Amanda Josephine Miller

(All pictures at bottom instead of intersperred in text)

My great-grandmother, Amanda Josephine Miller, was born on State Street in Albany, New York on February 28, 1844. She was the eldest child of Ezra and Amanda Josephine Miller. Her parents, who were first cousins, married in 1840 and went to live in Fort Hamilton, Long Island, where he worked as an engineer. I am not sure why they were in Albany when their first child was born.

Her brother, Ezra Wilson Miller, named after his grandfather, was born the following year in Fort Hamilton. It is not known where Harriet Martha was born. The younger two children, Jordan Gray and Franklin Pierce were born in Janesville, Rock County, Wisconsin, where their father was sent to survey the new territory.

Life there must have been a vivid contrast to that in New York, but exciting for a child. One of their grandchildren, Adele Miller Clifton, remembered hearing stories about the children having to walk to school for miles through the deep snow, and of thawing their lunches out on the wood stove. A grove of maple trees was supposed to separate the settlement from the Indian territories, but every spring the Indians would cross through the woods and camp on the Eastern side when the sap was running.

Josephine graduated from Miss Sill's Seminary, in Rockford, Illinois, which later became Rockford College. There is a record of her attending the first annual banquet of the Rockford College Association of Southern California in March of 1904 at the Women's Clubhouse in Los Angeles, with her daughter, Blanche Hinman Garland. (Rockford, located 90 miles northwest of Chicago, had an enrollment of 1100 in 1986, and is ranked as "competitive" in the Barron's college catalogue.)

The Miller family moved east to Brooklyn, New York in 1867. Their address for the wedding of Josephine to Marshall Littlefield Hinman the following year was 311 Hamilton Street. The rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, the Reverend John W. Diller, performed the ceremony at 5:30 a.m. so the young couple could catch the 7:30 a.m. train for Niagara Falls! Only the Miller family, Mr. Hinman's business partner, Horatio G. Brooks and his wife, and Miss Ella Brooks were present.
Glancing through the railroad passes in our scrapbook, the collection from 1868 would indicate a wedding trip that took them to Toledo, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis.

While her husband moved back to Dunkirk, New York in November 1869 to found the Brooks Locomotive Works, Josephine stayed at her family's home at 101 Henry Street in Brooklyn. Her first child, my grandmother, Sadie Blanche Hinman was born on March 5, 1870. I have the telegram from her father, Ezra Miller: "Josephine is sick ... come by next train... answer..." to M. L. Hinman in Dunkirk. (Sick was the popular euphemism for labor.)

A son, Marshall Littlefield Hinman, Jr. was born August 30, 1873. He died on June 14, 1888 at the age of 14. Blanche was a student at St. Agnes School in Albany, New York where Bishop Doan was principal. In 1888 Josephine made her first purchases of Staffordshire China on Nantucket Island, and thus began the collection that would take so much of her time and enthusiasm.
Train travel must have played a big part in their lives. Marshall was entitled to a train pass on most of the major lines, and from the collection in his scrapbook, he seems to have taken advantage of this privilege. By the 1890s when the Brooks Works were operating successfully, there was more time to travel and the family began to come to the Pacific Coast to spend a part of the winters. Their daughter, Blanche was to meet her future husband, William May Garland in Los Angeles in 1897, and to become engaged to him the following year.

The years in Dunkirk must have been very busy for Josephine, as the wife of a very prominent community leader. Joe, as she was known to friends and family, was an active member of St. John's Episcopal Church, and it was she who started a family tradition of giving money for various additions to the church. In The Centennial History of St. John's Church, Dunkirk, 1850-1950, the Very Reverend Mr. Leslie Chard writes: "The beautiful wine-glass pulpit was given by Mrs. Marshall L. Hinman, who for a generation was the Parish's most generous benefactor. Mrs. Hinman also gave the great bell in the tower, the new Altar Cross and vases, and the brass eagle lectern. The cross and lectern are over-ornate, and much too large for the Church, but it was a pretentious and ostentatious age, whose favorite adjective was "elegant."

Dunkirk was incorporated as a city in 1880, with a population of 9,000. The Brooks Locomotive Works was the magnet that drew the newcomers to Dunkirk; more and more workers were needed to maintain production of the increasingly large orders for locomotives. Foreigners flocked to Dunkirk for the steady work and good wages that could be obtained there. The population was made up of four distinct groups. The Anglo-Saxons were descendants of the New England settlers of the early part of the century. The Irish came with the railroad between 1849 and 1860. The Germans in Dunkirk had left the Fatherland after the failure of the democratic revolution of 1848, and the Polish settled there from 1870 on.

From the Centennial History of St. John's Church:

"The Episcopal Church in this country was still predominantly Anglo-Saxon in outlook; it was largely the Church of the privileged classes; it was too rigid, exclusive, and formal to appeal to these new Americans of a vastly different background and culture. A large portion of the Parish income was derived from pew rents, a system that tended to foster exclusiveness, and to repel the casual worshipers or inquirer."

"The great financial panic of 1893 proved a serious blow to the parish. In Dunkirk, as in the rest of the country, unemployment mounted, businesses failed, and many people left the city to seek their fortunes elsewhere. The Church's income fell off alarmingly. The financial security and prosperity it enjoyed during the 80s was a thing of the past. Year after year the pattern repeated itself; the Rector's salary months in arrears; or lent by the Senior Warden; then Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Hinman to the rescue, paying up the indebtedness, putting in a new boiler, paying for the repair of the roof, giving a large share of the regular income of the Parish besides. A perusal of the Minutes of the Vestry during this period leaves one with the conviction that had it not been for their generosity, the Parish could hardly have survived."

In 1899 the Hinmans completely redecorated the Church, giving new pews and choir stalls, carpets, pew-cushions, and hassocks, all at a cost of $7000. Their deaths eleven months apart in 1907 and 1908 forced the church to find more equitable means of gaining support from their parishioners. Their final influence seems to have been their bowling alley which was given by Mr. R. J. Gross and moved to a site at the back of the Church, where it was remodeled to serve as a parish house.

A scrapbook of pictures of the house on Central Avenue and the greenhouse show a dark and sumptuously decorated building filled with knick-knacks and curios. There are huge chrysanthemums filling the glass house, which must have been impressive during the bitterly cold winters in that town on the shores of Lake Erie.

The descriptions of Blanche's wedding in 1898 and the parties surrounding that event obviously were very lavish. From the history of the Brooks Locomotive Works, we know the Hinmans would have been very wealthy by 1898, in those days before the income tax.

By 1898 Joe must have been lonely after her only child Blanche married and moved to Los Angeles. It was then that her collection of Staffordshire ware began to grow and she built a small museum next to the bowling alley to exhibit both her collections and the firearms that were Marshall's hobby. Within a year a second structure was built to house just the china. In a description of these rooms, the walls are covered with a dull red burlap and glossy black woodwork and geometrically placed plates of all sizes and shapes. One account in American Homes and Gardens of January 1907 comments that the plates are "hung with mathematical accuracy and everything is suggestive of order and symmetry"... not exactly what we would find pleasing to the eye.

Collecting became a passion for her and she seems to have been interested in a wide variety of objects. I have a beautiful volume, inscribed California Mosses, of pressed seaweeds, which are identified in her own handwriting. There is another volume of wild flowers of California, all pressed in symmetrical and intricate patterns, and correctly identified.

The Staffordshire china collection which was loaned to the Los Angeles Museum of Art in 1917, and was finally given in 1985, comprised over 700 pieces of commemorative china pieces. An article in International Studio in May, 1923, describes the collection as the finest in the West and one of the greatest in the whole country, and stresses the historical value of the pictures of the Revolutionary period that are preserved nowhere else.

Joe also collected Indian baskets, woven by the Pomo Indians of Northern California, and acknowledged to have been the finest baskets made in this country. An especially good collection of them was eventually given to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, after having been on loan for many years.

Artifacts and souvenirs from all over the world were collected and catalogued by Joe in a period of very few years. There are five glorious velvet and satin quilts that represent the Victorian style of quiltmaking...sadly with no provenance. They have been given to the Banning House in Wilmington, south of Los Angeles, where they are periodically displayed in the ancestral home of fellow California pioneer, Phineas Banning.

After the death of her husband in 1907, Joe moved to Los Angeles to be with her daughter and grandchildren. She died in Los Angeles on March 29, 1908 at the Leighton Hotel, 2127 West 6th Street.

She is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Fredonia, New York beside her son and husband. My father added the names of his brother, mother, and father after their deaths, and I added his name to their monument.

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Amanda Josephine Miller and classmates including sister Harriet
Amanda Josephine Miller and classmates including sister Harriet
Amanda Josephine"Joe" (Miller) Hinman (28 Feb 1844-29 Mar 1908) Amanda Josephine"Joe" (Miller) Hinman (28 Feb 1844-29 Mar 1908) "Joe" with her daughter Sadie Blanche Hinman in 1870
Amanda Josephine"Joe" (Miller) Hinman (28 Feb 1844-29 Mar 1908) "Joe" with her daughter Sadie Blanche Hinman in 1870
715 Central Ave, Dunkirk NY Hinman Glasshouse Hinman Collection of Staffordshire China
715 Central Ave, Dunkirk NY Hinman Glasshouse Hinman Collection of Staffordshire China
Interior scene of 715 Central Interior scene of 715 Central Interior scene of 715 Central
Interior scenes of 715 Central
Dress worn by Amanda and later given to museum Ann Babcock wearing Joe's pin & earrings and admiring portrait Susan Babcock with Joe's book, California Mosses
Dress worn by Amanda Josephine and later given to museum Ann Babcock wearing Joe's pin & earrings and admiring portrait Susan Babcock with Joe's book, California Mosses
John Jewett Garland and Marshall Garland with Grandmother "Joe" Ann, Susan & Sarah Babcock admiring Blance Hinman's trousseau book John Babcock with his Staffordshire platter
John Jewett Garland and Marshall Garland with Grandmother "Joe" Ann, Susan & Sarah Babcock admiring Blance Hinman's trousseau book John Babcock with his Staffordshire platter