My Dad wrote a composition for his 9th grade English class titled “The Most Unforgettable Person I Ever Knew.” He said he can’t remember writing it, but gave permission for me to use it anyway. (I transcribed it as originally written, even though it seems like he left something out.)
The Most Unforgettable Person I Ever Knew
Small, lean, slow, and deliberate in his movements, he could do more work than most men one half his age. My great-grandfather drove a tractor when he was 88. He rode a bicycle 4 miles a day in all kinds of weather until he wrecked it and couldn’t buy parts for it because of its age. My great-grandfather was 90 years old then. He then walked the four miles every day. He was 92 years of age when he painted it the last time. It was painted from ladders instead of from running boards because he might fall off a running board. The day he died he was digging a ditch. My great-grandfather was then 93 1/2 years of age.
My great-grandfather was a typical Quaker and was always studious. He read the Bible 26 times, and never missed a Sunday at church for 10 years.
My great-grandfather kept weather records for years. The weather bureau sometimes checked with him because his records were older and more accurate than theirs were.
My great-grandfather’s name was Lewis Elwood Millikan. He died in March 1949.
Lewis Elwood Millikan, the only son of Clark Millikan (1824-1926) & Lydia Hinshaw Millikan (1833-1917), was born October 10, 1855 in Randolph County, North Carolina. He moved to Indiana with his family soon after the end of the Civil War. He married Martha Ellen Barker (1858-1932) February 23, 1882. They had two children, Arza (1883-1964) and Edna (1886-1966). He raised his family on a farm on Mulebarn Road south of Sheridan, IN. His farm was not very far away from Clark’s.
When Arza got married in 1916, Elwood and Mattie moved to town and settled in a house on Sheridan’s Main Street. Elwood “retired” & Arza and his wife, Mary Boone Millikan (1897-1992), took over the farm. However, both Arza and Elwood worked their farm as well as helped out with Clark’s farm along with hired help until Clark died in 1926. So, when the essay says Elwood rode his bicycle 4 miles a day, he was riding from his house in Sheridan to the farm & back home.
Here’s a picture of him painting the farm house at the age of 92. Can’t say I’d want to be up on that ladder!
He was active in the Friend’s church. Some papers I have indicate he was a delegate to regional meetings as well as clerk for his Meeting. A news article from the time of his 92nd birthday, states that the church gave him a Bible for perfect attendance. He was a member of Sheridan Friends at that time. The church also held an open house to celebrate his birthday.
I’m impressed that he read the Bible through so many times. He was interviewed by Wayne Guthrie with the Indianapolis News sometime after he turned 93. He said he had read the Bible through 23 times and was reading the Gospel of Luke for the 24th time. He said he started reading it through in 1915. He said he liked reading the Gospels, “but it takes the whole Bible if you want to understand it right.” In one sense, I guess there weren’t as many distractions back then to interrupt the reading. Anyway, I admire his diligence.
The Indianapolis News article also discussed his bicycle riding. He said he bought the bicycle in 1918. He said that he had to quit riding it because when he tried to fix it, it made it worse. No surprise, for a 30 year old bike that may have been used almost every day!
Weather changes were important for farming. My Grandmother gave me a few of Elwood’s weather journals. I have the records for about 1936 through 1949. Each day, Elwood would enter the temperature. Starting with the 1940 journal, he also entered the weather conditions every day. He added a few notations of his activities on some days. My Grandmother included temperatures & weather conditions in her diary entries as well. Elwood’s final entry was Wed. March 16, 1949. It was 22 degrees and cloudy. This was the day he died.
Elwood died of a heart attack while he was helping dig a ditch. He died at the farm. He was 93 years old. He had been widowed for 17 years. He was survived by his son & daughter as well as 7 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. He was buried at Union Grove Cemetery.
So there is a little more to share about Elwood’s early life & I hope to do that at a later date. But even without that, it does seem like Lewis Elwood Millikan was quite an Unforgettable Person.
© MJM 2017