A minor family reunion in church Sunday brought this photo to mind, taken northeast of Chariton at a Miller family reunion during the late 1950s and portraying the six children of Joseph Cyrus and Mary Elizabeth (Clair) Miller who were living at the time. From left in the front row are my grandfather, William Ambrose Miller, and his sisters Elizabeth (Miller) Mason and Cynthia (Miller) Abrahamson. Standing behind are J. Clair Miller, Easter (Miller) Brenaman and Jeremiah Miller. Two siblings already had died --- Emma (Miller) Taylor and Ada (Miller) Dachenbach.
All of the eight were born, married, lived and died in Lucas County. Between them, they produced 40 children, first-cousins who all were raised in Lucas County although a couple of them were born elsewhere. It was this second generation (actually the fourth generation of Millers to live in Lucas County, if you count my great-great-great-grandfather, William Miller II, who lived here off and on during the 1840s and 1850s) that scattered for reasons ranging from the great depression of the 1930s to the Second World War.
Even when I was a kid, however, astonishing numbers still turned up for annual family reunions, events that faded and then ceased as my grandfather and his generation died.
The Steinbach cousins here for a family funeral over the weekend from across the country were the daughter and grandchildren of J. Clair Miller and his wife, Vesta (Brenaman) Miller. Great-aunt Vesta was a sister of Aunt Easter's husband, Frank Brenaman, producing a double dose of relationship. This accounting doesn't even take into consideration the vast Steinbach conspiracy. Nor does it go into the fact that two other Steinbachs, in church every Sunday, and this Myers, almost always there, too, were related to all of the other Steinbachs but not to each other.
This is one illustration of why it used to be fairly accurate to say, if you live in Lucas County and aren't related to everyone at least you're related to someone who is.
This isn't true any more, and I'm not sentimental about that. Lucas County has exported a lot of talent that has enriched other places, but imported a lot, too. A substantial percentage, if not the majority, of those prodding and pushing us into the 21st century (sometimes kicking and screaming) is in one way or another fresh talent.
That doesn't mean we ever should lose track of our interrelatedness, or of where we come from. The trick is to continue to attract lively, innovative, diverse talent --- and make those who possess it and are willing to share it --- no matter where they were born --- feel related, too.