© 2020 by Roots & Wings Research, LLC

  • Kristin Wenger

On the Trail of a Prolific Pioneer (#52Ancestors week 49: Winter)

Winter is definitely my least favorite season. But surviving the harsh, frigid conditions of a Pennsylvania winter would have been a much greater challenge two centuries ago. Mamas, can you imagine trying to keep a newborn baby warm and fed in those days? Given the topic “Winter,” I decided to focus this week’s story on an ancestor who was born in the depths of a bleak midwinter:


Asher Millhouse, born on the 17th of January, 1804. [1]

Asher’s life was noteworthy for two main reasons. He was both a prolific progenitor and a pioneer.

Relationship chart showing my Millhouse family line back to my 4x great grandfather [2]



The Prolific Progenitor


In a previous post, I shared that Great Grandpa Millhouse was from a family of 14 children. [3]

My great grandpa Lloyd Millhouse holding me, 1977


As it turns out, his great grandpa (Asher Millhouse, Sr.) one-upped that family. Asher was the father of 15 children! [4]


Copy of the record from Asher Millhouse’s family Bible [5]


Of course, this record is a derivative source and the birth dates of the children born before the Bible was purchased in 1846 were made years later; however, it offered a great starting point for further research to both verify and locate more information on all 15 children.


For example, I found the 1850 mortality schedule below verifying that two of the children died in September 1849. [6]


The Millhouse children (#3 and 4) died at the ages of four and two.

This document provides details on the deaths of Ephraim and Caroline (misspelled in the Bible record). Both died of flux, or dysentery. Notice that the overwhelming majority of deaths were young children from either scarlet fever or flux. Most of them were ill for only a matter of days. [7]


The Bible record listed 15 children, but I discovered that they were actually born to two different wives. Asher’s first wife, Elizabeth Hevil, gave birth to the first eight (Mary, 1824, through John, 1841). [8] After Elizabeth’s death, Asher soon married Ann (sometimes called Nancy) Kramer on 15 May 1842. [9] Ann, only two years older than Asher’s eldest daughter, gave birth to a second set of seven children over the next ten years (Reuben, 1842, through George, 1852). [10]


Through the decades in which Asher and his wives were raising this large brood, he was a farmer in the Creswell area of Manor Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. [11] After Ann’s death in 1861, I could find no trace of Asher in Lancaster County. [12] Widowed for a second time, where did Asher spend the last 20 years of his life?



The Pioneers


Obviously, my Millhouse family line stayed in Lancaster County and we’re still here! However, a few of those 15 children decided to venture farther west. By following their trail, I discovered that Asher, after his wife’s death, moved to Illinois to live with his eldest son Jacob. It was actually a biography of Jacob’s son Frank (a grandson of Asher) that gave me the most information.


From History of Whiteside County, Illinois [13]


As with all local county histories and authored works, there can be inaccuracies. For instance, Asher was erroneously called Arthur. However, they are excellent sources of clues for further research and historical context! (And what fabulous details! Wouldn't you love to purchase land at twenty-five dollars per acre?)


By tracing Asher’s eldest son Jacob (rather than my direct ancestor, Asher, Jr.), I learned about how Asher came to spend his final years living as an Illinois pioneer.


Jacob married Mary Eshleman on 23 Sept 1852. [14]

Asher and Elizabeth Millhouse of Manor Township were identified as Jacob’s parents. [15]


By 1857, this young couple (Jacob and Mary) had moved westward to become some of the pioneer settlers of Whiteside County, Illinois. [16]


1856 map of Illinois (Whiteside County is in the northwest in light green) [17]


The 1860 census record below shows that Mary’s parents (identified on Jacob and Mary’s 1852 marriage record) and siblings had migrated with them and lived on the adjacent farm. Mary’s younger brother Nathaniel was one of Jacob Millhouse’s farm hands. [18]


Following his second wife’s death, widower Asher Millhouse joined his son Jacob’s household in Illinois and remained with him for the rest of his life. [19]


The front page of the Sterling Gazette, above, with a close up, below.


Asher died in the home of his son, Jacob. [20]



More about the Millhouses in Illinois: Their Church


A portion of son Jacob’s obituary, transcribed below, provided an avenue for additional research. [21]


He joined the Mennonite Church of which he has been a faithful and devoted member to the end of his life. Not only in this loss confined to the immediate members of the household, but the entire community will in more than an ordinary degree share in it, not merely because he was so widely known, but because of the largeness of his heart in extending a helping hand to everyone who needed his assistance. As a neighbor none could be better; as a Christian he lived beyond reproach and his closing hours were hours of confidence and trust in his Savior in whom he never wavered. He has left us to mourn our loss, but our loss is his gain. Funeral services were conducted by A. C. Good…at the home and at the Science Ridge Mennonite Church near Sterling, Ill., where a large number of relatives and acquaintances gathered to show a last tribute of respect.

The name “Science Ridge” struck me as quite unusual for a Mennonite Church. Further investigation led to insight into the migration of a group of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Mennonites to Whiteside County, Illinois.


Eleven years after the establishment of Whiteside County, Illinois, Mennonites began coming to this county. In 1852 Benjamin Stauffer and his wife were the first to arrive with a following, coming from Lancaster and Bucks County Pennsylvania. The group first met together in Joseph Snavely's corn barn. In 1858 a church building was built on land donated by Jacob Snavely. The site chosen was adjacent to a small community burying ground that was taken over by the church.
The name Science Ridge did not originate with the Mennonites but it was adopted from the surrounding community known by that name. The one room schoolhouse that stood opposite the church had acquired that name because of its prominent interest in science and education. [22]
At first the preaching was all in German, and services were held only every two weeks. [23]


More about the Millhouses in Illinois: Their Land


I enjoyed identifying the exact piece of land where pioneer Jacob and his father Asher Millhouse made their new home.


The map below, dated 1893, identifies land owners in Jordan Township, Whiteside County, Illinois. [24]


Here is a closer view. Can you find Jacob Millhouse’s 80 acres near the center?


By using the landmarks of Penrose and Freeport Rd, I circled the farmhouse on that exact same property on a current day Google map. [25]


The farm where Asher Millhouse spent his final years


Family history research is full of adventures. Asher Millhouse’s life journey began on a frigid January day in Pennsylvania and ended in the heat of August in an Illinois farmhouse. But what truly mattered was how this prolific pioneer lived each and every day in between.


Take-aways for your family history:

Have you lost track of one of your direct ancestors? This case study on my 4x great grandfather, Asher Millhouse, demonstrates why collateral research is so important. Remember that individuals did not live or migrate in isolation. They had networks of family, friends, associates and neighbors (commonly referred to as the FAN club). In this case, I researched all 15 of Asher’s children, but eventually one of them led me straight to him!


Read more #52Ancestors stories



Sources:

[1] Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, genealogical card file for Millhouse, Asher (1804-1881); “Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Mennonite Vital Records, 1750-1940,” database with digital images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60592 : accessed 28 November 2018) > Miller, Mahlon – Mohr, Paul E. > images 2371 and 2372 of 3936.


[2] Kristin Wenger, relationship chart for Asher Millhouse, “Josh Alexa Nathan Wenger Family Tree,” Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 November 2018).


[3] Unidentified creator, hand-drawn Christ and Mary Millhouse family tree chart, provided to author by her grandmother Doris (Millhouse) Hornberger, granddaughter of Christ and Mary Millhouse; verified by author’s research.


[4] Harold Millhouse Kilheffer, “Children of Asher Millhouse,” transcription of family record in Asher Millhouse’s Bible, 28 July 1983, citing original Bible in possession of Gladys Wechsler (great granddaughter of Asher Millhouse), Sterling, Illinois; Millhouse family file, Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


[5] Ibid.


[6] 1850 U.S. census, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, mortality schedule, unnumbered, Manor Township, lines 3 and 4, Ephraim and Caroline Millhouse; database with images, “U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8756 : accessed 28 November 2018), 1850 > Pennsylvania > Lancaster > image 4 of 71.


[7] Ibid. For definition of flux, see James Byars Carter, M.D., "Disease and Death in the Nineteenth Century: A Genealogical Perspective," The National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 76, (Dec 1988), 289-301.

[8] Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, genealogical card file for Millhouse, Asher (1804-1881).


[9] Ibid.


[10] For Ann’s birth and death years, see Gerberich Collection, Masonville Cemetery, Manor Township, p. 133, record for Millhouse, Ann (w. of Asher, d. of George and Elizabeth Kramer); database with images, “Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013,” Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 November 2018) > PA-Lancaster > Not Stated > Not Stated > Gerberich Collection – Gravestone Inscriptions > image 385 of 532. Also, Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, genealogical card file for Millhouse, Asher (1804-1881).


[11] For specific location of Creswell, see “Millhouse, Reuben,” Gospel Herald, Volume X, Number 6 May 10, 1917, page 111; transcription, Mennonite Church USA Archives http://mcusa-archives.org/MennObits/17/may1917.html :accessed 28 November 2018). Also, "United States Census, 1830," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYTT-9S7Y?cc=1803958&wc=35Y4-ZVX%3A1588474703%2C1588477502%2C1588477506 : 14 August 2015), Pennsylvania > Lancaster > Manor > image 37 of 48; citing NARA microfilm publication M19, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). "United States Census, 1840," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHRT-R4J : 16 August 2017), Asher Millhouse, Manor Township, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States; citing p. 171, NARA microfilm publication M704, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 465; FHL microfilm 20,547. "United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4H2-JPB : 12 April 2016), Asher Mellhouse, Manor, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, United States; citing family 340, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). "United States Census, 1860," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9BSH-3VS?cc=1473181&wc=7QTM-9D9%3A1589434177%2C1589430915%2C1589434542 : 24 March 2017), Pennsylvania > Lancaster > Manor Township > image 88 of 92; citing NARA microfilm publication M653 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).


[12] Gerberich Collection, Masonville Cemetery, Manor Township, p. 133, record for Millhouse, Ann (w. of Asher, d. of George and Elizabeth Kramer), 1822-1861. Also, search of 1870 and 1880 U.S. census records for Asher Millhouse, Sr. in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.


[13] William W. Davis, "Frank Millhouse," History of Whiteside County, Illinois from its earliest settlement to 1908: illustrated, with biographical sketches of some prominent citizens of the county, vol. 2 (Chicago : Pioneer Publishing Company, 1908), 778-779; digitized at Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/historyofwhitesi02davi/page/778 : accessed 28 November 2018).


[14] “Pennsylvania, Marriages, 1852-1854,” database with images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2486 : accessed 28 November 2018), path: Lancaster > image 22 of 70; citing Lancaster County, registration of marriage no. 85, Jacob Millhouse and Mary Eshleman, 23 September 1852.


[15] Ibid.


[16] William W. Davis, “Frank Millhouse,” History of Whiteside County, vol. 2 (Chicago : Pioneer Pub. Co., 1908), 778.


[17] "1856 Atlas Map of Illinois," MapofUS (http://www.mapofus.org/illinois/ : accessed 28 November 2018).


[18] "United States Census, 1860," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYBT-59C?cc=1473181&wc=7QVJ-RFV%3A1589423252%2C1589426359%2C1589426459 : 24 March 2017), Illinois > Whiteside > Jordan > image 24, households of Jacob Millhouse and Jacob Eshleman; from "1860 U.S. Federal Census - Population," database, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : n.d.); citing NARA microfilm publication M653 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).


[19] "United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M6WT-H5R : 12 April 2016), Asher Millhouse in household of Jacob Millhouse, Illinois, United States; citing p. 9, family 64, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 545,789. "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MXKB-PTY : 14 August 2017), Asher Millhouse in household of Jacob Millhouse, Jordan, Whiteside, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district ED 202, sheet 143A, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0258; FHL microfilm 1,254,258. Also, “Home News,” Sterling Gazette (Sterling, Illinois), 20 August 1881, page 1, column 3; digital image, Digital Archives of the Sterling Public Library (https://sterlingpl.newspaperarchive.com/sterling-gazette/1881-08-20/ : accessed 27 November 2018).


[20] “Home News,” Sterling Gazette (Sterling, Illinois), 20 August 1881, page 1, column 3; digital image, Digital Archives of the Sterling Public Library (https://sterlingpl.newspaperarchive.com/sterling-gazette/1881-08-20/ : accessed 27 November 2018).


[21] “Millhouse, Jacob,” Gospel Herald, Volume VIII, Number 38, December 16, 1915, page 623; transcription, Mennonite Church USA Archives (http://mcusa-archives.org/MennObits/15/dec1915.html : accessed 28 November 2018).


[22] Mary Helen Wade, “Science Ridge Mennonite Church History,” Sterling-Rock Falls Historical Society (http://www.srfhs.com/more-information/stories/51-science : accessed 27 November 2018).


[23] A.C. Good, “Science Ridge Mennonite Church (Sterling, Illinois, USA),” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Science_Ridge_Mennonite_Church_(Sterling,_Illinois,_USA)

: accessed 27 November 2018).


[24] “U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918,” database with images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1127 : accessed 30 November 2018), path: Illinois > Whiteside, 1893 > image 10 of 62.


[25] Search for “Freeport Road and Penrose, Jordan Township, IL,” GoogleMaps (https://www.google.com/maps/ : accessed 30 November 2018).