An Inheritance of Ghosts

Francis Milton Miller and Catherine Gilley

Posted in Catherine (Gilley) Miller, Catherine Gilley, Francis Milton Miller by Gregg Mattocks on 2 January 2010

Revised 2 January 2010

Francis Milton Miller [52]

Father: William [Henry?] Miller [104]

Mother: Levina M. Williams [105]

Mattocks Family Heritage entry

Catherine Gilley [53]

Father: Abraham [or Absalom] Gilley [106]

Mother: Mary “Polly” Saylor [107]

Mattocks Family Heritage entry


Francis Milton Miller [52] was born 8 November 1838 at Benton County, Missouri. After the death of his mother in 1842, Francis and his sisters went to live with their Grandfather Miller at Benton County. After his father re-married, about 1847, Francis lived with him and his step-mother.

About 1848, Francis began attending a subscription school. His early teachers included Annie Reynolds, Guilford B. Park, and Joseph Monroe. In 1850, Francis was living with his father and stepmother at Tom Township, Benton County. About 1854, the family moved to Henry County, Missouri, near Leesville. Francis’s teachers at the public school there were Fenton G. Reavis, James N. Thompson, and Joel Townsend. In 1858, Francis, along with schoolmate Walter S. Reavis, boarded at William L. Avery’s and attended high school at “Sardis Seven nine West of Calhoun.” Although Francis had been promised he could attend this school all winter, he was instead called home after only a couple of months as he was needed for “corn gathering time.” Francis’s disappointment was increased when he was not allowed to return to school. His friend Walter was not allowed to return to school without Francis. About the first of October, Francis decided that the best way to continue his education would be for him to leave home and work for wages until he could earn enough to continue his studies. He sneaked out one night after the family were all asleep.

Francis went to Warrensburg, Johnson County, Missouri, and worked there cutting corn for a few days, earning one dollar per day. After that, Francis went to work for William Granger at a saw and grist mill on Black Water Creek near Warrensburg. Here Francis earned twenty dollars per month with board. He worked all winter but had difficulty setting aside money for his school fund.

The following April, Francis returned to live with his Grandfather Miller. There, for two years, he helped take care of his grandfather and sisters, worked on the farm in the summer, and taught school in the fall and winter. He joined the Christian Church at Leesville under G.W. Longeen. At this time, he met Catherine Gilley [53].

Francis and Catherine were married 8 November 1860 at Benton County, on Francis’s twenty-second birthday, by Joseph Monroe, justice of the peace. Catherine was born 2 May 1840 at Washington County, Tennessee.

In 1854, Catherine was bequeathed $200 in the will of her grandfather John Saylor. Catherine was orphaned and lived with her aunt Sallie Wolf in Missouri.

Francis gave up his dreams of returning to school and instead began farming on some rented land that came with a dwelling house. Francis entered 80 acres of government land on which he built a log cabin. Francis and Catherine were living there at the commencement of the Civil War in 1861.

In 1862, Francis joined the Enrolled Missouri Militia and was elected first lieutenant of Company G of the 60th Regiment. Headquarters were at Warsaw, Benton County. Much of Francis’s service involved protecting nearby homes from “marauding parties of bush whackers.”

On 2 July 1863, after the E.M.M. had been partially disorganized, Francis joined Company E of the 6th Regiment as a private. As Francis wrote, “I did this because it was not safe for men to stay at home for many were killed at home in the presence of their families.” At the time of his joining, Company E was marching from northern Missouri to Springfield, Missouri. In August, Francis was detached with a squad of twenty to escort an inspecting officer through Cassville, Newtonia, and Carthage, and back to Springfield. The escort rode hard for three or four days, while “the officer had one of the best and easiest riding horses in the Army.” After their return, Francis was again detached to escort a telegraph company as it repaired lines near Lebanon, Missouri, that the Rebels had cut down. While on this mission, Francis became ill with pneumonia and typhoid fever. He finally began to recuperate around the first of October. Francis was granted sick furlough and his father and stepmother came in a carriage to take him home.

Francis was bedridden for months. Catherine was left to nurse her husband and two young daughters, as well as take care of all the family chores. She even cut wood and carried it in to keep up fires. On 1 March 1864, Francis was ordered to return to his regiment at Springfield. Francis, on crutches, was taken to Warsaw, and form there he took a stagecoach to Springfield. “On arriving,” Francis wrote, “the Regt. Surgeon was very much surprized to see me on crutches as he had a report that I was able for duty and was having a good time with my family at home.” Francis finally received his discharge on 13 June 1864. Francis gave his crutches to a comrade who had had a leg amputated. With the aid of a cane, Francis took a stagecoach to Warsaw. He was forced to ride the remaining distance sitting side-saddle on a horse as his right hip made it too painful to ride astride.

Francis had not received any pay for his military service. Because of their dire financial circumstances, and because “it was not safe for even a cripple to stay at home in the country districts,” the Millers moved to Warsaw where there was work for wages and a garrison of soldiers for protection. Francis began teaching school at Shawnee Bend across the Osage River from Warsaw, which profession he followed for about five years. When he finally received his military pay, Francis bought a house and lot in Warsaw. There, Francis found enough work writing for various offices to provide a meager living for his family. He was soon appointed postmaster of the town, and served in that position for two or three years.

With the commencement of the presidency of Andrew Johnson, “the Bourboan and Valandingham Democrats were largely in ascendancy.” Clement Laird Vallandigham was a congressman, “a handsome, gifted Democrat from Ohio, a good lawyer and an orator of repute,” who had strongly supported Southern rights “ever since the war with Mexico.” Francis lost his postmaster position to “an Ohio Carpetbagger, Valandingham Democrat.” Francis then found work writing in the County Clerk’s and Recorder’s offices. He worked for a time as a Deputy United States Assessor for the counties of Hickory, Benton, and Camden. He also was employed, at $40 per month, with William B. Longan, “in getting up abstracts of titles to land in Benton Co., Mo.”

Then Francis was offered a job at a store owned by Dr. W.S. Holland, to receive $25 per month and merchandise at cost. Wanting to learn the mercantile business, Francis accepted the pay cut and agreed to try the position for at least one month. At the end of the month, Holland proposed to sell Francis a third share in the store. The doctor offered to buy Francis’s farm of 160 acres and loan him the balance to pay for the share. The farm was about ten miles from town, and Francis had never developed it because the land was poor and rocky.

He allowed me $500.00, and loaned me $1200.00 at 10% interest to pay for the 1/3 of a $6000.00 stock of goods. We went into contract to run one year in the partnership and then if not satisfied we were to invoice and divide the goods, profits, etc.

At the end of the year, Holland offered to sell the entire business to Francis, and Francis agreed. Holland loaned him enough money to pay for his share. Francis purchased his merchandise from the Merchants of St. Louis.

In 1870, Frank, aged 30, was living with his wife Catherine, aged 28, and their four children at Lindsey Township, Benton County.

Francis ran his store successfully for a couple of years, but soon competition increased. On 3 November 1873, the Millers removed to Lowry City, St. Clair County, Missouri. Francis rented a small building, using the front as a store, and the back as a home for his family. Francis would trade for goods, even purchasing fence rails with the intention of using them when he purchased his own farm. About 1 May 1874, Francis bought 80 acres of undeveloped prairie land, at three dollars per acre, from John S. Hubbard. The property was located near Lowry City, at Range 25, Township 39, Section 6, the E 1/2 of the SW 1/4.

The Millers continued to live at Lowry City during the summer of 1874. Catherine would tend the store while Francis worked on the new farm. He put up fences, “broke quite a bit of sod,” and built a two-room house and a smokehouse. Francis had tried to raise some corn but the season had been exceedingly dry and the crop was a failure. The family moved onto the farm in October 1874. That winter was difficult, and Francis had to pay premium prices for corn and wheat to feed his team, cow, and hog. The following season was much better, and Francis had a big crop of corn, oats, and potatoes. In the fall of 1875, Francis taught school for three months at $25
per month.

By the spring of 1877, I had succeeded in fencing the whole 80 acres and had broken out near half of it and was cultivating it in corn. I had gathered up and raised several head of cattle, hogs and sheep and a few head of horses. I had no barn yet but had a long shed board up at sides and ends and covered with hay for a while and afterwards covered with clap boards which I hauled from Benton County. I had also hauled from the same locality the lumber to build the shed.

About 1877, Francis and Catherine, along with their children Alice, Ida, and Walter, were baptized and became members at the Park Grove Christian Church in St. Clair County. Francis and Walter worked hauling firewood, mowing wild prairie grass for hay, and fencing in their property.

In 1880, Francis M., a farmer, aged 41, was living with his wife Catharine, aged 40, and their eight children at Butler Township, St. Clair County.

In September 1880, Francis purchased, for five dollars per acre, eighty acres of adjoining land, at Range 25, Township 39, Section 6, the W 1/2 of the SW 1/4. In 1883, Francis was recorded as being a farmer and stock raiser with 165 “well improved” acres at Section 6 of Butler Township.

In the fall of 1885, Francis began building a larger house, connecting it to the old one. When they moved into the new house in the fall of 1886, they used the old part for a kitchen and dining room.

In August 1890, Francis began building a barn. He hired Mr. Field of Lowry City as a carpenter, and Field, along with the Miller men, constructed a 24-foot by 60-foot barn with sheds on both the north and south sides. On 29 August 1894, the entire family was at home. In the fall of 1903, Francis hired John Bond and his two sons to dig a well in the barnyard. They had still not found water at 52 feet so, after walling in the shaft with stone, Francis hired two men with an auger to drill deeper. At 105 feet, they finally hit water. Francis purchased a windmill and pump, but the water was so hard the stock would not drink it. So Francis ran tiling from the barn to the well, and the runoff from the barn roof soon filled the well with good soft rainwater.

In 1900, Francis M., a farmer, aged 61, was living with his wife Catherine, aged 60, and four daughters, at Butler Township.

In the spring of 1907, I took stock in the Mt. Zion Telephone Co, and we built a telephone line from Lowry City to Mt. Zion and bought and put a telephone in our house, I believe there were 10 phones on this line. We had free exchange with all farmer lines centering in Lowry City.

In the fall and winter of 1909, Francis helped construct the Lowry City Christian Church, where he became a charter member. The church was organized by Brothers John I. Orrison and John H. Jones, and counted, at its inception, 35 to 40 members.

Early in 1910, Francis and Catherine decided to sell their farm. In February 1910, Daniel Smith of Smithville, Clay County, Missouri, purchased the farm at $45 per acre. On 19 March 1910, Francis and Catherine sold, at public sale, all of their livestock and farm implements, and part of their household goods. About the first of April, Francis and Catharine moved to Carrollton, and lived for a few months with their son Willis. Francis did not care for Carrollton so, early in July 1910, Francis and Catherine moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and rented a house there. On 25 October 1910, Francis purchased from Newton J. Kelly, for $3700 in cash, a house at Kansas City.

In the spring of 1911, Francis set out some peach and plum trees, and grape vines, and planted a vegetable garden in his backyard, “and found nearly no trouble in raising near all the vegetable we need.”

On March 1st. 1913, Mr. Lewis paid all the balance of the price of the old home stead and we own not a foot of land except lot we live on in Kansas City, a small lot in Lowry City Cemetery.

Late in life Francis wrote a brief autobiography. Francis died 16 April 1915 at Kansas City, Missouri. Catherine died 28 May 1922 at Carroll County, Missouri. Her obituary appeared in the Lowry City Independent on 1 June 1922. The couple were buried at Lowry City Cemetery, Lowry City.

Children of Francis Milton and Catherine (Gilley) Miller:

  • 52.1. Alice Carey.
  • 52.2. Ida May.
  • 52.3. Walter Scott [26].
  • 52.4. Francis William.
  • 52.5. Willis Holland.
  • 52.6. Nellie Catherine.
  • 52.7. Clarence Alvin (twin).
  • 52.8. Clara Mabel (twin).
  • 52.9. Almira Myrtle.


  • 1870 United States Census, Benton County, Missouri, (M593-759-303).
  • 1880 United States Census, St. Clair County, Missouri, (T9-714-342B).
  • 1900 United States Census, Butler Township, St. Clair County, Missouri, page 7B.
  • —, Centennial History of Lowry City, Missouri (St. Clair County): “Pride of the Prairies”: 1871-1971 (Clinton, Missouri: The Printery, 1971).
  • —, The History of Henry and St. Clair Counties, Missouri, Containing a History of These Counties, Their Cities, Towns, Etc., Etc. (St. Joseph, Missouri: National Historical Company, 1883; reprint edition, Clinton, Missouri: Henry County Historical Society, 1968), page 1185.
  • —, Marriage Records of Benton County, Missouri, Luster Earl Colley genealogical collection.
  • Bruce Catton, The Centennial History of the Civil War, Volume I, The Coming Fury (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1961), page 422.
  • Luster Earl Colley, “Contents of References,” an index to the genealogical notes of Luster Earl Colley.
  • Francis Milton Miller, Autobiography, unpublished manuscript, circa 1913, from the Luster Earl Colley genealogical collection.
  • Betty Harvey Williams, Marriage Records, Benton County, Missouri, 1839-1861 (Warrensburg, Missouri, 1967), page 43.
  • Works Projects Administration, typescripts of the records of Washington County, Tennessee, Luster Earl Colley genealogical collection.