Mrs. Jessie Miller was deemed to be insane after she demanded to be allowed to preach during a revival meeting at the Methodist church in the spring of 1877. She was sent to the asylum at Fulton, Missouri, for treatment and was released that autumn. In October, her husband behaved in ways that drew the attention of her neighbors and law enforcement.

In the midst of what the press called “the Miller muddle,” Mr. Miller wrote a letter to the Democrat in which he purported to explain his side of the events. However, the letter only created more confusion.

Miller accused the Bazoo and several people he doesn’t adequately identify of spreading false information. Although he wrote to the Democrat that he felt it was his “duty” to let the public know what was going on, he appeared to assume the public was well informed about the events, and “leaves it to the public” to determine the accuracy of what happened.

He began by writing that he would let the public determine whether his wife’s actions were “those of a sane person.”

Neighbors reported Miller had treated his wife badly and exacerbated her mental instability. Miller claimed neighbors had influenced his wife against him. He specifically mentioned Thomas Garry and a Miss Biddle. Miller then called on the Rev. Marshall of the Methodist Church and its “investigating committee” to verify he had always treated his wife “kindly” and that the disputes were not between himself and his wife, but between the police, Thomas Garry, and himself.

Miller’s explanation of the event involving Mis Biddle are extremely vague. Miller alleged Miss Biddle wrote to the Bazoo, which then printed a demand that Garry respond to her letters. Miller responded by noting he had not written any letters to Miss Biddle, but he admitted that after her “continued requests and pitiful stories,” he did write to her to say if she would come to see him he “would do what he could for her.” Again, Miller seems to assume the public was aware of what had occurred.

It appears Miss Biddle was living at the Miller home and was expected to cook for Miller, for he complained he had been forced to prepare his own breakfast. He implied Garry was living in the Miller home and that “their immoral conduct” had become intolerable.

Miller didn’t provide any specific evidence of immorality but seemed to believe Biddle and Garry were trying to turn Mrs. Miller against his and drive him from their family home. He accused Garry of threatening him with a revolver. Garry accused Miller of threatening him with a hatchet.

The question of who had a right to be in the Miller home was complicated by the fact the property had been purchased with Mrs. Miller’s money, but improvements had been made with money Miller borrowed from a savings and loan association.

The Miller muddle deteriorated from a bad situation to a “he said/she said” dispute in which none of the parties could or would give all the information needed. It does seem, however, that money or property ownership was at the bottom of everything.

 

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