MCMILLEN, RALSTON, BORLAND
Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/5/2001 at 07:48:56
From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties – 1890
John McMillen, with one exception, is the oldest resident of Birmingham, Van Buren County. He was born near the boundary line of counties Antrim, Armagh and Down, Ireland, June 9, 1808, and is a son of David and Elizabeth McMillen. His grandfather was a Highland Scotchman, his parents were both of Scotch descent and he possesses much of the sturdiness characteristic of that race. His father was a bleacher by trade and followed that business during his residence on the Bann Water in the Emerald Isle. Pleasing reports of the New World, and the opportunities which it afforded its people, reached him from time to time, and at length he determined to try his fortune in the land of the free. In 1812, accompanied by his wife and six children, he set sail for the United States but ere the long ocean voyage was over one of the children had sickened and died and was laid to rest beneath the waves of the sea. The vessel reached the harbor of New York on a certain Friday and the following day war was declared with Great Britain. Mr. McMillen and his family continued their journey to Harrisburg, and from there to Washington County, Pennsylvania, on pack horses, where he and his wife spent the remainder of their lives. They were highly respected people and members of the Seceders’ Church. Our subject has but one sister now living—Mrs. Isabella Ralston, who resides in Claysville Washington County Pennsylvania, being now about ninety years of age.
John McMillen spent his boyhood days at work upon his father’s farm and in attendance at the common schools where he acquired a fair education. Like a dutiful son he worked for his parents until twenty-five years of age. On February 28, 1833, he was united in marriage with Miss Jane McMillen, who was born in Washington County and was a very distant relative of his. He then turned his attention to the cultivation of the old farm, which he continued to operate until 1855, when, following the course of immigration, which was steadily drifting westward he landed in Van Buren County Iowa. For a time he engaged in farming north of Birmingham but in 1865 he changed his occupation and started upon the road as traveling salesman for William Elliott, dealer in agricultural implements, with whom he remained some fifteen year, since which time he has been engaged in the implement business for himself. He has sold all kinds of merchandise in that line from a clothes wringer to a portable steam sawmill. He was very successful as a salesman; oftentimes his sales in one year amounted to some $20,000 worth of machinery.
Mrs. McMillen died in November 1856. Unto them were born six children, of whom three are now living—David who succeeds his father in the implement business in Birmingham; Margaret at home; and Elizabeth who is a teach of much ability. For eighteen years in succession she has held the position of primary teacher in Birmingham schools, being universally liked.
Previous to 1860, Mr. McMillen was a supporter of Democratic principles, but in that year he became a Republican and in many elections cast his ballot in its support, but since the rise of the Prohibition Party, has connected himself with the latter body. He and all his family are members of the United Presbyterian Church. He was married in 1862 to Mary Borland, who died in 1875. Though eighty-two years of age Mr. McMillen is bright in mind and retains well his physical vigor. In Birmingham, not to know him argues oneself unknown, and his many friends esteem and respect him for a life characterized by honorable purpose and worthy motives.
I am not related, and am only copying this for the information of those who might find this person in their family.
Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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