mother Helen Flora (Halbert) Miller, was the daughter of Henry S.
Halbert & Sarah (Root) Halbert and was born in Pavilion, NY,
June 27, 1844. About the year 1847 when mother was three years old,
her father moved to a large dairy farm in Erie Co., N. Y. not far
east of Buffalo. This was about the time he married his second wife,
Mary Graham, his first wife dying seven or eight months after the
birth of mother. Mother recalls a large dairy barn for the herd
of cattle and thinks there was room for 26 head of cows, 13 on each
side. The milk was sold to a dairy in Buffalo being shipped from
Alden, a small station only two or three miles from the farm.
After living here for several years Mr. Halbert went, with his brother-in-law
Jason Duguid who married his oldest sister Achsah and lived in Genesee
Co., N.Y., on a trip to inspect and look over land in Virginia,
and purchased a farm of some 300 acres in Fairfax Co., Va. near
Centerville and about 10 mi from Fairfax Court House the county
seat. Then in 1851 the family moved from N.Y. to Va. in covered
wagons, stopping at night in houses along the way. Mother recalls
that it rained a good deal on this journey and the roads were very
muddy and the streams high, many of the smaller streams being flooded.
This trip took place in March as Mother remembers, she being seven
years old in June following their arrival in Virginia.
This farm was practically unimproved, and they moved into an old
house near by while their new house was being built. The land was
quite heavily timbered and mother remembers very well a small sawmill
that her father had and she is of the opinion that a good part of
the lumber for the home was sawed on the place. The saw mill run
by horse power and she distinctly remembers how well she liked to
ride on the log carrier of the mill. The new house was a good sized
frame building with some eight rooms downstairs and two above, over
the center or upright part. It was plastered throughout and painted
and considered a very good country home in those days. A white picket
fence also inclosed (sic) the front yard which was considered quite
the proper thing. The house fronted the east and was painted white
and viewed from the road not far in front was rather an attractive
looking home with its large green shutters and tall chimney. No
doubt in this house Herbert H. Halbert, mother's half brother, was
born, on June 11, 1853.
She tells many interesting facts about their customs and memories
of living in those days. Of the dark cheese room where long rows
of home made cheeses were placed on shelf after shelf to cure and
ripen. The large wooden flour barrel was also kept here and was
replenished from time to time as wheat was taken to the grist mill
and the flour brought back. Corn meal was also one of the staples
and was used almost as much as the white flour, fried mush for breakfast,
Jonny cake for dinner (the midday meal - no six o'clock dinners
in those days) and often mush and milk for supper. What pleasant
recollections of the winter evenings when frequently some of the
neighbors would drop in, sitting about the big open fireplace chatting
and visiting; while the children played about shouting with delight
as the logs cracked and fell apart and the sparks shot up the huge
chimney. Cider and popcorn were quite often passed about at these
informal gatherings, and as an especial treat fried cakes or cookies
were brought out.
She tells of the brick smoke-house, one of the necessities of the
day, that stood back of the house and where the home cured hams,
bacon and meats were smoked. Hickory wood or chips were used exclusively
if it were possible for they seemed to give a wwonderful sweet,
nutty flavor to the meat that nothing else would produce. This building
was also used to store the wood ashes during the winter so they
would be available to make lye for the home made soap. What fun
she had helping to tend the fire under the huge iron soap kettle
that hung suspended between two green posts and into which the lye,
and the meat scraps (that had been carefully saved from butchering
time) were placed in proper proportions to produce the years supply
Nearly every farmer raised sheep and had their own wool which was
carefully carded and spun into yarn from which the heavy wool mittens
and stockings were knit.
Soon after the house was finished, the barn, granary ant other buildings
were put up. Timber was plenty and lumber comparatively cheap.
A young orchard was set out, apples, cherries, quinces, persimmons,
apricots, peaches, etc., and was just beginning to bear when they
moved away in the fall of 1860.
Some of their neighbors were of course Southern families and kept
slaves - the Lee's, Coleman's and other families, then there were
also Northern or Yankee families who lived within a few miles and
with whom they were on rather more intimate terms. The James Miller
family had moved into this section from Penn., and it was during
these years in Va. That mother became acquainted with James W. Miller
whom in after years she married. Mother remembers of their hiring
one of the Negro women slaves of the Coleman's to assist her mother
in the housework but does not recall that any Negro men were used
in the farm work, tho there were at different times hired men that
helped her father.
(The following pages were written after the death of mother, from
memory of conversations and from information gleaned from old letters
and records, and was written the latter part of March 1934.)
Just previous to the outbreak of the Civil War the sentiment against
the Northern land owners in Virginia became so intense that even
their lives were endangered. I know it to be a fact that Grandfather
Halbert was compelled to leave very hurriedly at night, and steal
awy in the darkness across the state line. I have understood that
in some cases the women remained for a time to look after the stock
and try to dispose of what property they could, but eventually of
course they too had to vacate. My impression is that the Halberts
lost heavily, or practically all their property in Va. Anyway, they
again moved back to Western New York, as we know that in 1863 Henry
S. Halbert was appointed Postmaster of the Village of Pavilion Center,
which fact is verified by the commission signed by the Postmaster
General and which is preserved among other old papers. We also know
that mother, who was about 19 years of age at this time, acted as
clerk or assistant in the post office.
Right here let us drop back a few years to mention one event that
occurred of which mother was justly, quite proud. It was in March
1861 that she and her father were present in Washington, D.C. when
Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated President, and mother, then 16 years
old, had the pleasure and privilege of passing along with many others
and shaking the hand of President Lincoln. She cherished the memory
of this event and always mentioned it with considerable satisfaction.
To resume - they evidently left pavilion Center within a few years
and moved to Pearl Creek, N.Y. where her father had a cooper shop
for the manufacture of barrels. This we glean from a number of letters
written from Pearl Creek. In one of them Mr. Halbert tells how very
hard he had been working getting out logs for barrel staves and
also the material for heading for three or four thousand barrels,
so this little industry must have been extensive enough to supply
the necessary barrels for all the local territory.
Mother taught a country school near here and was teaching just shortly
before her marriage to James W. Miller on Feb. 26, 1868.
They left at once for Whiteside Co., Ill. Where J.W. Miller owned
an 80 acre farm some 7 miles N. W. Of Morrison. Here they began
house keeping and here on Dec 22, 1868, their first son, Herbert,
was born, he died however the following spring on March 7, 1869
and was buried in the little cemetery adjacent to the Spring Valley
Presbyterian Church which was located about a mile North of the
This little white country church still stands the same very much
as when first built, only it has been raised and a higher foundation
constructed making quite a basement room beneath.
The Halberts and the various Miller families who lived in this community
were all staunch adherents and loyal supporters of this little Pres.
Church, over a period of many years or as long as they remained
in that section. Here Uncle Andrew Miller's seven children first
attended Sunday School as well as Grier, Ella, Laura Miller and
On July 28, 1871, Elbert Henry Miller arrived to take up his residence
in the James W. Miller home, and here it may be well to drop this
sketch of mother's life, as it will be continued with more or less
accuracy in the short autobiography of my own life.
[Note appended by SPT: I believe Helen Flora Halbert died in Allegan,
Michigan, while with her son Elbert and his wife - probably around
1930, but I could be wrong. Need to do more research, but am sure
I have the information. I do know that Helen and James Miller celebrated
their 50th wedding anniversary (would have been 1918), which was
quite an achievement in those days].
More from Sally Trabulsi:
As it turns out, my great-great grandfather was born in Pavilion
on June 7, 1820. He must have been a colorful old guy--married 3
times, moved all about upper NY State, to Virginia before the Civil
War (from which he was chased when the War began), back to New York
State, then perhaps to Kansas, and wound up in Morrison, Illinois,
where his daughter had settled and where he died on August 26, 1893.
I even have a photograph with a Texas photographer listed on the
back, but perhaps the photographer traveled.
My great-grandfather's name was Henry Seymour Halbert. A search
for Halbert on your "Gen" pages netted nothing, and I wondered if
you would like to know more about Henry and his daughter, my great-grandmother.
Henry married his first wife, Sarah Root (born March 7, 1821 in
New York State (probably same area) on March 22, 1842, in Wyoming,
NY. They had a child (my great-grandmother) Helen Flora, b. June
27, 1844 in Pavilion. Unfortunately, Sarah (who was called Sally
--MY NAME :) ) died on February 16, 1845, right there in Pavilion.
Henry married a second time to Mary Graham, on September 14, 1847
in Pavilion. She was born September 7, 1824 in York, NY (if I can
believe my notes), and died December 1870 in Blue Rapids, Kansas.
I know that relatives of my great-grandfather (James Miller, who
married Helen Flora) settled out in Blue Rapids, but I don't know
how Mary Graham -- and probably Henry -- got there.
At any rate, Henry next married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Miller, a sister
of the above-mentioned James. This made Helen's sister-in-law her
stepmother! I am quite sure I have the dates of that third marriage
someplace; I'm still trying to organize my "paper" legacy!
Helen Halbert Miller's son, Elbert Henry Miller was my mother's
dad; my mother was Helen Frances Miller Pomeroy, and I am Sally
Lee Pomeroy Trabulsi, and I live in Allegan, Michigan (between Grand
Rapids and Kalamazoo), where Elbert settled after being born in
Illinois and moving to Iowa. We do get around!