I'd like to introduce you to Dick's grandmother, Olive Clifton Dullum, who is Dick's mother's mother. I will also unravel her relationship to Thomas Edison's second wife, Mina Miller. In 1914, Olive opened a boarding house eleven miles northeast of Brainerd in the little community of Woodrow, which was named after President Woodrow Wilson. It was near an underground mine first called the Wilcox Mine, then the name was changed to Omaha Mine when a new mining company took over. With capacity to sleep forty-two miners at $1.00 a day, the two-story 24x60-foot hotel building built by Dick's grandfather, John Dullum, had a general store and post office in the front part of the building. (The photo below is the back side of the building facing the barn.) Before moving to Woodrow, the Dullums lived in Wright, Minnesota where Olive was a teacher and John owned sawmills. It's likely that John built the hotel from lumber sawed at his mill. Although the lodging portion of her business would fill one's day, Olive and a hired girl also prepared meals and packed dinner pails for the miners who worked round-the-clock shifts.
In her weekly Farmer's Wife column in the Brainerd Dispatch that she wrote for twenty-five years, Olive stated, "When the mine closed down (five years later in 1919 after the mining company went bankrupt), I had a big empty building, but you can't live on that. Well, we looked around for some land to plant. We had no horses or machinery. The neighbors loaned us their team and we opened up small patches and planted common vegetables. After a time, we could afford a $49 cow and I made butter to sell. We tried chickens and they helped some. There were a few jobs at what you'd now consider very poor pay, but we didn't join the W.P.A gang or go on any relief. In general, when you go broke, use your head. Don't go begging, go to work." I had the privilege of knowing this fiercely independent woman who continued to live in her boarding house after her husband John's death in 1963 until her death in 1973.
Olive, proud of the fact that she was related to Thomas Edison's second wife, Mina Miller, spoke of a family reunion in Wisconsin when she met Thomas Edison as a young girl. So, I set out to discover the relationship. I began by reading a brief biography by John D. Venable titled Mina Miller Edison Daughter, Wife and Mother of Inventors that I had purchased when we recently visited Thomas Edison's home in West Orange, New Jersey. Then, using ancestry.com, I researched the lineage of Mina Miller Edison and Eliza Miller Clifton, who was Olive Dullum's mother. For three days, from morning to night, I pored over old census records, marriage and death certificates, passport applications, grave records, and family trees created by others doing similar searches. I made copies and took pages of notes. I learned names and lineage. I learned education and job history. I learned where lives took root and the location where the two families intersected (Ohio). But, I was still struggling to connect the two women generationally. Then, a breakthrough. In a box of old family photos, I found this handwritten family tree.
There, near the bottom, in Olive Clifton Dullum's handwriting... "My mother's Uncle Miller in Ohio invented the First Reaper." I know from my online research that she is referring to Lewis Miller 1829-1899, who had eleven children... one named Mina Miller. The crucial words are "my mother's uncle." So, this means that Olive's mother, Eliza Miller Clifton 1837-1923 (Dick's great grandmother), is a first cousin to Mina Miller Edison 1865-1947. Proceeding through the generations, this means that Dick's grandmother Olive Clifton Dullum is a second cousin to Mina Miller Edison and... insert drum roll... Dick is a third cousin to Thomas Edison's second wife Mina Miller.
(Left Photo) First cousins Mina Miller Edison in her West Orange, New Jersey Glenmont Estate second-floor office in 1929 that she shared with Thomas Edison and (Right Photo) Eliza Miller Clifton at her home in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota that she shared with her husband Edward Clifton.