Ethel Maude Miller

Ethel Maude Miller, age 17

Ethel Maude Miller, age 17

Ethel Maude Miller was born in Birtle, Manitoba, Canada, on 4 October 1888, the fifth child and the fourth born in the log cabin in which the family lived, about two hundred miles from Winnipeg. When Ethel was a toddler her family moved from Birtle to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

When Ethel was seven, and the family living on Allegheny Street, she came home from school one day, took a banana out of a sack and ate it, and then set the bag on fire. Her dress caught fire and she was covered with flames. Her screams could be heard for blocks. Her daughter, Barbara Rix, said that Ethel was bad with matches and fascinated by fire. Her older brother Edward came home about that time, saw her on fire and rolled her in a carpet. She was so badly burned that they thought she would die. Her death notice was actually published in the newspaper, but she survived, burned over one breast and both arms. The doctors grafted skin from her father’s back to protect her flesh while her skin healed over.

She stayed in the hospital in Pittsburgh for somewhere between seven months and a year. Her father then took Ethel to England for more extensive care. They sailed on the SS Rhynland for England, leaving Philadelphia on 24 July 1897 and arriving in Liverpool on August 5th. She was operated on by a well-known plastic surgeon who was able to straighten her arms which had become bent from all the scarring. Over her life she had over twenty-five surgeries to transplant skin or repair grafted skin that had become ulcerated. Her daughter said that she never complained. Her niece, Hope Healy Koontz, said that Ethel always wore long sleeves and was sensitive about her scars.

After a long time in the hospital in England, she stayed with her father’s family in Liverpool, William Charles and Lucy Swainson Miller. One of the Miller daughters, possibly Aunt Gertrude “Gertie” Miller, tutored Ethel for awhile and then she was sent to a day school in Liverpool until she was ten years old. About this time her grandfather, William Charles, died. Her Aunt Maude Miller Bentall sent her away to a boarding school for five years. The school was The Royal Asylum of St. Anne’s Society in Reigate, Surrey. Ethel hated Reigate at first because all her scars from her burns would show when she had to strip down to wash at the school. When she had holidays she would spend them with her own family who were still living in England.

At the age of 16 she entered a teachers college near Isleworth, not far from Hampton Court. She lived with her own family and studied for one year. She did not pass the examinations the first year and it was then arranged for an Episcopal minister to coach her for the next exams. The minister's home was across the street from her grandmother, Lucy Swainson Miller, who was now living in Holloway House in Heybridge, Essex. She stayed with the minister and helped with the children in return for her room, board, and tutoring. She detested the minister with his piercing eyes and caustic manner. She said that she learned in spite of his sarcasm and finally passed the examinations with an 86. She had to travel to London to take them.

Ethel Maude Miller, age 20

Ethel Maude Miller, age 20

Ethel also spent time with her Aunt Maude Miller Bentall’s family at their home, The Towers, in Maldon, Essex. After passing her examinations her Aunt Maude arranged for her sea passage to join the rest of her family who had moved to Wyoming the year before. She sailed on the SS Lucania 29 Feb 1908. It took 14 days to cross the Atlantic and she was seasick most of the way--but not sick enough not to have “an admirer” along on the voyage. Great Uncle Neville Bayley, Grandmother's brother, met her in New York and after a few days, put her on the train for Cheyenne where the family was now living. On the ship manifest she was described as nineteen years and four months old; she was five feet, four inches tall, with brown hair, grey eyes and fair skin.

Ethel Miller Boyd holding her daughter, Barbara May

Ethel Miller Boyd holding her daughter, Barbara May

Ethel and her sisters were beautiful young women by then, and with their lovely English accents they were invited to parties, teas, innumerable luncheons and were very popular.

Ethel took a typing and shorthand course in Denver and then returned home to work for the County Prosecuting Attorney in Cheyenne. One day, while doing her secretarial work for the attorney, a man entered the office, saw Ethel across the room and said to a friend, “That’s the woman I’m going to marry!”

The man was Arthur Franklin Boyd. Arthur was born 9 Oct 1888 in Georgia. His father died of tuberculosis when Arthur was young. His mother moved to Savannah and bought the Habersham House and rented out rooms to boarders to make ends meet. Arthur left home when he was 15 and joined the Merchant Marine. Arthur was an accountant for the Franko-Wyoming Oil Company in Casper, Wyoming.

Ethel and Arthur were married 23 June 1915 in Cheyenne. They lived in Casper until the Franko-Wyoming Oil Company closed down in 1918 and then moved to Cheyenne. Arthur worked for various oil companies as an accountant: Texas Gulf Sulphur, Humble Oil, and Seagraves and Moody. This resulted in their moving around a great deal. Among other locations, the family lived in Denver as well as in Texas: San Antonio, Beeville, Corpus Christi, Houston, Luling, Bay City, Wichita Falls and Monroe City. Arthur also drilled oil wells and sold real estate near the wells. During World War I he worked in the Seattle shipyards.

Ethel and Arthur had three children: Barbara May, Edward Howard, named after Ethel’s older brother who moved to South Africa, and Mary Elizabeth.

Ethel always wore long-sleeved dresses or blouses because of her burns. She had skin grafts all her life until she was about 80 years old. She never talked about it much and she never complained. She was always everybody’s favorite: well-liked, well-loved. She was always a welcome visitor. She went to her niece Hope Healy’s wedding in Mahtomedi, Minnesota with her sister Connie. She baked and sewed. Later on, she and Arthur Boyd had a shrimp boat. They got shrimp for themselves and had shrimp parties. They lived in Galveston at one time. Arthur always took his hat off for ladies, even in an elevator. Arthur and Ethel were very loving to each other. Ethel was always jolly and laughed a lot.

Uncle Arthur died in Anahuac, Texas, near Monroe City, on 27 September, 1953. By 1960 Ethel was living in Beaumont where her daughter Barbara and her husband were living. Towards the end of her life she was living with her daughter. Ethel died on 12 January 1982 in Beaumont. She was 93 years old. She and Arthur are buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Beaumont, Texas.

Ethel Maude Miller Boyd pouring tea at the wedding reception of her sister Lucy Healy's daughter, Hope Healy, to Cletus "Clete" Joseph Gombold, 16 May 1944.

Ethel Maude Miller Boyd pouring tea at the wedding reception of her sister Lucy Healy's daughter, Hope Healy, to Cletus Joseph Gombold, 16 May 1944.

Ethel Miller Boyd, November 1973.

Ethel Maude Miller Boyd, November 1973.    

Related Links
Children of Charles Edward & Annie Bayley Miller
Charles Edward & Annie Bayley Miller, Ethel's parents
Gravestones of Ethel Miller and Arthur Boyd
Obituary of Ethel Miller Boyd
Obituary of Arthur Franklin Boyd
Additional pictures of Ethel Miller Boyd with her sisters and brother Fred

Photographs of Ethel from Hope Healy Koontz who gathered them from various family members for copying.

Anne Healy's Genealogy, Created October 2002
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17 Dec 2010

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