Mr. John Miller was born in South Carolina in 1803. His parents were James Miller, a staunch Presbyterian and Scot-Irish by descent, and Ruthie Miller, both born in South Carolina. John’s wife, Nancy Mary, was born in 1805 in Monroe County Tennessee to Joseph Wilson, a trader and a farmer, who is buried in Macon, GA. The John Millers made their first home in Monroe County, TN. and moved to Dade County with four young children, James, Joseph, Elizabeth (Betty) and George. In 1835, John Thornton Miller, Sr. and his wife, Nancy Mary Miller, purchased 420 acres in Dade County, GA for $3,000.00. The property was in District # 11 near Rising Fawn.
During the years the Millers lived in Dade County, Mr. Miller was a county and probate judge (see George’s biography) and they continued to raise a family that included Mary, John Thornton Miller, Jr. (see diary), William Anderson Miller (my great grandfather), Columbus, and Hiram Douglas. (They are listed in the 1840 census of Dade County, GA) Mr. Miller and his older sons continued to purchase land and farm as the sons matured and married.
John T. Miller, Jr. is listed in the Dade County Historical Book (published ca 1981) as being a member of the Muster Roll of Company F, 34th Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A., Dade County GA. (The History of Dade County, p 24,3rd para, 4th line). As an adult, John T. Miller became a Methodist preacher and a legislator in Arkansas. He is the author of an autobiographical diary, especially re-counting growing up in his beloved Dade County.
Three other brothers, including George R., and William Anderson Miller served in the Confederate Army. One of the brothers died in service. William Anderson Miller served with the Tennessee Volunteers Artillery and was captured but released.
Elizabeth (Betty) Miller married Casper Tatum of Dade County and died giving birth to their first child, a daughter, Nancy Tatum. Elizabeth is the only Miller buried in the Miller family cemetery which was created for her at the time of her death. Nearly every succeeding generation of Millers included a “Betty.”
George R. Miller’s biography is included in the Western Arkansas Biographies of noteworthy persons. In 1858 George sold his land and moved his family to Arkansas where he served the state of Arkansas in several capacities. Family stories tell of his run-in with the outlaw, Jesse James.
Later, the John Miller, Sr. family sold their land and followed their son to Arkansas in the years between 1859 and 1865. The original family is buried in Polk County, at Board Camp, Cherry Hill, near Mena, Arkansas. Many of the succeeding generations are also buried in this cemetery; others who live on are continuing to make strong contributions to society.
In the summer of 1986, I visited Dade County and the home of my great-great-grandparents, John and Nancy Mary Miller, with my husband, Stan, and our youngest son, Paul, for the first time. We came, largely, because I could no longer resist an overwhelming longing to see Dade County. It was described to me as a place of such incredible beauty in intriguing correspondence from the Dade County Historical Society, particularly, Ms. Ersaline Carroll, and Mrs. Berniece Alien. And they did not disappoint me!
Lookout Mountain and Rising Fawn are breathtakingly beautiful. It is simply no wonder that it is described in song and poetry by so many. But, there simply are no words that I can find to describe my feelings as we drove along the road leading to the farm. If it is the one I think, described in the Dade County History Book, “Johnson’s Crook, Where the Lookout Mountain Scenic Highway crossed the road which leads down through Johnson’s Crook. The cross is marked by a large, flat stone with two or three other stones piled on top of it. This marks a well, forty feet deep. As you take the road to the right, it will lead you gently into Johnson’s Crook that won fame during the Civil War Days. When we saw a black iron arched entrance that read, “Miller Cemetery!” we all inhaled sharply as our eyes took in the awesome view of land that once belonged to my ancestors; mist rising, lush green everywhere, touched by God, untouched by time.
My imagination really stirred when I read in the History Book of Dade County. You will travel over stones that were tramped on by more than 40,000 men a few days preceding The Battle of Chickamauga. Johnson’s Crook on the West conspires with Steven’s Gap on the east side to cut Lookout Mountain almost in two. This was an attractive shortcut to the Federal officers in choosing a route to get into McLemore Cove on the east side of the mountain. Major General George H. Thomas started his army through this crook on September 5, 1863.
Hurricane Creek in Johnson’s Crook joins Lookout Creek. It is here where Gen Thomas encamped on the night of September 6th and the following day, Negley reached the top of the mountain. According to General Thomas’ report, his immediate troops left the foot of the mountain at 10:00 a.m. At noon, they were atop the mountain, save the wagon train. The continuation of Johnson’s Crook trail is known as Steven’s Gap Road, which leads across Lookout’s narrowest breath.”
In that narrow breath… of time and space… Horrors of imagination I release;
Close the eyes, turn away the head;
Stirred, heart pounding… continuing to race… Until a whisper came for fears to cease,
“Shhh O soul, tears no longer shed”
For in this place, ’tis God who shows his face.
(Submitted by The Reverend Dr. Cynthia Void Forde, RR 2, Box 155, Hempstead, TX, 77445, 409-826-4573.)