Jane Elizabeth Cornell (1853-1942)
Jane Elizabeth Cornell was born on 17 Jul 1853 in Grass Lake, Jackson, Michigan as the only child of Peter Morris Cornell and Elvira Mary Palmer. Jane’s mother died when she was only a year and a half old. Her father headed west to pursue opportunities during the gold rush. He ended up settling in California, remarrying, and starting a second family. Jane was left in Michigan to live with her widowed grandmother, Jane Russell Palmer. The Civil War affected her childhood in Washtenaw County, Michigan. She was not quite eight-years old when it started in Apr 1861 and she was almost 12-years old when it ended. Her uncles, John Austin Palmer, Henry Clay Palmer, Mark Palmer and Russell Collins Palmer all went off to fight for the North.
Later, when Jane was a teenager, her father sent for her to join him and his new family in California. He wrote to the Palmers, announcing that he and his new wife wanted Jane to live with them. They said that his wife’s sister in New York would accompany Jane on the boat. So Jane had to head to a strange city to make a journey with a stranger on her way to live with a father and step-mother she didn’t know. It must have been difficult for her to say goodbye to the Palmers, the only family she had ever known.
The trip, which included a stage coach ride across the Isthmus of Panama, lasted from May to September, 1868. Jane was very excited to see her father. She had really blown him up in her mind. Her grandmother had gotten her quite dolled up for the trip, asking the dressmaker to really make her stylish. Unfortunately, when she arrived in California, she was very disappointed. Things were not as she expected in California and she was not pleased with her father. Peter and his new wife, who was only nine years older than Jane, perhaps took advantage of Jane as a helper in taking care of their hotel and their new babies. Because she was better educated than most of the citizens of her community, she became a school teacher.
At the time of the 1870 Federal Census, Jane was living in Oro Township, Butte County, California with her father; step-mother, Margaret; and half-brothers, Charles and Mason; and her step-mother’s sister, Catherine “Kitty” Kelley. Their post office was listed as Oroville. Jane was listed as a school teacher and her father was a hotel keeper. The family also employed a cook and a servant who originated from China.
Jane married George Leifheite Miller, son of Zachariah Miller and Catherine Leifheite, on 09 Apr 1871 in Oroville, Butte, California. She was 17, and he was 40. Originally, the Cornells thought that their friend George Miller might make a good husband for Margaret’s sister, Kitty, but George found the Jane more appealing. Even though George was only a year younger than Jane’s dad, Peter, he and Jane married on Easter Sunday.
In October, 1871, six months after their marriage, George and Jane Miller moved East to Illinois. The transcontinental railroad had been completed a couple years earlier, so they traveled by rail. When they arrived in Chicago, they saw charred ruins from the great fire which had started to burn on 8 Oct 1871. During their first year in Illinois, they lived on a farm near Sugar Grove. Then they bought a farm three miles north of Big Rock, Kane, Illinois.
Jane’s father and his wife Margaret, went on to have three more children, namely George E., Julia Matilda, and Mary Alice Cornell. Jane’s youngest half-sisters were born after she had already left California.
In Illinois, George Leifheite Miller and Jane Elizabeth Cornell had the following children:
- Calvin Andrew Miller was born on 26 Oct 1872 in Illinois. He married Cora Mable Brackett on 31 Jan 1895 in Kane, Illinois. He died on 18 Nov 1959 in Iowa.
- Frank Palmer Miller was born on 12 Feb 1874 in Big Rock, Kane, Illinois. He married Mary Leona Stolp on 29 Dec 1897 in Sandwich, De Kalb, Illinois. He died on 16 Mar 1925 in Sandwich, De Kalb, Illinois.
- Elvira Jane Miller was born on 30 Oct 1875 in Illinois. She married Hoyt Brackett in 1896. She died on 04 Jun 1958.
- James Edward Miller was born on 03 Sep 1878 in Big Rock, Kane, Illinois. He was called “Ned.” He married Dell Wright. He died on 09 Aug 1961 in Illinois.
Jane Cornell Miller was reunited with her grandmother, Jane Russell Palmer Ayres once she was back living in the Midwest. The elder Jane died on 01 Mar 1900, in Kane County, Illinois, presumably while visiting the younger Jane.
Despite him being old enough to be her father, Jane Cornell and George Miller were able to have a long marriage and celebrate their 50th anniversary together in 1921.
George Miller passed away later that year on 07 Dec 1921 at Big Rock, Kane, Illinois. Jane Elizabeth Cornell Miller lived as a widow for the next 20 years. She outlived her son Frank and his wife, Mary Leona Stolp Miller; her son-in-law, Hoyt Brackett; and her daughter-in-law, Dell Wright Miller. When her son Frank passed away, Jane stayed with and chaperoned her granddaughter, Leona Catherine Miller until Leona could be married. In her later years, Jane resided with family members. For example, at the time of the 1940 Federal Census, she was living with her granddaughter, Marion Brackett Scott.
Jane Elizabeth Cornell Miller died on 27 Jan 1942 in Bristol, Kendall, Illinois at the age of 88. She was buried on 29 Jan 1942 in West Big Rock Cemetery, Big Rock, Kane, Illinois.