Rilla Preston Elder Myers
From Carroll County IL to Jefferson County MT
And Then Back Home to Carroll County IL

Written and Contributed to Genealogy Trails By Alice Horner

Major sources for this biography were letters, manuscripts, photos and other items from the collections of my late mother, Florence L. Downing Horner, and her sister, the late Vivian Downing Luettig. Special thanks go the Boulder Public Library, and to Ellen Rae Thiel, a volunteer for the Jefferson County, Montana MT GenWeb Project, who provided transcriptions from her collection of newspapers and other manuscripts associated with Rilla to both me and to Vivian Downing Luettig. They have provided a time-line for Rilla’s life in Boulder which we have never had before.

The first time I ever heard of my mother’s Aunt Rilla was in a discussion my mother and father were having about “those books of Rilla’s and why they should probably just be burned.” I must have been about 9 years old and when I asked why I was told it was because they were books on the occult and fortune telling and one particularly bad one titled “Was Abraham Lincoln A Spiritualist?” (And indeed he was, and he, or more likely Mary Todd Lincoln, invited people to the White House who could make pianos rise up off the floor on their own).

But of course Mother never threw anything away and certainly not books. So thanks to the discussion I’d read them all by the time I was 15. Great reading. I might not have noticed them for years otherwise.

That initial discussion also revealed that Aunt Rilla wasn’t really Mother’s aunt, but her great aunt, and that she was quite a character. When she was just a young woman and unmarried she’d moved out West to Boulder, Montana (Jefferson County) in the 1870s all by herself and taught school. Mother said it had just appalled Mother’s Grandmother and Grandpa, who were Rilla’s sister, Ellen Eliza Preston Downing and her husband, Harvey Loomer Downing (I). Rilla had also been married twice while she was out there. Instantly, “Aunt Rilla” became my favorite ancestor. I wanted to know more about her.

Her real name was Harriet Aurilla Preston, but she dropped the Harriet part immediately and it was never used except on the US Federal Censuses for Carroll County (IL). She was always called either Rilla or the more formal Aurilla. She was born in Preston Prairie, Section 14 of Mount Carroll Township, Carroll County, Illinois on January 6, 1851, the second child of Samuel Preston and Sarah Ann Garrett Preston. She was probably born in the Preston log cabin, which was on what in the late 1830s and 1840s was the (dirt) road to Savanna. It was about half a mile north of where Highway 52 is today, and roughly parallel to it. Rilla’s father had a new residence built in 1852 on his property along, what was then, the new road to Savanna, where Highway 52 is today, on a knoll just east of the large spring fed pond. This house was referred to as the Old Grout House, and the house, farm and pond became a landmark for many a traveler between Mt. Carroll and Savanna. Rilla grew up on this farm.

Rilla’s older sister was Ellen Eliza Preston, who had been born June 7, 1846; she was my mother’s grandmother and my great-grandmother. Rilla would have three more siblings: Ann Maria Preston (known as Mariah), born December 16, 1854, Arthur Garrett Preston, born April 26, 1858, and Laura Frances Preston, born September 8, 1865. Their father, Samuel Preston, was a farmer who was interested in education, reading, and scholarship all his life. He made certain all of his children were educated beyond high school, in an era when many children in pioneer families had to leave school early, sometimes as early as 9 years old, in order to help their families work on the farm.

Rilla Preston at about age 6, with her older sister, Ellen Eliza Preston.
This photo was copied from a daguerreotype taken in 1857."

Rilla Attends Preston Prairie School & Mt. Carroll Seminary

As Rilla’s sister Ellen Eliza Preston Downing describes it in Log Cabin Days, “About 1852 the first schoolhouse was built one fourth mile south of the corner.” (This would be the four corners, very near the Preston log cabin. Florence L. Downing Horner‘s notes on Rilla indicate this first school house was what became known as the Preston Prairie School, and Rilla‘s father, Samuel Preston, donated the land.

I do not have a photograph of the original schoolhouse at this location, which was totally destroyed by the Cyclone of 1898. As Ellen in Log Cabin Days describes it, “The new school house was unplastered during the first summer, and furnished with benches without desks. These were made fairly comfortable by turning our faces to the wall and using the baseboards to support our feet. Before the winter term the walls were plastered and we were deprived of our foot rests, much to our disappointment. Desks were furnished which were promptly ornamented with jackknives.”

When she was 94 years old, Ellen told my mother an amusing story about Rilla, which offers an uncommon view of accommodations during pioneering days. The Old Grout House’s proximity to the road between Savanna and Mt. Carroll meant they occasionally had strangers stay with them when the inn in the neighborhood was full. (Other farmers in the area probably had to accommodate travelers as well.) Although it was a small structure, the Old Grout House had two stairways, one leading to at least one bedroom and a hall on the north end of the house and the other leading from the kitchen to one bedroom directly overhead. This bedroom was not accessible from the other part of the upstairs. The hired man slept in the bedroom over the kitchen and travelers (men) slept with the hired man. (Strangers slept in the same bed with one another in the mid-1800s and before and thought nothing of it.) One such traveler spent one night there and the next morning the hired man told Samuel Preston not to use the same towel that the traveler used because “he has the itch. He scratched all night.” Samuel Preston informed his family and they were careful not to use the towels but it wasn’t long before the itch spread among the family anyway. Within a day or two, one of the little boys at Preston Prairie School came up to Aunt Rilla on the playground at recess time and said:

“You’ve got the itch, you little bitch,
The more you scratch, the more you itch,
And all the neighbors know it,
And that’s the way you show it!”

All of Samuel Preston’s daughters graduated from the Mt. Carroll Seminary, although I’m unsure of the date of Rilla’s graduation. In any case, by the time she was 19, and maybe before, Rilla was a school teacher. She appears (as Harriet A. Preston) on the 1870 US Federal Census for Mt. Carroll Township as a 19-year old school teacher, living with her parents and family, as well as her grandmother, Elizabeth Ingram Gunn Preston, who was 77 years old. They had some lovely times on Preston Prairie. My mother found a letter written by A. H. Garrett of Clearmont, Missouri in December 1936 recalling the summer of 1870 he spent with Rilla’s parents, his aunt and uncle. He could still remember the song Rilla used to sing:

“What a queer world this would be
If the men were all transported
Far beyond the Northern Sea!”
(The name of this song is Reuben & Rachel written by Harry Birth)

Rilla Moves To Boulder, Montana

I’ve yet to find what attracted Rilla to Montana, and specifically to the little town of Boulder, Montana, where we think she knew no one. It states in the account of her wedding to Alexander James Elder, in The Herald (Mount Carroll newspaper) published September 26, 1879, that she “came to the (Montana) Territory last spring to take charge of the Boulder school.” So maybe they had advertised for a school teacher and Rilla may have been eager to go West. After all, she had heard about emigration and pioneering all her life. Her father, who was born in South Hadley, Massachusetts, was one of the very earliest settlers in Carroll County, and one of the three first settlers in Mt. Carroll Township. Her Preston ancestors arrived in America possibly as early as the 1630s and were prominent not only in the Revolutionary War but in the Great Swamp Fight of King Philip’s (Indian) War in 1675, as well as the Deerfield Massacre. Rilla saw people heading West all the time, would have read of it in newspapers and books, and heard the stories of adventure and intrigue. But Rilla’s decision to move frightened her parents because the Indian Wars had only been over in Montana since 1877, and had been fierce. Montana seemed a very isolated place, and I’m sure they were afraid they’d never see Rilla again.

So Rilla arrived in Boulder, Montana in the spring of 1879 and began teaching. She took the train from Clinton, Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska and then went by stage coach to Boulder. Her nephew, Loomer Downing, my grandfather, always said it was a sad day for her parents when the train rounded the curve as it left Clinton (Iowa) and Rilla was on it. Boulder was located between Butte and the state capital, Helena. Vivian Downing Luettig’s research indicated Rilla taught at the North Boulder School, Muskrat School, Ryan School, Basin School, Finn Station, Jefferson City, and Woodville Schools, all in Jefferson County.

We Do Research On Rilla In June 1956

After our family’s initial discussion of Aunt Rilla, my mother apparently decided she too had a lot of questions she couldn’t answer, so we spent our summer vacation in June 1956 going west to Mt. Rushmore and through the Badlands to Boulder, Montana to look up information on Aunt Rilla. The town was pretty small, probably not more than a thousand, and we started off by going to the court house to get information. Boulder became the County Seat of Jefferson County in 1883 (before that it had been in Radersburg). When we visited in June 1956, the court house only had accessible records up to 1900, which meant they had no information on Rilla. However, someone advised us to see an old man who lived right down the street who might have known her.

This was Charles R. Warren. When my mother asked him if he’d ever known a Mrs. Rilla Myers, he leaned back and looked at her with piercing eyes and asked “Do you mean Rilla Preston Elder Myers?” and Mother said “That’s exactly who I mean!” He was even happier to see us that we were to see him because he was one of her pupils when she was teaching at the Muskrat School. When he invited us into his house and we passed by an upright piano, he told us it had been Rilla’s. We didn’t think to ask how he had it, but he did tell us Rilla had been a friend of his mother’s. We asked him whether we should go to Helena, Montana because Rilla had once lived there. He responded there was no need to because his mother ran a rooming house there and Rilla had lived with her at the time.

We had quite a chat with Charles R. Warren, telling him who we were, where we worked, and where I went to school. Mother was a first grade school teacher, and I’ll always remember late in the afternoon when he said, sort of out of the blue, to her: “You school teachers today have everything to work with. Rilla had nothing and rode horseback up the valley every day to teach us everything we ever learned.“

Charles R. Warren June 1956 

This photo of Rilla Preston Elder Myers was given to us
by Charles R. Warren in June 1956.

It was taken when she was teaching school in Boulder.

It may have been one of the ones taken in October 1888

Muskrat School

I think “the Boulder School” mentioned in her wedding account where Rilla taught her first year and Muskrat School were two separate schools. But I don’t know when Rilla started teaching at the Muskrat School. Since Charles R. Warren was born July 18, 1876, Rilla would have been teaching there sometime between 1882 - 1888, if not before then. Newspaper accounts I have been provided don’t mention Muskrat School. However, Olive Hagadone in “Boulder: Its Friends and Neighbors” wrote “As the town of Boulder moved west, the children were divided between the Muskrat school, behind the Larson house, and a building on the corner of Madison and Fourth. Mrs. Rilla P. Elder, widow of Judge Elder who was instrumental in establishing the new town, had three or four youngsters at the Muskrat School.” But she doesn’t say what year(s) Rilla taught there. Correspondence with Ellen Rae Thiel established that the Larson house and Muskrat school were out in the country, so it may not have been “the Boulder school” Rilla come to take charge on in the spring of 1879.

I don’t know what the salary was for teachers in 1879. Olive Hagadone reports that in November 1903 teachers in Whitehall and Boulder averaged $77.50 for men and $60 for women, with the highest salary as $100 per month. Actually this seems like a high salary in 1903, but Boulder may have had to offer a lot of money in order to attract teachers.

Rilla Marries Alexander J. Elder

On August 31, 1879, Rilla married Alexander James Elder in a public Wedding ceremony in Boulder. He was born January 19, 1830 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to John Elder (September 2, 1796 - November 3, 1857) and Jane Henderson Ritchey (born May 20, 1800 - death unknown). He’d arrived in Boulder, Montana about 1872 as secretary of a mining company of which Mr. Noah Armstrong of Glendale was President. (Glendale, Montana was near Boulder and is now a ghost town.) Part of his job was apparently supervising miners in his employ in the silver mines, because Rilla spent 2 weeks of her 4-week honeymoon (before going back to teaching) with her husband among his miners 12 miles above the Boulder Valley. Alexander J. Elder was also Jefferson County Judge. I can’t find a date when he was elected Judge (presuming he was elected and not appointed), but he appears to have been Judge when Rilla met him and he served as Judge throughout their marriage.

Old Court House Boulder Montana 1956

Alexander J. Elder is an example of the unusual men the Old West attracted. He had moved with his parents at an early age to Indianapolis, Indiana and graduated from an unnamed college there, possibly around 1850. From those early days, he acquired a literary habit which he retained all through life and which made him an interesting and forcible writer. By 1861 he ran the Indianapolis Sentinel newspaper. During the Civil War, President Lincoln sent him as consul to Uruguay, South America and he remained in that section of the world probably during the Civil War years. I’ve always wondered just what that entailed in the 1860s, and trying to find out I spent a hot June day about 20 years ago seated in a big room at the National Archives in Washington DC with about 40 other researchers looking at microfiche, but unfortunately they didn’t have much on Civil War era diplomatic posts at obscure locations. (Email me with anything you have on this.) By about 1865 Alexander J. Elder had moved to Sacramento, California where he was in charge of the State’s Printing Department., probably for four years. So he was what people would later call “a Renaissance man” and despite how unlikely it seems, Rillla found him in Boulder, Montana.

Small town newspapers in the 1800s (and later) typically reported small details of the lives of their readers, including even the names of people who visited them. Thanks to Ellen Rae Thiel, who has maintained an abstract of these newspapers, I have a timeline on Rilla’s life in Boulder that I’ve never had before. Such newspaper items help me determine where Alexander J. Elder lived prior to his marriage. According to the August 18, 1888 edition of the Boulder Age newspaper, he apparently been living in the first house in Boulder, which “was built by Judge Elder and was situated on Main Street, just north of a Major Farnham’s residence.” The next month another newspaper subscriber took exception to the statement that Judge Elder built the first house in Boulder. He said “13 years ago this fall (which would have been 1875), Judge Elder erected a log building that was not chinked, had neither door, window or floor and the roof consisted only of loose poles, so that the concern could hardly be brought under the definition of a house.” I’m fairly certain this structure must have been where Alexander J. Elder lived before he married Rilla, and not where Rilla lived with him.

Married Life With Alexander J. Elder

Rilla’s letter to her parents just before her marriage doesn’t indicate where in Boulder she had been living, but it does say that she and Alexander J. Elder had “arranged for housekeeping previous to the marriage and as soon as the ceremony was over we came into our own home.“

This was to be Rilla’s home during her entire time in Boulder. I don’t have the address of the house, which may have been torn down before 1970 (when Ellen Rae Thiel moved to Boulder), but believe it to have been on Third Avenue, near Main Street. Charles R. Warren pointed out the house pictured here as Rilla’s house where she lived with Judge Elder, and afterwards (all of her subsequent time in Boulder). He showed us the addition Rilla had put on the back part of it (the area behind the downspout on the left side of the house). He would have known because the census taker on the 1880 US Federal Census for Boulder, Jefferson County, Montana visited him and his family two families before visiting Rilla and Alexander J. Elder, so they must have lived very close to each other. I believe it is the “house on Third Ave.” referred to in the 1895 newspaper account further down in this text.

The availability of both household items and fancy goods must have been chancy in the early days of the Old West. Rilla sent a long letter to her parents just before her wedding discussing the Chinese keepsakes she’d sent to several family members. “I will be able to send you a good many rich specimens for Mr. Elder has good opportunities to collect them. He will be around his mining a good deal this winter. I have some specimens that look quite fine to me and wanted to send them but he says ‘Send nothing but the best and I will get you some after that are worth sending.’” At least some of the specimens Mr. Elder collected and gave to Rilla were specimens of silver ore, for she writes her father in November 1880 that she is sending her mother such a specimen to put in their china cupboard with their other treasures.

On the other hand, it was apparently very difficult to get practical goods needed to set up housekeeping in 1879, because in the same letter, Rilla asks for basic provisions to be shipped to her. They included pillows, her looking glass, and the bureau her father had bought her in Chicago, all of which needed to be shipped through a Murphy and Co., which was apparently a moving company. She was particularly concerned about the pillows, saying that if a friend in Boulder couldn’t lend her any, she’d stuff some with strips of newspaper because “I can’t get feathers here.” She also asked to have her saddle shipped, as Mr. Elder had a saddle horse for her to ride.

I don’t know when her parents shipped the other items, but apparently the saddle wasn’t shipped until late October or early November 1880, because Rilla wrote her father November 13, 1880 thanking him for telling her he’d shipped the items. She thought she’d get them about Christmas but incredibly Rilla didn’t actually receive them until the Spring of 1881, for she writes her mother a letter April 8, 1881 thanking her for the saddle and the work her father did to repair it. And “everything in the box is in good condition and it must have been safely housed during the long stormy winter.” I can hope it was only the saddle they shipped later and that she didn’t have to wait a year and a half for her pillows!

The hunting season started in the fall of the year and Rilla tells her parents in November 1880 that “one of the Boulder boys, Johnny Burknes, went to the mountains on a hunting expedition last Monday and came home Thursday with five elk, seven deer, and one antelope.” She said Johnny gave them meat any time he hunts and she had more wild meat than they could eat.

Alexander J. Elder enclosed a separate letter to her parents in Rilla’s April 8,1881 letter describing their household: “We are seated alone before our genial fireside in our humble though neat little house, a cheerful light is on the table, on which is spread in elegant confusion papers and periodicals from many climes. Rilla is seated in her easy chair, her nimble fingers plying the needles upon which she weaves her afghan, now drawing to completion, while she relates in an animated manner some interesting little episode of her early life. In this charming way, we spend our evenings, varying it of course as our inclination and tastes dictate but nearly always at home. Sometimes a half dozen or more of the young people of the Valley come in to spend the evening in which occasion instrumental and vocal music is the order of the evening. Our home is their favorite resort. Such in brief is our home life during the evening.”

Rilla Preston Elder apparently continued to teach school during her marriage, unusual for the time, but maybe not in very small towns in the Old West. She’d signed a contract, she said in her letter home just after her marriage, and I suspect it must have taken small towns months to get teachers. She also taught music lessons, apparently both piano and voice, for she told of a little girl in Boulder, Nellie Trotter, who she was teaching. There were probably other students as well. Alexander J. Elder served his community well. According to the Jefferson County Sentinel, Judge Elder was Superintendent of Schools and also Under Sheriff in 1885.

Once they settled into married life, they established a garden, with flowers and vegetables, and they had planted about 30 trees on their lot by June of 1886. Rilla spoke in a letter to her mother of fruit Mr. Elder had set out, but doesn’t say what kind. They had planted their spreading chestnuts, apparently sent by her parents, and planted them in boxes, hoping they’d grow and having them reminded her of “the old place,” meaning Preston Prairie. They also raised poultry, “we get a great many cackles and a good many eggs.“ She was of course sewing, because ready made clothes were not available, and apparently not even hats because she asked her mother to buy her a trimmed hat in Mt. Carroll, and was willing to pay $5.00 for it and the cost of shipping. She also requested her mother to ask Mrs. Bushee in Mt. Carroll where she could get a pattern of calla lilies to work on canvass. She wanted it for the middle strip of her afghan, and she’d seen Mrs. Bushee embroider an afghan with calla lilies. Patterns of this type were not available in either Helena or Butte, Montana in 1881.

Freebies given to magazine subscribers didn’t start in the 1950s either, for Rilla tells her father in 1880 that she’s subscribed to the Phrenological Journal and received as a premium a plaster of Paris phrenological bust. “It is quite ornamental and I’m going to set it on my piano.” (Phrenology, the study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental faculties, was very popular in the 1880s.) It’s amazing that something so large and breakable could have been packaged well enough to be shipped over the mountains and arrive in Boulder intact. It must have been an expensive promotion for the magazine!

In a September 1888 letter she told her parents of a photographer newly established in town who wanted to photograph their parlor, and she had agreed. But he arrived so early the next morning they weren’t up yet! Like many who move away from home, Rilla was still sending back to Mt. Carroll to order services from familiar merchants, with varying degrees of satisfaction. She complained to her father in the same 1888 letter about sending film or photos for development to a Mt. Carroll photographer who mailed a previous order to her, and spelled her address “Bolder Sitter” even after she’d clearly spelled out for him the correct address. Now she hadn’t received the subsequent order at all and was afraid it was lost in the mail. Like all of us, the refrain was “I’ve paid him enough and have waited long enough.”

Boulder was apparently growing bigger at the same time, for Rilla speaks of the incessant hammering on the new building across the street, but they were happy about the new people who would move in. She liked the style of a new business house being built but complained it obstructed their view of the Court House. (I don’t know if this refers to the old Court House or the new one.)

Arthur Garrett Preston, Rilla’s Brother, Arrives In Jefferson County

Sometime in the spring or summer of 1888, Rilla‘s brother, Arthur Garrett Preston, moved to Elkhorn, Jefferson County. The Boulder Age newspaper for March 28, 1888 reported Arthur G. Preston of Mount Carroll, Illinois was visiting his sister Mrs. A. J. Elder and contemplating locating in Boulder. By October 1888 he was living in (or very near) Elkhorn, a mining town about 16 miles north and east of Boulder (which is now a ghost town).

Arthur worked as a cook in a silver mine. In a letter home in October 1888, Rilla says “probably Arthur has written to you of the frightful accident in the tunnel which I told you so much about. The two forces of workmen were within only a few feet of meeting when the explosion occurred, killing nine and injuring others. I will send you the paper containing the account of the accident if I can find it. They let day light through the tunnel only a day or two after the accident.” Such a story must not have reassured their parents.

These were heady times for Arthur and his wife, Rosa May Hatten. She was born in Missouri, probably Boone County, in September 1864. I don’t know how they met but I believe his sister, Ann Maria (Mariah) Preston was living in Boone County, Missouri in the 1880s. Arthur and Rosa May had married October 2, 1889 in Tacoma, Washington, where her parents moved the family (after living in Missouri). The Jefferson County Sentinel reported in its January 21, 1891 edition “Born to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur G. Preston of Elkhorn, a boy.” This would have been their first child, Samuel Hatten Preston. On June 3, 1891, Arthur Preston (sometimes also called A. G. Preston) was appointed as Justice of the Peace at Elkhorn.

Everything I’ve ever read about Elkhorn indicates he would have been very busy keeping the peace there. The Boulder Age of March 1, 1893 reported that Mrs. A. G. Preston of Elkhorn delivered the silver mining candlestick to be shipped to the World’s Fair at Chicago. She was making arrangements for the display of a picture representing the various operations of mining, which would be sent later.

But misfortune struck them. On September 20, 1893 the Boulder Age reported that “last Monday night, while Mr. and Mrs. A.G. Preston and family were at the dance in Elkhorn, their residence near Elkhorn took fire in some way and was entirely destroyed, with all its contents. All members of the family lost every stitch of clothing except what they had on at the dance. This includes Miss Lillian Hatten, sister of Mrs. Preston, who had been visiting and who had her trunks packed and was to start the next day for the state of Washington.” A week later the same paper reported that the Arthur Preston family had decided to move to Seattle, Washington to make their home. They were especially incited to this move by the fact that Mrs. Preston’s health had never been the best in Elkhorn, owing to the excessive altitude. In keeping with the politeness of the time, the article doesn’t mention that she was also 3 months pregnant at the time or what the stress losing one’s home and all one’s possessions must have had one her. They put a notice in the paper: “To The People of Elkhorn: To those who have so kindly and liberally assisted us in our recent calamity, we wish to assure you of our heartfelt thanks, and sincerely hope that our experiences will never be yours.”

Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Preston
Miss Lillian Hatten
Sammy Boy (Preston)

The Arthur Garrett Preston family stayed in Washington State only a few years and they had moved to Redlands, California by 1898. He died there in 1904.

1888, A Busy Year Ending In Tragedy

1888 was a very busy year for Rilla and Alexander J. Elder and a year which ended badly. Mr. Elder appears to have been particularly busy. From the April 18, 1888 edition of the Boulder Age, “Berendes, Cook, Pierce and Elder are putting in a ditch on 3rd Avenue which will bring water from the Boulder River to irrigate their yards.” Irrigation was apparently necessary in Boulder to keep the dust down and to have enough water to maintain lawns and gardens. The same newspaper reported in May 1888 that “ex-County Commissioner Parsons of Jefferson County has been in Boulder looking after his business affairs. He has large real estate interests here in connection with Judge Elder and T. F. Murray.”

On May 23, 1888 the Boulder Age reported Mrs. A. J. Elder started on a visit to her former home in Mt. Carroll, Illinois. She went by Northern Pacific Railroad, with Judge Elder accompanying her as far as Helena, Montana. Rilla returned home to Montana in August 1888. Judge Elder was busy while she was gone, for on July 18, 1888 the newspaper reported Judge Elder circulated a petition to remove the indebtedness of the Boulder Brass Band for the purchase of uniforms, instruments, etc. In August 1888 it reported Messrs. Elder, Poore, and Thompson were taking steps to procure a patent on their celebrated Mt. Thompson lode. And Rilla and Mr. Elder had just bought a new buggy, were taking almost daily rides in it, and were planning in late October to drive to Arthur’s in Elkhorn the next weekend.

But tragedy struck them when Alexander J. Elder died suddenly November 1, 1888 in Boulder. It was a brief illness, and in some obituaries it was called lumbago, but that is lower back pain and certainly not fatal. One obituary claims he was delirious at the end, so perhaps he had a stroke or an illness. An article on Elkhorn indicates there was a diphtheria epidemic there between September 1888 and August 1889 which killed a lot of children, so perhaps it caused his death too. (Can adults get diphtheria?) Rilla wrote home less than a month beforehand that his health had been better than it had been in a long time. So his death was an enormous shock to everyone.

Alexander J. Elder was lauded in all the obituaries as a uniquely gifted man no one would ever forget and everyone would miss. He was called the Major in some obituaries, but I have yet to determine where he served (he would not have a military title if he’d served in a diplomatic position during the Civil War). He was Justice of the Peace, Superintendent of the Common Schools, and Judge in Jefferson County, Montana. From one of the obituaries, “His storehouse of knowledge, one might way, was complete from the fact that he was a great reader, had traveled much, and had a retentive memory. He was an excellent conversationalist, and his society was sought after and appreciated by all, as he was capable of adapting himself to any class. He was a friend of the laboring man and often made them his associates; yet his polished education and genial disposition caused him to be often sought after for information by those who made greater pretensions than he did….As for his religious views, he might have been peculiar, yet his chain of thought in that direction was very similar to some of the brightest minds of the day. He was what is generally termed a Free Thinker, and there is no doubt that he followed the injunction of the golden rule to the letter.”

He was buried in Boulder Cemetery.

This photo was taken in June 1956 and is included to show the landscape of the surrounding area.

(Find A Grave website has inscription)

After Judge Elder Died

The newspaper reported “Arthur Garrett Preston, brother of Mrs. Rilla P. Elder came down from Elkhorn on receiving news of the death of Mr. Elder and will remain with his sister for the present.” Rilla was well provided for, as Judge Elder had owned large tracts of land in Boulder, including an entire section of Boulder soon to be called the Elder Addition. I don’t know whether Rilla was teaching during the period immediately following her husband’s death, but by August 1889 the Boulder Age reported “The North Boulder public school was opened last Monday under the charge of Mrs. Rilla Preston Elder. The lady is an accomplished teacher and popular with her pupils.” The Jefferson County Sentinel reported Rilla’s cousin, Miss Mary Bliss, spent the spring of 1890 visiting Rilla in Boulder, but returned to Chicago (Oak Park, Illinois) in June. (Her parents were George Jenkins Bliss and Climanda Preston.)

Her cousin must have heard Rilla sing, for in a piece Olive Hagadone wrote about Boulder’s Presbyterian Church in “Boulder: Its Friends and Neighbors,” she reports that Rilla was one of those who sang at the Church’s dedication in April 1890. Newspaper coverage at the time stated “What we enjoyed as much as anything during this solemn occasion was the music by the choir, which consisted of Mrs. T. A. Wickes, organist and alto; Mrs. Rilla P. Elder, soprano; Miss Ruth Kellogg, alto; Prof. Miller, tenor. The singers were all in splendid voice and we thought that Mrs. Elder never did better. The lady, of course, has a cultured voice, and though we have heard her on several occasions, yet this one capped the climax.“

The Sentinel’s July 31, 1890 edition announced “Mrs. Rilla P. Elder will commence school in the Ryan school next Monday. She will probably have about 20 little cherubs to practice her hazel on.” On October 9, 1890, Mrs. Rilla P. Elder sold to George Cowan for $1.00 the last 30 foot of lot 13; all of lot 14, and west 5 ft of lot 15 of Block 25, Elder and Parson’s Addition. Either $1.00 is a typo, or she sold this lot for a nominal $1.00 as a charitable act. She was still teaching though because the Jefferson County Sentinel of December 18, 1890 reported on a program of exercises rendered by Mrs. Elder’s pupils at the close of her school term at Finn Station. There were select readings and songs, several dialogues, and duets between Mrs. Elder and several students.

In January 28, 1891 started teaching of the public school at Basin, Montana, near Boulder, but left in early February because Basin was having a scarlet fever epidemic, returning March 25. It’s apparent from this report that schools closed during epidemics.

Mrs. Rilla P. Elder Suggested as County Superintendent of Schools

The May 14, 1891 edition of the Jefferson County Sentinel announced the resignation of the county Superintendent of Schools, Prof. W. E. Dean, and Mrs. Rilla P. Elder was suggested as a competent person to fill the position. “As it is a position that requires stability of character, learning, and an insight into school matters generally, only one in a thousand is really competent to fill it. But we have one in our midst that is endowed with all these attainments; one who would be ever faithful to the duties of the hour; one whose individual interests from her early womanhood have been with an eye single to the cause of education. We speak now of Mrs. Rilla P. Elder. All know her to be an honest and conscientious worker in the schoolroom and never for one moment allowing her mind to divert therefore. This little campaign, if it might be called such, should not be marred by any political coloring. Only the interests of our children should be taken into consideration. Every man and woman in Jefferson County respects her, and every child loves her. As to competency, there can be no doubt. And she is certainly deserving, because education is her whole study; her mind continually dwells on modes and methods whereby mental training can be no better. She has been present at all the Teacher’s Institutes of the County, and has always been willing to lend a helping hand.”

And on May 21, 1891 the Sentinel stated “there seems to be a general disposition on the part of the people of Jefferson County to have Mrs. Rilla P. Elder appointed County Superintendent.” But it added, “Let’s lay politics aside for once, and work for the right.” But alas, apparently politics couldn’t be laid aside, for June 3rd’s Sentinel announced a Miss Edda Lee Lowery of St. Louis, Montana was appointed County Superintendent of Schools.

Rilla Continues to Teach

Rilla apparently continued teaching, for June 25, 1891’s Sentinel visited her school and “found twenty-five smiling little cherubs industriously trying to solve the question for education. The school was presided over by Mrs. Rilla P. Elder, who is devotedly attached to her scholars, which is surely reciprocated by them. The school room is plenty large, is well ventilated, and as neat as a new pin. And what do you think? We arrived there at a few moments before noon, and the “school marm” kindly invited us to dine with her. Of course the invitation was accepted, and the kind of dinner we partook of at Mrs. Emory Hout’s table would have been plenty good enough for a bridal party.”

Rilla had a rougher time in the fall of 1891, teaching at Finn, Montana but was brought home to Boulder on November 18 due to contracting pneumonia. She was apparently over it in a couple of weeks and looking after her real estate interests for by December 16 she had sold more than 30 lots and some partial lots (presumably part of the Elder addition of Boulder) to Thomas F. Murray. These had been inherited from Alexander J. Elder. On December 17, she closed her school at Finn and gave an exhibition in the evening, after which a dance was held at the depot.

In April 1892 the Boulder Age newspaper reports efforts were being made to build a Catholic Church in Boulder. Mrs. Rilla P. Elder and W. E. Parsons (Alexander J Elder’s business partner) donated 8 lots for the building site, at Fourth and Elder streets. The next month she sold two lots and 4 blocks to other parties in Boulder. She went back to teaching in Basin school for the spring and summer of 1892. And Olive Hagadone quotes from the June 1, 1892 edition of the Boulder Age that Rilla sang at Memorial Day Exercises in Good Templar Hall as part of a quartet; they sang two patriotic songs, titled “They’ll Never Come Back” and “Our Soldier Boy Sleeping.”

Rilla Goes Back To Mt. Carroll To Visit

In the fall of 1892, she took a vacation that would last a year or two and went back to Mt. Carroll to visit her parents, whom the newspaper said she had not seen for “a number of years.” Actually it had only been since the summer of 1888, but it may have seemed much longer ago. Rilla arranged to have a Mr. and Mrs. Logan occupy her house, and it must have looked to her friends like she might be leaving forever because a farewell reception was held in Rilla’s honor at the Opera House in Boulder the Thursday prior to October 13, 1892. It sounds like a lovely occasion, with ice cream, fruit, cake, sandwiches, and coffee being served, a singer sang, and the Boulder Silver Coronet Band played popular melodies. Dance music was played afterwards by a trio composed of an organist, harpist and violinist.

And another tribute to her was made “There is probably no other lady in Jefferson County who enjoys so universally the love and respect of the community as Mrs. Elder. She has been closely allied with everything of a goodly nature ever since Boulder was first started. Her sweet voice was always pitched and ready to help entertain on any and all occasions. She is also an excellent performer on the piano, and many are the evenings that have been spent most pleasantly by her lending her time and talents to the occasions. Mrs. Elder goes to her old home at Mount Carroll, Ill., which will be her headquarters, although most of her time will be spent in visiting friends and having a good time generally.”

Rilla had arrived in Mt. Carroll by November 1892, the Boulder Age reported in its November 16 edition that Rilla had written and she was busy improving her musical education and was taking lessons in the art of school teaching at the Normal School. (This may be been at DeKalb, Illinois but I have no proof of this.)

The Return To Montana in 1895

Rilla apparently moved to Woodville, Montana when she returned to Montana, because the January 9, 1895 edition of the Boulder Age reported she spent the holiday season with friends in Boulder. She returned again in late April to attend the high school graduating ceremony. But she returned in August 1895 to teach again in Boulder, and the September 17, 1895 Boulder Age reported she had added an addition to her residence on Third Avenue. In 1896 she taught the winter session in Boulder and the summer session in Woodville.

The September 16, 1896 Boulder Age reported Rilla had just the prior Friday received word of the death of her mother in Illinois, too late to go back for the funeral. Sarah Garrett Preston died September 8, 1896 in Preston Prairie, Mt. Carroll Township, Carroll County, Illinois. She was born April 16, 1824 in Marietta, Barlow Township, Washington County, Ohio, a child of Horace Garrett and Abula Meade. She had emigrated with her parents to Bureau County, Illinois in 1838 and married Samuel Preston there December 11, 1844. They had immediately moved to his home in Carroll County, Illinois.

Marriage to William Vance Myers

On November 7, 1896 Rilla Preston Elder married William Vance Myers at her home on Third Avenue. According to Olive Hagadone’s “Short Biographies of Jefferson County, Montana,“ he “had settled in Colorado in 1858 or 1859, mining there with Senator W. A. Clark, and came with Clark to Montana in the early 1860s. In 1869 he had a store at old St. Louis (now Hassel) and also in Radersburg." Radersburg was the county seat of Jefferson County at that time (before 1883), and Ellen Rae Thiel believes William Vance Myers may have been an elected official when he lived in Radersburg, and he then moved to Boulder when it became the county seat. He owned a ranch near Radersburg, Montana, (which the papers note he leased in 1899) and was Jefferson County’s Treasurer (since March 1895), elected in 1894. He had been appointed County Commissioner in 1890. Taken from “Society of Montana Pioneers, Volume I,” published by James U. Sanders, Secretary, 1899: “William Vance Myers, son of Isaac S. and Elizabeth (Vance) Myers; born in Fayette County, Ohio, March 24, 1839. Place of departure for Montana, Denver, Colorado; route traveled, across the plains via Forts Halleck and Bridger, Soda Springs, and Mix’s Ferry on the Snake River; arrived at Bannack July 6th, 1863. Occupation: miner, farmer and stock raiser. Residence, Boulder. Treasurer of Jefferson County.”

Rear entrance of new Court House in Boulder, Montana,
where William V. Myers served as County Treasurer.

This photo taken in June 1956.

It appears Rilla may not have taught school during her marriage to William V. Myers, at least there are no newspaper reports of her signing teaching contracts. He was reappointed as a member of the local board of trustees for the Montana State School for the Deaf and Blind. And in April 1897, she wrote a letter home telling her father of working with him at the Treasurer’s Office in the Court House in hopes of being able to assist her husband when the next rush of work came. In that letter she said Mr. Myers’ bond was the equivalent to $350,000, which was enormous for the times. Apparently Rilla herself needed no such bond in order to work with him. In the same letter she talks of how disappointed Mr. Myers is about her father’s refusal to visit them in Montana. “Mr. Myers thinks there is no place like Montana.” In fairness to her father, Samuel Preston, he was 79 years old in 1897 (and would die that October), his wife Sarah Garrett Preston had died September of 1896, and he probably didn’t feel confident to travel.

Letterhead stationery from the Treasurer's Office of Jefferson County Court House, showing the front entrance of the building. Rilla used this stationery to write home.
The name of William V. Vance’s predecessor is printed on it.

Rilla and Mr. Myers had a scare July 10, 1900 “A conflagration in the home of W. V. Myers was narrowly averted last evening. A spark from a parlor match ignited a lace curtain and the blaze was communicated to some upholstered furniture and carpet.” The blazing furniture was thrown outdoors and the flames extinguished; the loss was about $50. The Boulder Age reported March 30, 1901 that Mr. and Mrs. W. V. Myers entertained a few friends very pleasantly Sunday at a 3 o’clock dinner. The color scheme of the dining room was green and each guest was provided a dainty card and shamrock with suitable inscribed verse to enable them to find the places assigned to them.”

Death of William Vance Myers

But on February 12, 1902 William Vance Myers died at age 62. According to his obituary in the Boulder, Montana paper of February 12, 1902, “On Sunday, with a neighborly thoughtfulness for which he was noted, Mr. Myers went to call on an old friend, Mr. Poore, and in doing so he caught cold; Tuesday he became much worse from a stomach trouble and sank rapidly until death came at 12:45 today.“ Besides Rilla, he was survived by two brothers in Greenfield, Iowa. The obituary ended by saying “His character is made known in the designation “Honest Bill Myers” as he has been known in Jefferson county, and his death is a sorrow and a loss to Jefferson county and to the state of which he was a pioneer and well known citizen.“ He is buried in Boulder Cemetery. (Photo taken in June 1956)

Rilla Moved Back To Illinois

As Alexander J. Elder did, William V. Vance provided well for Rilla, leaving her all his property including a well stocked ranch in Broadwater County, Montana. Rilla settled the estate, leased her house in Boulder and then returned to Carroll County on November 12, 1902 to spend the winter with relatives. But she never lived full time in Boulder after that. She studied music at Frances Shimer Academy in Mt. Carroll, and got her degree in piano June 1904. She probably lived on Preston Prairie with her sister Ellen Eliza Preston Downing and her husband, probably in the Old Grout House by the pond, and drove a horse and buggy to classes.

After graduating from Frances Shimer Academy, then took a course at the Northern Illinois Musical Conservatory and sent friends in Boulder a program of a recital she gave there in August 1905. I have yet to find exactly where this Conservatory was. It might have been in Dixon, Lee County, Illinois. Between 1904 - 1905 she also attended Dixon Business College and probably graduated from it.

Rilla’s Trip to Chicago, January 1905

Probably in January 1905, Rilla took a trip to Chicago to see the cultural sights and wrote her sister Ellen a detailed description of it in February. “I heard Mansfield, who is an actor of the first rank, in the Merchant of Venice comedy and in the tragedy of King Richard III. He, you know, was the usurper who caused his two little nephews, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York to be put to death in the Tower of London but an army should rise to place the prince on the throne and unseat himself.

Mansfield was wonderful in Richard III and in Shylock. I also saw Ben Hur which has begun a six weeks run at the Auditorium. The chariot race alone is worth the price of admission. I went Sunday night and heard the Irish comedian at McVicars, Andrew Mack. I took in the Annual Exhibit of Chicago Artists, which made me think of you and wish you were along. I heard Laura’s favorite singer, David Bishfman at the Studebaker Theater and spent nearly a day at the Automobile Show at the Coliseum. Sunday afternoon I heard the popular Hir Hall in the Bush Temple of Music. That’s all!” (My notes for this visit: The actor was probably Richard Mansfield [1857 - 1907], a famous English Shakespearian actor who performed extensively right up to his death in Connecticut. Andrew Mack may have been an actor who performed in comedies, born in Boston in 1863 who died in New York State in 1931. Rilla’s writing of Bishfman is hard to read and may not be the correct spelling. I tried several other possible spellings and came up with nothing. I could find no references to Hir Hall, and nothing for alternate spellings of his name either.)

During the fall and maybe winter of 1906 Rilla apparently lived with her sister Ann Maria Preston, who’d married William Wallace Arnold, formerly of Freedom Township, Carroll County, Illinois and who lived with their two children Capitola (Cappie) and Georgia in Fulton, Missouri. But by the summer of 1907 the Boulder Age reported that Rilla P. Myers had returned to spend the summer in Boulder. However, she stayed in Boulder into late 1908. The Boulder Monitor reported in December 7, 1907 Rilla had converted her dining room into another parlor, caused by the addition of Miss Mosher, who had been Jefferson County School Superintendent, into her family circle as a roomer. Rilla went to Helena, Montana in August 1908 as one of the delegates to the Eastern Star Grand Lodge.

Rilla Moves To Kansas City

On October 10, 1908 the Boulder Monitor reported Rilla had left for Los Angeles, California to take the position of governess in a wealthy family who did considerable traveling. I have not yet found the name of these people or wherever they went. But by May 1909 Rilla had returned briefly to Boulder to sell her house to L. H. Graves and his family, and look after her business interests. She spent only a few days there and then moved to Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas City had always been a wide open town. It was the gateway to the Old West and even today (2006) the pasture land adjacent to a small museum at the edge of next door Independence. Missouri shows the ruts made by wagons heading West. It was a huge cattle town, with an enormous slaughterhouse district, a lot of bawdy places, and rough sections of town. At the same time, it was a civilized, cultural place, with excellent libraries, schools, and cultivated people. I have no idea why Rilla chose Kansas City as her home, but I have to think she must have known someone there. After all, she would have been 57 years old, probably still an adventurer, but perhaps not as likely to go to some area where she knew no one. Fulton, Missouri was half way across Missouri, so she wouldn’t have been close to her sister and their family.

Rilla lived in Kansas City until about 1929. While there, she lived at the following addresses: 515 Brighton Ave, Kansas City, Missouri, 810 Elmwood Ave. Kansas City, Missouri and 2321 Farrow Ave. Kansas City, Kansas. She lived in the Brighton Ave. house first, but probably not for long, because when I looked it up I found that part of Brighton had been torn down for the recess yard of a large school. Neighbors couldn’t tell me when it had been built, but the school’s architecture looked like about 1910 to me. She moved to the 810 Elmwood Ave. house next. (In the photo as it looked in April 2004)

Rilla Moves Back To Mt. Carroll

Rilla always dressed elegantly even late in life, with beautiful clothes and elaborate jewelry and cut quite a swath, even as an older person. By the late 1920s she was nearly 80 years old and still dressed in elegant long Victorian dresses, then out of fashion, which probably made her a target as a single woman. Her house had been burglarized and Rilla was attacked at least twice in Kansas City, and on the last time she was knocked to the ground and robbed. Even though she was not badly hurt, the police called her sister in Ellen in Mt. Carroll. Ellen was herself a widow since January 1925, and she convinced Rilla to move back to Mt. Carroll and live with her in her huge Victorian house at 105 North Clay Street, now known as the Uriah Green house. Rilla moved sometime between June 15, 1929 (my parents’ wedding date, and she’d sent them a wonderful honeymoon basket from Kansas City) and Sunday, June 30, 1929 when Mother noted in her diary she’d visited Rilla at her Grandmother Downing’s at Mt. Carroll..

The Downing Home in Mt. Carroll now known as the Uriah Green House 105 N. Clay Street 1910-1920

Vivian Downing Luettig was 9 years old when Rilla returned and she always remembered it. Vivian’s father, (Harvey) Loomer Downing (II), had received word that Rilla had arrived at his mother’s house in Mt. Carroll during the day. Loomer and his wife Eva Belle got their children Preston, Georgia, and Vivian all dressed up that evening to go to see Rilla. Loomer himself probably hadn’t seen her for nearly 25 years. They went in the front door and there at the top of this elegant staircase was Aunt Rilla, beautifully dressed in purple velvet with lots of jewelry including necklaces, a brooch, and rings. She swept down the staircase, threw her arms around Loomer, her nephew, gave him a big kiss, and said “Why Loomie, you are so handsome!” Vivian had never seen anyone like her.

Through their high school days, Vivian and Georgia would often spend time with their Grandma. They were both impressed by how beautifully Rilla played the piano and Ellen, their grandmother, would stand by the piano and sing as beautifully as if they were performing for a large group and not just two little girls. Ellen and Rilla were by then way up in their 80s. Rilla would tell children their fortunes, using playing cards. She had a copy of “The Fortune Telling Birthday Book” by Madame Ghesiri, copyrighted 1910, which she must have used. It has a general horoscope for each birth date and blank pages onto which Rilla had written what each of the playing cards meant when telling fortunes. Vivian also remembered Rilla loved animals and always asked the children about their dogs, cats, and kittens on the farm.

My cousin Marilyn Getz Becker spent some of her childhood in the 1930s with her great grandmother, Ellen, and Rilla. She reports that when you entered their home at 105 North Clay Street, they were usually sitting in their parlor on the south side of the house, just to the right after you entered the front door. They would often be sitting in Victorian cameo back chairs upholstered in velvet and accented with heads of famous authors and composers carved in black walnut. Rilla always kept a dish of candy on a nearby table to pass to visitors, usually stuffed dates rolled in powdered or granulated sugar.

More Family Memories of Aunt Rilla

My mother, Florence L. Downing Horner, also had wonderful memories of Aunt Rilla. Shortly after Rilla moved back to Mt. Carroll, and my parents were first married, Mother offered to take Rilla out for a ride into the country to Preston Prairie where she had lived in her childhood and to any other place she wanted. When Mother arrived, Rilla was dressed up, wearing a sort of rust colored silk dress, nice jewelry and probably a hat. Mother didn’t remember all the places she took her but she knew she took her to lunch at Ginie’s Restaurant in Savanna.

Mother continues “Another time she and Reid (my father) visited Grandma and Aunt Rilla and Reid apologized for his appearance as he had been out hunting and was wearing his hunting clothes. Aunt Rilla said ‘Oh that’s all right Reid, we’re glad to see anyone with pants on.’” He was always interested to hear about the guns owned by her first husband, Mr. Elder, but he never could get much information about them. Aunt Rilla would say “He had some very fine guns. I wish I knew what became of them for they would be nice keepsakes for you children to have,’ and Reid wished so too!”

Rilla was interested in history and genealogy all her life, as was her father and his family before him. Her first cousin, Lavisa Ferrin Hollinger worked for years on a huge family tree, completed in 1916, which included the Preston family and ancestors back to the 1400s. Quoting a letter written by Ellen Eliza Preston Downing dated March 24, 1912 to her sister Maria Preston Arnold, "I have copied Lavisa's notes and she made some diagrams. We are twice descended from Gov. Dudley, and from Gov. Leete. Four times from Lieut. Samuel Smith and three times from Samuel Gardner. Our ancestor Nathaniel Foote of Wethersfield is the ancestor of Correlia O'Neal. Mrs. Sturrey (very hard to read), Mrs. Hollingsworth and their brothers, the Footes. Gov. Thomas Dudley, Mass. Gov. William Leete, Gov. William Brentan, of R.I., Rev. John Eliot, the Apostle to the Indians, Rev. Joseph Eliot, his son. Lieut. Samuel Smith and his son Chileal were the ancestors of Mary Lyon, founder of Mt Holyoke College. The widow of Nathaniel Foote of Wethersfield married Gov. Thomas Welles. As Rilla said ‘How can we ever be worthy of such ancestors?’"

Mother continues, “In later years when Grandma and Aunt Rilla were in their upper 80s or nearly 90 years old, Reid and I stopped in to see them. Aunt Rilla was rocking back and forth and during the conversation said ‘Yes, Ell and I are getting pretty old. I guess we’re never going to die.’” My mother always regretted not asking Rilla about her life. And apparently Rilla didn’t talk much about the past, at least not to anyone who wrote it down. Her sister Ellen had written articles on her own early days on Preston Prairie but so far as it is known, no one came to interview Rilla. It’s too bad; they would have heard a good story.

Death of Aurilla Preston Elder Myers

In their final years, both Ellen and Rilla fell, although not at the same time. Ellen broke her hip later, I think in 1938. Rilla broke her leg November 10, 1932 while in the basement of the house at 105 North Clay Street. Two neighbor men were called to help Rilla up the basement stairs afterwards and when they’d gotten her comfortably situated on her bed she took her purse out of her bosom and paid them right then. She lived on more than another 7 years. Marilyn Getz Becker remembers going to see her afterwards and she would be sitting in the parlor in her wheelchair, smiling and being part of the conversation.

On the morning of July 5th, 1940, a neighbor, Mrs. Heimbaugh, an elderly lady who lived in a little house just behind 105 North Clay Street, was giving her a sponge bath when Rilla said “Oh, I wish I was dead,” and just laid back on the pillow and died. According to Rilla’s death certificate, she died of a cerebral hemorrhage, brought on by senility. But that was apparently a standard description of death in an older person at that time. She definitely had the cerebral hemorrhage at the last, but all the members of my mother’s generation recall Rilla being mentally alert right at the last.

From Florence L. Downing Horner’s account of the funeral, Reverend Seitner of the Mount Carroll Baptist Church preached Rilla’s funeral sermon, which was very impressive, based only on her pioneer heritage and the facts of her life which he had learned from others for he hadn’t known her. Her obituary, at least the only one I have, was extremely short.

She was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Mt. Carroll, on July 7, 1940. The lot is at the eastern edge of the cemetery and if the trees were not there, it would from a distance overlook Market Street in Mt. Carroll. Point Rock Park is down a steep path below it. She is buried adjacent to her youngest sister, Laura Williams and her husband, Orren Monroe Williams.

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