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By Jean Snyder Lougeay

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Michael Miller was born in 1811 at Herbotzheim, Alsace, France and arrived in Philadelphia, July 4, 1826. Christine Karlskind, born 1813 at Langdordt. Lorraine, France immigrated to New Orleans, 1832. They married in 1838 and settled on Turkey Hill near Belleville, IL. Starting with almost nothing, they managed through diligence and husbandry to leave each of their six children a farm in addition to a sum of money. Dominic Frances Miller named his, Little Oak Farm. It lies midway between the Carlyle and Lebanon roads, on Little Oak Lane, (now known as Greenmount Road ) which leads south three miles to Eckert’s Orchards, a farm inherited by Mary Miller Eckert. Magdalene Miller Biebel was given the farm adjoining Little Oak on the west across Little Oak Lane and along the "B" Street road and the Southern track. Peter, the eldest, received the farm east of the home place and Joseph and William each received farms but I’m not certain of their locations.

My mother, Maude, was the youngest of D.F. Miller’s four children. Laura was the eldest, then Oliver and Eugene. Maude married Nicholas Snyder and farmed the land after Dominic and his wife Louise retired and moved to Belleville.

Little Oak Farm was a wonderful place to grow up. The house reflected Grampa’s love of towers and of producing the very best of everything. The house on East Main in Belleville where he retired, had a two-and-a-half story tower but the farm house he built had one that was three-and-a-half stories. It was above the milk and laundry rooms and was entered from the upstairs back porch and probably from the laundry also, I don’t remember clearly. What impressed me most was the narrow, winding stair going up three stories, it was all of unfinished lumber and still had that new wood smell. On rainy days the hired girls would carry wash baskets of wet clothes to the top floor and hang them to dry.

The top story had windows all round and gave a great view of the farm and beyond. Then there was a section of roof that could be pushed up by standing on an old trunk to give an even better view; I could see the Arthur Gundlach farm - even the people walking around in the yard. On washdays (always Mondays, of course) it was quite a contest between their hired girl and ours to get wash on he line first. My mother said that ours sometimes would fool the other girl by hanging out unwashed sheets before even starting the job.

At the back was a big two-story porch, L-shaped, the entire length of the house with a stair at each end. The one at the kitchen end led to the tower entrance and then down to the laundry. This room had a wood floor and two big copper kettles built into waist-high wooden platforms enclosed by wooden fronts. A door under each allowed fires to be built for boiling the wash water. (I don’t believe that these kettles were the ones used for making apple butter as there was a big iron one outside for that.)

On washdays, unfortunately, the water had to be carried in buckets from the cistern which was a few yards from the door. This was the job of the hired-boy, Carl Klein. When I was about three I thought he was the wonderfullest guy! I tried to keep up with him as he carried the water but the pump was on a platform about a foot high and there was a door sill almost that high at the laundry. By the time my short fat legs climbed over either obstacle, he was on his way back. I’m sure that I had him working faster than any of the grownups could have managed. Once, however, he was really in trouble. In my haste, I fell and ran a stick into my knee which left a scar that I still have. This probably accounts for my never having been Miss America.

Next to the laundry on the west was the milk room, and to the south was the shop/garage. The milk room had a concrete floor, including a sunken oblong tub for cooling the milk. This was 80 years ago so my recollections of size may not be accurate, but I know it was deep enough for the water to cool the tall milk cans and would have held two rows of at least five cans each. Icy cold water was piped by gasoline engine from the well on the porch just outside. ( I wonder why water wasn’t also pumped for the laundry. On second thought, the rinse water probably was, with only wash water carried from the cistern.)

The milk room also had a separator; the fresh, warm milk was brought in from the barn, poured into the separator and came out two spouts as cream and skim milk. I’m not sure whether this was run mechanically or by hand but I do know there were many metal discs 3 or 4 inches in diameter with little holes and indentations, not easy to clean. Some of the whole milk was cooled and sold in town as was cream and butter. Either sweet or sour cream could be used for butter, which was hand-turned in a big wooden barrel-shaped churn in the kitchen. I still have the wooden paddle used to shape it into a pound block which was wrapped in "butter paper" stamped with the Little Oak Farm logo. Buttermilk, the by-product, was a delicacy to all but me.

The shop was of little interest to me. It was big, full of tools and machinery, and was the last part of the extended house. Farther on was the out-house, a two-holer with Sears-Roebuck and Montgomery-Ward catalogs.  A towering apricot tree nearby produced enormous amounts of the plumpest, most luscious fruit imaginable, nothing like the sturdy, tasteless product found in markets today.


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