The ‘Selfless Act’ of Deputy Sheriff Milton McMillan of Somerset, PA


Milton R. McMillan (1851-1935) grew up on the farm of his parents Jehu and Mary Ann (Ream) McMillan near Listonville, Somerset County, PA and in 1890, at the age of 39, served as deputy sheriff of the county, working for his uncle Rush McMillan. Among the prisoners he was charged with overseeing at the county jail were David and Joseph Nicely, who were facing death by hanging for their brutal slaying of a local farmer. On one fateful day, in a selfless act, he made a name for himself while in the face of deadly danger. Said the Meyersdale (PA) Republican, “In the whole history of Somerset County, or for that matter of any other county in Pennsylvania, who has done a braver act than that of Milton R. McMillan … when the Nicely brothers, convicted murders, attempted to escape?”

At noon on Sept. 16, 1890, “the day watchman had been let out for the purpose of procuring a bucket of water,” said the 1906 book History of Bedford and Somerset Counties, Pennsylvania, as quoted in the Republican.

On his return, Deputy Sheriff Milton McMillan unlocked the jail door from the outside and admitted him. As the guard stepped away from the door, and before the deputy sheriff could close it, Joseph Nicely stepped forward and pointed a revolver in the deputy’s face. A struggle at one took place between the two men, in the outer hall leading to the door of the jail corridor, during which the deputy sheriff was shot twice by Joseph Nicely, and was at that time supposed to be fatally wounded. The deputy had, however, during the struggle with Joe, succeeded in locking the door, but could not take the key out of the lock. David Nicely put his hand through a small opening in the door, turned the key and made his escape from the jail while the struggle between his brother and the deputy was still going on. On being shot the second time, Deputy McMillan released his hold on Joseph Nicely, who at once ran out of the front door…. The plucky fight made by the deputy was something that had not been anticipated by them, as they supposed he would throw up his hands, and they could lock him up in one of the jail cells while all the prisoners could make their escape before any alarm could be given.

It took a year for Milton to recover from his gunshot wounds. As he convalesced, in the spring of 1891, the Nicelys were executed by hanging in the county jail, generating sensational coverage in newspapers from coast to coast. Later that year, Milton was pictured in a commemorative booklet about the affair, authored by Edward H. Werner, and entitled The Umberger Tragedy, with a Criminal History of Somerset County, Pa., in which this image was published. The Republican later reported that he “recovered from his wound and lived to a ripe old age, but the bullet remained imbedded [sic] in his body until the day of his death.”


Norman Bruce Ream: Multi-Millionaire of Chicago and New York with Deep Roots in Ursina, PA


Norman with fellow U.S. Steel board directors

Norman Bruce Ream, born in 1844 in a small log cabin in Ursina, Somerset County, PA, survived two Civil War wounds and a disastrous fire in his hometown to venture to Chicago, help build some of the nation’s mightiest industrial and cultural empires, and then become one of the nation’s wealthiest men in New York City, working alongside the most influential men in the country. In this photograph, courtesy of the Library of Congress, he stands with fellow U.S. Steel board directors Richard Lindaburg, Percival Roberts and Elbert H. Gary (for whom the city of Gary, Indiana is named). Enlarge>>>

Norman was the son of Levi and Hila (King) Ream and the grandson of Samuel W. and Mary (Rheims) Ream, all farmers on what became the village of Ursina, Somerset County. After the outbreak of the Civil War, the 18-year-old Norman and his cousin Ross Sanner walked a 29-mile distance to Uniontown, PA to be mustered into the 85th Pennsylvania Infantry. Many of our Minerd-Miner and Younkin cousins served in the same regiment — John Devan, Simon Firestone, James Frederick Imel, Jerome B. Jennings, Isaac F. Minerd, James Minerd Jr., William Minerd, James Rowan, Leonard H. Rowan, John Irving White, Harrison K. Younkin, Jacob M. Younkin and John X. Younkin.

In action at White Marsh GA, in February 1864, Norman was shot in the right thigh, with the enemy bullet lodging in the pelvic bone. Then at Weir Bottom Church, on June 1864, during the Battle of the Wilderness, he was wounded behind the right knee, the minie ball cutting through the back part of the leg. Cousin Sanner carried him on his shoulders for about a mile before arriving at a safe place. He received an honorable discharge and returned home, only to lose virtually everything in a fire. He decided to relocate to Osceola, Iowa, about 100 miles southwest of Chicago, along with his widowed father Levi Ream and several siblings.

While in Osceola, Norman worked in the grain and agricultural tool business, but a season of poor crops in 1870 forced him to suspend business. He pushed into the city of Chicago, where he began to make a living as a merchant in livestock and grain in partnership, dealing in livestock and then into commodities. Circa 1883, he is known to have sold in one day a half million bushels of wheat in Chicago, and due to the economics of the time, the move led to a price drop of three-quarters of a cent, which in essence allowed him to manipulate the market. He also helped his friend Philip D. Armour, founder of Armour Meats, corner the market in pork in 1883.

He became a friend and trusted confidante to many of the giants of Chicago, including Marshall Field, Cyrus McCormick and Robert T. Lincoln, son of the president. He helped organize the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and form the Marshall Field Museum of Natural History. When he moved east to to New York City in 1908, he became an associate of John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, among others. He was a pioneer in the consolidation of the steel industry and brought together a number of steel plants in the west which formed the Federal Steel Company. When Federal was absorbed by United States Steel in 1901, he became a board director of the corporation. In addition, Norman served on the boards of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the Pullman Company, National Biscuit Co. (Nabisco) and the Equitable Life Assurance Society. It’s said that during his business heyday, Norman frequently rode the B&O Railroad, often taking a route along Laurel Hill Creek past his hometown of Ursina and so he could view the graveyard where his mother rested. He once ordered the timber to be cut so he could better view the graveyard and once ordered a retaining wall to be built along the creek to keep floodwaters out. More>>>

Austin Bruce Garretson and the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations

A.B. Garretson, 3rd from left

In the early years of the 20th century, Austin Bruce “A.B.” Garretson of Iowa was widely known and respected in the railroad industry in United States and Mexico, and his work took on a national character. He was so admired that he was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to the United States Commission on Industrial Relations, where he is pictured here in a meeting, seated third from left.

Founded by Congress in 1912, the Commission’s purpose was to study the nation’s labor law and industrial work conditions. Among the tasks was to interview those with a deep interest, among them many actual laborers — influencers such as lawyers Clarence Darrow and Louis Brandeis, activist “Mother” Jones, Theodore Schroeder — and corporate giants Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford. The final report of 11 volumes was produced in 1916, containing tens of thousands of pages.

Married to Mary “Marie” Ream (of the family of Samuel W. and Mary [Rheims] Ream), of Osceola, Iowa, Austin began his railroad career as a conductor on the Burlington Railroad. In 1894, he became an officer of the Order of Railway Conductors, an early union, and was elected president in 1906, holding that position until retirement in 1917.

One of Austin’s early tangles was in 1903, when he offered a proposal to the Northern Pacific Railroad for increased wages, only to be turned down. Reported the Mason City (IA) Globe Gazette, “It was he who became the chief arbiter in the historic railroad strike that threatened to wreck our transportation system during World War I.” He was linked professionally to three other presidents of railroad unions, among them Warren Stone of the Locomotive Engineers, W.G. Lee of the Railroad Trainmen and W.S. Carter of the Railroad Firemen, and was pictured in newspapers for his work to negotiate wages and better working conditions, including threatening a strike of 400,000 railmen until Congress passed an eight-hour workday law. In 1916, he authored an article, “Will Ye Serve God or Mammon,” published in the Order’s newpaper, Railway Conductor, promoting Wilson for president, with distribution to all railroad men in the nation in advance of election day.

Historic image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A Sisterhood Swept Away By the Grim Reaper

MayleMagdaleneRightSisterOpal02     MayleMagdaleneCasketOpalStanding Photo of the Month for July 2017 — Magdalene and Opal Deola Mayle were two years apart in age and about as close as young sisters could be during the Great Depression years in the coal mining town of Meriden near Philippi, Barbour County, WV.

Magdalene, born in 1925, and Opal, in 1927, were the daughters of Enoch and Dosha L. (Newman) Mayle of the family of William Stephen and Ruth Ann (Minerd) Mayle of Philippi. The pair seemed destined for a long life of friendship and companionship and sharing all sorts of experiences as sisters do — including losing their father and grandfather in the same year (1929), but also having their photograph portrait taken together.

But cruel fate intervened. During the hot and muggy mid-August of 1935, the 10-year-old Magdalene contracted pneumonia and appendicitis which turned into acute gangrene and peritonitis. Dr. L.S. King of Philippi was summoned to the Mayles’ mountain home, and he performed an incision to drain the infected area. Magdalene’s life hung in the balance for four excruciating days. Nothing further could be done.

Magdalene succumbed on Aug. 23, 1935, relieved of her agony, but leaving behind her mother and sister Opal to try to reason with what had just taken place and how they were going to go on. After an autopsy, the girl’s remains were brought back home for the funeral. This snapshot captures the haunting moment of the final goodbye from one sister to another, with Magdalene’s long hair decorated in ribbons, and the casket filled with fresh flowers, while Opal grasps the handle, perhaps in an attempt to hold onto her beloved sister for as long as possible. Burial was in the Chestnut Ridge Cemetery, where their father, grandfather William Stephen Mayle and great-grandfather, Civil War veteran Henry C. Minerd, already were at rest.

View these images in larger formats on our Photo of the Month page >>>

Jerome B. Jennings and the Ross Rush Post of the Grand Army of the Republic

CivilWarSoldiersReunionJerseyChurchJennings    CivilWarSoldiersReunionJerseyChurch04
Jerome B. Jennings and his fellow Civil War veterans Photo of the Month for June 2016 — Standing at attention at far left, Civil War veteran Jerome B. Jennings — of the family of David and Catherine (Ream) Jennings — poses with his fellow members of the Ross Rush Post of the Grand Army of the Republic at the historic burying ground of the 1775 Turkeyfoot Baptist Church, later renamed the Jersey Baptist Church near Ursina, Somerset County, PA.

Others in the line, left to right: Leroy Forquer (of the family of Frederick and Margaret “Peggy” [Faidley] Dull), Zack Tannehill, Dr. Mountain, James R. Johnston, [unknown], Jacob Phillippi, Balaam Younkin (of the family of Jacob J. and Dorcas [Hartzell] Younkin), Samuel Tressler, Dave Fields, Jacob J. Rush (also of the family of Frederick Dull), Harrison Rush, Isaac Hall, [unknown], Isaac Van Sickel, Daniel Sechler, Silas Conn, William Thomas and [unknown].

The Rush Post was founded in July 1883 as part of a national organized effort to advocate for patriotic education, make Memorial Day (“Decoration Day”) a national holiday, lobby Congress to establish regular veterans’ pensions and support Republican political candidates. Its peak national membership, circa 1890, is said to have included more than 490,000 members.

Other members of the Rush Post who are featured on include Foster C. Younkin (also of the family of Jacob J. Younkin), John H. Younkin and Charles Rose as well as Marcellus “Marsh” Andrews, John Enos and Harrison K. Younkin. In an interesting twist, soldier Ross Rush, killed during an infantry charge at the Battle of Petersburg and for whom the post was named, was the brother in law of Rev. J. Frederick Kuhlman.

In 2016, the original antique membership ledgers of the Post were purchased with private funds from an eBay seller in New York and then digitized, repaired and placed into the ownership of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Mt. Union Church Camp #502. As well, cousin Barbara Bowers of the family of Bertha (Ream) Conn stepped forward to donate original application papers which the soldiers had filled out when pursuing membership.

At the invitation of the Mt. Union Church Camp,’s founder was a guest speaker at a memorial program held at the church on May 21, 2017, and later re-recorded the presentation as a series of three podcasts. Click to hear the first podcast with stories about Jennings, J.J. Rush and Forquer — the second podcast about veterans H.K. Younkin, Enos and Andrews — and the third and final podcast about F. Younkin, B. Younkin and Rose. extends its gratitude to Mt. Union Camp organizers Robert Wrigley and cousin Linda Marker of the family of Frederick J. Younkin.

Latest Recommended News/Blog Stories

Covering the span from New Year’s Day 2017 to today, here’s my list of favorite news articles and blog posts, posted on my award-winning website, These stories, written by [generally] objective, knowledgeable experts who have examined their subjects in detail, spanning the themes of Americana, culture, art, journalism, genealogy … and Pittsburgh, the epicenter of our family’s growth and development since 1791.

What’s so fascinating is how we always live in the shadow of history and that our current events always seem to be shaped by people of the past.

Private Collections Made Public: New York’s Museum Libraries” – The Bottom Line, May 2017
Are the Dutch Lagging in Efforts to Return Art Looted by the Nazis?” – New York Times, May 12, 2017
Monticello: using the remains of history to illuminate slavery, daily life in Jefferson’s world” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 11, 2017
Thousands to Evacuate After World War II Bombs Found in German City” – CNN, May 6, 2017
Three Years After a Print Went Missing, Boston Public Library Invests $15.7 Million to Preserve Its Rare Book and Manuscript Collection” – Rare Book Hub, May 2017
One City in Pennsylvania is Poised to Crush the 21st Century … but it’s not Philadelphia” – Philadelphia Magazine, April 29, 2017
The Bentley Rare Book Museum Opens” – Fine Books & Collections, April 26, 2017
Neanderthals may have lived in North America 130,000 years ago, study claims” – by Malcolm Ritter, Associated Press, published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Archive Acquired of Theatre and Film Actor Peter O’Toole” – Fine Books & Collections, April 24, 2017
The scourge of misinformation: Disdain for expertise is inherent in today’s culture of self-absorption” – by George Will, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 6, 2017
After Slave Revelations, Retiree Has a New Mission” – New York Times, April 2, 2017
American Textile History Museum, Closed Last Year, Will Transfer Its Vast Library to Cornell University” – by Michael Stillman, Rare Book Monthly, April 2017
Otto Penzler’s Literary Lair” – Fine Books & Collections, April 2017
A Glimpse Into the Life of a Slave Sold to Save Georgetown” – New York Times, March 12, 2017
Study finds white working class increasingly dying ‘deaths of despair’” – Associated Press, published in the Chicago Tribune, March 24, 2017
The Greatest Private Library of Judaica Has Been Sold to the National Library of Israel” – Rare Book Monthly, March 2017
Caren Chooses Christie’s, Cowans & Country” – Rare Book Monthly, March 2017
Who Do You Think You Are?” – 2017 TLC Television Series, Season 9 – Featuring Courteney Cox, Jessica Biel, Julie Bowen, John Stamos, Smokey Robinson, Noah Wyle, Liv Tyler and Jennifer Grey – March 2017
Mark Samuels Lasner Donates $10-million Collection to University of Delaware” – Fine Books & Collections, Feb. 16, 2017
The Furious Eloquence of James Baldwin” – by Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 17, 2017
The Last Original Frank Lloyd Wright Owners” – Wall Street Journal, Feb. 15, 2017
Introducing Open Access At the Met” – Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Feb. 7, 2017
Ivor Noël Hume, famed archaeologist, dies at 89” – Virginia Gazette, Feb. 6, 2017
Auction Prices for Books and Paper Rose 1.5% in 2016” – Rare Book Hub, February 2017
A Spectacular Collection Emerges from the Shadows” – Rare Book Hub, February 2017
You Can Write in Mark Twain’s Library” – Fine Books & Collections, Jan. 26, 2017
Penn Libraries Acquires Lost Benjamin Franklin Broadside” – Fine Books & Collections, Jan. 24, 2017
Family Archive of Alexander Hamilton Letters & Manuscripts Achieves $2.6 Million at Sotheby’s New York” – Fine Books & Collections, Jan. 19, 2017
Jolted by Deaths, Obama Found His Voice on Race” – New York Times, Jan. 14, 2017
Obama Makes His Mark as First ‘Social Media’ President” – Associated Press, Jan. 8, 2017
Why Envy Pittsburgh? An Educated Guess” – by Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 5, 2017
A Library Plans to Sell a Valuable Century-Old Book Collection” – Rare Book Hub, January 2017
Does History Predict the Future?” – Rare Book Hub, January 2017
Rare Book Hub Passes Seven Million Full Text Records” – Rare Book Hub, January 2017

Now Pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers


Only one known member of the extended Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor family has played Major League Baseball — Roger Wesley Miller — of the Albert Ward and Ada (Whipkey) Minerd branch of Mill Run, Fayette County, PA. His career spanned two games for the Milwaukee Brewers in September 1974, pitching 2.1 innings, striking out two (including future hall of famer Carl Yastrzemski), hitting one batter and giving up three runs on three hits.

In his first big league game, at Boston’s Fenway Park on Sept. 8, 1974, with Bernie Carbo on base, Roger surrendered a two-run home run to Dwight Evans. In his second and final game, he again faced the Red Sox, this time in Milwaukee County Stadium.

Most of Roger’s career was spent in the minor leagues, with the Newark Co-Pilots of the New York Pennsylvania League (1972); Danville Warriors of the Midwest League (1973); and Sacramento Solons (1974-1975) and Spokane Indians (1977) of the Pacific Coast League. Baseball Digest once called him “stocky, a good pitching prospect in his third year of organized ball. In one game last June, he did something nobody else had done all season — allowed no homers” in Sacramento’s Hughes Stadium, where the left-field fence was only 232 feet away from home plate.  An entry featuring Roger in the Brewers’ 1975 media guide says he was an “All-Pacific Coast League performer in 1974 … tied teammate Tom Hausman for league lead in most complete games with 11 for Sacramento … 4.48 earned run average was low on Sacramento club … struckout 101 batters in 185 innings pitched in ’74 … was 8-4 with 3.32 ERA at Danville in 1973…”

He stood 6 feet, 3 inches tall, with brown eyes and brown hair.

Following retirement from baseball, Roger returned to Mill Run and pursued a career as a welder. Tragically, he was killed in an industrial accident in Connellsville, PA on April 26, 1993, leaving behind his wife Joy and several children. Over the years since, Joy has been employed at Fallingwater — the world famous house in Mill Run designed over a waterfall by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright — and was the guest speaker at our 2004 National Minerd-Miner-Minor Reunion, presenting about our family’s long-term love affair with the house and honoring 26 cousins past and present who have worked there. Be sure to see the pages devoted to “In the Days Before Fallingwater” – “Fallingwater Today” – and the four-page booklet, entitled Fallingwater: A Long Family Affair.