It was early spring in 2002, March the 2nd to be exact. There was still snow on the ground in places where there had been drifts, but the first spring flowers were shyly peeking their heads out into the warm sunshine as the last of the snow melted. Mom and I were sitting at her kitchen table, chatting about much of nothing, in the way that mothers and daughters do once they’ve survived the miserable teenage years and become fast friends as adults.
We had been discussing family history, one of the interests we had in common. Ironically, I gave her a family history book to be completed about 10 years earlier. She kept it for a few months, then gave it back to me. Empty. I quizzically looked at her and asked why it was empty. She said that she thought I should do the book. I told her I didn’t know anything about the family history, which is why I gave the book to her. She smugly looked at me and said, “Well, I guess we’ll have to do it together then won’t we.” Touché, Mom! We had great adventures for the next decade doing just that!
In passing, that sunfilled spring morning, mother mentioned that her grandmother, Evaline Miller, known as Eva, always wore her “white hat.” White hat? What white hat? And why? Mom didn’t know. She said she never thought to ask, it was just always a part of her grandmother and she never thought anything of it. Little did she know it was the hint that would launch a search and lead to the discovery of an entire branch of the family.
Mother mentioned that Eva and her family were from the New Paris area in Northern Indiana, not far from where we were sitting that day. Not being terribly familiar with the various German immigrant groups at that time, I presumed this meant Eva was Amish or Mennonite, the two most prevalent in the region. The women of both religions practice “plain dressing” and wore prayer caps. Having grown up in this area, I was familiar with the practice and the people, but had always viewed them as “other,” separate from me. Them, those nice quiet people who never got into trouble. Definitely not connected to me, or so I thought.
Since Eva married a Dutch (as in fresh from the Netherlands Dutch) man, Hiram Ferverda, I figured she was Mennonite, because the Amish would not have allowed her to marry outside the church. I was wrong. The Miller family would prove to be German Baptist, commonly called Dunkards, now known as Brethren, with a long history of religious perseverance, and so, apparently, were the Ferverdas, at least in the US.
After immigrating from the Netherlands in the late 1860s, the Ferverdas joined the Brethren Church. Apparently Hiram Ferverda’s father had been Lutheran in Holland, but his first and second wives, both Dutch, has been Mennonite. So, as you might guess, the family adopted a pietist faith. Anyone who thinks the wife doesn’t run the family hasn’t been married very long:) The beliefs of the Brethren and Mennonite are not drastically different.
The picture above is Eva Miller Ferverda, sitting on the porch of her home in Leesburg, Indiana. I had always wondered at the significant of the three stars in the window behind her, if any. I discovered that the window star banner was adopted in 1917 displayed during WWI to indicate family members fighting in that War. Three of Eva’s sons were serving.
On the document below found in the probate records of Eva’s father, her signature is recorded, along with those of her two full siblings and her mother, Margaret, who could not write and signed with an “X” as her mark.
Evaline Louise Miller, known as Eva (rhymes with Bev – the Ev sounds like the ev in Bev), was born on March 29, 1857 to John David Miller and his second wife, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz. Margaret had also been previously married, to Valentine Whitehead III. These families were all Brethren in Elkhart County, Indiana and in Montgomery County, Ohio, where they lived before settling in Elkhart County in the 1830s when land first became available. They had migrated as part of a Brethren group who settled on what was then the frontier.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a sample of the Eva’s mitochondrial DNA, so I’ll be listing her siblings and bolding female relatives whose descendants could potentially provide a sample of DNA inherited maternally from Eva or her matrilineal ancestors. There is a fully paid scholarship for the first person who qualifies.
John David Miller and his first wife, Mary Baker, had 11 children, as follows:
- Matilda “Tillie” Miller b 1845 married John Dubbs.
- Sarah Jane Miller married David Blough
- Aaron B. Miller b 1843 married Sarah E. Myers
- Hester Miller b 1833 married Jonas Shively
- Maryann Miller b 1841 married Michael W. Treesh
- Martha Miller b 1847
- George Washington Miller b 1851/52 married Lydia Miller
- David B. Miller b 1838 married Susan Smith
- Samuel Miller died before 1893
- John N. Miller died before 1893
- Catherine Miller died before 1893
None of the above people carry the mitochondrial DNA of Eva Miller. They are her half-siblings through her father. Mary Baker Miller died March 12, 1855 and John David Miller remarried to Margaret Elizabeth Lentz Whitehead a year later on March 30, 1856. Both had children to raise.
Margaret had at least 5 children with Valentine Whitehead III, as follows:
- Emanuel Whitehead b 1849 married Elizabeth Ulery
- Mary Jane Whitehead b 1851 married John D. Ulery
- Jacob Franklin Whitehead b 1846 married Eva Bowser
- Lucinda Whitehead b 1842 married Joseph B. Haney
- Samuel Whitehead b 1844 married Henrietta, last name unknown
Of the above half-siblings, only the descendants of the women carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA. Therefore, only descendants through females carry Eva’s mitochondrial DNA. That would be both Mary Jane and Lucinda Whitehead. In the current generation males can test, because females give their mitochondrial DNA to all of their offspring, but only females pass it on.
John David Miller and Margaret Elizabeth Lentz had 3 more children of their own.
- Evaline Louise Miller b 1857 married Hiram Ferverda
- Ira J. Miller b 1859 married Rebecca Rodibaugh
- Perry Miller b 1862
Since there are no females, none of the above brothers’ descendants carry the mitochondrial DNA of Eva and her mother.
Eva’s mother, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz Whitehead Miller (1822-1903) also had siblings. Margaret was born in 1822 in Pennsylvania to Jacob Lentz (1783-1870) and Frederica Moselman (also Musselman) (1788-1863), both born in Germany and both died in Montgomery County, Ohio.
Their children were:
- Jacob Franklin Lentz b 1822 married Sophia Schweitzer
- George W. Lentz b 1806 married Catherine M. Blessing
- Johann Adam Lentz b 1819 married Margaret Whitehead and Elizabeth Neff
- Benjamin Lentz b 1826 married Sarah Overlease and Catherine Halderman
- Fredericka “Fanny” Lentz b 1809 married Daniel Brusman
- Mary Lentz b 1829 married Henry Overlease
Of the above siblings, only Fredericka’s and Mary’s descendants would carry their mother’s (and Eva’s) mitochondrial DNA, assuming they descend from her through all females to the current generation, where males too can test.
Eva married Hiram Ferverda on March 10, 1876 in Goshen, Elkhart County, Indiana. They started their family of eleven children and a few years later, moved to neighboring Kosciusco county and bought a farm. Another decade later, in 1893, they moved to nearby Leesburg where they lived for the rest of their lives.
Eva Miller and Hiram Ferverda’s children were:
- John Whitney (or Whitley) Ferverda b 1882 married Edith Barbara Lore (mother’s parents)
- Ira Ferverda b 1877 married Ada Frederickson
- Edith Ferverda b 1879 married Tom Dye (had daughter)
- Irwin G. Ferverda married Jessie Hartman
- Elizabeth Gertrude Ferverda b 1884 married Louis Hartman (had daughters)
- Chloe E. Ferverda b 1886 married Rolland Robinson (had daughter)
- Ray Ferverda b 1891 married Grace Driver
- Roscoe Ferverda b 1893 married Effie Ringo and Ruby Mae Teeter
- George M. Ferverda b 1895 married Lois Glant and Elizabeth Haas
- Donald M. Ferverda b 1899 married Agnes Ruple
- Margaret Ferverda b 1902 married Chester Glant (had daughters)
The women whose names are bolded carry the same mitochondrial DNA as Eva Miller, and all 4 had daughters whose children could well be alive today.
Mother said that her Grandmother, Eva Ferverda, always came to stay with her when she was sick. My mother had Rheumatic Fever as a child (which I thought was Romantic Fever when I was a child) and was sick a lot, so she spent a lot of time with her grandmother. Sadly, Mom said that when she was about 15, she was sick when her grandmother passed away and could not attend her funeral.
This tidbit of information about when Eva died led me to the Allen County Public Library where I found the census and cemetery records, and then to the Goshen/New Paris area to find the cemetery where Eva’s parents were buried on a cold rainy October day in 2002.
I found the Rodibaugh cemetery, and the graves of Eva’s parents, John D. Miller and Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller, but had to wonder with the overwhelming number of Miller families in the area how I would ever figure out who was who and how they were connected.
Over the next year, I did some online genealogy and searched available records, pretty much to no avail. It seemed that no one else was researching the Elkhart Miller families. Mostly, the families still lived there and knew each other, so no one needed to research – they just asked someone.
The photo above is from a small family history book published by the Ferverda family. This is the only known picture of Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller and John David Miller, both seated, with five of their children. Grandma Ferverda is Eva Miller Ferverda.
In October 2003, I returned to Goshen to the local library. In the Indiana room, I found obituaries and references to this family in various books. Finally, I pieced enough information together to determine that John David Miller’s father, David Miller, came to Elkhart County in the early 1830s, along with his brother John Miller. Their initial winter was spent living in a lean-to type of shelter with a flap for a door, among the Native families, who directed them where to select good land the next spring.
The house below is where Eva Miller was born, according to deed records. It’s rather unusual in that it’s turned sideways to the present-day road.
The Ferverda family had a reunion about 1978. At that time, the older family members who had visited the Ferverda homeland in Holland had printed a small book about their discoveries. In that book, some photos were included, thankfully.
The photo above is labeled “The Old Home Place” in the Ferverda book, so this would either be the farmhouse in Kosciusco County or after they moved to Leesburg. I suspect it’s the Leesburg farm because it’s where they lived the longest, almost 50 years, and last. In Leesburg, they owned a farm a couple miles outside of town and also a house in town where Hiram Ferverda was a banker.
Eva maintained her strong religious convictions throughout her life. On the occasion of her husband’s 56th birthday, in the year 1900, Eva wrote him a note which was found in his Bible sometime after his death in 1925. In her handwriting, it says,
“Search the scriptures for in them you shall find eternal life.”
Remember me when this you see,
While traveling o’er life’s troubled sea,
If death our lives should separate,
I pray we’ll meet at the Golden Gate.
Your wife, Eva.
Indeed, death did separate them, but it would be Hiram that was taken first, in 1925, followed by Eva in 1939, at age 82.
From the Silver Lake Record newspaper Dec. 21, 1939, page 1 column 1.:
Mother Dies Wednesday
Mrs. Louise Evelyn Ferverda, long time resident of the Leesburg community, died Wednesday night at the home of a daughter, Mrs. Robinson, at Leesburg. She had been critically ill for several weeks from heart trouble and hardening of the arteries. The family had been pioneer residents of that locality, she and Mr. Ferverda buying a farm near Leesburg in 1893 and rearing a family of 11 children. Four girls and 5 sons survive, including Roscoe and John of Silver Lake. Funeral services will be held Saturday afternoon at Salem Church, near Leesburg.
New Salem Brethren Church, above, was founded by 1906, or at least the cemetery was, as there is a wrought iron marker above the gate with that date. Rex Miller, grandson of Eva’s brother, says that when he was a child, he went to the Miller/Ferverda reunions every year on the farm of Don Ferverda who lived about 1/2 mile south of the church near the old home farm.
This photo of Hiram Ferverda and Eva Miller Ferverda was taken on the farm at Leesburg. John Whitley (or Whitney) Ferverda, mother’s father, is in the back row, second from right. Based on the ages of Hiram and Eva and the military service banner in the window, I would estimate that this picture was taken about 1917-18.
After their deaths, Hiram and Eva were both buried in the Salem churchyard just up the road from their farm, at the church they had attended since moving to Leesburg.
Mom says that she did not remember her grandfather, or only vaguely, as he died when she was 2 years old. She did remember her grandmother, Eva, vividly and very fondly. Eva came to stay with whomever was sick in the family. Because of Mom’s rheumatic fever, her grandmother, whom she called Mawmaw, came to stay with them often. Eva did not drive so someone had to go and get her and take her where she wanted to go next. She took care of all of her sick grandkids, so she was always busy all winter.
Mom said she was too sick to go to Eva’s funeral and she resented her parents greatly for making her stay at home.
It’s unusual for a woman in this timeframe to speak at all, much less historically, in their own voice, with strong opinions. Most Brethren women were quiet and obedient. Fortunately, for us, Eva wrote a letter or article, of which we have several pages. The final page and a half are missing. However, from her letter, we hear her own voice and understand some of her opinions, which were nigh on radical for a Brethren woman of the time which she wrote them, especially considering her strong faith.
Keep in mind that this open letter about opportunity and college education for women, penned sometime before 1939, is written by the first generation of women in our family who could read and write. Her mother, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz Miller, signed her name with an X. So these statements and views are indeed very powerful and foresightful. It’s also a foreshadowing of many successful women to come in this genealogical line, her descendants, most of whom also pushed the limits of the time in which they lived.
Eva’s faith and patience must have been gravely tried, because, of her children, not everyone apparently embraced the pietist faith in quite the same way she did. One of the primary beliefs of the pietists is that violence in any form is wrong. This belief, in time of war, qualified one as a Conscientious Objector. These families had followed, believed and been persecuted for these beliefs for generations. In other words, these beliefs and this religion was a strongly held family value, one for which they were willing to, and did sometimes, sacrifice their lives.
John, my grandfather married outside the faith to a Lutheran and their family became Methodist. Eva’s son, Ira, fought in the Spanish American War, for 3 years. Brethren typically do not “take up arms.” Donald, Roscoe and George Ferverda all served in WWI. The 3 star banner in Eva’s window indicates 3 family members serving in the War. Both Irvin and Elizabeth followed the Brethren faith, and other children probably did as well.
The article written by Eva Miller Ferverda is shown below. I’ve transcribed it to make it easier to read. There is no date, nor do we know why she wrote it nor the intended recipient. For whatever reason, I’m glad she did, because this and the card to her husband are all we have of her voice.
Some Things Our Women Are Doing
Women in the olden times were in the main appendages of men. They [were] mere servants in some capacity and were not supposed to need any special intellectual training.
The women of olden time were not educated in the school as they now are, but now in our times, her real worth is more properly estimated, and her education is held of equal importance with man. Education is power, and when rightly used sharpens the mind, it kindles ambition, awakens self respect. The intelligence of woman is rapidly increasing.
Women are graduating from our colleges, with equal honors with men. This enlarged intelligence of women should vastly increase the intelligence of our homes. Ignorance in the home never will promote its welfare. Ignorance in the mother is never any benefit to her children. Ignorance never made a womans work of any better quality. Ignorance in the women of a neighborhood never promotes the better interests of the neighborhood, the church or Aid So[ciety]. It does promote gossip, scandal, backbiting, jealousy, folly, coarsemess, lone life. Ignorance is on the level with these things and is the mother of them all. But womans day has come and with renewed womanhood and Christian intelligence, are prepared to do a good work wherever their lot shall be, in the home, the church, the S.S [Sisters Society] of Aid.
We have noted women of old history who had great influence in private and public life. Miriam Sister of Brother Moses aiding much in the deliverance of her people. Deborah who ruled and judged Israel. Hannah noted for her trust in the Lord, being the mother of Samuel. In the time of Christ and the apostles there were many noted women, zealous in their devotion to the new religion, the religion which opened new encouragements and hopes to women, the religion of Jesus Christ which placed women on an equality with men. Paul in Rom 16th speaks of some good women in his day. He commends Phebe our sister who is a servant of the church. Also Priscilla, sister Aqualia and Tryphena, sister Tryfanosa who labored much in the church. We have the Marys and Dorcas and we might name many more noted women.
Women can do great things. Think once of the crusaders some women of our time. That awakening of moral conviction and spiritual power such as perhaps has not been known since the early days of Christianity. They came on bended knee and tearful eyes and prayed for all the guilty offenders, that they might repent and be forgiven. They lifted the cause to the throne of God and hold it there still. They made it his cause. They joined in with his church. This took the cause of temperance up to the summit level of practical Christian life, and made it what it all along should have been, a high, holy, divine cause. All this some of our good Christian women have done and through their efforts we shall soon have worldwide temperance. What other women have done we can do and our women of today are doing things. Our Sister Aid Society is doing a great work. We have about 16,000 women engaged in the various activities of the Aid Society.
Page 6 missing.
…attend our Aid Society. The Lord gives us health. When we are well we can surely give one day every two weeks for this good work and we know we shall be blessed for every good deed we do. It is the little deeds we do which count for so much for a cup of cold water, given in his name we shall be blessed….
Indeed Eva, women can do great things. You were a wise and prophetic woman. But it is in “the little deeds we do” that most of us will be remembered, what kind of a person were and how we made those around us feel. Eva is remembered as a lovely lady, a kind and loving Grandmother who came to stay and cared for her grandchildren when they were ill.
Page 6 missing.