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The Florala News
Florala , Alabama
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March 25, 1976     The Florala News
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March 25, 1976
 

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IMAGE ©SMALLToWNPAPERS, INC. ALL CONTENT COPYRIGHTED. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. USE SUBJECT TO LICENSE AGREEMENT. REPRODUCTION, DISSEMINATION, STORAGE, DISTRIBUTION PROHIBITED. PAGE 4 TH E FLORALA NEWS- THURSDAY, MARCH1 by Merle Woodham Ed Miller, who is an old band at stage coach driving or wagon trains, if you will, bad hoped, when invited to be guest of honor at the Bicentmmlal Wagon Train Ceremonies, to at least be able togivetbe wagonmas- ters instructions as to how to hold the reigns. How- ever, due to the tight schedule, there was no time for any persouallestructiens. Miller was really interested in showing the drivers how to drive a string team of horses. He said they could have then passed the in- formatien un to tlm drivers succeeding them, upon en- terlng the various states. His knowledge of how to drive utr/~ teams would probably have been invaluable to tlmm bMore ~ roach Valley Forge, Peunsyl- Ed ~ up ~ a ZS,000 acre ranch in southwestern Moetana in Big Hole Basin Valley, which was about 100 miles lens and 9-0 miles wide. His father also owned a stage coach line and a mercantile company - Big Hole Commercial Company, located near the raft- road at a place called Wisdom, Montana - named by Louis & Clerk when traveling that country. They came to a fork in the river and didn't know which way to go. Quite by accident, they took the right turn, hence the name Wisdom. In hauling merchandise by stage coach, the Millers used two, three and sometimes four wagons, driven by ten horse teams. They never pulled more than four wagons because of treacherous, crooked mountain roads, making it difficult to turn more than four wa- gons. They were also limited as to how much weight they would haul on the muddy, dirt rouds. The wagons would bog down. After traveling about 15 to 25 miles, they would stop at stage stations to change the teams. The drive was rough and rugged and the horses would be worn out. The same teams were used in the winter months, when snow was heavy for hauling timber. Wagon wheels were removed and snow sleighs sub- stltuted for winter drives. Rough locks were used on the wagons to keep them from sliding when traveling the Snow covered, mountainous areas. It was very important to know how to drive a team of horses back in those days. Miller says it sure wasn't done like you see in western movies, with the drivers bands and arms extended. The reigns are laced through certain fingers on the right hand and the exact reverse on the left to assure maximum con- trol of the horses. Arms are held down by your side and the horse whip in band at all times, should the horses become frightened and the wagon jack knife. If held properly, drivers have a tremendous grip on the lines. This technique is what Miller bad hoped to pass oQ to bicentennial wagon train drivers. Miller said upon having observed the drivers as they passed through Florala, none of them showed any evidence of ever having driven more than a two horse team. The stage coaches Miller drove were not the rough and rugged wagon rides we in Alabama remember. He said they were more like riding in a rocking chair. The ride was really smooth. You will notice in the pictures, the front wheels are smaller. This made turning easier. The wlieels on the wagon trains pass- ing through Florala were all the same size. But, then, it is not likely that during their entire trip to Valley Forge they will have as many as four wagons hitched together, pulled by a 10-horse team. Don't suppose they will have much trouble gettl'ng one or two, t 4t wagons around a curve. On their 25,000 acre ranch, the Millers raised and sold brood mares and work horses, before they ever went into raising cattle. They bad about 1,000 head of horses and 15,000 head of cattle. ,.~~ ~ like a dream come true to most across their property. Actually, it was a castle, ~~.~ But'At wasn t all a bed of ~s,~~ '~:itl~l~, meath the mountains, where Ed '.hved durlng s,,-ys~Mlller.4~:t~ok a real strongperson to withstand those [wo years with every room opemng [o the ou[- the trials and tribulations of that day. The tempera- tures ranged from 190 degrees in the summer months to' 60 degrees below 0 in the winter months. (60 de- grees below is all the government thermometers would register) Ed saidbe felt sure itwas sometimes colder. The last cattle drive Ed and his crew went on is one he will never forget. They were driving IX000 full-age steers 65 miles to the railroad for ship- ping. The temperature dropped to 60 degrees below 0 for a three-day period. After the third day, the thermometer rose to 35 below and then a blizzard set in. Ed said that _on the entire drive, he didn't lose a steer, a horse, nor a man, though most all the cattle were bleeding from the nostrils by the time they reached their destination. During Ed's spare time, he engaged in a wide range of sports activities. With his Russian wolf hounds, he hunted coyotes, deer, bear, roped two mountain goats in his time, hunted moose and elk. He earned about $5,000 a year selling coyote pelts. They brought about $Z5.00 each. Miller on "Pancho" Francisco Villa (pronounced VEE yah) - "Now, you talk about a character - he was one," said Miller. Ed became personally ac- quainted with the Mexican bandit chieftain about the year 1913-'14 during a two-year period when he managed or was foreman over a 1,094,000 acre estate purchased by his father, Charles E. Miller and a group of men from Montana. They bought the last of a 6,000,000 acre site from The Wheeler Lands Estate. The Mexican Government gave the lands to Wheeler for services rendered in surveying the Hauling Freight From Railroad At Divide To Big Hole - 56 Miles entire country of Mexico. Miller, being the adven- turous type, took advantage of the purchase when pro- perty was cheap, with the idea in mind of shipping the cattle to Montana, fattening them, and selling them at a big profit. After two years, they had to sell the property, when~ then Secretary of State William Jennings Bryant or- dered U.S. citizens out of Mexico, due to the threat of war. Miller told the Villa story like this? Many, many years ago, there was a Mexican bandit bandheaded by a fellow by the name of Pancho Francisco Villa. The young Villa, that Miller knew, (real name Doroteo Arango, changed to Villa during the revolutionary up- heavals) and his family were working as peons on his ranch. Young Villa had a beautiful sister. The ranch owner's son became romantically involved with the lovely young woman, telling her that he was madly in love with her and wanted to marry her. She became pregnant and when she confronted her suitor with this fact, he refused to marry her. She told her father of her "growing" problem. He, in turn, toldber to go to a certain place and ask the young man once again to marry her. When she did, her beloved just laughed at her. As a result, Villa literally beat him to death• "Which he should have done," said Miller. His sis- ter was forced to leave the country and from that time, until his enemies killed him in 1923 from am- bush, Villa became the widely sought after bandit that youngsters read about in their history books. Miller was in sympathy with Villa and said that he was a very likeable fella - a happy, go-lucky sort of guy and they became good friends. Villa would come to the Miller estate and stay for a week or two at the time. If he couldn't stay, Ed would escort him Graduate. Kentucky Military Institute I side. The patio was something tobehold. The former owner had a beautiful rose garden inside with a rose covered entrance. He said he thought one time he would count the roses blooming across the entrance. He got to 1,000 and quit. "What a fragrance," said Ed. Can you imagine one among us with such a colorful history? Miller is a graduate of Kentucky Military Institute, Class of 1912. He contends, however, that his vast knowledge of ranching and management was gained through his close association with his father. His mother died when he was just a baby. His father later remarried, giving him a stepmother, a step- brother and stepsister. The Kentucky Military In- stitute, now a co-educational school, was the oldest private military institute in the U.S. Miller left Montana in 1930 and went to work for the government in Washington D.C. He met his lovely wife, Dorothy, in 1936 when both were working at Grand Coulee Dam. They were married in 1939. About the year 1941, Ed came to Alabama looking for property and found about 900 acres in east Cov- ington County which was later to become known as Miller's Lime Pit, after the purchase in 1953. He worked and developed that 900 acres into one of the most beautiful cattle ranches in this part of the country. It was on a trip to Japan that Ed finally decided to sell and retire, when Dorothy told him that they had just become slaves to that place. He put it up for sale and has never regretted it. He says that Alabama is the best cattle country in the world and should he ever get back in the business - it would be right here. Ed, now 81, and Dorothy reside on West Fifth Street in Florala, between trips. They have become avid tourists since retiring. Their travels bare ta- ken them on an "around the world trip", to Russia, to Eurol~ on a golf tour, to South America, a trip out west and their most recent - a trip to Africa for 38 days. Dorothy has become quite a photographer during all their travels. She showed slides of the African trip to local Rotarluns recently and received raves for her excellent work. On their trip out west, Ed did something he has always wanted to do. Can you imagine what, with all the excitement of his life's work? It was a 10-day trip down the Colorado River - 2 boats with 35 people aboard each. Dorothy was very much opposed to this trip. They didn't dream you would have to have re- servations for such a trip and when they got there, the river boat cruise was booked up for months in advance. Ed was just sick ... Dorothy breathed a sigh of relief. They were told that the only way they would get to make the trip would be for someone to cancel or die. Their chances were slim. But, as luck would have it, someone canceled and they were notified by phoneand asked if they still wanted to make the trip? Ed looked at Dorothy rather sternly and she said - "I'll go. I'll go." Both agreed that it was the most enjoyable trip of a lifetime. Miller's half sister, Mrs. Orval Sparrow, lives in California. His son, Ted Miller, his wife, Felice and four daughters and Ed's daughter and her family, Mr. and Mrs. Run Thomas, their two boys and two girls, all make their home in Los Angeles, Califor- nia. He proudly boosts of ten great grandchildren, one just recently acquired. Every segment of Ed Miller's life is a story within itself and we have barely scanned the surface. Maybe sometime later, we can schedule another afternoon session with Miller and hear the interesting stories that surfaced during the time he worked for the gov- ernment in D. C. / Cook Tent And Round-Up Crew. Round - Up. Big Hole Basin 1912 r 4 Ed Miller With Coyote Pelts For Sport And For The Fur ~t Miller-Owned Store And Stage Coaches - Wisdom Montana I Round - Up Crew. o_ Ed Miller, second From Left. Note Pole Fenee In Background Common To That