05 March 2011
When the children were young, we recited this verse:
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy,
My grandfather, William Francis Miller, Sr., was called Fuzzy because he always had his hair trimmed close to the skin. (In his older years, his youngest son, Uncle Bill, would trim it for him.) He was born in Lyons, New York but spent most of his life in Batavia, where he raised his family. There were 10 children, 7 of whom grew to adulthood. His wife, Lennie, died from complications during childbirth of the 10th child, Thomas, who was stillborn; daughter Rachel died at 4 months from cholera; their first daughter, Violet, died in her first year also. He was a lather, said to be the fastest in that area. Before plaster board, lath strips (about 1 inch by ¼ inch) were attached to the studs of a building to hold the plaster. The laths were spaced about 1/2 inch apart so the mason could force the plaster through the spaces, which allowed the plaster to stick to the wall. I can imagine it was difficult to keep the family together in those days while working throughout the county. His sister-in-law wanted to take some of the children but he refused. The family grew up relying on one another for support. In 1893, he was kicked in the leg by a horse; the break was not set properly and caused him to limp and use a cane. In 1905, he made the newspaper by defending his 16-year old daughter from the unwanted attentions of a stonemason; he was fined and his revolver confiscated. In his elder years, Fuzzy lived with his oldest daughter in Rochester where he passed away at age 93.
The photo at the top shows Fuzzy eating a slice of home-made pie; the other, in Rochester, returning from a local saloon where he enjoyed a glass of beer and a cigar when in his 90's.