Lycoming County Women's History Project

 

MYRTLE MILLER ANDERSON

Myrtle Miller Anderson, on right, and Blue Eyes.

Myrtle Miller Anderson was born in Lycoming County, but spent most of her life among Native Americans in South Dakota. Born in 1870, she grew up in the Salladasburg area with her father, Henry (a schoolteacher and Civil War veteran), her mother Amanda, and brothers, Harry and Orville. Myrtle Miller was 25 when she married John Alvin Anderson and went with him to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where he had a job as manager of the J. P. Jordan Indian Trading Post. They lived on the reservation for over 40 years.

Myrtle wrote two short memoirs for the South Dakota Federated Women’s Club. Those essays--Myrtle Miller and John A. Anderson and John A. Anderson—are online and in the collection of the Lycoming County Historical Society.

John Anderson, a Swedish immigrant with family ties to Williamsport, was a photographer with studios in Williamsport and in South Dakota. He had been employed by Gen. George Crook of the U.S. Army as a civilian photographer charged with documenting the transition of Native Americans from life on the open plains to life on the reservations.

The Rosebud Indian Reservation was established in 1889 and was the home of Sicangu Lakota, part of the Sioux nation. When John and Myrtle arrived there only six years later, the people were in dire straits. The buffalo were gone; the people were starving. The last generation of chiefs and warriors were now confined on the reservations. Myrtle recalled that in their first years there, “the Indians were pretty wild then, as it was shortly after the Wounded Knee outbreak, so I had thrills every day.”

Myrtle and John’s son, Harold Roscoe Anderson, born 2 years after their marriage, was raised on Rosebud. When he got older, he worked at the trading post and as a teller in the bank.

In 1935, the Andersons, no longer in good health, moved off the reservation to Rapid City, South Dakota. The Andersons opened a museum showcasing many of the artifacts they had collected over the years, a collection that eventually went to the Smithsonian Museum. Later they moved to California, where John died in 1948 and Myrtle in 1961. They are buried in Salladasburg, alongside their son Harold Roscoe and Myrtle’s parents.

The Andersons left a legacy. John Anderson’s photographs, taken over those forty years, document the tremendous changes that took place on the reservation while the couple lived there. They are considered the definitive photographs of the Rosebud reservation and are held by many museums, including the Smithsonian.

Myrtle Miller Anderson left a legacy of her own. In addition to providing the intangible gift of friendship to the Native Americans, she authored a beautiful book of poems about the people she lived among, Sioux Memory Gems (Chicago, 1929). Illustrated with John Anderson’s photographs, the book is a part of the collection of the Lycoming County Historical Society and is online in the Women’s History Collection (http://archive.org/details/siouxmemorygems00ande).

A biographical essay, “Myrtle Miller Anderson: how a Williamsport woman came to among the Sioux,” by Mary L. Sieminski was published in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette on March 10, 2013.

Want to know more about the Anderson Family and Rosebud? Type "Anderson" or "Rosebud" in the search box below to find source material in the Lycoming County Women's History Project.

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