The Moss Miller Family

by Janet Claire Porterfield

Cansada and Moss Miller
Morrilton, Arkansas
Moss Lafayette Miller was born December 16, 1869 in Lawrence County, Tennessee. He was the son of John Lafayette Miller and Esther Ann Alsup Miller. John Lafayette was born about 1832, the eighth of thirteen children of John and Dorcus Holloway Miller. Esther Alsup was the seventh of nine children born to Anderson C. and Eleanor Springer Alsup. Esther was born about 1836 and died in March of 1880, leaving John Lafayette with four children to raise. He took his son Moss to Solgohachia, Conway County, Arkansas to live at the home of his brother, Lewis Miller in about 1883. Lewis died December 7, 1884, and Moss helped his aunt Margaret Melinda Moore Miller with the farm.

On December 1, 1897 Moss Miller married Cansada Abigail Dillon at the Dillon home in Solgohachia, Arkansas. She was born October 6, 1877 in Lewisburg, Conway County, Arkansas, daughter of Levi Henry and Isabelle Cobb Dillon. Isabelle was the oldest of the six known children of Richard Lafayette and Maryann Elizabeth Warren Cobb of Giles County, Tennessee. Levi Henry was one of eight children born to James B. and Harriet Margaret Rogers Dillon. Moss and Cansada Miller had six children, and except for a few military tours and career relocations, all spent their lives in Arkansas. All of the children except Jimmie were born in Solgohachia. Lois Lucille was born August 11, 1900. She married Lawrence Alston October 20, 1918 in Conway County, Arkansas. Lawrence was born December 28, 1894 and died February 3, 1946. He was the son of James Overton & Margaret Jenny Bennett Alston and grandson of Ransom Drew and Sarah Williamson Carter Alston. Lois Alston died January 4, 1992 in Little Rock and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Morrilton, Arkansas alongside her husband Lawrence.

My grandmother, Carmon Belle, was born February 1, 1900. She married Allen Leonard Drilling June 26, 1923 at Plumerville, Conway County, Arkansas. He was the son of Phillip Frank Drilling and Nettie Sisson Drilling Alexander. They spent most of their adult lives in Corning, Clay County, Arkansas. Allen died in Heber Springs, Cleburne County, Arkansas September 3, 1986, and Carmon died in Heber Springs May 30, 2000. They were buried in the Corning Cemetery, Corning, Clay County, Arkansas.

Twins Florine and Carl Dean Miller
Twins Florine and Carl Dean Miller
Wilma Aleta was born November 11, 1903. She married Charles Tarpley on August 11, 1930 in Eudora, Arkansas. She was first a teacher in Morrilton, and then owned and operated a motel with her husband in Hope, Arkansas. Charles died July 5, 1977 in Hope, and was buried in Memory Gardens Cemetery in Hope. Aleta died in Texarkana, Texas on July 12, 2000, and was buried with Charles.

Florine was born February 26, 1911. She never married. She had a long, distinguished career in education: first as a schoolteacher in Morrilton, and then as a national-level educator with the Presbyterian Church, spending much of her career in Texas. Florine “Killer” Miller died December 21, 1996 in Little Rock and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Morrilton.

Her twin, Carl Dean Miller, was also born February 26, 1911. He was a planter and storeowner in Parkdale, Arkansas. His late wife, Margery Gregory Miller, was the family historian. Margery died in 1979. Carl Dean Miller died at his home in Parkdale on March 23, 2000. They are buried at the Hamburg Cemetery in Hamburg, Arkansas.

James Harold “Jimmie” was born November 5, 1914 in Morrilton. He married Thelma Herloise Boswell, the daughter of John Monroe and Bennie Angeline Deaton Boswell, on September 1, 1935 in Hope, Arkansas. Jimmie was a veteran and had a long career with Exxon. He spent his retirement serving his church and community in Hope, Arkansas. He died in Hope on December 31, 1995 and was buried in Rosehill Cemetery.

Moss Lafayette Miller died April 10, 1950, and Cansada Abigail died March 5, 1960 both in Morrilton, Arkansas. They are buried there in Elmwood Cemetery.

During her last years, my grandmother told me some stories about growing up in Solgohachia. What follows are my notes of our conversations.


by Carmon Belle Drilling as told to Janet Claire Porterfield
Autumn, 1999

Carmon Miller Drilling
Carmon Belle Drilling
The first house I remember is the Solgohachia house across the street from Dr. Morrow. His wife never did go anywhere. She just sat in a glider all the time. She had a cook all time. They had a daughter Willie; she married a school teacher. Aleta was born in that house, and Florine and Carl Dean were. It was a nice house with a porch all the way around it. It had a beautiful entrance hall with a washstand out in the hall with a hand painted water pitcher, washbasin, and chamber. There was a fireplace in Mammy and Papa’s room. They popped popcorn. After supper, we’d all go in front of the fireplace and Mother would have parched peanuts. Mother had a heavy pot that she would make sweet potatoes in-bake them in the fire.

We all took a bath in a #3 wash tub in a room off of the back porch. There was a big tank outside and Dad piped water from the tank to the room where the tub was. Mother always fixed donuts and put them in a flour sack behind the cookstove.

Mr. Asbury Scroggins and his wife Dovie Clay lived on the left from Mother’s. She was bedfast from tuberculosis. It had a porch on the side toward Mother’s house and she wanted Mother to let the children sit on the side porch and sing religious songs to her. We couldn’t carry a tune. We sang “Shall We Gather at the River” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

We went to church right down below their house. We went through the alley beside their house to get there. We were baptized at Point Remove Creek: Lois got dunked in the creek, but I just knelt on the bank and got sprinkled. I was afraid I’d get strangled. Bertha got strangled getting baptized. Bonnie Bell Bearden was baptized and got dunked. Aleta was too young and a crybaby. Dad painted the bridge that went across Point Remove Creek. On Sunday afternoons we went horseback riding, went up on Watt Goode Mountain and ate watermelon. Mr. Watt Goode cut them for us. We hiked on down to a spot on the mountain where there was a lot of ferns underneath. We’d go down the mountain and gather ferns. We made our skirts out of leaves from a tree and used thorns to pin them so they’d hold and made belts of leaves. We had skirts to ride in. Mother made for us. They buttoned on the side-split skirts.

Uncle Bud was up on the mountain with friends and learned to cuss. “Oh doggonit, come down from there,” he’d say. Uncle Bud had four kids. Elsie was a queer person. She wouldn’t mix. She did a lot of embroidery and crochet. She worked in a millinery shop. Then there was Wernda and Margaret, and when they moved to Morrilton they had Dorothy.

Bud Dillon Family
John Richard "Uncle Bud" and Alverna Dillon
Werdna and Elsie
The Dillon house was above the Miller house. They rented a house with a little land -- made a cotton crop. Mammy was hoeing the cotton and a lizard ran up her dress. Margaret and Lewis Miller’s house was on Point Remove Creek, south of Solgohachia. The Dillons lived in an old house on a hill above Lewis and Margaret. This is where they were living when Mother and Dad got married. Then they moved to Solgohachia, and Dad went into business with Uncle Bud. They had a mercantile store. They sold coal oil, candy, sugar, coffee, flour, meal. Later Uncle Bud moved to Morrilton and put in a store down there. He got Dad to move and work for him. Dad rode a horse and collected for him.

Uncle Bud and Aint Verna had two children to die, Martha Belle and Mary Francis. They were buried in Friendship Cemetery, and then Uncle Bud and Aint Verna had somebody go to the cemetery and move their bodies to the mausoleum at Elmwood in Morrilton. They took the bodies in a horse drawn wagon. Mother was real upset about that for a long time. Uncle Bud died in California. He was living with Elsie and Margaret and Dorothy. He and Aint Verna built a big house out there and they had an estate over a million dollars.

I played with Bonnie Bell Bearden. She was my best friend and her brother was a teacher. We went to school and at recess we had a fight on the school ground and Mr. Homer made us stay in after school every day.

I gave a six page reading “My First Automobile Ride” and didn’t make a mistake. I did it at Plumerville in the school and at Solgohachia in the school. I was taking elocution so I wouldn’t have to take piano. Mammy made us all take something. Carl Dean and Jimmy played band. Leta and Lois took piano. Florine played a violin.

Kids would bring lunch to school in a molasses bucket. Mother made us come home for dinner every day, but when she let me stay all night at Aint Mary’s. Aint Mary fixed me a lunch in a molasses bucket and I got to eat out on the school grounds.

When we moved to Leslie, we went in a wagon and had to wait to cross Red River til it was low enough to go across. Mammy had a buggy with fringe and a beautiful horse named “Ribbon.” She drove it. She’d go to Aint Mary’s.

Uncle Bud had a little cotton crop below Solgohachia a little ways. Mother and Aint Verna fixed Leta, Werdna, Lois, and me a cotton sack out of a 50 pound flour sack and we picked cotton for Uncle Bud. They wanted to get us out of the way. Aleta and Werdna put rocks in their sacks.

Bertha would paddle us when we wouldn’t go. Bertha helped Mammy with the kids. Mammy had a peach tree. We had a little orchard on the right side of the house. It was an Indian Red Mother made pickles from. She would get a switch from that tree. Papa never whipped us. One time Mammy told him he had to give us a whipping so he took us in the next room and shut the door and clapped his hands.

Papa bought land after he had the store. We had a woods lot. It had the best timber. We used it for the fireplace. He’d carry in a big backlog for the fireplace. We had a lattice back porch and a well house. We put our milk down the well to keep it cold. We would draw water like ice from the mountain so many times a day. There was a pipe from the well to the horse lot tub out there.

Dad had a boarder who stayed with us-Oscar Martin. He was a farm hand and took care of the cows and horses. We had a black woman and her daughter who helped with the laundry and floors. They walked six miles from Tucker Mountain.

Aint Leona was real sweet. Dell always told on us. Papa and Mammy gave Uncle Bud and Aint Verna a lot on the corner facing the highway and they built a two story house. The porch was on the highway.

The woods lot was by the cemetery. You had to go to the gate and open it to let the cows out to go home to be milked. A little boy chased you with a snake all the way home. I’ve been scared of snakes ever since. Aleta’s afraid of chickens because one time somebody put a dead chicken on the porch.

Dr. Morrow lived in front of us. Miss Willy his daughter sat on the front porch and we sat on our porch and watched him take her tonsils out. Miss Willy died when her daughter Floy was born. Dr. Morrow and his wife kept her and raised her. They moved to Morrilton. She married a Farish.

Miss Cora and Mr. Paul Gordon lived on the left side of Dr. Morrow across a little bridge. They had two kids, Lena, who was a friend of Florine’s, and a boy. In front of them Mr. Asbury Scroggins lived. His wife Dovie died with T.B. She was a Clay. They had a son George Clay. Mr. Asbury married again, a woman from Springfield, Arkansas. She was mean to George Clay. She’d tell that George did stuff he didn’t do, and Mr. Asbury would whip him with a belt. Mammy would go get him and feed him and let Grandmother Clay come up and take him home with her.

At Christmas we had a church Christmas Tree for the community. They’d tie all the gifts on the tree. At night they would have the Christmas Tree for the community. They had a man cut the gifts off the tree and call the name of the recipient. They’d go accept. Lena Gordon told Aleta she was going to get a little gold necklace for Christmas. They couldn’t find it on the tree and Aleta had a little spell. After everything was off the tree they found the necklace.

One time at a revival the preacher was going to close the meeting and Aint Jo and Miss Ellen Gordon went up and knelt at the moaner’s bench. They were having dates and didn’t want it to end.

The Griggs had a big well in front of their house. When Mother and all would go to Morrilton we would stop and eat supper with them. They had a daughter we played with while Mother and Mrs. Griggs cooked. Lois and I were out in the plum orchard thicket. She had snuff, and I got to take a mouthful of snuff and got sick. Mother and Aint Matt couldn’t imagine what was wrong. I was always the one in trouble. Lois told them what happened.

There were several stores in Solgohachia. Dad and Uncle Bud Dillon had a store; they sold everything. Mr. Bearden had a store. They lived just before you got into Solgohachia. They had beautiful jonquils planted all the way around the rock wall. Mrs. Ruff owned a store. After we moved to Morrilton Papa bought a little grocery store on Moose Street. Papa sold the store because Lois and Lawrence were in there getting stuff all the time.

Aint Jo “baptized” Miss Ellen Gordon in the creek that ran this side of Aint Jo’s house. Ellen was told not to get in that creek. Aint Jo talked her into going into the creek and Aint Jo baptized her, and just about the time she got her under the water, Mrs. Gordon hollered, “Ellen!!” and she was wet and had to put on one of Jo’s dresses to go home in. She got a good switching. Miss Ellen was a piano teacher. Lois and Aleta took music from her.

Mr. Homer Bearden taught in a two room school. They had a room upstairs and Callie Fryer was the teacher for upstairs. She boarded with us while she was teaching school. At school we played hopscotch, baseball, Annie Over, jump rope with hot pepper, and marbles. Miss Callie had a play for her pupils and they all had to wear capes and had to be alike. Mother made all the capes for all the ones that were in the play. Miss Callie’s home was at Possum Trot. Everybody had a pretty bed in the parlor. The boarder slept in there. The door opened out into the hall.

There was an orchard between our house and where Dad gave Uncle Bud land to build his house and it was on the road to Morrilton and we’d sit on the porch and watch cars from Morrilton. Werdna was killed in a car accident at night.

Every year for Christmas Dad would buy us a stalk of bananas and tie them up behind the bed in the parlor and we could always get us some any time we wanted. He always bought a box of dried raisins and a case of apples and oranges.

When we had a picnic, we took our food in trunks. We put apple and peach pies in the tray in the top part, and fried chicken and old-fashioned potato salad made with vinegar, onion, and sliced eggs in the bottom part. We had picnics in a grove down on the road below Atkinsons. They had wooden swings pulled by mules that would go around. Young folks could ride with sweethearts on the swing.

Mother got Aleta ready to go to the picnic and made me walk her down there. On the way down Dr. Homer Bearden had a car and he came down the road and I was holding Aleta’s hand and she was scared of the car and jerked loose and ran up the side of the mountain.

When Leta was around six she drank lye. Mother was making lye soap and she had a barrel outside filled with ashes and she was dripping the lye out of the ashes to make soap. Aleta got a little iron skillet with her toy stove at Christmas time and when Mother was away from the barrel, she got her some of the lye in her skillet and drank it. It hurt her real bad and she’d get choked when she tried to eat. Sometimes she stayed choked for two days.

When I would walk down the road past the picnic going to Aint Mary’s, there was a wooded area I had to go through, and I was afraid. There was a man who had a house on the other side of the woods. He had epileptic fits and I was afraid to walk by his house. There was a Negro woman who lived on the left side of the road named Mrs. Wallace, and she would come out and walk with me past the man’s house. I’d bring her a bucket of apples or peaches to pay her. One time I wanted to play paper dolls with my friend Gladys, and Mammy told me I couldn’t because I had to take care of Florine and Carl Dean. I was so mad I pushed their stroller into a ditch. Boy, I got a good one. I got a lot of them because I was so stubborn.

Aint Bertha lived with us until she got married. When we were living in Morrilton Aint Verna would go visit Margaret in Paris. Uncle Bud didn’t go. He just moved in without asking Mother, and he paid her $4.00 a week. That was when Florine and Dad and Uncle Bud and they all played pitch and Dad would be thrilled when he could beat Uncle Bud.

Aint Jo married Luthur Bird. He was an engineer on the railroad at Leslie. Uncle Raymond was a mail clerk on the same train.

The most terrible thing to happen at Solgohachia was the Sam Bell murders. Sam Bell and Maye Fryer lived in a rent house on Dad’s farm. She left him, and it made him mad. He thought that Eard and Abby Bearden, Maye’s sister, were trying to keep them apart, so he shot and killed them through their dining room window while they were eating supper. Mr. Fryer and his son Amos, Lois’s sweetheart, heard the screaming and the shots and started toward the house to help. Sam met them and killed them, too. He walked across the mountain and went right by Mr. and Mrs. Bearden’s home and got on the highway to Morrilton. Meantime Maye’s family took her over to Mr. & Mrs. Atkinson’s house and hid her upstairs. Sam Bell walked to Morrilton to give himself up to Jim Gordon. He stayed in jail about thirty years. When he got out he went to Texas. One of the Fryer girls, Gladys, was my good friend. I stayed all night with her, and she was still scared to death he’d come back there. The preacher happened to be spending the night that night and made her feel better.

Aint Verna and Uncle Bud Dillon had a two-story house in Morrilton, and they let the Fryers stay upstairs at their house and the woman next door saw a man in the alley looking up to the second story room. They didn’t get him, so they didn’t know if it was him or not. Mrs. Fryer and the family after they sent him to jail, they moved to Little Rock and Mrs. Fryer bought a boarding house and fed people. She was a good cook.

When Sam Bell was coming back from Texas Aleta said he stopped at their motel in Hope. She knew it was him. He stopped and registered at the motel on the way to Plumerville. She didn’t let on she knew who he was. Before all this happened I went to church and I sat right behind Sam and Maye and he had the most beautiful voice and sang “The Nail Scarred Hand.”

Maye married a man that had a furniture store in Little Rock. Sam Bell came back to Plumerville and some of their relatives came to visit them and Sam Bell and this man got into some trouble and he shot and killed him. He’s supposedly buried in Plumerville.

Miss Cora and Mr. Paul’s son, Othella Gordon, tore down the Miller house in Solgohachia and used the lumber to build his house up on the side of the mountain by it. Lena helped him a little financially. He was married and his wife taught school in Morrilton. Somebody bought Dr. Morrow’s house and moved it to Birdtown. It might have been Oscar McClaren, husband of one of Dr. Morrow’s daughters. McClaren was Floy’s daddy. His wife Willie died when Floy was born. One of the Ruff’s bought the land where Papa’s woods lot was.

Postscript: Carmon Miller’s story was published in Legend of the Well, Trail of Tears Station, In Celebration of “Solgohachia Day” May 13, 2000.

E-mail the author: Jan Porterfield


Posted: 8/30/04