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McMillan, Thomas W. 1874-1940


Posted By: Volunteer
Date: 8/6/2017 at 18:05:12

The Mt. Pleasant News
Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
Nov. 20, 1940
Pg 2


The death of Thomas W. McMillan loses this writer a long and valued friendship. By his death this community has lost an institution. For Thomas W. McMillan, while a man of character, a citizen of good repute, bearing a name honored in this community for a century, a public servant of rare fidelity and integrity, of clear vision, of sound judgment, and of notable achievement and while vested with all of these estimable and fully acknowledged values, he, in his relations to the community, as a whole, WAS an institution.

The municipal utilities of this town, the public parks of Mt. Pleasant, especially Saunders Grove, will long remain as memorials to his genius. His devotion and his jealous affection for these, his wards, for whom he gave the fullest measure of his ability.

How well we remember the old days of the water works down on Big Creek, and Engineer Walsh. Here McMillan, then a youth, spent every possible spare hour, day or night, working without pay, hauling out ashes, wiping and cleaning, helping with zest anything of a mechanical nature. Here he laid the footing course for his later career, and unconsciously laid the foundation for the present splendid municipal water system.

Then, too, we well remember how at the first and primitive electric light plant, down at the present Gas works, McMillan, spent many hours, without pay, cleaning, doing odd jobs, helping with the work and storing up information and experience, which was to equip him for his later sphere of influence and constructive opportunities.

Then the town took over the light plant, and it was natural that McMillan should be employed, first as night engineer, then as day engineer, and little more than thirty-fives years ago, upon the resignation of Superintendent Green, the council appointed McMillan to the vacancy.

What he accomplished with the advice and assent of his town council, and the loyal assistance of his men, can only be appreciated by those of us, who recall the insignificance of the municipal plant of thirty-five years ago, and understand its commanding position today, among the municipal plants of the middle west.

As councilmen became more and more aware of the ability, the genius, the sound judgment of Mr. McMillan, they placed on his shoulders added burdens and responsibilities; the street department, the public parks department, the water department, until he was made city manager, and enjoying the fullest confidence of his council in his loyalty, his integrity and his consummate management.

There is not a rod of water main, there is not a fire hydrant, there is not a part or parcel of the water department and its equipment that has not been placed, or erected, under his personal or directed supervision. The same with our admirable sewer system, with our municipal ice plant, with our stone quarry and equipment, all stamped with the genius of Mr. McMillan.

But perhaps nowhere is more fully recognized the touch of Mr. McMillan's affection and devotion to the community than down in the Grove. The whole area mirrors the little understood poetical and artistic side of Mr. McMillan's make-up. While one hand was busy and calloused with the mechanical demands of machinery and equipment, the other hand was sketching new vistas, new nooks and attractions for the Grove. Most of the shrubbery is native and moved into the Grove. The flowers, the playgrounds, the fire places, the drives, little suspected or understood appreciation of the quiet beauty and music of nature.

And now Thomas W. McMullan has come to the close of his stewardship with vision still keen, judgment still sound, integrity unsullied. He has closed the book and they balance. He has folded his hands in eternal rest and they are clean.

We pay tribute to a friend and a friendship covering nearly half a century. In his life, and by his life, the McMillan name, contemporaneous with the hundred year life of the community, remains untarnished and our parks and pleasure grounds are the living memorial of a rare public servant.

Turning from Thomas Woodworth McMillan as a public institution, to him as a person, we find he was born of excellent stock on July 3, 1874 on a farm just outside the northwest corner of the city of Mt. Pleasant limits, the son of Charles and Mary Woodworth McMillan. And as we have often driven out by the old place together, he would locate the old homestead, the old schoolhouse and the boyhood scenes which always remain green in the mature years.

Mr. McMillan was one of five children of the family. His sister, Mary McMillan Schaffner, and his brother, George McMillan, died some years ago, and his sister, Mrs. Sara McKean of Jackson, Wyoming, and his brother, Warren of Aurora, are still living.

The McMillan family was among the first to settle about Mt. Pleasant and during the century the name has been held in the highest respect. Mr. McMillan's grandfather was a general officer in the war of 1812, and his uncle, Henry McMillan, was the first city clerk of Mt. Pleasant. The Samples, and Davis families of Rome were relatives and they financed and operated the old Pork Packing works on what is now part of Saunders Grove. A marker now designating the site was placed there by Mr. McMillan.

Mr. McMillan lost his father on Feb. 7, 1905, and from that time he and his widowed mother were constant companions, until her death in April, 1920. Left alone, his sister, Mrs. Sara McKean, came here to make a home for him and he educated her son, Sidney, who is making for himself a big mark in the world of today.

On October 14, 1924, Mr. McMillan was married at Monmouth, Ill., to Miss Orpha Morrow, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Morrow, who operated the well-remembered grocery store of which Taylor grocery is the continuing store, of many years on the same location.

The marriage was preeminently a happy one and their sixteen years of companionship will, in retrospect, be a great solace and comfort, to the bereaved wife. Memories, refreshed by hundreds of photographs, hundreds of books, hundreds of incidents that have punctuated and phrased and interrogated and illuminated, will be kept green as long as memories last.

Mr. and Mrs. McMillan loved to travel, not only to move over long distances and to far and important places, but to explore together in perfect pleasure, not only the highways, but the byways of the country, and their many long trips together covering every state in the Union, Canada and Mexico to all the great scenic areas, to most of the greatest historic places, to most of the more romantic places of the north and the south, and the east and the west.

Few people, of this community at least, have so comprehensively surveyed the high places and the low places, the wide spaces and the restricted places, the plains and the mountains, the hills and the valleys, the great cities and the remote communities, as have Mr. and Mrs. Thomas McMillan. They were companions and walked along the pleasant paths of life hand in hand, happy, content and secure.

Mrs. McMillan will remain where she has lived, and lend her life bravely to what the future has in store for her. She will devote much of her time to literary work, short stories and verse. Few realize, among her acquaintances, that her talent has in a sense turned into gold, for of recent years her contributions to the literary press, have resulted in a substantial financial return. Mrs. McMillan's heart throbs in these dark hours are to be shared with her friends in this simple verse from her pen:

Life's beautiful race is ended;
The runner, and his little white dog
Have reached the crest of the hill, and over;
A deep impenetrable fog
Envelopes the hill, and vision is lost.
Men call it Death, for mists obscure
The sun in its risings and settings, and hide
The Glory beyond. A light too bright
For eyes of mortals to endure!


Henry Obituaries maintained by Constance McDaniel Hall.
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