LEAVES FROM THE PAST: FORT MILLER

by

June English



 
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We must surmise as to the location of this school. The building that was later called the Millerton School was some distance away from the river. The old Walker school was nearby but my source calls it the Millerton School. School was held in the old Millerton Courthouse, so close to the river that the base was lapped by the flood of 1867. Further research or information sent in by one of our readers may disclose the actual location of the Millerton School at this date.


While Camp Barbour was the headquarters of the troops, three men died in the line of duty. Other soldiers died during the following years of occupation and were buried on the slope above the hospital outside the fort quadrangle. For many years before the fort was finally sold in 1866, the civilian population from Millerton and the surrounding hills preferred to be buried on the high ground rather than in the cemetery across the river.


Judge Hart allowed the continued use of the cemetery after he came into possession of the land. The first civilian burial was a Methodist minister who came to Millerton about 1858 and died of a hopeless disease. Francis Steddum, who is often referred to as a baby in later histories, was about 30 years old when he died. He was buried under the oak tree and in 1925 this grave was still marked by a white monument. I recall from previous research, the record of which I do not now have, that he was murdered.


Sgt. McKenzie's remains were removed and now lies buried with his wife, their children, and her second husband and their son at the Catholic portion of Mountain View Cemetery in Fresno.


Jefferson Shannon Ashman, son of the Sheriff Scott Ashman and his wife, Elizabeth Baley, was buried at the fort. He was born November 5, 1861, and died December 1, 1962. His ashes now lie with his mother and father in a Fresno columbarum. Another baby Mary Ellen, daughter of J. E. and M. H. Sherrard, passed away April 24, 1870, a little over a year old. Her parents were both school teachers in the foothill district. Four-year-old Charles Payne, son of Theodore J. and Julia Payne, died at Fort Miller on March 30, 1873. Until the discovery of this record by the research of Roberta Badger and Muriel Wardlaw, I had no reason to believe Payne had marital ties and certainly no knowledge of children. Theodore J. Payne (murdered) and William Henry Crowe (murdered) were both buried in the cemetery.


After the flood of 1867 obliterated the Millerton Cemetery across the river and before the Odd Fellows Cemetery was started in 1872, all the burials around Fort Miller and Millerton were in the military cemetery. Over the years, families have since removed members from there to other cemeteries. Fires had burned off the wooden markers and in spite of the strong fence that Judge Hart had erected around the cemetery, traces of most of the graves had disappeared by the time the Department of the Interior removed all the graves they could find. Before the dam was finished, there was little left to identify. There must be many graves of our earliest pioneers still under the waters of Lake Millerton as few of the many burials alluded to in earlier writings were removed to the resituated cemetery at Winchell's Cove.


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