Millstead, Malvina (Cole)
Posted By: Mary H. Cochrane, Volunteer
Date: 7/2/2019 at 16:22:40
Biography ~ Malvina "Vina" (Cole) Millstead
Des Moines Tribune
Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa
April 11, 1956
TO “AUNT VINA” at 94
MAMIE SENT HER A BIRTHDAY NOTE
by Herb OWENS
GRAND RIVER, IA. – The warm personal letter that came from Mamie DOUD EISENHOWER, wife of the president, to Mrs. Malvina MILLSTEAD had no political significance. “Aunt Vina” is a Tennessee-born Democrat.
Although six months of amateur sleuthing by relatives have passed since “Aunt Vina” celebrated her ninety-fourth birthday anniversary, it’s still a mystery here who informed the First Lady of Mrs. MILLSTEAD’S beloved life of community service.
“Your friends are legion as result of your countless acts of gracious kindness,” Mrs. EISENHOWER wrote – and she wasn’t acting on misinformation.
The letter, on White House stationery, was sent from Denver – and dated at a time when Mrs. EISENHOWER and the world were concerned with the president’s condition following his heart attack.
LIVES NEAR GHOST TOWN
Mrs. MILLSTEAD for 55 years has lived in the little farmhouse just outside the ghost town of Westerville – 2 miles northwest of here. Born Malvina COLE, Mrs. MILLSTEAD had two older brothers who were killed while with the Confederate army. After the Civil War, her parents decided to move west. They put all their possessions, little “Vina,” in a long flat-bottomed boat and started down the Tennessee River.
“Aunt Vina” doesn’t remember much about the trip. She remembers her brother saving a little Negro boy who fell off a dock. Sher remembers riding on a steamboat. She remembers her father’s story of paying $1 a mile for being guided through Muscle Shoals.
“Mother, after the death of my brothers, never was satisfied anyplace,” said Mrs. MILLSTEAD. “My father tried Texas, then Missouri. Finally he brought us to Iowa.”
A HARD WORKER
Before her marriage to Joseph MILLSTEAD, “Vina” worked as a hired girl in the Grand River Hotel. As a bride, she moved to a farm near Beaconsfield, then to a land-grant famr from president Franklin PIERCE – 3 miles north of her present home.
“I worked at everything on the farm except the grubbing,” said Mrs. MILLSTEAD. Grubbing is digging out the brush and stumps.
Westerville, in those days was a growing community – three stores, post office, hotel, blacksmithshop, lumber yard, school, grist mill and two taverns. A narrow-gauge railroad was scheduled to be built – and the grade for it still is visible.
Plans change; the railroad moved south through Grand River. Today Westerville is a rural schoolhouse and a half a dozen homes.
All through her years, “Aunt Vina” has been a friendly helper to anyone needing help.
Moving unaided about the farmhouse – in which also live her son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Everett MILLSTEAD; her widowed granddaugther and three great-grandchildren – “Aunt Vina” continues a gay wit. Grandpa MILLSTEAD died 25 years ago.
“I expect yo’ve come to goad some yarns out of me,” she told the reporter. She warned him her “face would break the camera” – but she went to her bedroom to change clothes and comb her hair unassistend before a picture was taken.
She’s proud of her African violet culture.
And, among hundreds of greetings that came on her birthday, the big surprise – Mrs. EISENHOWER’S letter – has become the most treasured.
SOURCE: genealogical clippings and notes of Pearle Veva (BRAMON) FOLAND
Transcription and submission by Sharon R. Becker
Decatur Biographies maintained by Constance McDaniel Hall.
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