On your 100th birthday someone should remember who you were and how you lived. Today, December 21st is Lillie Anderson Miller's 100th birthday and I almost missed it, thinking that it was the 22nd. I don't know how my memory could be so fallible. GOINFS.
1914 - With her mother and father, Richard and Hansine Anderson.
1931 - her high school graduation picture.
1947 - with her children - Gene, Sylvia, Jim, Tom
Lillie was born December 21, 1913, of immigrant parents on a newly established farm on Yellow River in Burnett county in northern Wisconsin. She learned Norwegian and Swedish from her parents at home. Her father, Richard W. Anderson, was born in Grantsburg, the seventh child of parents who came from Sweden in 1870. His native language was Swedish. Lillie's mother was Hansine Hansen, who was born in Magisås, Norway, north of the Arctic Circle, and came to Wisconsin in September, 1903, when she was eight. Richard and Hansine met in Wisconsin and married June 19, 1913, when he was 35 and she was 18, half his age. They had six children over about sixteen years. Lillie was the oldest.
She was bright, adaptive, and funny. When she started school in Union township she spoke no English. Many of her classmates probably had the same handicap. They learned English together and took it home to their younger siblings and their parents and grandparents.
Lillie knew her maternal grandparents well. They lived a mile or so to the east along Burnett county road U. They had settled on land next to Buffalo Lake and adjoining Yellow River. It was much flatter land than they had left behind in Norway, and the growing season, so far from the Arctic, was much more conducive to farming. But the land was swampy and the soil sandy with pockets of clay and thus not as rich as some of the other immigrants found in southern Minnesota, not so far away. Farming was hard.
Nils Olai Hansen, Lillie's grandfather, had been a tenant farmer and a fisherman in Norway, with enough wanderlust that with his wife Jacobina's encouragement and consent had brought them and their three children across the Atlantic Ocean to America. When Nils was ready to come to America, neither of them had been afraid of the long journey over sea. Perhaps they had underestimated the length of the journey, but they endured and soon were settled in a colony of other emigrated Norwegians.
Lillie was an American. She was born on the farm by the Yellow River, far from Norway and far from the bustling American cities. She learned self reliance and trust of the land to provide if she would but work hard.
The flock of chickens provided eggs and fresh meat for their diet, and they grew grain and picked berries. They kept cows and pigs. The cows supplied milk and cheese and the pigs contributed protein to their diets. They canned and dried their food for the long winters, and supplemented their diets with wild deer and fish from the river. Wild rice grew in the river and they harvested it in the fall when it was plentiful. There were blueberries and gooseberries from the forest and apples in the orchard. There was enough.
Hansine was called Sina by her husband and the relatives in the area. She was just nineteen when Lillie was born, so they grew to be friends and partners as the other children were born and grew. Leona and Marvin were born in the next three years and they kept Sina busy feeding and caring for them. Lillie was a third hand for Sina as she grew. They kept a large garden, with potatoes, beans, carrots, and raspberries among others. In the summers they'd pick blueberries that often grew in profusion in the neighboring woods. They made luscious blueberry pies and canned many quarts for the cold winter days.
Sina possessed a mystic streak in her nature. She could "feel" the future sometimes. There would be Sundays when she'd sense that extra company would be coming. She'd be so sure that she'd kill an extra chicken for the large dinners that they would have Sunday afternoon. Killing an extra chicken was a risk, but she was nearly always right.
Louise was born in 1919, then Dorothy in 1926 and Marian in 1929. Hansine's brother, Jacob, and his wife Augustina lived close by, and they, too, had a large family, so there were always cousins around to play with. Their two oldest children were a son, Nels Jørgen, born in 1923, and th eir daughter Berit, born in 1925.
Lillie went to high school in town in Webster. Leona and Marvin were there at the same time. Leona was two years behind her in school. Lillie did well in high school, graduated in 1931. Under her picture in the 1931 Sylvacola (the year book) it said, "Not only good, but good for something." She was athletic enough to play kitten ball and volley ball, acted in a class play, and had a good sense of humor. The senior class prophecy was written by Betty Miller, her future sister-in-law, and predicted, “Lillie was in Hollywood, as a comedian, and was rated very high.” The Senior class will says, “Lillie Anderson leaves her spryness and agility to Ruth Manual.”
After high school she went to Grantsburg Normal School for a year to become a teacher. After gaining the teacher certificate in 1932 she returned to Webster but was unable to get a job in the school. It was the Depression and jobs were few. Her connections were not good enough to get her a job at the school. She worked in the resorts in the area and lived at home. There was at least one boy friend, Hank Rasmusson, son of a butcher. From the back of an old picture, in her handwriting, "Taken a few minutes before Hank left for Carry's on Easter Sunday 1935. The last he took of me. He was married Oct. 26, '35. As far as I know I wish her luck. She'll need it."
In 1940, she married Thomas Eugene Miller, who was the older brother of one of her Webster high school classmates, Betty Miller. He was driving a truck for the logging companies around Hovland, Minnesota. They were married at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Duluth, April 23, 1940, with Louise Anderson and John Jones Miller as their attendants. They went off to live in a modest house in Grand Marais. They lived there four years. They had their first children - May 30, 1941, Tommy and October 14, 1942, Jim. They were born in Frederic, Wisconsin. This was World War II and Tom was drawn into the conflict. He went off to the Aleutian Islands to help build air fields and Lillie went home to live near her family. Sylvia was born in Frederic on July 25, 1944, when he was away, and Gene shortly after the war ended, October 11, 1946, in Grantsburg. During the war, the school district asked her to come teach in the school, but her family responsibilities were too great and she declined. A family story says that she turned down the job partly because she didn't want to use family influence to gain employment in the school.
After the war, Tom came back and got a job in the lumber yard, and the family lived in Webster in the Caroll building a block or so from work. While they lived there, the lumber yard burned to the ground in a dramatic night-time blaze. The family was roused and kept outside in the car because of the perceived tinder box quality of the Caroll building.
She developed breast cancer in 1949 and had a mastectomy and other treatment. She and the family moved to Coleraine, Minnesota, in the fall of 1950 where Tom had a job as manager of the Canisteo Lumber Company. They lived at 108 Hartley Avenue in Coleraine's Second Addition, a half block from the skating rink, tennis court combination, and not far from Trout Lake. Tom coached the boys' Cub Scout baseball team and Lillie kept the home running smoothly. Coleraine was an iron mining town, with a rich mixture of nationalities of miners living there and in the sister town of Bovey.
I remember her sense of humor. We were listening to the radio broadcast of a University of Minnesota football game one Saturday. She made me laugh hysterically while she poked fun at the announcer talking about the tailback running around his own end. She was picturing the scene that was described by the sportscaster in her own literal way, and making me dissolve in laughter.
The cancer returned in 1954 and eventually spread to her liver. In the summer of 1954, Tom and Jim lived with Lillie's brother, Marvin, and Sylvia and Gene spent the summer with Lillie's parents at Yellow River, while Lillie underwent treatment in Minneapolis. That summer, her dad, Richard Anderson died (July 25, 1954). Lillie lived through the cold winter and she died March 1, 1955 in Coleraine of the disease. She had funeral services in Coleraine and at the Yellow Lake Lutheran Church. They sang "The Old Rugged Cross" at her funeral and she was buried in the Webster, Wisconsin, Cemetery on a cold, gray, blustery day. Her son, Gene, remembered the minister's comment, "Gentlemen, don't remove your hats." A cold day indeed. She was 41.
A story by Aunt Louise that brought tears to her eyes, forty years after it happened. It was the morning of mom's funeral in 1955. Gene was staying with Louise and, being a young kid just experiencing the largest trauma in his life, wet the bed. Louise had only a little time to try to clean up so she opened the bed and put newspaper beneath the sheet with the intention of letting the sheets dry and to finish the cleanup after the funeral. When she came back after the funeral and interment, the bed was dry and made. No one could have been there. Louise thinks that it was Lillie, taking care of Gene.
Her obituary from The Itasca Iron News, Coleraine, Minnesota, Thursday, March 3, 1955:
“Community Saddened by Death of Young Mother.
Mrs. Lillie Miller died at her home at 10:15 P. M. March 1, 1955 at the age of 41, after a lingering illness. She was born at Yellow Lake, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1913, to Mr. and Mrs. Richard Anderson.
Mrs. Miller attended rural school in Yellow Lake, graduated from Webster High School in 1931 and from Grantsburg Normal School in 1932. On April 23, 1940, she was united in marriage to Thomas Miller at the Trinity Lutheran church in Duluth. To this union were born four children, Thomas Richard, 13; James Marvin, 12; Sylvia Louise, 10; Eugene William, 8.
In the early years of their marriage the Millers resided for four years on the North Shore at Grand Marais, moving then to Webster, Wis. Four years ago they came to Coleraine to make their home where Mr. Miller is manager of the Canisteo Lumber Company.
Mrs. Miller was preceded in death by her father in July. She is survived by her husband, Thomas, and four children; her mother, Mrs. Richard Anderson of Danbury, Wisconsin; four sisters, Mrs. Albert Hoffman, Muskegon, Mich.; Mrs. John Gomulak, Markville, Minn; Mrs. John McCune, Danbury, Wis; and Marian Anderson of Danbury; one brother, Marvin Anderson of New Richmond, Wis.
Funeral services will be held at Peterson's Chapel at 10 A. M. Friday morning with Rev. Grover officiating. Mrs. Harold Nordstrom will sing The Lord's Prayer accompanied on the organ by Mrs. E. H. Winberg. The body will be shipped to Yellow Lake, Wisconsin, where funeral services will be held at the Yellow Lake Lutheran Church Saturday at 2 P. M. with Reverend Thelander officiating. Mrs. Ira Jeffries will sing The Old Rugged Cross, Faith of Our Fathers, and Just As I Am Without One Plea, accompanied by Mrs. Ray Pardun at the organ. Interment will be at the Webster cemetery.”
But we finish with her family renowned cake recipe. It has been the blueprint for numerous birthday cakes. Try it. You’ll like it.
Lillie's Red Devil's Food Cake
cream 1/2 cup butter
add 2 cup sugar
" 2 eggs - beat in well
" 1/2 cup sour milk
" 2 cup flour (measured before sifting)
Mix to paste: 2 heaping Tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup hot water - add to batter
Add 1/2 cup hot water (making 1 cup in all) in which 1 teaspoon soda is added. 1 t. vanilla.
Batter is thin, but that is as it should be. (Cook 40 minutes at 350º)