing Scene c.1916. This threshing mill was used by Henry Lewis and his son, Walter Lewis, who did custom threshing throughout Drummond Township for several years. The mill was powered by a large Waterloo 20 HP Steam Engine. Wood was used for fuel to fire in the boiler, and it would take about an hour each morning to get up steam pressure to run the threshing mill.

 

 

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“Thresher Jack” Smithson and his steam engine. Photo courtesy Lanark Archives. (Perth Remembered)

 

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From the Wanda Morrison Lee and Joan Kehoe Photo Collection Allan Stewart of Beckwith– Lorne McNeely collection

 

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Steam engines!! From the Wanda Morrison Lee and Joan Kehoe Photo Collection Stewart Donald and Leonard McNeely

 

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With the Steam Co. in France.

The following is a letter from Second Lieut. H. A. Powell, to his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. S. H. Lowry, of Pakenham.1918

“At present I am in a very nice place and a good many miles behind the lines. We are busy building roads. My company is all steam so I am right at home. I have thirty steam wagons, fifteen Fodens non-trippers, 13 Sentinel Hydraulic tip and two Garret’s screw tippers. So you see I have a pick and choice. Their capacity is 5 to 8 tons, without trailers. The Sentinel wagons are 70 horse power poppet valve engines. Speed five to twenty miles an hour. Just now we are trying some plan to keep the frost away from the pumps but I think we will succeed. Yesterday I was at a steam conference and arguments were comical, mostly by men who only knew the difference between steam and petrol engines by seeing the smoke and steam.

The weather has been very wet for some time but now it is clear and cold, but not too cold for comfort. I have a very fine billet with a French count, his wife and daughter. They are extra well educated people and much different to most of the people I have met. Well, I suppose you have heard that I got married last 30th Oct. to a girl in London. We had a fine time at the wedding and went to Ventnor, Isle of Wight, for our short trip. We were married in St. Mary’s Cathedral, West Ealing, and then went to lunch at the Frocaden Hotel, supposed to be the finest place in London.

My best man was a Capt. Harry Driver, Bachelor of Science, D.S.O. and M.C., the two bridesmaids were Dimple and Winnie Middleton, daughter of a multi-millionaire. Their father is manager of the Universal Motor Co., Universal Insurance Co. (automobiles), and a large stockholder in the Phoenix Life Insurance Co. He gave us our lunch, also supplied all the cars to take us to church and back. Flo has been his secretary for ten years and two months. She still goes up two days a week to look after the paying of the men and do the banking. I expect to leave here some time soon to take over the duties of workshop officers at a base shop. I will be in charge of repairs to Caterpillar and Foster Daimler engines. I have passed all my tests as a work shop officer and the knowledge will be very useful in civil life. It is hard to say when we will finish up out here but I may be home in the fall of 1919. Fighting may finish next fall but it is hard to say.”

 

relatedreading

Photos!! Who is With These Steam Engines?

Glory Days of Carleton Place–So What Happened to the Moore Steam Engine?

The Old Steam Engine Tractor on Mullet Street

Hissing Steam, Parades and a 1930 Hearse–Pioneer Days Middleville