Monday, July 1, 2013

Heritage Trail: Millers in Pennsylvania

Johnstown inclined plan--glad no flood hit us!

I found the most connection with our Millers on this Pennsylvania odyssey. Seeing their hometown in the wooded hilly laurel highlands of western Pennsylvania (very near the Flight 93 memorial), I appreciated my McLean High School "highlander" heritage in a new way. Sadly, the Miller family records and photos were lost in the 1889 Johnstown Flood, but learning more about that disaster was also enlightening.  

My third-great-grandparents Sally Nealy and Philip Miller married in 1837 in Sewickley, a town that is now a northwestern suburb of Pittsburg, right on the Ohio river. I would love to know how and where they met, and why they married so far from where they lived (what is a couple hours' drive for us must have been quite a journey back then).  

German Lutheran Church, 616 Washington Street, Sewickley
Philip was an innkeeper at the Compass Inn in Laughlintown, and so their daughter Margaret grew up there. It is now restored and open as a museum, with a fascinating costumed tour guide. We were fortunate to be able to stay next door at the Ligonier Country Inn, and see this from our window, and think of ancestors living across the street viewing that same wooded hill behind.
inn where we stayed
ancestral Compass Inn across the street
interior kitchen
old wedding dress--could it be one of ours?
Philip also worked as the postmaster of Jenner Crossroads.  Although that town is marked now only by a sign on a bridge, the nearby Jennerstown post office made a great memorial.

After being widowed, Sally moved in with her youngest son in Johnstown, which is a windy twenty-five mile drive away from where she had lived. Here, at age seventy-five, she escaped the great flood through the roof with her grandsons, having first run back for her sunbonnet. She clung to a steeple all night before being rescued (there were 27 churches in Johnstown then, so no idea which steeple it was).  The flood museum is in the former library, and since Sally was known as being a woman who liked to read, she probably visited this building.

unidentified survivors, but as the woman has a
 hat and two boys with her, I like to imagine it's Sally
viewing the flood's path in the museum display
The Miller family stayed and rebuilt, and Sally was later buried in the Grandview Cemetery (up above the lower area of Johnstown). This enormous cemetery holds many flood victims; Sarah J Miller is located at Central 3-73, on your right as you turn in to the Central 3 section, right off the road.

Highlanders who like books, mail, hotels, and sunbonnets--
I'll claim them!