Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Orphan Daughters of John Miller

One of the most tragic stories of the Gainesville Hanging is that of Nancy L. Miller and Mary Elizabeth Miller, the orphan daughters of John M. Miller. (A third younger daughter, Luella, had been sent back to Missouri to live with grandparents prior to the start of the Civil War.)

Not only did Nancy and Mary Elizabeth lose their only living parent in the Hanging, but they were mistreated and their father's estate stolen and mishandled by the person who was suppose to provide them care and be the administrator of the estate.

When John M. Miller died in the Hangings, William Mitchell was made administrator of his estate. Just before John Miller died, he requested that Mitchell take or send his daughters to their relatives in Missouri and administer his estate.
Within a few years, Mitchell had sold most of the land and personal estate and had taken the money which was quite substantial. He then made a bill to cover the cost of caring for the girls to match what he had taken from the estate. Mitchell never sent the girls to school, did not keep them in a "lady like" style, and required that they labor to pay for their keep. Plus, he never took them to their relatives in Missouri.

The court finally put the girls under the guardianship of John H. Harrison in 1867.  Finally, Nancy and Mary Elizabeth were taken to live with their maternal grandparents, James and Margaret Sandusky in Carroll County, Missouri.  The grandparents were already caring for the youngest daughter, Luella.  The Miller daughters can be found living with their grandparents in the 1870 census.

Source Citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: Wakenda, Carroll, Missouri; Roll M593_766; Page: 398B; Family History Library Film: 552265

The "rest of the story" can be found on the John M. Miller Biography post.
Below are several pages of the John M. Miller probate with a transcription below the copies of the actual pages. There are additional probate papers concerning the John M. Miller in Probate Box 21 in the Cooke County Court House.
Probate Records, Cooke County, Texas, Vol. 1, January 1, 1867; Page 531 - 532

(Transcription of above court document)
Probate Records, Cooke County, Texas, Vol. 1, January 1, 1867; Page 531 - 532
The opinion of the court in the case of Mitchell administrator of the estate of J. M. Miller, died in the fall of the year 1862. John Miller departed this life, leaving some property and two children both girls, one about 8 and one about 10 years old, and requested that Wm. M. Mitchell take his property and children and when times got better to take or send them to their relatives in Missouri, in December 1862 Mitchell procured the appointment himself to the administration of the said Millers estate and petitioned the court for leave to sell the property to pay debts and in February 1863 sold a portion of the property for $280.50 in confederate money, in hand, and on the 8th day of February 1864 sold the balance of the property for $764 dollars in confederate money in hand, during the time he took possession of the children, he returns his sale bills in conformity with law to the court but made no further exhibits with regard to said estate until he was cited to do so by an order of the court made at the August term 1866 when he made what he called an exhibit showing the whole amount of sales to be $1044.50 in confederate money and his account for keeping the children cloth, horse feed, hunting horses, fee & etc to the amount of $442 dollars and 25 cents (specie charged); he introduced no proof to establish any item of his account, except five dollars for hunting horses and the keeping of the children, the proof introduced with regard to the manner of keeping the children was conflicting, but there was proof to satisfy the court, that they were not kept in lady like stile, or in idleness, and that they were never sent to school and that he kept them for nearly four years until the youngest was about 12 and the oldest was about 14 years old, and that if there was any lack of ability on their part to pay for their board and clothing, where his first took them, that before they left, they were well able to make up the deficiency, the court is not willing to sanction a practice of taking orphan children and requiring their labor, without ever sending them to school, and after keeping them until the estate is consumed, turn them off upon the cold charities of the world, and then make a bill to cover the whole amount of the estate as a final close and settlement of the same. The whole course of the administrator since the exhibit of the sale bills has been unsurable and contrary to law, and when at one time there was an application made to him for the youngest girl, he refused to let her go although he was not her guardian, nor has he any more right to the possession of her person than any other person, nor was there any proof of his ever trying to send them to their relatives in Missouri. The proof before the court showed that the property sold at the first sale was worth 66 dollars in specie and that the property sold at the second sale was worth 60 dollars in specie, the two sales make 126 dollars specie there were diverse small items in the first sale bill that Mitchells could not identify and therefore not prove enough not priced it is presumed by the court to pay the five dollars for horse hunting, all other claims forfeits in the absence of proof are presumed by the court to have been paid at the proper time in the confederate money received by the said Mitchell, from the sales of the property of said estate, as that was the currency and custom of the times.
It is therefore considered by the court that the claim presented by the administrator Mitchell for the sum of 442 dollars & 25 cts in specie be disallowed and it is further ordered and adjudged by the court that the said administrator Wm. M. Mitchell pay to John H. Harrison the sum of one hundred & twenty six dollars specie with interest on the same from the 1st day of June 1864 up to the first day of January 1869, making the sum total of one hundred & fifty one dollars & 20 cts together with all cost in this behalf expended.
Ordered by the court that court adjourn until court in ____
J. E. Wheeler, County Judge


Anonymous said...

I agree with you -- TRAGIC STORY. Poor little girls. Too bad they didn't hang Mitchell up by his you-know-what.

Anonymous said...

Where were all the "upstanding" citizens of Gainesville when these little girls were being mistreated and abused? Can't believe the community would let this happen. Of course, I can't believe that they would take a widowed single father and hang him. What kind of heartless people lived in Gainesville?

Anonymous said...

It is beyond belief that someone would actually take advantage of little orphan girls. The Mitchell guy was a real loser. Did the judge make him pay back all the money he stole from them?

Anonymous said...

I, too, am wondering why some of the citizens of Gainesville did not step in and help a little bit sooner. They had to know something was wrong when Mitchell did not send the girls to school.
This whole hanging business was tragic but I can't even imagine what it was like for all of the children of the hanging victims.
I wonder what long term negative effects the hanging had on the families of the men who died?

Beth said...

For those interested, this probate record can be found on under "Texas Probate Records"
Film# 005787535 -- image 404.
Mitchel was a real jerk. One document show where he charged $1110.00 to care for the two girls for a year and 11 months.(image 419)

Anonymous said...

Some of the probate papers for John M Miller can also be found on Ancestry. The Ancestry probate records for Texas are indexed;)
It appears that Mitchel sold all of John Miller's assets in the estate and then made up some bills to care for the girls to cover the amount of money he brought in from the sale of their fathers estate.
I cannot find the judgement papers you are showing in this blog. It is not in the papers that are shown online.