My Grandmother, Margaret Pauline Millikan, was born September 17, 1917. Her sister, Miriam Frances Millikan, was born November 20, 1918. Their parents were Arza Millikan (1883-1964) and Mary Boone Millikan (1897-1992). They grew up on the family farm on Mulebarn Road near Sheridan, Indiana. The two girls were almost inseparable growing up.
Farm life was full of responsibilities. Feeding the chickens was one chore the girls could do while they were rather young.
Grandma said they also had the responsibility of driving the cows “to the 30.” The two girls would take the herd of 8-10 cows from Arza’s farm down the road about half a mile to 30 acres of land that his Mother, Martha Ellen Barker (1858-1932), inherited. Grandma described this chore when I interviewed her in 2006:
“Frances and I drove the cows every day…We were 10 years old when we started herding the cattle from the barn lot down to the corner. You had to keep them from going west or south, you had to get them turned, be sure that the gates were locked on everybody’s fence…We drove those cattle from the home over and over again to the corner again, back up to the 30…We’d drive those cattle back and there was no fence. We had a lane we drove them back and part of the time that would be a big corn field clear back to the woods. You had to keep them on that lane and get them back to the 30…There was a big water tank like the old water tanks were that you pumped a full tank of water. And we’d pump a full tank of water and walk home. Then go back and get them in the evening. We’d pump a tank of water at the barn for when they got back. We did that for a long time.”
She also remembered other chores on the farm: “And Frances and I worked in the field. I remember one time when I—Daddy had plowed that big field over at the 30 that was East of the woods and I rode a drag. I mean a drag that was just heavy boards with a couple of 3 rocks on it to help hold it down. And it had dried out…and I could hardly ride the drag. ‘Course you stood up on it, but it just pulled my arms ’til I was nearly sick. That field was so rough and the disc just didn’t cut it down. Daddy had a tractor of course and we had disked it but it didn’t work. I never rode the disc—that was a little dangerous because you’ve got all those cutters. But I had a harrow and that drag and that was one of the hardest jobs I ever did in the field.”
Margaret and Frances helped load beans: “Daddy and Grandpa Millikan would pitch the beans, work on beans on a wagon…They’d pitch those up and we’d have to cram them down and move stuff around. We did the same thing with hay.” Grandma remembers one time when she was a teenager and almost had a heat stroke when helping with the hay. They also helped plant potatoes and load the silo with corn. “Those kind of were dirty jobs; you didn’t have any bathrooms or bath tubs to clean up in. Used water in an old tub.”
But farm work wasn’t all they did growing up. They would play tag in the yard at night with neighbor kids. They would read a lot. Their Father, Arza, worked his Grandfather’s farm when the girls were little (Clark Millikan died in 1926). They would accompany Arza to the farm either by wagon or in “the old open touring car” mornings and evenings when he would go to do chores. She remembers “we got roller skates and learned to skate on the sidewalk that went up to the front door.” And she remembered “turning somersaults in the yard, because they kept the yard mowed and we didn’t at home…Frances & I were turning somersaults in there one day and I don’t know if it was Aunt Allie or Aunt Angie that came out and told us the chickens had been in that yard and they didn’t want us to get the chicken manure in our hair. Such a crazy thing to remember.”
When Margaret started school, Frances went along. The two sisters stayed close all of their lives. They double dated when they were teenagers. They worked together at the Sheridan Grille restaurant before Margaret got married and Frances went to college. Margaret married Loran McKinley in 1936 & Frances married Robert Haskett in 1939. They started raising families & eventually Margaret settled in Sheridan and Frances in Westfield. Both ladies were active with the church & supported missions.
In the 1970’s Mary Millikan sold the farm and moved to a house next door to Frances in Westfield. Margaret and their other sister, Betty Lou, lived with Mary. Eventually, Margaret and Frances moved to a Quaker-run Senior Apartment complex in Westfield. Margaret died in 2007, she was 90 years old. Frances continued on until this year. She died April 1—Easter Sunday. She was 99 years old.
I’m sure there were many more stories that we would have loved to hear from Margaret and Frances. They shared what they wanted to, or what we asked them about. As it is, we do know they were shaped by their early years working hard on that farm near Sheridan, IN.
Margaret & Frances with one of the horses at their home near Sheridan, IN.
© MJM 2018