This Week in Rockland: Newspaper Excerpts: Flashback Friday: Week of March 5

2021-03-05 TWIR Image-Alice Miller

March 4, 1871 – 150 YEARS AGO
Rockland County Journal

       It is rumored that Dr. Stephens is about to fit up and have re-opened the old ’76 House, at Tappantown.
       Nyack is twenty per cent Protestant, thirteen per cent Catholic, and wuss’n heathen sixty-seven per cent.
       Seventy thousand pairs of ladies and misses shoes were made last year at E. Burr’s manufactory, in this village.
       Capt. Lawrence Sneden, who was found paralyzed in his boat on election day, is now very low and entirely helpless.
       Ed. Smith launched from his yard, Nyack, on Saturday, the large scow built for the Department of Public Works, New York.

March 4, 1921 – 100 YEARS AGO
Rockland News

COMPLETES LONG JOURNEY AFOOT — Emily Claus of Nanuet Goes through Blizzard Alone  No Unpleasantness on Road, but Hiker Gives Los Angles Poor Recommendation
       Miss Emily Claus of Nanuet has completed her trip on foot to California. Cards and letters received by her friends in Rockland County tell her experiences and adventures during her several months on the road, wearing khaki trousers and a shirt.
       In the Adirondacks Miss Claus met a girl who was her traveling companion as far as Sioux City, Iowa. From that point to the coast, she traveled alone. In letters she tells us her experiences from August to January.
       The first letter, sent from Thief River Falls, Minnesota, reads in part,
       “No, I am not working, except if you call it that, to write friendly letters, and it is quite a task sometimes for I don’t have a great deal of time for that. It so happens that I’m visiting a friend of mine out here at Thief River Falls, Minnesota, and he owns a machine. Keeps it in his home and has put it at my disposal. Do you happen to remember John Ward, the very tall thin fellow I brought to one of the Nanuet dances? Well he has come out here to live in the meantime and has acquired a wife and three kiddies since then.

       “Our plan is to hike most of the way. But as we are doing it purely for our own pleasure, we can ride when we like, provided it costs us nothing. Minnesota is very desolate, all sand, scrub oak and jack pine, showing the soil is poor, therefore the habitations very lowly and mostly foreign, though it is very beautiful. We decided it was policy to hurry through to my friends because of the foreign element, who seemed to suspect us of something, thought we were working for the revenue inspectors.
       “One day, when a fat, good natured looking man inquired if we wanted a ride (he was not foreign) we accepted as he was going in our direction. It so happened he was the engineer on a freight line and told us if we would be on hand the next morning at 7:30, he would let us ride on the engine. Well that was a thing not to be missed, for we had a wonderful time. I even was allowed to run the engine for a bit, and you cannot imagine what it felt like to have control of so much power, being able to stop in an instant that heap of throbbing metal of the locomotive.
       “Naturally, we are careful when we accept a ride. But believe me, I have not encountered as much danger all the time I have been on the way as I would encounter in two weeks in New York.  Insults are becoming unknown to me. It is true people look at us until it is uncomfortable, but it is because they want to know us and are interested, not merely curious or with a sneer.”
       The next letter, dated December 29, telling of the conclusion of the trip, is sent from Pasadena, California, and is as follows:
       “Hurrah for the completion of my undertaking, which finds me in even better health than when I started, and none the worse for wear. Of course, there was plenty of excitement on the way. But I thank goodness I arrived at my destination safely, without any grave mishaps. I admit, I did not realize the enormity of my undertaking until I arrived here and heard people talk. I have been told that I was born under a lucky star, but never put much stock in it till now. I am sure it must be that or special protection from above. At any rate, I am properly thankful that all has ended well, and will not be so quick to do the same alone again.
       “As I believe I told you before, my companion left me at Sioux City, Iowa, and I continued the rest of the way alone, going through Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and thence to Los Angeles.
       “On the way from Denver to Colorado Springs I encountered a heavy snowstorm which lasted all day, so I was not able to sit down and rest or unload my pack from my back the entire time, for all was wet, white snow. It certainly was beastly, and I could easily have gotten lost or snowed under, but I didn’t, as is proven by my being able to write this to you.
       “Naturally thought I would get to warmer climate as I went further south, but not so. Over the Raton Pass you pass from Colorado into New Mexico, it was cold enough to freeze a goose. And I came near being the goose. All through New Mexico and Arizona it was very, very cold, snow or no snow.
       “Arrived in Los Angeles about a month ago, but was so disgusted with the city that I could not raise courage enough to write to all my friends while I stayed in it. There is not the slightest bit of modesty or morality in that big city, which naturally makes it unsafe for any woman to be on the street, either day or night.”

March 5, 1971 – 50 YEARS AGO
The Journal News

[Image: Alice Waldron Miller, ca. 1960, Virginia Parkhurst Collection at the Nyack Library Local History Room via NYHeritage]
       I’ve often wondered what Alice Waldron Miller would have thought of today’s hippies and war protestors—and what they would think of her. The young rebels would probably approve what she wore, anyway.
       For years Alice Miller was a familiar sight around the Nyacks—a sturdy five-foot tall figure, invariabl[y] wearing a khaki serge uniform with a high tight stiff collar and an overseas cap over her white hair. On special occasions she pinned on her chest-full of medals and ribbons from the Salvation Army and from the village of Nyack.
       Alice Miller went off to war in 1915 at the age of 49. When the conflict broke out, she tried to join the Red Cross, was turned down—and so she shipped off to France as a Salvation Army lass a week later.
       She spent the war on the front lines, standing over a hot field stove 14 to 16 hours a day, frying doughnuts. She used to recall that one day she fried 4,000 doughnuts. She was one of the women who made the Salvation Army beloved by American doughboys.
       Alice Miller came home to Nyack in 1919 with a large collection of German helmets and guns—and a slip from a pussywillow bush, which she had kept alive in a moistened Army blanket. That cutting flourished at her home in Central Nyack, and every spring she gave her friends bouquets of almost-pink pussywillows.
       She also brought back from France the diary in which she had written faithfully every day . . . sometimes under German bombardment. But she would never read it. She always said its passages roused too poignant memories of boys she had known who were shot down.
       Alice Miller wore her Salvation Army uniform until the day she died. Sometimes she wore her Christian Endeavor emblem as well—the famous General “Black Jack” Pershing himself once interceded to let her keep this as part of her uniform.
       Few people would have envied Alice Miller her life. She was poor. She had almost no possessions. But she thought she had the most wonderful life in the world.
       “I thank God every day that I have been able to serve Him and my country,” she used to say fervently.
       I can well believe that Alice Miller’s doughnuts were the most delicious in the world. Anyone who gave her a ride in Rockland County was always rewarded with a loaf of home-made raising bread or a jar of potato soup. I’m sure no other vichyssoise compares with it for good taste.
       Alice Miller grew up in a tradition of patriotism. Her father was Carroll Scott Waldron, who was a prisoner at Andersonville and who used to regale his daughter with stories of Civil War exploits. The Nyack post, GAR, is named for him.
       Mrs. Miller joined the Salvation Army in her late teens and became an officer. She was back in Rockland, a widow for 15 years, when war erupted, and she rejoined the Salvation Army.
       She would never have forgiven people burning the American flag or spitting on it. The flag was sacred to her. It was her dearest wish that it be draped over her coffin. It was.

This Week in Rockland (#FBF Flashback Friday) is prepared by Clare Sheridan on behalf of the Historical Society of Rockland County. To learn about the HSRC’s mission, upcoming events or programs, visit or call (845) 634-9629.


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