Written in the spring of 1917

[Dr. Rhode notes that William James had a sister named Emily, who went by "Emmy." She decided to change the family name to Milligan. Most of her siblings went along with her wish, but not all did. Also, Dr. Rhode has found that no crewman named John James was with Nelson at Trafalgar. Dr. Rhode has further discovered that John James was never listed among the presidents of the Orange Lodge.]

I was born near the town of Fintona in the County Tyrone, Ireland, Sunday morning, June 27, 1841. My father was James Millikin and my mother Elizabeth James. My father's mother's grandfathers both came from England to Ireland, and both married Scotch women. So our family is Scotch-English. My grandfather, Samuel Millikin, was a graduate of the University of Dublin, Ireland, and sheriff of the county for some years. He married Jennie Crawford. They had three sons, William Millikin, James Millikin, and Robert Millikin; and four or five daughters, Rebecca Jane Millikin, now 94 years old, Lizzie Millikin, Mary Millikin, the oldest, who remained in Ireland, and one daughter who died in infancy. My father and mother came to Butler County, Ohio, in 1842, where my mother had an uncle and aunt and several cousins by the name of Cochran. The other two uncles and three aunts came to this country in the spring of 1846. William went with General Scott to Vera Cruz, Mexico. He died with yellow fever on the march to the City of Mexico. Robert and the three sisters came on to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Robert died of cholera in 1851. The girls married soon after and settled in Ripley County, Indiana. They are all dead except Jane, who is now at Attica, Indiana. (See the photograph of James Millikin and Elizabeth James Millikin and children below. William James Millikin, the author of this narrative, probably is one of the boys in the picture.)

John James, my mother's father, when a young man, enlisted in the British Navy under Admiral Nelson on board Nelson's flag ship, The Victory. He fought eleven years under Nelson and was many times wounded. He had two bullets in his body that the surgeons could not get out and several sword and pike wounds. He fought in the battles of Cape St. Vincent, the Nile and Trafalgar, and many others. Nelson fell at his feet at Trafalgar. When he came home, he married Miss Cox. They had two sons, William James and John Hamilton James, and two daughters, Elizabeth (my mother), and Dolly James. William came over to Philadelphia and was a ship carpenter. He became very wealthy. John ran in the East India trade with the East India Company. Dolly came over with father and mother and stopped in Boston, where she married.

My grandfather James leased a small farm near Fintona and was a gunsmith by trade. He was a great linguist; he could speak eight different languages. For a long time he was president of the Orange Lodges of Ireland, an organization that was greatly hated by the Catholics. One night in June as he was coming home from a mass meeting of the Orange Lodges, he and four other Orangemen were attacked by twelve or fifteen Catholics with clubs, near a bridge crossing a stream, where they were beaten to insensibility and left for dead. Grandfather came to in the morning and was brought home by some of his neighbors. He was never able to do much work afterward. He died about nine years after the injury and about six years after mother came to the United States.

My father and mother came on from Boston to Philadelphia in a sailing ship, took the railroad to Pittsburgh, and came down the Ohio river in a steamboat to Cincinnati. Mother's uncle, Mr. Cochran, who had come over three or four years before, took them out in a two-horse wagon to his place in Butler County, Ohio, about twenty-five or thirty miles from Cincinnati. My father and mother settled in the little town of Millville, six miles west of Hamilton, the county seat of Butler County. I first started to school in Millville when about four years of age. It was only a block to the schoolhouse. The teacher carried me to the schoolhouse, a new brick building with many pieces of brick lying around it. In 1845 in Millville, I got acquainted with an old man about ninety years old who fought in the battle of Lexington. The folks called him "Old Lexington." During the summer of 1846 a company of soldiers drilled one day each week for the Mexican War. Some other boys and myself sometimes got in the way of the soldiers, and they ran at us with bayonets, and we would run fast and climb over the fence.

Father worked three years for John S. Beaty on a farm close to town. In the spring of 1847 he bought a team and rented a farm of Mr. Beaty's three miles west of Millville. We lived on the place eight or ten years—four years in an old log cabin plastered up with red clay—then Mr. Beaty built a nice new frame house for us. While here I went to school in an old log schoolhouse with cracks large enough for the teacher's cat to come in and go out as it wanted to. The schoolhouse had a fireplace big enough to take a five foot back-log. We sat on slab seats with no backs to them and with our faces to the wall. We wrote with goose quills for four or five years. There were no steel pens to be seen.

I next went to school three miles northeast of this district in the Andy Lewis schoolhouse. It was similar to the other—a log cabin, well ventilated with holes in the wall large enough for a cat to go through—and it had a fireplace as large as the one in the other schoolhouse. After two years they tore down the old cabin and built a new brick building. I attended school there for several years and found it a very pleasant place. Two-thirds of the people were living in log houses. There were very few frame or brick houses. From 1853 to 1859 I went to school to Mr. Loder, a New York man and a fine teacher, and to Tom Davis and David Wilson, undergraduates of Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, which was located about eight miles from our home. I went to Davis and Wilson five years, and they gave me a big lift in the educational line.

In November and December of 1854 there was a revival meeting at our church, Washington Church, and I was converted about the middle of November 1854 and joined the church and have remained a member ever since. I began reading the Bible when ten years old and read it through three times in my boyhood days and think it the best book I ever read. I read all of the books in the Sunday School library and most of those in the District School library.

All of our family, except myself and a brother older than I, who died when four months old, were born in Butler County, Ohio. About the last of January 1860, I went to Warren County, Indiana, with William Woods, a friend of our family who had moved out there in the year before from near Hamilton, Ohio. We arrived at his place February 1st, and I worked on the place for him until December 1st. In November 1860 our family moved into a house on one of Mr. Woods' places. That winter I taught the school in Mr. Woods' district. I found I had a better education than most of the teachers in the county at that time. I taught three more terms in this district. In 1915, when I was back in the district, I saw seven or eight of my scholars that had come to school to me the first winter, fifty-five years before.

In 1861 I worked for Mr. Haines who lived in the neighborhood. In 1862 father bought some land three miles east and moved on it. I worked that year for Mr. Melotte on the prairie. In 1863 and 1864 I worked on Mr. Clement Jones's place. He boarded me and furnished everything to farm with and gave me one-third of the crop. I made $5.00 per day every day I worked in the crop.

January 1, 1865, I entered school in the Stockwell Collegiate Institute twelve miles southeast of Lafayette, Indiana. Henry G. Jackson was president. I studied under him in 1863 and 1864 till December 1st, when I went to Cincinnati and enlisted in the Navy. In a short time I was sent, with three hundred others, to Cairo and put on board the receiving ship Great Western, which had over twelve hundred men on board. Soon after I was put on board the gunboat Grosbeak #8. The next day we started to Cincinnati to tow down two monitors to Mound City 550 miles. We had 125 men on board. We had a monitor tied on each side of our boat. They were very heavy and out of 13 feet depth of water and were a heavy load for our boat to pull. The river was bank full, and it was very cold. I was exposed a good deal and took down sick at Louisville with pneumonia and was sick for four weeks and came near dying. We arrived at Vicksburg March 8th, 1865. The peach trees were in bloom. I lay here sick for three weeks before I got well. Dr. Warren of Boston did a good job of doctoring me.

Our captain was a Mr. Black, from Chicago, a very mean man. Our commodore was Mr. Mitchell, a very nice man and well liked by the crew. We next had Commodore Atkinson, a very fine man, and last of all we had Commodore Cornwall, an old salt sea tyrant and universally hated by officers and crew. When we reached Vicksburg, Captain Black made all the boys except myself turn over all their money to him. I had about $50.00, and I made use of it all summer. He got about $10,000.00 from them. One boy, Mr. Holden, had to give up $1,000.00 and a nice gold watch that cost him $365.00. I told Captain Black he could not get my money unless the Secretary of the Navy said I had to give it to him. He never said anything more to me about the money. The boys soon got uneasy about their money and wanted me to do something for them. There were two men from Chicago on board with us, John Jones and Tom Thorp, who said Captain Black was known in Chicago as a blackleg and gambler. I wrote Admiral Lee, who commanded our fleet, a letter stating the amount he had taken from each boy. Jones, Thorp and myself signed the letter. In about ten days the Admiral came on board the boat and gave Black a terrible lecturing and threatened to give him a dishonorable discharge and told him he would send him to the penitentiary if he did not return the money and watches to the boys. Black got the money for the boys. The Admiral would not allow him to stay with us as some of the boys had threatened to kill him. He was sent to gunboat #56. We never saw him again.

Our boat ran from Memphis to Grand Gulf, a distance of about 500 miles. We would not allow a rebel to cross the Mississippi. Our boat was the flagship of the 5th Division and was kept in fine shape, as nice as any parlor in a city home. No whiskey, no beer, no cards and no swearing were allowed. The American Navy is the strictest school in the world, a good school in which to discipline a boy. I was never punished in the Navy because I never violated any rules. I went to school twenty years and was never punished. We carried seven cannon on our boat. Some of them would carry a shell five miles. We had several scrimmages with Forest's cavalry. I went out one afternoon with four other boys to hunt Forest's cavalry. We went up the river two miles and tied our boat to a small tree and went through a big timber about a mile back from the river to where two roads meet. Here I saw Forest about two miles east of us coming down on us with four or five thousand men and twenty cannon. I told the boys to dodge back in the timber and brush while I hid in some brush and watched Forest come on until he was only two hundred yards from me. The crossing was that far north of me. Forest turned north and went up the river, thus missing me. When I started back, I could not find the boys. When I got back to the river, I found the boys had got in the boat and were about a mile down the river. I had a hard time trying to get them to come back for me. However, after a long time, they came back. I made my report to the Commodore, and he sent General Kilpatrick with 11,000 U.S. Cavalry, who chased Forest for ten days but did not get him.

In June and July I helped take the iron off of six mortar boats on the west side of the river. It was a very hard and hot job. The mortars weighed 10,000 pounds and shot 200-pound shells. Vicksburg never could be taken—only by starvation. About the Fourth of July, 1865, we got orders to get ready to go to Vera Cruz, Mexico. I did not want to go to Mexico in July as it was too hot and there was yellow fever there. About the 10th of July we got orders to start north to Cairo and Mound City, Illinois. We all liked that order very well. In a few days we were at Mound City, naval headquarters. With about one-third of our crew, I was transferred to a boat called The Cotton, a boat we captured from the rebels in the Red River. Captain Morrison of Wisconsin was in command. He was a drunken dissolute man. He came in at night drunk several times and put all the boys in irons. Admiral Lee advised and Commodore Wright, who was in command of the fleet while Admiral Lee was in Washington, came down the next day to investigate the matter. The Commodore sent Morrison home to Wisconsin and then gave me the command of the boat and told the boys to obey all orders I gave. The boys and I got along fine until I was ordered, with many others, on the 20th day of August 1865, to report at Cairo to be discharged. On the 21st I was on my way to Milan to my Aunt Jane Brooks. I spent a couple of days there and then took the train for home and was very glad to see my mother.

In a few weeks I started back to Stockweil to school again. I found President Jackson had been sent as a missionary to Argentina, South America. His place was filled by Professor J. A. Rich from a large college in Ohio. He had taught in the colleges of Ohio for eighteen years and was an excellent teacher.

I studied algebra, physiology, grammar, mental arithmetic and political economy. Professor Rich was especially well versed in political economy, and I received many excellent ideas from him during the year I studied under him.

On the 8th day of June in 1866 I left Stockwell for home and helped father on the farm, plowed corn, harvested, etc. On the 8th of September I packed my trunk and started for Greencastle, Indiana to attend Asbury University for the next two years. I studied algebra, rhetoric, grammar, higher arithmetic, elocution and bookkeeping. These kept me very busy during the two years at Asbury. Bishop Bowman was president, and the professors were of a high order. I was sick most of the time during April and May 1868 but kept up with my classes. I was on the doctor's hands the last two weeks. The doctor and three of the students that roomed with me told me I must not come back next year, for if I did I would go home in my coffin. I thought they were about right, so I reluctantly packed my trunk and left never to return, much to the disappointment of my teachers who hoped I would be able to pull through. I very much wanted to spend four more years in Asbury. I spent the next two years at home, working the farm in the summer and teaching school in the winter. I had malaria, chills and fever which Dr. Lyons, our family physician, could not stop. Finally he told me I would have to go west to some dry climate that did not have any malaria in the atmosphere. Mr. Rhode, who lived in our neighborhood, and who had lived in Kansas for three or four years before the war, told me I had better go to Kansas as there was no malaria there. A young man by the name of Coffelt, who lived near us, wanted to go to Lowell, Kansas, in Cherokee County, to look after some property his uncle had given him, and wanted me to go with him, so we started on the last day of January 1871. We arrived in Kansas City at ten o'clock February 1st. We went on to Lawrence and through Baldwin to Ottawa that evening, where we stayed all night. The next day we went on to Humboldt. Mr. Coffelt had an uncle, aunt and seven or eight cousins living west of Humboldt. We stayed with them about a week and had plenty of buffalo meat to eat, the first I had ever tasted. From Humboldt we went to Parsons and stayed there all night. They were just building the first hotel In Parsons, and we slept on the first floor with the east side open as they had not yet put up the east wall. The next morning we started on foot for Osage Mission, fourteen miles away, as there were no trains from Parsons to the Mission. Flour of our former neighbors in Indiana lived four miles southeast of the Mission. We spent ten days with them and then went to Girard and took the train for Baxter Springs. Lowell is located three miles from Baxter Springs on Spring River. We stopped there for three weeks and had a good time. I left Mr. Coffelt there while I went to Baxter Springs, took the bus for Chetopa, Kansas,hired a horse and rode out into the Edna Neighborhood and located my claim, which I lived on for sixteen years. There was but one house in sight of my claim. On the 14th of March Mr. Coffelt and I took the train back for Attica. We had a very fine trip, and I enjoyed it very much, and I felt fifty percent better than when I left Indiana. On my return I again weighed on the same scales I had weighed on the morning I started for Kansas and found that I had gained fifteen pounds.

During the summer of 1871, I raised twenty-five or thirty acres of corn and cut twenty-five acres of wheat and some oats. The next winter I taught school near home. My school was out the first week in March. I sold my horse to my brothers, George Millikin and Sandford Millikin and also a very fine cow. On the 14th of Mrch 1872 I arrived at Colonel Baldwin's, three miles from my claim, near Edna, Kansas. I boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin that summer and taught school in their district three months that spring. I hired Sam Smith to break sod for me until my school was out, which was about July 4th. Smith broke thirty-five acres. I hired three yoke of cattle and hitched them on to a sixteen-inch sod-plow and plowed away until I had 52 acres plowed. Then it got so hot and dry I had to quit. The next winter I taught the Edna School and boarded with Peter Goodwin, director of the district. The next spring I went to work on my place aqain. I put in corn and some oats and set out two acres of an orchard. I threshed my wheat and oats and sold all but enough wheat to sow twenty acres. I cut my corn and put it in the shock, turned over a yoke of cattle and a horse I had to Mr. Thomoson, who lived one mile east of my place, to feed for me during the winter and, about the first of October, started back to Indiana. Father died on the 2nd day of October 1872, with a sinking chill, and mother was left at home with the girls. I was anxious to see them, and I was offered $15.00 or $20.00 more per month to teach school in a district only a few miles from mother's than I could get in Kansas, so I returned to Indiana. I boarded with my mother and spent a very pleasant winter there. By this time I had become quite healthy. I had only four chills after I came to Kansas, and for thirty-four years I never had to call on a doctor or a prescription. In the spring I again returned to Kansas, arriving about the middle of March. I put out fifteen acres of corn. It was a very dry year, and the grasshopoers were very plentiful in the fall, so I did not have much corn, but wheat and grass were good. In the fall of 1874 I put out thirty acres of wheat, let one of the neighbors have my oxen and horse, and, about the middle of October, I started back to Indiana. I taught school about two or three miles from home and boarded with my mother. Mother was very kind to me, and I enjoyed the winter.

In the spring of 1875 my brother John moved out to Kansas, and lived on my place. I sent a hand and team along with him, and I came out in June when my school was out We put in eighty acres of corn. It was a good year, and we had a good crop. In the fall we put in some wheat. John gathered the corn and cared for the horses during the winter, and I went back to Indiana in October to teach the Haines' school. I boarded with Mr. Wesley Haines but spent Saturdays and Sundays at home with mother. I started back to Kansas about the middle of March. John and I put out a big crop of corn and oats. We had good wheat, oats, corn and hay. We put in a big crop of wheat that fall. That winter I taught the Cobb school, one and one-half miles northwest of Pine Village, Indiana, and boarded with Uncle Billy Cobb. In the spring I came back to Kansas. We put in a large crop of corn and oats, and that fail we harvested good crops of wheat, oats, corn and hay. John was married to Alice Pearson in October and bought a farm one-half mile south of mine and moved onto it. I was married to Estella T. Hoskins on November 29, 1877, Thanksgiving Day.

For ten years after I was married I farmed three miles west of Edna. I raised cattle, hogs and sheep. I was Justice of the Peace eight years and was Township Clerk for a time. I took a very active part in the organization of the Farmers' Alliance and the Populist Party. Mr. Campbell and J. K. Russell of Mound Valley, John Breidenthal of Chetopa, and Mr. Edwards of Parsons were associated with me in the organization and gave very valuable assistance. In 1867 I was nominated for County Clerk of Labette County on the Populist ticket and was elected. Our ticket had a majority of 401. In January of 1888 we moved to Oswego, the county-seat of Labette County, and I assumed the duties of County Clerk.

In May 1888 three of our children, Ina Millikin, John Morton Millikin and Mattie Millikin, took the scarlet fever, and all died. At the time they were sick, the Texas Fever broke out in my herd of cattle I was feeding on the farm, and I lost one-hundred head of them which meant a loss of over $4000.00. I was also security on several notes for neighbors who were unable to pay them, and I lost considerable money on the security business. I have not gone security for anyone since. I am sure it is a bad policy.

I say to my family and friends, "Shun the security business."

As I have written this autobiography solely for my family, they know all particulars from 1890, so I will not write them.

"My latest sun is sinking fast.

My race is nearly run.

My strongest trials now are past.

My triumph is begun.


O come, angel band!

Come and around me stand.

O bear me away on your snowy wings

To my immortal home."

The beams of the sun of my life are slanting far to the westward; soon they will set here on earth to rise no more, and another sun in Heaven will rise with healing in its wings—even the Sun of God's Righteousness, to shine upon me forever, which means immortality. Man is immortal.


William James Millikin

May 19, 1917


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