~ Sellars family kept memorabilia from the l853 trip ~


Henry Miller's future wife, Catherine Sellars was a twelve year old girl traveling with a large family including her father David Sellars. Catherine's yellow travel chest, used for storage and her clothing, still bears her maiden name of Sellars and remains in remarkably good condition. David Sellars family left the Watauga settlement of Carter County, Tennessee for the last time as they headed out on the National Roadway through the Appalachian Mountains to a better life in California.


Almost forty years after David Sellars' journey to the Golden state, David, now in his 90's, sat on the Salida ranch porch reminiscing those early California days to his many grandchildren. They heard David tell of how these slaves begged to come to California. David apparently agonized over having to sell the slaves but the family needed the money to outfit the wagons and to purchase the oxen. The grandchildren listened to David's story about the kidnapping of his grand daughter at La Bonta Creek. The grandchildren listened to the incredible experiences the famly members had gone through.........some of these stories continued to receive good play at the various family dinner tables well over a hundred years after the experiences had unfolded.


~ Sellars wagon sinks to the

    bottom of the Mississippi River ~


Forty five thousand pioneers with their many tens of thousands of wagons had to be loaded onto the many river ferries in l849 alone. The Sellars would lose one of their Conestoga wagons as it slid off the ferry as the wagons were crossing over the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Missouri. The family had a mishap when they lost a fully provisioned wagon also containing the family's Bible when it sank into the Mississippi River after sliding off a ferry boat.  The ferry either had a sudden shift of its weighty cargo.....or the ferry was not properly balanced to begin with and the wagon dropped to the bottom of the Mississippi River along with the family Bible and many of their provisions. The Sellars family seems to have broken ranks with some members of the train continuing on to California. David Sellars, now hurting financially with the loss of his wagon, and tending to young family members, some pregnant, stayed over for two years at a farm outside of Princeton in Mercer County, Missouri. David was picked up in the June 21, l850 Missouri census while at this farm. 


The Sellars family, now strapped for cash, put the '49er venture on hold and diverted themselves to a small farm near Princeton in Mercer County, Missouri. The Sellars would remain on this small farm until the spiring of l853. One of their number, Jeremiah Bohannon, would continue on to reach California in l849. Jeremiah arrived safely in California and did well as a miner. Jeremiah returned by steamboat through the Isthmus of Panama in Central America. He crossed the Gulf of Mexico and went back up the Mississippi River to Missouri. With the gold proceeds in hand the Sellars family continued on their exodus from the Mississippi Valley. David Sellars' daughter, Catherine Emiline Sellars, was twelve years old when she arrived with her father in California......walking part of the distance along side the wagons which were drawn by oxen.


The journey to California  had been delayed by two years. After the sinking of their wagon, Catherine was ten years of age when the family's wagon had sank. The Sellars' family farmed for an additional two years in Mercer County, Missouri before starting again on the long trek to California. It is believed they crossed the Missouri river at either Council Bluffs or at St. Joseph.


As they crossed the Sierra by the Carson Sink  they arrived first at the fort built by Captain Sutter at the junction of the American and Sacramento rivers. The road would cross the Truckee River fourteen times; the crossings were deep; the current was rapid; and the fords, most of them, very rocky and bad. From Yuba Valley to the Sacramento Valley the grass was scarce. Milton, Robert and Henry Miller traveled south, just below Donner Lake some members split off and headed horseback up the Truckee to the large lake now known as Lake Tahoe. Milton and his two brothers were among these riders that turned west from the lake to reach the Sierra summit and then took ridges downward, above forks of the Rubicon and American Rivers, to reach safety at Sutters Fort in the Sacramento Valley of California arriving in about June of l852.


The David Sellars wagon train, with it's ten wagons, spent several days foraging for food as they  passed through a pass and ascended over an escarpment and over what is known today as Donner Summit.  The Sellars family entered the Sacramento Valley in the fall of l853. Members of the wagon party made their way over increasingly difficult terrain down to Sutter's Fort in Sacramento.


Here Sutter, who arrived  penniless in 1839 had established his fort. He owned eleven square leagues of land, four thousand two hundred cattle, two thousand horses and as many sheep. A garrison of forty uniformed men were occupying the fort along with a blacksmith shop, a distillery, a flour mill, a cannery and space for other industries.


Sutter's Fort was geographically on the line with the overland immigration. For the trail-weary traveler it was the first stopping-place after crossing the high Sierra's. Sutter made his greatest profits from those who wished to get rid of their oxen and wagons in exchange for the commodities which Sutter had to offer. On more then one occasion Sutter sent out expeditions, at his personal expense, to rescue parties caught up in the mountains by early snows and other misfortunes along the road.


It was a foreman of Sutter's, James Marshall, that discovered the gold while building a sawmill for Captain Sutter. Many prehistoric rivers with their gold deposits had been thrust upward by violent earth movement which left the riverbeds hidden beneath a layer of rocky debris called dry diggings, they often proved immensely rich. The millrace had been deepened to increase the flow of water and thereby provide a greater force to turn the wheel. Buried there for endless centuries, those glittering granules and flakes of gold that Marshall found had been freed by the digging of the race and the action of water running through, loosening and separating the rocks, gravel and sand. This would become the prefered method used by tens of thousands of men working with picks and shovels in their seach for gold.


~ Of Slaves and Abolitionists ~


One of the Sellars wagons wagons not going to the bottom of the Mississippi River contained a set of "iron tools" said to have been forged by one of David Sellars slaves, a black smithy, in Carter County, Tennessee. These tools remain with the family to this day. David Sellars grand daughter was still using these "fireplace tongs" to move about the burning wood inside her Wedgewood stove in the l970's. The tongs and the stove are still held by this family. 


Ironically, David's second wife, Nancy Garber,  was a member of the Brethren church and these Garbers were outspoken in their opposition to slavery. One of Nancy's brothers, Samuel Garber, preached a sermon against the sin of slavery in the pro-slavery section of eastern Tennessee and the sermon was somehow miraculously preserved and is available on the internet for all to read today. Samuel Garber, shortly after admonishing slave holding citizens in eastern Tennessee, was himself run out of Carter county, Tennessee.


David's slaves were sold in 1849 for travel expenses. The slaves were said to have been wanting to go with the family to California. California was also a free state. David's daughter, Catherine, panned for gold in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley of California. Catherine collected enough gold in her gold pan from the time of the family's stay at Knights Ferry that she was able to have made a beautiful tri-clasping gold ring which is also still held in this family today. David Sellars became a sheriff, a school teacher, and owned and operated a flour mill in Knights Ferry, California in the l850's.


~ Sellars Family Members ~


The fourteen children of David Sellars born through his three wives are as follows:


1)   James Madison Sellars  born 12-05-1824;

2)   David George Washington Sellars born 06-28-1826;

3)   John Eason Sellars born 06-03-1831;

4)   Mary Adaline Sellars {Bohannon} born 05-07-1834;

5)   a daughter, name unknown born 02-28-1835;

6)   Abraham Nelson Williamson Sellars born 09-24-1839;

7)   Catherine Emiline Sellars {Miller} born 05-25-1841;

8)   Michael Allen Garber Sellars born 03-09-1843;

9)   Landen Carter Hanes Sellars born 04-29-1846;

10) William Castelion "WADS"Worth Sellars born 02-20-1848;

11) Mahala Jane "Jennie" Sellars {Jones} born 05-30-1850;

12) Margaret Luticia Sellars {Horn, Whaley} born 07-25-1852;

13) Charles Weber Sellars born 12-02-1854;

14) Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Sellars born 10-02-1860.


The Sellars family became associated with the Charles Weber family. Captain Weber named the town of Stockton for Commodore Robert F. Stockton who never visited his namesake town. Several of the Bohannon's were born on the Weber Grant Ranch in Stockton. Captain Charles Weber had located a tent "trading post" called Weberville in the winter of 1847 - 1848. The traders of this tent trading post became directly involved withmining early in the spring of l848 and became organized by Weber and called the "Stockton Mining Company".  During these gold rush days Charles Weber and his family were already legendary figures in the town of Stockton, California.


~ Kidnapping by the Indians

    at La Bonta Creek in Wyoming ~


In l853 David Sellars and his family passed through this same stretch of Wyoming's La Bonta Creek that Milton, Robert and Henry had passed through the year before. The Sellars were not so lucky the following year with the Indians of La Bonta Creek. These Indians would steal David's grand daughter before returning the child to the desperate parents. David's daughter, Mary Adaline Bohannon, was forced to have a river birthing of her daughter, Mary La Bonta Bohannon while the wagons lay positioned in the La Bonta River.  The family was trying to keep the Indians at bay but were not successful. The baby was born in La Bonta Creek and captured by the local Indians shortly after the birth. The child was later returned to the family and the child was named Mary La Bonta Bohannon {Theil} born June 21, l853.


The census taker noted that the birth took place near the Platte River, Utah Territory, Wyoming at La Bonta Creek. The child was born literally in La Bonta Creek. It has been estimated that the child was born about fifteen miles south of present day Douglas, Wyoming. Their wagon, drawn by oxen followed along the south side of the Platte River having already departed from Fort Laramie.  They were heading for their next landmark, known as Independence Rock, at the time of Mary La Bonta Bohannon's birth on June 21st, l853. The next fort these families were to approach was Fort Bridger.


Having left Independence Rock they also departed from  the canyon area around La Bonta Creek.  La Bonta Creek canyon is located in Medicine Bow National Forest 35 miles south of Douglas, Wyoming. La Bonta Creek cuts from northwest to southeast along the Laramie mountains. The mountains are draped with stands of ponderosa, lodge pole, lumber pine, Engelmann spruce and sub alpine fir. Lower elevations are dominated by grass and sagebrush. It's pretty but rugged country, with deep valleys dividing the high granitic ridges and peaks - several exceeding 9,000 feet.  Deer, elk, big horn sheep, antelope and wild turkeys are commonly seen in the Laramie Mountains and rainbow, brook and brown trout are found in the creeks.


Laramie Peak, visible from Douglas, served as a landmark for travelers along the old Oregon Trail, who called this country the Black Hills. Laramie Peak remains de facto wilderness to this day. Some of the finest hiking in central Wyoming is found along the Laramie Peak Trail. Afternoon thunderstorms occur on an almost - daily basis in the summer months. As one climbs to about 2,800 feet in elevation one can find an expansive vista in all directions, including Nebraska, Colorado and South Dakota on a clear day. The trail is free of snow in late June.


The forest service has established a two - mile long La Bonte Canyon Trail about 38 miles south of Douglas, Wyoming in the Curtis Gulch. The path drops along a gorgeous steep-walled canyon and ends at a big-game refuge. The Oregon Trail brought wagons through these meadows, forests of poplar and Douglas fir, and flowers galore!



~ Letters to the Miller Family ~


The collection of letters known as "Letters to the Miller family 1856-1888" 2 has been expanded upon since the first collection was transcribed in the l970's. Additional letters have surfaced since the l970's from family members wishing to preserve these mementoes by sending their documents to this writer. Other letters have been found carefully positioned between the pages of one of several  family Bibles. Most of the letters are one page in length. Often the writers made it clear they were written in the evening hours by candlelight in quill pen ink. Punctuation is seldom used.....even the use of a period was a rare event as the writers prefered extra spacing to the use of a period.


Overland mail by both rail and stage began in October of l858. Mail could reach Missouri from San Francisco in just twenty four days. Most of the letters up til l869 arrived by Pacific Mail ship across the Isthmus of Panama. From the port cities the mail was dropped off to the various horse driven express services to the smaller towns. The railroads took over mail delivery in the l870's and began bringing the mail directly out to California reducing the time it took to deliver the mail by weeks.







~ Protections from mother ~


Misc 2 ounces each of alcohol and turpentine, and dissolve in the mixture half an ounce of camphor, saturate with the solution a large piece of blotting papers and place it in the drawer

Renew occasionally. Keep the saturated solution in a closely stopped bottle.


Cement for stoneware to a cold solution of alum, add plaster of paris sufficeint to make a rather thick past{e}. Use at once, it sets rather slowly. Cement for mending broken crockery. Eventually becomeing as hard as stone.


~ Diptheria Cure ~

~ Indian Doctor's remedy ~


Hand full of sage in a pint of water boil to half pint. Piece of blue stone as large as the size of little finger disolved in tea then two table spoons full of honey. Gargle or swab the throat afterward give a little dry sulphur.


An article from the San Francisco Weekly Examiner dated Thursday Morning, Sept 19, l895 {This would have been Catherine's 36th wedding anniversary day} regarding simple recipes for soaps and washes.


A blue fabric embroidery application that says Remember Me M. E. Miller and another similar embroidery which served as a bookmarker for this Bible and is handsewn the words Holy Bible.



~ Several generations banded together in California ~


Henry's father-in-law David Sellars wrote to Henry Miller..... "I am in a peck of trouble {myself}, the mortgage on my house & lot will be due the 7th day of next month and no money.....Charles Jones {his son-in-law} hadn't sent any money yet and Landon so sick and weak that I have but little hope of him ever getting well and I can't tell when I can {letter excised here}  there, we had two doctors {letter excised here} today & they have both come" {Letter excised again}.


David's trip to the Salida Ranch had improved his health. "My back has got much better and my health is good enough {so that I can} eat the chicken & drink some of the Butter Milk."  David lamented that he would gladly return to the Salida ranch were it not for Landon's poor health. Landon expressed regrets that he "wasn't well enough to come up to see you all....and that he lacked the means to return "but poor folks have poor ways & that is my fix at present".


~ David Sellars peddled fruits and vegetables

 in the area that was to become Silicon Valley ~


In 1871 Henry's father-in-law David Sellars at age 73 was living in San Jose and peddling fruits and vegetables for a living. David added in his letter to Henry ".....I can make from a dollar and a half to two dollars a day...." His wife Sarah Morris Sellars was bringing in an income making quilts. The Sellars would send boxes of grapes and other assorted items to the Miller family  to be picked up in the small town of Modesto. The Sellars owned a ranch which in David's later years was rented out. David complained of "feeling crowdid a little too much" and that his wife Sarah kept too many boarders at the ranch and he desired to come and stay some time at the Miller ranch if he "could rent out his horses".


San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley is situated near the head of the Bay of San Francisco on a long, low, fertile, and beautiful valley, from which a large amount of vegetables and fruit were grown and taken to the mines. The Santa Clara ranches achieved world wide significance as they shipped wheat and other grains giving the place the nickname of the "Garden Valley of the world".


A two page inventory and property description of the Sellars ranch property and household goods was found between the pages of Catherine E. Sellars {Miller family bible. It does appear to be an inventory of David Sellars ranch in Santa Clara county, California. The stationary is embossed with "Carrolton" and is transcribed as follows:


~ David Sellars Estate ~


South East  Section 32

Township 2 South Range 8 {North West quarter of Section 5 in Township 3 South of range 8 East containing 140 acres


6 Horses

2 Mules

2 Colts

2 Cows & Calves

1  2 year old Heffer

Cash on Hand

Check for One Hundred Dollars

1 Sow & ten pigs

2 Plows

1 half Healter

1 4 Horse wagon

1 Spring Waggon

8 Harnes


Improvements $150

House Hold & Kitchen furniture

Black Smith Tools

1 Shot gun

Chickens & ducks

Grain on hand

6 Shears in ware Hous

1 Sewing Masene {Machine}



In 1872 Henry's son, Henry Miller, Jr. at the age 12 had his eye put out. There had been sickness in his family for quite a long while including Henry himself complaining of failing health.


David Sellars daughter, Mary Adaline Sellars, Bohannon suffering from marital problems was living at Henry's ranch with her many children in the early l870's. In May of l872 the Bohannon's left the Miller ranch in Salida to live in Chico. They found a home in the south east part of town. The Bohannon's home had five good sized rooms and rented for $20.oo per month. The Bohannon's acquired a telegraph machine in their home in the winter of l872 and Mary's children "were learning to read by sound". Mary was sewing by day in families with expectations of opening a dress shop in the Spring of l873 in Chico.


~ Catherine Miller starts a new family Bible ~


The Bible was printed by the A.L. Bancroft and Company, Publishers of San Francisco, California. The title page "The Complete Domestic Bible containing the Old and New Testaments, together with the Apocrypha, Concordance, and Psalms of David in Metre. The Bible was published in l873. The Apocrypha includes: I. Esdras {hath chapters};  II. Esdras; Tobit; Judith; The Rest of Esther; Wisdom; Ecclesiasticus; Baruch, with the Epistle of Jeremiah; The Song of the Three Children; The Story of Susanna; The Idol Bel, and the Dragon; The prayer of Manasses; I. Maccabees; II. Maccabees.


An interesting reference note by the Bancroft publishers in the Bible states that "the whole sum and number of years, from the beginning of the world until the end of the year of our Lord God 1873, are 5,847 years, 6 months, and the said odd ten days."


In handwritten black ink on a small sheet of paper is written "The Miller Bible is to remain in the family - when I no longer have use for it it is to go to my cousin Mrs Harold A. {Janet} Rogers of Stockton, California. If Janet is deceased or unable to be located then the Bible is to go to Janet's son - Harold A. Rogers, Jr. 4655 Emerald Street, Capitola, Ca., 95010 - signed by Mary Ann Shull". Mary Shull is the daughter of Robert Edward Lee Miller {1866-1954} the sixth child of Henry and Catherine Miller.


~ More about the family bible ~


The Catherine Miller family Bible is 3 1/2 inches thick, about ten inches wide and twelve inches in length. The cover was originally dark black but has a lackluster black and brown appearance today. The cover is entitled Holy Bible in a gold paint and the cover is heavily sculptured. The Bible has about ten handwritten letters carefully placed within the Bible for their safeguarding. Written in Catherine's handwriting on the first leaf "L. Miller McCanns Bible. Left to her by her mother C. E. Miller".


At page 87 also refered to as 1 Maccabees, the Apocrypha is to be found a one page handwritten document that appears to have been written in about l858 with one addition made to that family registry in l884.


                                                                        Scans of the Catherine Miller Bible XXXXXXXX

                              Scan of the Robert Miller registry XXXXXXXX


It was in this Bible that additional family letters were found and transcribed and used in this manuscript. In fact, one of the first items placed into the Bible was a composition entitled 'RAIN'. written by Catherine's oldest child, Martha Luticia "Mattie" Miller. That fourth composition by Mattie follows in just a few paragraphs. The birth, marriage and death dates were carefully entered into this Bible over the years. As Catherine's children came of age for the new social security provisions later established by congress this family Bible found a new use amongst the family members. The Bible was repeatedly sent to the various family members as they came of age for social security. Social security administrators would examine the authenticity of the Bible and the entries and determine the eligibility of the Miller children.


Although some of these birth dates were registered with the Modesto courthouse it isn't understood whether family members were aware of this. This writer was allowed free access to the courthouse records many years ago and remembers finding birth records for at least Kittie, Carrie, Cora and Ora Miller.



~ Catherine's Bible ~


The illustrations found in Catherine's Bible are of exceptional quality and the largest illustrations are included in this manuscript. Many smaller illustrations found in the glossary at the end of the Bible are not included in this manuscript.

The first illustration in Catherine's Bible is that of the tent which housed the ark of the covenant.

The chest stood in the Holy of Holies after the construction of the temple and in this chest was housed "the tables of the covenant".


Exodus 25:10-22 and 37:1-9 describes the chest as being four feet and two inches in width and thirty inches in height. The chest was constructed by Bezalel, under instruction by Moses. It was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold both inside and out. A crown of gold surrounded it above, and four golden rings were attached to its feet, two on each side; into these were inserted staves used for carrying the ark. At the two ends of the ark cover were set two cherubim that guarded the ark cover {made entirely of gold}, as well as the tables of the covenant inside the ark.


From the days of Moses to the Temple of Solomon, a permanent place was allotted to the ark in the "Holy of Holies", but in times of need it was carried from place to place. The ark's presence in the camp was believed to insure God's help. The ark accompanied the people on their journey from the desert of Sinai to the land of Israel where it was lodged at Shiloh.


The ark was captured but returned by the Philistines and was eventually brought to Mt. Zion by David and placed into a tent. This tent is illustrated in Catherine's Bible and is featured with many other illustrations in this manuscript. Mt. Zion was located below what  became the Temple Mount in a rocky protuberance north of the city of Daivd in Jerusalem. Zion was renamed the City of David.


                                                        See illustrations from the Catherine Sellars Miller Holy Bible XXXXXXXXXXX


With the erection of the Temple in Jerusalem during the reign of Solomon, the ark was placed in the Holy of Holies. The Cherubim were removed from the ark cover although the staves remained in place. The ultimate fate of the ark is unknown but according to Jeremiah the ark was removed from the temple around the end of the period of the First Temple in 586 BC.


~ Poison Oak was a big problem ~


Many members of the Miller family spoke of the great deal of suffering from exposure to poison oak. Probably none suffered from the poison oak as bad as Harriet Miller. Harriet was probably the most plain spoken of the Miller clan in the collection of letters to the Miller family. Henry's twin sister, Harriet suffered from the poison oak for over one year and was treated by four different doctors. Apparently Harriet's clothing must have been re-exposing her skin to the allergen urushiol. Not much was known about the transmittal of the allergen and it must have been a nightmare while she unwittingly continued to expose herself to the allergen as her condition grew much worse. Her sister Mary wrote she "has sores all over her.....she had biles comeing on her when I saw her....she looks very bad.....she does not keep her bed.....is not able to do anything....".  By June of l872 Harriet Miller was able to write her brother that she was "well enough to go horseback now and can go wherever I am able to go.......".



~ Henry Miller was pressed

 to use his influence locally ~


In February of l877 Henry's father-in-law David Sellars wrote after having received letters from his grandchildren Emma and Ida Miller, henry's daughters. David's son Landon had been working in the iron mines but was now home in San Jose with coughing from a severe attack of consumption [tuberculosis}. The letter from David also asked Henry to use his influence to distribute some "Anti-Chinese material" to his neighbors and "get it into the news".


The labor movement of the l870's, the anti-Chinese developments of the time as well as the depression of l873 through l878 pressed Californian's to take actions that historians today say reflect Americans in a less than flattering light.


In l872, reform-minded Republicans had bolted from their party to form the Liberal Republican Movement.  Rutherford B. Hayes had entered the white house but his title had been

questionable. Hayes hoped to regenerate the Presidency, which badly needed strengthening after the Johnson and Grant administrations. Hayes exerted some independence from the Liberal Republican Movement and angered the southern democrats by vetoing a Chinese Exclusion Bill in l877. Hayes felt it violated the l868 Burlingame Treaty with China. Henry Miller and his fellow farmers had fought long and hard to exclude the Chinese immigrants from entering the country and thereby entering the labor pool of the United States.


~ Chinese labor ~


From 1863 on, armies of imported Chinese coolies laid track, sweating in Nevada's alkali dust or chipping roadbeds into the side of mile-high Sierra cliffs. Under the Contract Labor Law of l864 any employer could recruit foriegners in gangs from overseas. In California the American workmen might have to compete for his job against low-paid Chinese coolie immigrants. It was clear to the southern democrats that labor needed to organize and consolidate, just as business's were doing. Many complex questions were raised during this "Anti-Chinese" period and the issues would be debated for the rest of the century.


The weakness of the labor movement of the l870's was cruelly revealed by the five years of depression that began in l873. Times were hard - bread lines and soup kitchens were part of the urban scene. By l880 civil unrest over the Chinese question erupted into violence in San Francisco, Denver and St. Louis.


The working class seemed to have  legitimate grievances against the Chinese arrivals. The working class suffered from the repeated use of imported immigrant strike breakers. Of course the immigrants who accepted such work in preference to starvation were as much victims as the native workers.


~ Chinese exclusion, congressional act of l882 ~


Labor's discontent had first flared up on the west coast against the Chinese. They were an obvious target. They had come to California by the thousands in the l860's and l870's. Mostly employed by the railroads as pick-and-shovel workers and taking whatever jobs - and whatever dregs of farmland and mining jobs white men would allow them. The white working men haled them as the ultimate in "coolie" competition, and the white "respectable" classes rolled their eyes in horror at their fondness for gambling, their alleged addiction to opium and their "heathen" worship.3


The Miller boys, Milton, Robert and Henry and his father-in-law David Sellars were instrumental in encouraging their communities to lend their support behind the creation of Congress's Chinese Exclusion Act of l882. This act stopped the immigration of Chinese Laborers for ten years, a prohibtion later removed. Most historians today agree that this Chinese Exclusion Act did not reflect America at her best.


In April of l876 Henry had been asked by an employee from the famous A. L. Bancroft and Company of San Francisco to use his influence amongst his neighbors in Salida. The employee wrote to Henry Miller asking for him to canvas his neighborhood and promote an agricultural book written by a Professor Cearr. The Bancroft family name has since become synonymous with historical research.


~ Salida ranch was a welcome destination ~



David's son, Michael Sellars, was anticipating a visit to the Salida ranch in the spring of l877. Michael was farming as a hired hand at the Cox ranch in Sacramento. Michael spoke of "singing with a couple of young ladies from Sacramento".


Henry's friend John Stacy wrote in March of l877 to complain of the damp weather  and his failing health but expressed joy over the good crop conditions near Shasta. Contrary to farming conditions back east in Missouri Stacy said "times are very good here....there's plenty to do and good pay for doing it...."


In May of l877 Henry and his wife asked for David Sellars to visit the Miller family at the Salida ranch. Henry even offered to pay David's travel expenses to get there. David mentions a brother "Leedy" in this letter of correspondance. David also mentions possibly going to the Salida ranch in the near future with his daughter Jennie "Jane" Jones.


   ~ James Miller was fixing up

 his wagons in Butte County ~


In March of l877 Henry got a letter from his friend J.W.M. {unknown to this writer} of Chico in Butte County, California at Clarkes Ranch. His friend was making hay for the roanch owner Mr. Clarke. "George and I was down in the valley to see if we could git work ....fore our horses we was offered $3.00 per day....wee have to go on a Header wagon .....since we was there the men ar not the best of men to get along with. I think the wages will be a bout $2.00 per day in Harvest though some of the Ranches say they wont pay more than $40 per month for men to worke in a Header wagon and from $2.00 to $3.00 for Header runners, the harvest is at hand up here..... they commenced heading Barley the crops are verry good up here in Butte Co. Jim Miller is wel and fixxing up his waggons to go to worke in a short time. George says if he gits back in olde San Joaquin he never will leave there so long as he lives but he thinks he will be all rite if he can keepe his bowls {bowells} in good fix ....he has forty thousand notions per day. I will close my letter fore this time if I see anything that will pay you to come up I will write you again. Give my respects to all of your famalie....Yours Truly J. W. M. PS Write to Peneco Ranch, Butte Co., Calif.



~ Dull times, crop failure and the death

  of Henry Miller's son in California ~


Meanwhile back in California Henry wrote to his brother Harrison that his California crop of wheat had been injured by the frost. Henry's father-in-law David Sellars owned a ranch in the nearby Santa Clara valley and had an interest in an iron mine. David wrote to Henry of the recent political crisis in his letter of October l875 and responded to Henry's comment that "the times seem dull". David commended Henry for not sacrificing his wheat crop based on the poor performance of the weather that year. Henry's crops failed in that year of l875. David's son, Thomas Jefferson Sellars was working in the carpenter trade for $1.50 per day while his son William was working in a willow factory cutting willows for $1.50 to $2.50 per day.


~ Landon Sellars - A slow and painful death in the family ~


While Henry was recuperating in Watsonville his wife received desperate word from her sister Mahala "Jennie" Jane Sellars {Jones} of San Jose. The date was May 13, l877 and their brother Landon was dying. Their father David Sellars wasn't doing well as his back was bothering him and since "he insisted in weeding and watering his garden while at his San Jose home".....and that his back wasn't likely to improve if he persisted.


Jenny complained she didn't have the money to send her parents David and Sarah to the Salida ranch for rest and recuperation. Jenny had spent most of her money on the freight to bring all her things out from Stockton. Sarah Sellars wanted to get away and her husband David was anxious to go to the Salida ranch if he had the money. Jennie asked the Miller's for a travel expense advance and in return Jennie would help to pay "the insurance and the next interest which would become due". Jennie intended to stay at her parents home to "attend to  things and try and have the house fixed up a little" as it was "in a very bad conditon at present". Jennie thought she might seek work at a local store as a dressmaker. Their brother Charlie was in Ogden, Utah on a "pleasant trip".

~ Jennie's secret ~


Jennie's boys including Billie wanted their uncle Henry to visit the vast range mountains where they were now situated. Jennie was keeping a secret from her folks and the rest of the family. The doctors had confided to Jennie the hopelessness of her brother Landon's case. Jennie knew her brother Landon was in bad shape.....he was dying. Parts of the letter were scissored out and this was probably done by the letter's recipient Catherine Sellars Miller.


About three weeks had passed since Jennie's letter to Henry and Catherine Miller. She wrote that "Landon was a little better, the swelling has began to go down a little, but he is so week that he has to be raised up & turned in the bed."  Henry's brother-in-law Thomas Jefferson Sellars of San Jose wrote to Henry while his parents were at the Salida ranch. Tom's brother Landon was scheduled for surgery with a Doctor McMahon and Landon's stomach was "swelled pretty badly" although he was still walking around. Landon was asking for his parents David and Sarah Sellars to return to the Salida ranch as soon as possible.  Landon was said to be "very impatient and wants Mother to get here as soon as possible". The parents did return immediately and Jennie's folks had only just returned from the Salida ranch, along with the berries and jellie the family had sent back with them for Landon. Landon was "well pleased to know that you sent them to him.....adding that it seemed {to Landon} he had some friends left".


Jennie related in her letter that when the doctors examined Landon the following morning that "there was a change for the better and they did not operate on him". At this point in the letter the scissors were repeatedly put to work excising delicately written conversations. "Friday evening he was in vialant pain in his stomach and in his bowels and {Landon} commenced hurting again & is very painful & sore in his belly - so much so that he can scarsely bear us to help him in & out of the bed.......  now my saying that I scarseley know what to tell {you}. {Your brother} John E. Sellars was here on the 4th & 5th of this month and he told me that he got a letter from M.A. Sellars who should {by} now be staying there at the Salida ranch".


~ Henry Miller's Salida

 ranch was well visited ~


Catherine's niece, Liddie Downer wrote at the end of June l877 that she also expected to arrive at the Salida ranch in a few weeks for a visit. A letter from David's niece Emma stated that in two weeks hence his daughters, Adaline and Liza were to stay at the Salida ranch. His son Charles Sellars was in Yolo county "at work on a road for the California Quick Silver Mine Company while his son Jeffa is still at work in {the} shop....he is learning very fast....I think he will make a machinist". Son William Sellars had started to Halls Valley on a hunting expedition for deer. David wrote "I am in a peck of trouble {myself}, the mortgage on my house & lot will be due the 7th day of next month and no money.....Charles Jones his son-in-law hadn't sent any money yet and Landon so sick and weak that I have but little hope of him ever getting well and I can't tell when I can {letter cut again here}  there, we had two doctors {letter excised here} today & they have both come {Letter excised again}.


~ Sellars family belonged to the Brethren faith ~


David Sellars ended his letter this time with a revealing look at his own faith. David was now almost eighty years old and his son Landon was now dying. "Now my dear friends one & all, may God bless you all & lead you in the way of holyness so that you may be able to give a good account of your stewardship at the last day of reckoning our account before the supreme Judge. Give my love to all the Brethren & sisters.....". David Sellars second wife, Nancy Garber, belonged to a family that was heavily involved in the Brethren Church in Virginia and Tennessee. Catherine's mother was Nancy Garber, the second of three wives of David Sellars.


When David Sellars brought his own family out to California in l853 some of the Garber's had followed out with him in their wagons drawn by oxen.The trip was extraordinary and an extensive account of that trip has been prepared by this writer {see Sellars-Garber family history}. They had arrived in California in 1853 just one year after Henry and Robert had arrived in California. The Sellars and Garber's had left their homes in Carter county in eastern Tennessee in 1849. They would have made the venture in one year but for the mishaps along the way. The economic hardship that prevailed upon them when their wagon was overturned on the ferry crossing the Mississippi river forced them to stand by at a farm near Princeton in Mercer county, Missouri.


                                              {See photo of David Sellars} XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX