MRS. R. S. MILLER. The power and effectiveness of woman's work in the community as well as in the home has been splendidly exemplified at El Dorado by Mrs. R. S. Miller. The dignity of woman becomes more than an empty phrase when considered in connection with her many varied activities and lines of useful influence. Her career is a fit subject for consideration in the history of Kansas, along with that of her honored husband, the late Dr. R. S. Miller, who gained the esteem of Butler County citizens by his many years of faithful service as a physician and by his valuable civic enterprise.
Mrs. Miller was born at Batavia, Illinois, Jannary 24, 1852. Her maiden name was Viola DeEtte Waite. Concerning the remote ancestry of the family it is pertinent to recall a tradition concerning the origin of the name. During the reign of William the Conqueror in England from 1066 to 1087 a band of Scotch musicians had gained the favor of the conqueror, who pensioned them and ordered them to wait upon his pleasure. The members of the band had each his individual name, but the king called them collectively Waits or Tarrymen. In the annals of English genealogy the name Waite cannot be found prior to this time. The traditional history goes on to state that nine brothers of the name emigrated to the American colonies after 1700 and settled in Rhode Island. There the name was spelled Waite.
Simon Waite, father of Mrs. Miller, was born in New York State in 1817. He was reared there, but when a young man removed to Ohio and located near Zanesville, where he married. Soon after his marriage he went to Batavia, Illinois, farmed in that vicinity, and afterwards near Dwight, Illinois, where he remained about fifteen years. Moving into the Town of Dwight, he became a hardware and grocery merchant for about ten years. Moving still further West, he spent 1 1/2 years in Nevada City, Missouri, but in the spring of 1871 took up a homestead of 160 acres 2 1/2 miles southwest of Towanda, Kansas. Thus he became one of the pioneer Kansas farmers in this section of the state and in time increased his holdings to 320 acres. He finally retired from farming and removed to Towanda, where he died in 1890. His youngest son, Wilbur D. Waite, now owns the old homestead. Simon Waite was a republican in politics, and an original stand-patter. While interested in political questions and problems and a loyal supporter of the party candidate, he himself never aspired to office. He was a member of the Congregational Church in Dwight, Illinois.
Simon Waite married for his first wife Miss Goodspeed. By that union there was one child, Clark. This son was a farmer by occupation and finally went out west, and he is now in the soldiers' home in Colorado. For his second wife Simon Waite married Mrs. Maria (Denman) Henry. She was born in Ohio, near Janesville, in 1826, and died on the old farm near Towanda in the fall of 1903. By her first marriage to Mr. Henry she had a daughter Ellen. This daughter married Charles Libby, and both are now deceased and are buried at Denver, Colorado. Mr. Libby was a contractor and builder.
Mrs. Miller was one of the six children of her father and mother. The oldest, Frank, born in 1849, was a farmer and lived near Towanda in 1880. His death resulted from his going to the rescue of a neighbor who was working in a well and had been overcome by the "damps" and he too was killed. Frank Waite owned the second quarter of the original farm which his father subsequently acquired. The second of the children is Mrs. Miller. The third, Walter Simon, is a contractor and carpenter and is temporarily a resident of Salt Lake City. Wilbur has been already mentioned as owning the old homestead. The two youngest children, Ada and Lenore, died of diphtheria, the former at four and the latter at two years of age.
Mrs. Miller was educated in the public schools of Dwight, Illinois, graduating from high school, and at the age of fifteen she became a teacher in her native state. She taught there three years, taught one year at Nevada, Missouri, and one year at Towanda, Kansas. She was the third teacher of the Towanda school. She is a talented musician and for a number of years taught music both in Indiana and in Butler County, Kansas. Mrs. Miller has long been prominent in church and club circles. She is a member of the Woman's Mutual Benefit Club, was president of the local organization, and has also been active in the District and State Federations of Woman's Clubs. She served as vice president and president of the Eighth District Federation, as chairman and as member of the Legislative Committee of the State Federation of Woman's Clubs and attended the National Federation Convention at Boston as a state delegate and the National Federation at San Francisco as the delegate from the Eighth Kansas District. Mrs. Miller was president of the Woman's Mutual Benefit Club when the question of securing a chautauqua for El Dorado was taken up by that organization. Largely through her individual efforts and untiring labors the chautauqua was inaugurated in Butler County under the auspices of the Redpath Bureau.
While the Miller family lived in Towanda Mrs. Miller served as superintendent of the church Sunday school and for several years was assistant superintendent. Her work among the boys of the Sunday school was especially successful. She always had charge of the children's entertainments, and in that and others ways she exercised a strong influence over the developing minds and spiritual natures of her young charges. She also had charge of the choir in the Towanda Methodist Church, and at El Dorado has been president of the Foreign Missionary Society. She is a member of the El Dorado Literary Club and the City Federation Club. For the past two years she has been sub-chairman of the State Civil Service Committee, and is now chairman of the legislative committee of the El Dorado Federated Club.
Wherever possible she has lent her influence and effort to the upbuilding and uplifting of the city. She has served as a member of the Public Library Board of El Dorado almost since its organization. When the city took over the library, Mrs. Miller was the one who circulated the petition to get the required number of signers in order to bring the proposition to a vote. She never ceased her efforts until this project was carried through successfully, and when that had been accomplished the first forward step had been taken to give El Dorado a public library worthy of the name.
On December 24, 1872, on the old home farm near Towanda, Miss Viola Waite and Dr. Richard Smith Miller were united in marriage. Reference to the career of Doctor Miller is made elsewhere. Doctor and Mrs. Miller had six children. Noble Eugene died in infancy. Tessie May was born May 28, 1876, and died in August, 1904. She was a graduate of the El Dorado High School, had taken art courses in the University of Kansas and had also continued her artistic instruction under New York teachers. She was married in January, 1904, a few months before her death, to D. C. Porter. Mr. Porter is a prominent educator and is now superintendent of the schools at Bridgeton, New Jersey. Pearl De-Ette, the third child of Mrs. Miller, was born January 12, 1880, is a graduate of the El Dorado High School, has the degree of A. B. from the University of Kansas, and is now living at home with her mother. She has taught in Butler County, two years in the high school at El Dorado, two years in the high school at Douglass, and also served, as deputy in the county register of deeds' office. Grace Lavera, the fourth child, was born December 12, 1884, is a graduate of the El Dorado High School and of the University of Kansas with the degre[sic] of A. B., and taught at Whitewater, Kansas, one year, and two years in the El Dorado High School. She was married June 13, 1913, to Robert H. Worline, who is a successful attorney at Kansas City, Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Worline have two children, Bonnie Bess, born August 3, 1914, and Marian Miller, born January 15, 1916. Frank, Mrs. Miller's fifth child, was born January 15, 1887, and died when five and a half years of age. Bess, the youngest of the family, is living at home with her mother in El Dorado. She was born August 2, 1890, finished the course of the local high school and was graduated Bachelor of Music from the University of Kansas.
A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by Andrea Friant, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, October 21, 1999.
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