Blue Water Healthy Living

An Immigration Story

John and Theresia Miller

By Ken Reeves

My maternal great-grandfather was John Miller who was born January 5, 1823 in Hesse-Cassel, Germany.  Not much is known about his family back in Germany other than an old letter from a brother Martin. John’s sister Christine (Christiana) either came to the US with him or followed later, for she is found married to Robert Theile of Prussia and appears in the 1870 Wales Township, Michigan census.

John immigrated to the United States about 1848 and settled in Brooklyn, New York.  While living there he met Theresia Sophia Engel, who had immigrated from Saxony with her family.  Theresia was born November 1, 1830. John and Theresia married and had a son August born in 1853, while living in Brooklyn.  John and Theresia then moved westward along with Theresia’s family about 1854 to Michigan. The Engel family was made up of father Nicholas Engel, mother Maria Kreckle Engel and children Richa, Gusta, Lavina, Ernest, William, Christine, Lottie, and Mollie.  They traveled by way of the Erie Canal and ended up in Detroit where they acquired a wagonload of supplies to go to Wales Township in St.Clair County. They left in the Spring and the mud was so deep that Lavina, Christine and the other children had to get out and walk much of the way.  Maria was able to ride. They settled on a farm next door to Wallace Hartson. He was a young school teacher nearby. Wallace and Christine (daughter of Nickolas and Maria) were married when Christine was 16.

August Miller Family

John and Theresia settled on a farm near Lambs in Wales Township and neither spoke any English.  John opened a Tinsmith shop in Memphis but didn’t succeed at it because of the language barrier. Born to John and Theresia in Wales Township were children Matilda in 1855, Adolph in 1856, Pauline in 1860, Jack in 1862, Edward in 1865 and lastly, my grandfather Ferdinand in 1867.  When Theresia died on June 26, 1893, John was overcome with grief. He visited her grave every day. One day he didn’t come home. When his family later searched for him they found that he had committed suicide upon his wife’s grave in the Lambs Cemetery.

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August married Normanda Wilkinson and they lived most of their lives near Memphis and later moved to Port Huron.  Matilda married Charles Durfee, Adolph married Ella Douglass, Pauline married Amos Kessler, and Jack married Agnes Bowes.  Brothers Edward and Ferdinand married two daughters of Melvin Lamb after whose family the community of Lambs was named. Edward married Christiana “Kit” Lamb and Ferdinand married Susan.   

The book entitled, “Biographical Memoirs of Saint Clair County, Michigan,” published in 1903 by B. F. Bowen Publishers in Indiana says this about Melvin Lamb:

This late resident of Wales township, St. Clair county, Michigan, was born in Rensselaer county, New York, December 31, 1833, and died in Wales township December 5, 1888. Melvin Lamb was a son of John and Cynthia (Thurber) Lamb, of English descent. John Lamb was the proprietor of a hotel while a resident of the state of New York, whence he came as one of the first settlers in Wales township, St. Clair County, Michigan, and here followed the pursuit of agriculture the remainder of his life. To the marriage of John and Cynthia Lamb were born four children,  John A., a farmer who married Helen Carpenter; Melvin, whose name is given above; George H., who was the first husband of the present Mrs. Lamb, but is now deceased; and Augustine, who is also deceased. When John Lamb settled in St. Clair county the woods were thronged with Indians, but they were peaceable, and when Mr. Lamb would arise in the morning he would frequently find a host of redskins clustered around his fireplace. He was a Democrat in politics, was a good and pious man, and died in the faith of the Methodist Episcopal church.

Ferdinand and Susan (Lamb) Miller

September 28, 1867, Melvin Lamb was united in marriage with Harriet Permellia Pennock.

The children who graced the union of Melvin Lamb and wife numbered eight, the first of whom, Elva, died young; by the second birth came twins, Cynthia and Susan, of whom Cynthia is married to Arthur Sperry, a farmer, and Susan to Ferdinand Miller, also a farmer; Augustine, likewise a farmer, is married to Julia Van Volkenberg; Christiana is the wife of Edward Miller, who is managing the old homestead; Charles and one other died in infancy, and Whipple N. is still at home.

Melvin Lamb was a patriotic, true and gallant soldier and served two years in the Civil war, as a member of Company A, Forty-sixth Pennsylvania Infantry. He was a Freemason and was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and of the Maccabbees. Until the day of his death no man was more highly honored in the community in which he passed away, and the good name he has left to his family is a richer heritage than the worldly wealth that it was his to bestow.

Mrs. Lamb was married at the age of eighteen years to George Henry Lamb, younger brother of Melvin Lamb, and who died three years later, when she became the wife of the subject.

Melvin later wrote in 1883 of his family’s move to Wales Township when he was 16 years of age.  He stated , “Many of the roads were corduroy roads, which means that logs were cut of sufficient length, but without much reference as to uniformity of size, and laid lengthwise across the road.  Let some of the young people of the rising generation ride for 2 or 3 miles on such a road now and they will be able to form some idea of the style of roads the early settlers had to build and enjoy”.

Jack Miller was a young man he went to Alpena where he worked as a hostler in a livery stable.  He met and married Agnes Bowes there. They left Alpena a year later and lived on a farm near Emmett, Michigan.

Jack Miller Family

Later in 1896 Jack and his brother Ferdinand moved about six miles from Sandusky.  Today you will still find Miller Road where the brothers farmed. Jack Miller later moved to a farm in Watertown, Michigan near Sandusky in 1904.  Jack and Agnes had one son and five daughters. Jack was killed on May 23, 1918 when his team of horses ran off and threw him from the wagon, breaking his neck.  His son Russell was in Europe at the time fighting in WWI. Agnes died twenty two years later at the home of her daughter Irene in Watertown.

Ferdinand Miller Family

The marriage of Ferdinand Miller and Susan produced four children, Harriett, Helen, Eldred and Manville.  Ferdinand and Susan moved from Sandusky to Port Huron where Susan died in 1908 during childbirth. Susan and the stillborn daughter, also named Susan, are both buried in a grave simply marked by a stone that says “Mother” in the Lambs Cemetery along with many of the Lamb family.   

Ferdinand later married Lillie Rensink, a childless widow.  She had moved to Michigan with her husband Henry from Akron, New York.  Henry was killed at the Port Huron Salt factory (later known as the Morton Salt Co.) in what is now, Marysville, Michigan along with two fellow workers when wood bracing gave way and they were accidentally buried below 30 tons of coal.  

The marriage of Ferdinand and Lillie produced children Althea in 1916, Earl in 1917, Eileen (my mother) in 1919, Naomi in 1920, and Wayne in 1925. Ferdinand made his living in Port Huron as a carpenter. He built many homes in Port Huron and barns and an ice house for the Pollina Dairy Farm in Fort Gratiot.  Lillie died in 1959 and Ferdinand in 1963 at the age of 96. My mother, now the last living child is 99 years of age.


Ken Reeves is a lifelong resident of the Blue Water area. Ken is a retired Journeyman Millwright from DTE Energy. He and his wife have two sons who serve the City of Marysville as a Firefighter/Paramedic and Police Officer. He and his wife Louanne, both grew up in Port Huron and have lived in Marysville for over 30 years. They have 5 grandchildren.

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