Miller Family Overview
So, let’s set the stage. It’s July 4, 1864 and Wells Waite Miller just married Mary Helen Caswell in her parents’ home in Castalia, Ohio.
Wells Waite Miller
He’d been badly wounded at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 3, 1863 and, on his wedding date, he was fairly new as a member of the Invalid Corps. In this corps, wounded soldiers could contribute to the war effort in “valuable capacities, such as in garrison, as military police, or on clerk duty. This freed as many able-bodied soldiers as possible for frontline service.”
I’m still researching what he might have done in the Invalid Corps (that had recently been renamed the more noble Veterans Reserve Corps). As an educated, literate man, perhaps he served as a clerk. Maybe he assisted with Confederate prisoners at nearby Johnson’s Island. I’ll share more when I know more.
Mary Helen (Caswell) Miller
The daughter of Erie County Commissioner Calvin Caswell, she was listed as a student of the Preparatory Department of Oberlin College in the General catalogue of Oberlin college, 1833 [-] 1908 with dates listed of 1863-1865. I verified this with the archival department of Oberlin College.
So, while Wells was recuperating from war wounds at the Caswell home, she likely lived in Oberlin (about forty miles away).
Nine and a half months after their wedding (April 24, 1865), their daughter Corinne was born. This is within the realm of possibility as a biological child—although the notion of Mary attending class with a rounded belly during this era stretches the imagination, assuming that the couple spent enough time together for her to become pregnant.
Now, add in one more factor: Corinne’s records show that she was born in Marshalltown, Iowa. That town is more than six hundred miles from Oberlin and Castalia, Ohio, and this was an era when that distance would have been a daunting trip indeed for a pregnant woman and an injured man—especially while a civil war was raging.
Then, about a year and half after that—on December 16, 1866—Wells and Mary had a son whom they named Amos Calvin, likely after the baby’s two grandfathers. He, too, was born in Marshalltown, Iowa.
So, why were both of the Miller children born in Marshalltown?
Marshall County, Iowa
First, I discovered that a man named W.W. Miller—perhaps a relative—played a key role in organizing Marshall County in 1851. So this at least suggests a potential family connection to that town. This information is located in an 1878 book titled The History of Marshall County, Iowa: Containing a History of the County, Its Cities, Towns, &c., a Biographical Directory of Citizens, War Record of Its Volunteers in the Late Rebellion, General and Local Statistics, Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men, History of the Northwest, History of Iowa, Map of Marshall County, Constitution of the United States, Miscellaneous Matters, Etc.
Then there’s Obed Caswell.
When Wells Waite Miller joined the 8th OVI in April 1861 in response to President Abraham Lincoln’s request for 75,000 good men, two of Mary’s uncles joined the same unit: Obed and Walter Caswell. Obed’s three-month term of service should have ended on August 18, 1861, but he enlisted as a second lieutenant in the 5th Iowa Infantry, Company D, on July 15, 1861 for three years. Yes, the two terms crossed over a bit; even more confusing, Obed hadn’t been officially discharged from the 8th Ohio. But, for the point of his post, we’ve got Obed in Iowa.
He resigned from the 5th Iowa on January 15, 1863, and began studying law. He ultimately became elected as a judge. In this capacity, could he have placed war orphans with his niece, Mary, and her husband? Possibly, but I’ve found no evidence of this, and the children were born early in Obed’s legal career.
Wells in Iowa
On August 4, 1866, Wells wrote a letter to a major general from Marshalltown, Iowa, asking to have a role in the regular army. So, he was there about fifteen months after Corinne was born and about four months before Amos was born.
Was Mary there? How long had he been there? I just don’t know.
The couple never had any other children, despite Wells being twenty-four years old and Mary just twenty-two when Amos was born. They remained married until Wells’ death in 1906—nearly a 42-year marriage—without having any other children, which made for plenty of childless years.
On the other hand, if these two children were, in fact, adopted or otherwise taken in and raised by Wells and Mary, it has never been mentioned in any documents I’ve seen.
A volunteer researcher with the Historical Society of Marshall County found where Obed Miller traveled east in January 1867. Perhaps he was helping whichever Millers lived in Iowa to move back to Ohio. We know that Wells was listed as the second teacher of Castalia High School, which opened in 1867, so he did head back to Ohio around the time that Obed headed “east.”
By 1870, the census listed Wells’s occupation as “farmer,” and he remained dedicated to the pursuit of agriculture in multiple forms for the rest of his life. So, he taught somewhere between 1867 and 1869.
So, what do you think? Biological children? Adopted? Corrine adopted and Amos Calvin their biological child? I don’t know.
Wells Waite Miller: Exploration of His Life and Times
Although it’s the battle of Gettysburg that caused me to become interested in Miller, my research about his life over the past several years has gone far beyond those three days in American history. So, I’ve decided to share my research on this blog, doing so in ways that I imagine Miller might have written his own more comprehensive life story.
If you read this material and have additional information that’s directly tied to Miller or sets context about his life—or you’ve spotted errors—please email me at email@example.com. Thank you for being part of this adventure! Here is more of my research:
- Wells Waite Miller’s America
- Marching Towards Gettysburg
- Great Puritan Migration
- Scandal in the Colonies
- Calm in the Eye of the Storm
- Grandparents, Parents, and Siblings
- Ohio Bound
- Castalia Massacre
- Pickett’s Charge and 43 Bonus Years
- Glory Days to Invalid Corps
- Oberlin Years: Fierce Debates About Abolitionism
- A Look at Lodowick G. Miller
- Calvin Caswell
- Ohio Antietam Battlefield Commission
- Erie County, Ohio for Congress!
- Miller Family Mystery Solved? Perhaps!
- Obed Caswell And Walter Caswell: Story Of Brothers
- “Speaking the Names: A Tale of Two Brothers” at Ashland University’s Black Fork Review