Well, our story title this week can signal someone’s tragic demise one of three ways: the result of an unfortunate loss of footing or balance; being caught unprepared in an extreme, below average temperature situation in September, October or November that could result in frostbite or worse; encountering a geologic novelty while swimming or boating at a place where water flows over a vertical drop or a series of steep drops in the course of a stream or river.
I probably have most readers somewhat intrigued at this point, especially with the oddity involved with the latter two consequences. However, this week’s story is pretty straightforward, however, complete with a little twist, two in fact.
Rev. Simon Schweigarde Miller was a minister in the German Reformed faith tradition. He was born in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania on February 22nd, 1842, the son of Henry Miller (1805-1848) and Elizabeth von Schweigarde (1808-1881). His great-grandfather (John Adman Heilman, Jr.) was a commissioned lieutenant who commanded men in the Battle of Long Island during the American Revolution. He was part of the famed “Flying Camp” that included regiments from Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Many Frederick men were part of this military formation employed by the Continental Army in late 1776, chief among them was Thomas Johnson, Jr., who would go on to become Maryland’s first governor.
Simon Miller was living in Lancaster, PA, a student at Franklin and Marshall College, when the American Civil War broke out. He was registered for the draft but his calling differed from his great-grandfather’s as he would graduate from college in 1862, and follow-up his education in divinity school, attending the Reformed Seminary in Mercersburg until 1864. He was ordained at this time and took his first charge at Grace Church in Akron, Ohio.
In the 1870 census, Rev. Miller is duly listed as a clergyman and living in the household of George C. Biser, an insurance agent. Mr. Biser would become Miller’s father-in-law, as daughter Mary Genevieve Biser would become the minister’s wife in 1874. At this time, the couple moved to Boonsboro, where Rev. Miller took the lead of Trinity Reformed which still stands today as the oldest UCC/German Reformed congregation in the tri-state area. The Millers would welcome three children while here: Mary Genevieve (1876), Paul Biser (1877), and Hugh Schweigarde (1884).
It’s because of the Miller’s youngest child, that I “landed” on this family and topic for this week’s story. While perusing a local newspaper, I came across the following sad article.
A terrible happenstance for any family to have to endure, as the headline, not surprising of the time, certainly caught my attention. It was not uncommon for headings of this nature, as ghastly, and straightforward consequences were commonplace in describing fatalities. I guess the Frederick News editor wasn’t to blame as I found the same headline in the Hagerstown paper as well. A few more details of the accident were revealed which makes me assume that this paper carried the story first, although a day behind as it seems.
Simon ventured to Frederick and paid then cemetery superintendent $6.75 for opening and closing a grave space. The young boy was brought to Mount Olivet was placed in the Biser family plot located in Area R/Lot 56. This section is easily found as it is only a few yards away from the Roelkey family crypt.
The unfortunate tragedy that beset Rev. Miller and his family at this place, likely prompted him to tender his resignation a month later. He would leave the site of sadness, and return to his native Pennsylvania. St. Petersburg (Pennsylvania) would be the scene of his new congregation. In the Illustrated Portfolio of Western Pennsylvania Reformed Churches, published in 1896, the following was said about Rev. Miller by author J. N. Naly in relation to his leadership at St. Petersburg Reformed Church:
"The congregation was without a regular pastor for about two years. Then they issued a call to the Rev. Simon Miller. Bro. Miller suceeded, however in establishing confidence, and raised about $2,500 with which the interior of the church was remodeled and frescoed, and the remaining debt was cancelled. His pastorate closed on the 30th day of April, 1895."
In 1893, the Miller’s 16-year-old son, Paul, had died in Philadelphia. I was unable to find the true cause. His body had been sent to Frederick to be buried alongside Paul’s younger brother, Hugh.
The well-traveled clergyman would next take charge of the Daniel Stein Memorial Home in Myerstown, PA. This was a facility for retired German Reformed ministers and their spouses. Rev. Miller would serve as superintendent of the Stein House for four years before returning to Maryland and Frederick County. He would preach at Mount Pleasant Reformed Church for two years before a semi-retirement in Frederick, while filling-in as a substitute pastor for congregations in need.
Rev. Miller took up residence at 44 E. Third Street in downtown Frederick. This rowhouse is on the southeast corner of E. Third and Maxwell Alley.
However, this would be the scene of a second terrible fall for the Miller clan. It happened in April 1924.
From another article, a few days later, it seemed as if the aged minister was recovering nicely from his broken hip. This news, like Rev. Miller, would be short lived.
Rev. Simon S. Miller would join his son Hugh, who had predeceased him 34 years earlier, thanks in part, to a deadly fall.
Wife Mary died the following year. I was relieved to see that it was not the result of a fall or tumble.