Written by Diane Hitchcock-Owens


The family of Emiline Ellen Milligan was among the first citizens of Dakota Territory. They helped to build not only the city of Grand Forks but also made contributions to the development of the state at large.

Emiline Ellen Milligan was born on Hallowe'en, October 31, 1835, in Patton twp., Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, a short distance east of Pittsburg. Family tradition has a story that the nurse caring for the mother and baby was afraid the "witches would carry her (Emiline) away.” Her mother said "Give her to me, I'm not afraid."

Emiline was from a family with a rich heritage in the Presbyterian Ministry. Her father’s family were among the French Huguenots who originated in Saxony and Normandy. The family of Samuel Milligan, the earliest ancestor found thus far, was part of an “extreme” brand of Presbyterians who were forced from their homelands in France to Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 1630's. During this time many suffered horrendous tortures for their religious beliefs. Again, due to religious persecutions, the family left Scotland for county Down, Ireland, about 1754. It is here Samuel, the earliest known progenitor of this Milligan family, resided for sixteen years before sailing for America in 1770. He settled on lands near Saville, Madison twp., Perry County, Pennsylvania. At that time Perry County was part of Cumberland County. The family records are found at Carlisle, county seat of Cumberland County.

Subsequent generations continued to live at the old home place built by Samuel. Samuel and his family were staunch Presbyterians. He and his wife are buried in the Centre Presbyterian Church cemetery in Madison Township.

Three sons of David Milligan, son of Samuel, moved to Indiana.

Emiline’s father was another son of David, Robert, who married Mary Ann Shortess.

Emiline’s mother, Mary Ann Shortess, descended from the Shortess family that immigrated from England in 1766. This family was of Scot-Irish descent. While in England , the earliest found ancestor thus far, Thomas Shortess was a contractor for the King. He built some barracks and by some "foul play" his records were lost and he was ruined financially. At this point he left for America, leaving sons, Thomas and Edwin behind. It’s been reported descendants of these men became active in the political strife between the Irish and English.

The Shortess family moved "over the mountain" into Fishing Creek and Sherman's Creek Valleys (presently Perry County) where Thomas’ son, Alexander (I), and his sons, Andrew and Alexander (II), acquired acres of land.

Andrew served under Lt. John Alexander in 1783, 2nd Battalion (Cumberland County) during the Revolutionary War. Alexander (II) was active in the Methodist Episcopal and United Brethren ministries where he served as educator and minister.

Emiline’s line of descent is through Alexander (II). Alexander married Margaret Owen who was a descendant of Griffith Owen. Griffith Owen immigarted from Wales in 1712. He is said to be a descendant of Griffith Owen who emigrated in 1684 on the ship the Vine.

Griffith Owen resided in in Bucks Co., Pennsylvania, where in 1727 where he owned 500 acres. He served as constable in November of 1730. He also served in the militia under Col. Alexander Graydon's regiment as Capt. of the Associators French and Indian War and was Captain of Associated Regiments of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Family tradition says he was among the signers of the "Oath of Allegiance." Griffith joined on 26 December 1721 the Montgomery Methodist Church although he may have been a Quaker prior to this time.

Alexander (II) Shortess was active in the Methodist Episcopal and United Brethren ministries where he served as educator and minister.

Andrew Shortess, son of Thomas, remained in Pennsylvania he was a carpenter by occupation. He belonged to the Methodist -Episcopal Church and his home was on the circuit ministry. About 1830 Andrew and his family, with the exception of his brother Alexander, and his son, Thomas, sold their land and moved westward to Barberton and Akron, Ohio, where Andrew died in 1839.

Another son of Andrew, Robert Shortess, went west with the Preoria Party as part of the First Provisional Government of Oregon Territory. He stayed at the Whitman Mission for a while. He married an Indian and had a daughter, Susan. Upon the early death of his wife, Robert sent his young daughter back east to New York where she was educated. Robert was a cousin of Emiline Ellen Milligan.

Andrew’s sister, Susanna moved to Indiana with her husband, John Gailey White, in 1850. They were residing in Warrick County in 1870.

Emiline grew up near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where her family had joined the Presbyterian ministry into the western frontier. She attended the Wilkinsburg Academy in Pennsylvania and a school her Uncle John Milligan had in Waveland, Indiana. She attended Waverly Seminary in Virginia in 1853 which was a school for young girls run by her father's cousin, Bella Milligan. Bella was the daughter, of Joseph Milligan. Joseph was a book seller in Georgetown (near Washington, D.C.) Joseph appraised the library of Thomas Jefferson when Congress was establishing the Library of Congress. When Congress bought Jefferson's library, Joseph supervised the moving of the books which was transported by ox cart.

Emiline also had a second cousin, John Linn Milligan, who was chaplain Pennsylvania Penitentiary in Allegheny County for several years. .He was later appointed by President Arthur to represent the US government at the International Prison Congress in Stockholm.

Emiline married Robert Carothers.Robert grew up near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where his family was involved in the Presbyterian ministry. He was educated at Washington and Jefferson College and Western Theological Seminary in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He did some missionary work in Wisconsin prior to his marriage.

Robert was the son of Charles Carothers who was a descendant of James Carothers. About 1720 James Carothers followed the usual course of emigration from Scotland to Northern Ireland. In 1765 the four children of the Scottish immigrant to Ireland came to America and settled in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. There were twin brothers in this group, James and Andrew who married sisters Nancy and Mary Neely. James came west in the command of General John Armstrong and took part in the victorious battle against the Indians at Kittaning Point. After the close of the French and Indian War James settled in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, on a farm called The Loop. He was twice married and had a family of fourteen children. Charles, is reported to be one of the fourteen.

Charles went to Allegheny County about 1800 and bought a farm near Turtle Creek. He attended Beulah Church where he served as elder and precentor. He had four sons, Robert, James, William, Charles, and one daughter, Ellen.

Robert’s brother, Joseph Criswell Carothers, was a prisoner and chaplain at the notorius Confederate prison camp, Andersonville.

In 1836 Charles Carothers, Sr. and his eldest son Robert went out from Beulah Chruch where both were elders and joined 37 others in orgainzed the Presbyterian Church at Cross Roads at Monroeville. It is here Emiline met her future husband.

Emiline and Robert had six children, all who grew to adulthood. About 1878 the family moved to Vinton, Iowa, where Robert served as minister and president of the College of the Blind in Vinton. Their daughter, Mary, who was blind, died there in 1879. Robert died two years later, leaving Emiline a widow at the age of forty-seven years. Emiline then returned to Pennsylvania for a short time before leaving by rail for Dakota Territory with her five children between the ages of twenty-five and ten years. There she lived until her death at the age of ninety-three.

Emiline's cousin (thru her aunt Sally Milligan-Swisshelm) was Jane Cannon Grey, an early feminist and abolistionist.

For more on related families go to Home Page of Diane Hitchcock-Owens

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