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A short story by Etta Belle Walker

Adam Miller And His Neighbors

Title:     Adam Miller And His Neighbors
Author: Etta Belle Walker [More Titles by Walker]

Among the earliest settlers in the valley were young Germans, Adam Mueller and his wife and his sister. Adam, as was his family, was born in Germany. Like many others, he had left because of religious persecution, devastating wars and social unrest. His first home in the new country was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Adam Miller (as his name was soon after spelled) journeyed to Williamsburg, Virginia. There, he told someone, he wanted to make his home. It was not long after the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe had returned with their glowing accounts of the land beyond the mountains. Adam listened with deep interest to the descriptions of the Valley where a native grass grew on which buffalo fattened, where game lived all year and where a forest fringed the fertile valleys. He decided to go with some hunters and he found the kind of land which he wanted. Before he returned to Lancaster he had built a rude log cabin. He returned home by way of Williamsburg, and soon his wife and sister were getting ready to set forth. Many of his German neighbors were interested also, and historians claim he was the first German to build near Massanutten Mountain.

His neighbors were Abram Strickler, Mathias Selser, Phillip Long, Paul Long, Michael Rinehart, and Jonathan Rood. Some give the date of this settlement as early as 1726. Adam Miller took out his naturalization papers a few years later and today, the visitor may read the quaint document hanging on the walls of the Miller home, near Elkton, Virginia.

His log cabin was soon outgrown. He was a good farmer and his wife and sister helped him. His crops were larger each year. Besides, Adam was a business man. He secured a large land grant and he soon was selling off farms to other Germans who came from Pennsylvania and from Germany.

The Millers built a larger home and they bought some good sturdy furniture to replace the crude tables and chairs which were home-made. They took pleasure in getting the home all ready before they moved into it. They had even spread the beds with the new hand-woven coverlets which his wife and sister had made during the long winter nights. The next night they would sleep in their new home. But during the night, a fire broke out--no one ever knew its origin--and everything was destroyed before the family woke up!

The Millers were undaunted, so they built again. We are told what good neighbors there were in those days. The men took their own axes and cut down the trees. They dressed the lumber, sawed the timbers by careful measurements, laid foundations, and built chimneys. It did not take so long to build a house. The visitor today will see a big white house on the road between Luray and Elkton, almost beneath the shadow of old Massanutten Mountain. He will see the marker which tells him that this house was built by the Miller family. Inside, the visitor will see priceless early American furniture. He will see rosewood and later Empire furniture, too, as other generations added to their heritage. But when one goes into the log cabin kitchen he will stand in reverence before a collection of early Dutch tables, chairs, platters, plates of Delft and pewter, spoons of the same ware. There is a huge corner cupboard which everyone would like to have for his own. This house no longer has a direct descendant of Adam and his good wife to occupy it, for the last one of his line recently died.

Adam Miller was not only a good neighbor to his German friends but we are told they did not have much trouble with the Indians during the first years he lived in the Valley. However, he was a brave fighter during the Indian Wars and his record is given in Henning's Statutes. He lived through most of the Revolutionary War and no doubt longed to fight in behalf of the country which had given him the opportunity to develop it.

"On Sunday evening, Dec. 3rd, 1749 a young Franciscan went with us (Diary of Leonard Schell, a Moravian Missionary) to show us the way to Mathias Schawb, who immediately on my offer to preach for them, sent messengers to announce my sermon. In a short time a considerable number of people assembled to whom I preached. After the sermon I baptised a child of Holland's. We stayed overnight with Mathias Schawb. His wife told us we were always welcome and we must come to them whenever we came into that district.

"Toward evening a man from another Dutch settlement, Adam Miller passed. I told him that I would like to come to his house and preach there. He asked if I were sent by God and I answered yes. He said if I were sent by God I should be welcome, but he said there are at present so many kinds of people that often one does not know where they come from. I requested him to notify his neighbors that I would preach which he did.

"On Dec. 4th we left Schawb's house commending the whole family to God. We travelled through the rain across the South Shenandoah to Adam Miller's house who received us with much love. We stayed over night.

"On Dec. 5th I preached at Adam Miller's house on 'Whosoever thirsteth let him come to the water and drink.' A number of thirsty souls were present. Especially Adam Miller took in every word and after the sermon declared himself well pleased. In the afternoon we travelled a short distance, staying overnight with a Swiss."

[The end]
Etta Belle Walker's short story: Adam Miller And His Neighbors