John Vanderver (Van) McMillan 1857 – 1932


William Monroe McMillan 1859 – 1946

by Eddie M. Robinson, Grandson of William Monroe McMillan

My grandfather and his brother were taken on their westward trek by “Uncle Hub and Aunt Martha Meeks.” (The Uncle & Aunt is all I heard all my life.) So far I haven’t established the relationship. My great-uncle was John Vanderver (Van) McMillan, 01/23/1857-07/07/1932. My grandfather was William Monroe McMillan, 11/15/1859-03/01/1946.

The trek west was in 1865. The boys were 6 and 8 years of age. They are found in the 1870 Hood County census living with Barry Russell, in House #195. They would have been 11 and 13 years old.

The John Vanderver McMillan Family(This picture had to be made between 1887-1897)Front Row: Hardy Abner 10/20/1889-09/12/1948; John Evander (Van) McMillan 01/23/1857-07/1936 in New Hope, Texas; Sara (Sally) Catherine Bush McMillan 08/22/1857-04/06/1950; in her lap is Bessie Van 12/29/1895-07/4/1919; last is Martha (Mattie) Jane 04/12/1892-03/01/1972.Back Row: Benjamin Frank (Frank) 11/19/1880-06/12/1925; John Wiley (J.W.) 12/9/1876-07/22/1952; Marrie (Mary) Elizabeth 01/10/1884-02/04/1918; and Ada Belle 12/19/1886-03/17/1938. Their last child had not yet been born: Ona Jewel 07/17/1898-07/21/1988.

A few years after the above picture was made “Uncle” Van decided he would go down to the store on the highway to get a sandwich and cup of coffee. He went in and gave his order to the lady and looked up and saw his brother Bill down at the end of the counter. He told the lady to bring his order down at the end, and he would eat with his brother. He noticed the funny look on her face. When he got down at the end of the counter he found that “his brother” was his own image in the mirror.

While in Granbury there was a farm close to them. The lady’s rooster crowed very early setting on the fence by their room and would wake the boys. Finally they caught the lady’s rooster and plucked all the feathers off of it and turned it loose. The next morning it was back crowing even louder than before. They looked out, and the lady had knitted the rooster a suit; it really did look funny then.

There weren’t things to do to entertain them when in the West, so they invented things. One Sunday afternoon they were riding calves, and Uncle Van just couldn’t ride a calf. They had an idea. They would tie Uncle Van’s legs under the calf, and then he could ride him. He agreed, and they tied him good. They turned the calf loose, and immediately Uncle Van slid under the calf’s belly. The calf panicked and really got wild then. Its hooves were really cutting Uncle Van, and they couldn’t catch the calf. When they finally caught the calf Uncle Van was bleeding all over. They were afraid that the calf would kill him before they caught it. Needless to say, Uncle Van never did learn to ride a calf.

I was an admirer of the Cowboy and Indian movies and thought it was the way things happened. I asked my grandfather, Papaw (William Monroe), how did they keep from getting in trouble when they went to town on weekends. His comment was brief, “Don’t wear your gun,” and we just kept walking.

Another time I asked, “When the Indians attacked what did you do?” His comment was get in the house and open the gun port holes. They had holes in the walls that had a board that would come down and cover the hole. You could turn them up and put a peg in a hole that would hold them up. The peg also held them down when they were not needed. The doors locked by a board dropping into a notch when they were closed. A string was run from the board thru the door if you were outside so the board could be raised out of the notch and you could enter. He said most houses had one door, but those he lived in had a back door also. I found this out because he would always say, “Come visit, the latch string is always out,” and I had to ask what he meant.

He also commented if the Indians caught them in the fields and they couldn’t get to the house then if you could cross the Brazos River you would be safe. The Indians thought the river was sacred and would not cross it to get someone. It was considered the Arm of God or something like that. I feel confident that it was the Spanish translation of Brazos and I don’t remember the words he used. The boys were in or around Granbury when the Indians were at their worst, and all the gunfighters, bank robbers, and general bad men were making their place in history.

The boys went back to East Texas. Uncle Van worked for Hardy Bush working in the fields. He was choppin cotton one hot July day. Mr. Bush’s daughter, Sarah (Sally) Catherine Bush, would bring cool water around to the hands and give a dipper to each to get a drink. After a while Uncle Van was choppin cotton, and Sally came around with the water. He took the dipper and asked her if she would marry him. He was 18 years old at the time. She told him she would, and he really chopped fast after that.

My grandfather, Bill, waited ten more years before he married Maudie Condor who passed away. Then in 1900 he married Ida Ella Jane Wooten. She had five children of her first husband. Mr. Stephens’ sister and Bill had 2 children by his first marriage and they had 3 together. They raised 10 children to adults and had 8 more that died at various ages.

In 1940 Bill was visited by one of Mr. Stephens’ children that they raised, Johnny Stephens from New Mexico. He told how they were having trouble with cougars getting their stock and didn’t have a gun to kill them with. My grandfather, Bill, went to his house (next door to Mom & Dad’s) and brought out a “Cowboy” style frontier Colt pistol, 38-40 caliber complete with belt holster and saddle carbine, 38-40 caliber also, with saddle scabbard and a box of shells. I begged him for them and said I would buy them a new one for his guns. I didn’t know he had them. The leather was still soft and flexible, and there wasn’t a spec of rust on either gun. We never heard from them again.

My grandfather wanted to be listed on the Hood County pioneer rolls very much. I hope this will truly establish his rights to be enrolled thus.

Eddie M. Robinson
203 Smith Road
Kingston, Tennessee 37763