1856-1881

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(BH-108) Glen Miller’s book has a treasure-trove of information about the Mennonites in Johnson County, Iowa. BTW: Glen Miller was a cousin to my dad, George E. Boller, and he is mentioned in the book.

The Deer Creek Story. D.J. & Barbara Boller’s Beginnings.

Growing up as a small boy near Deer Creek would have provided a much different environment than one experienced by young men and women today.

In a book entitled, “The Deer Creek Story” written by Glen R. Miller of Goshen, Indiana (a distant cousin and good friend of my dad, by the way!) we find many interesting stories of young folks growing up on the fertile farmlands of Washington Township, in southwestern Johnson County, Iowa. Apparently, the Mesquakie tribe, from the Sac and Fox tribes, would regularly make visits from their encampments in Tama County to Deer Creek. Miller states that they were quite friendly people and writes of stories he heard from his father, which would be in the same generation of Daniel J. Boller, of Mesquakie and Mennonite children playing and swimming together in Deer Creek.

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Map of the Boller homestead in the mid-1800’s.

Daniel J. (D.J.) Boller was born to Jacob & Catharine Boller on November 23, 1856, becoming the first person in Our Boller Story to be born in Iowa. Daniel was born, like his father, into a family of farmers. There were very few hospitals in those days prior to the Civil War, and those that did exist were located in major cities, hundreds of miles from small farming communities. Probably by the time Daniel was born, there might have been a man or two in the Deer Creek area who were knowledgeable enough to treat serious sicknesses, but certainly, when it came to childbirth, the womenfolk of the Mennonite community were the “experts” in assisting with the birth of a child. Babies would be born at home and if complications occurred, there was little anyone could do to avoid the problems. This, of course, made for a much higher death rate in children. Once a child made it safely into the world, there was still no guarantee that sickness wouldn’t take a child to an early death.

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Young Joseph Boller’s grave in Peter Miller Cemetery.

In the Boller family, Daniel’s older brother, Joseph, who was born in Ohio in 1853, died at age one, during the first year of the family’s new life in Johnson County, Iowa.

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For you to get a better feel for the lifestyle of families growing up in this challenging environment, you might want to read Laura Engel Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” books. Her stories of life growing up in the wilderness of the Heartland would be similar to the setting our Daniel would have experienced in his early days on the Iowa farmlands.

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1869 Township map shows Benedict Miller farm (NW corner) and Boller farm (SE corner).

Typically, daily life for Daniel would be consumed with farm chores, book learning, and church involvement. Any free time might be spent entertaining oneself with friends swimming and exploring nearby Deer Creek. Very likely, as Daniel grew into a young man, his excursions included dropping by the Miller farm (see map above). Certainly, within the Deer Creek Mennonite community, the story of Jacob B. Miller’s father, Benedict B. Miller (1815-1883) was well known. In Glen Miller’s book we find this quote, “Benedict walked to Iowa from Ohio and picked his homestead, paid for it and walked back again for his family.” This event has been placed at about 1850 or 1852, near the same time as Our Boller Story of Jacob B. Boller’s trek from Ohio to Iowa.

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November 22, 1881  A birthday, followed by a wedding, followed by a birthday.

With so much in common, the Boller and Miller families must have become good friends. The relationship became even closer when Daniel found one of the Miller daughters to be of his liking. Barbara Miller, born to Jacob B. & Catherine (Shetler) Miller on November 21, 1863 on the Miller farm near Deer Creek, grew up as the second-born amongst sixteen Miller children (1861-1886)!

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D.J. and Barbara’s Marriage Certificate!

Daniel and Barbara were married on that same Miller farm located near the small community of Amish, Iowa on November 22, 1881, with the marriage ceremony being conducted by Rev. Sebastian Garig. Note that their wedding day was strategically placed between Barbara’s and Daniel’s birthdays…Nov. 21 & Nov 23. How romantic!

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Miller Family Bible. Presented to Barbara on January 1, 1867 by her grandmother, Barbara, wife of Benedict B. Miller.

I need to add here that the Miller family, from which Barbara (Miller) Boller came from, is the same Miller family that my side of the Boller family had a very close friendship with for many, many years. My family attended a good number of Miller family events over the years, including a handful of big Miller reunions held on the Miller century-old farmstead near Kalona. My father, George E Boller, was very close to Goldie (Miller) & Delmar Bender, and Marvin & Ellen Miller, who were the two children of Barbara’s younger brother, Joel L. Miller (1879-1935).

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Barbara (#1) with Joel (#8) and other adult siblings.

Many people in Cedar Rapids & Iowa City know of Miller Sweet Corn, sold each summer on the streets of both cities. Marvin & Ellen Miller were the true workhorses behind Miller Corn, and it just wouldn’t be summer in Iowa without some good ole’ Miller sweet corn!

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