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COVID cancels 100th wedding anniversary and family reunion

By PETER MILLER

All was set at the East town of Dunkirk fire hall for a chicken barbecue on July 14, 2020, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the marriage of James Linus Miller and Dorothea Veronica Bohn. But it happened only in our dreams.

James L. Miller was born on November 17, 1900, the youngest of four. He grew up on the family farm that his father had purchased from Dr. Williams – thus Williams Street. In 1920 he married Dorothea V. Bohn from Fredonia at St. Mary’s Church. He began household in a four-room cottage, the first dwelling built on Williams Street. He lived there most of his life eventually building a second story to accommodate the growing family. Unable to support the seven children working on the farm, he turned to bootlegging during prohibition. Though he was never caught, the farm was raided twice and the equipment confiscated.

After prohibition he tended bar for his father-in-law to supplement the farm income. Soon he was able to purchase his own bar at 201 Main Street in Dunkirk. It was very popular for its outstanding Friday fish fries and the largest dancefloor in a bar in the city of world record number of bars. He ran Miller’sTtavern for 25 years until 1961.

The sale of the tavern funded the next adventure — a chicken ranch. At its peak, there were 30,000 birds on Williams Street and 30,000 in Sinclairville.

Finally retiring in his 70s, he was awarded the Southwestern Fireman of the Year Award. Besides being fire chief in the city of Dunkirk during which time he saved the life of a Forestville lad from drowning, he became the prime mover in establishing the East town of Dunkirk Fire Company where he also served as Fire Chief.

With his passing in 1980, came the end of the family farms in Chautauqua County.

Dorothea Vveronica Bohn was born on May 28, 1901, as she always said, “The year McKinley was assassinated!” She was the first born of seven children in the second marriage of her father. When she was 16, her mother passed on and she quit school to work for Fredonia Seed company to pay the bills for her siblings. (She claimed her father tossed her a fifty cent piece every weekend as his contribution to the family’s financial needs.

In 1920 she married her high school sweetheart from St. Mary’s Academy, Jim Miller. “I went from indoor plumbing and electricity to a four room cottage with an outdoor well and outhouse!” Despite the hardships, she birthed seven children before prohibition and made news in the Dunkirk Observer where a headline read, “Farmer’s wife drives off Feds with a kitchen broom!”

With the loss of two children, Dorothea raised thirteen other children, all of whom attended St. Mary’s Academy with constant support from their mother who could out spell, out type and outthink most of her children most of the time.

Active in church, school and the East town of Dunkirk Lady’s Auxiliary, Dorothea lived a full and rewarding life. In 1984 she joined her husband. Surviving are five of the thirteen, the youngest turning 80 in August and the eldest turning 100 on June 4 – five weeks after her Aunt Mary Lynch Cummings who was featured in the OBSERVER a month ago.

Peter Miller is a Dunkirk resident.

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