October 22, 2017

Eva Holmes Miller – Article Transcription

Francis E Holmes Miller fiddler with picture-p

The xerox copied pages with the articles about Frances Eveline Holmes Miller’s award at the Iowa State Fair in 1937 were pretty hard to read even for me, so I’ve transcribed them as well as I could. -   Carol

[intlink id=”1493″ type=”post”]Frances Eveline Holmes Miller – Champion Old Fiddler 1937 Iowa State Fair[/intlink]

Beats Men, Veterans With Homestrung Violin

With her wrinkled fingers stopping the strings of a home strung violin as dexterously as ever, 72 year old Mrs. Eva Miller, 401 S. E. Livingston ave., Saturday at the Iowa State fair was acclaimed Iowa’s champion old fiddler.

It was the first time in the 13 years the contest has been held a woman was chosen champion in state fair competition. Women have competed in other years but with little success.

Two Placed

This year, however, of four women entrants in a field of 107 fiddlers, two placed. Mrs. Glen Roth Clare, 51, of 3411 Avenue, Frederick M. Hubbell, who placed fifth, was the other.

Eighty year old George Draper, Pleasantville, Iowa, was runner up in the contest.

The title of the winning selection was not known either to the judges or to Mrs. Miller.

“It’s just a tune in D major”, said Mrs. Miller. “I’ve been playing it since I was 14 years old”.

Smith’s Reel

Mr. Draper was awarded second for his rendition of the old time favorite “Smith’s Reel”. He also used a homemade fiddle.

Technically speaking, neither winner or runner up was hampered by such trivial modern accomplishments as skill in vibrato or spiccato bowing.  But their clean stroking and flawless rhythm would have satisfied the most critical of audiences – as they did.

Judges were J. W. Bowles? of Lacona, Iowa; Louis Hafther? 2835 Capitol Ave., Des Moines; and Charles Croft of Shenandoah, Iowa.  Prizes were $25 cash to Mrs. Miller and $20 to Mr. Draper.

Square Dance

Some old-timers, who had mumbled in their beards when a woman was selected grand champion, were pacified by the square dance which started spontaneously among contestants at the end of the two day contest.  “It was a log of fun anyhow”, they said.

Mrs. Miller who is a widow, taught herself to play the violin when she was a young girl of 12 years. “ I found a broken fiddle lying around the house”, she said Saturday, her face one big smile. “I tuned it up with a piece of heavy pack-thread and plucked!”.  [unreadable] the tunes she knows and those she has heard at country dances or over old fashioned gramophones.  She plays entirely by ear.

Musical Son

Mrs. Miller’s son Clinton, a truck driver with whom she makes her home is also a violinist. “His fingers are rough, but he can play!”, says his proud teacher.

Others who received cash prizes in the contest in the order of their placing were: R. ? Iddings, 69, of Pleasantville, Iowa; Albert Williams, 79, of Madrid, Iowa; Mrs. Clare; F. L. Adre?n, 65, Boone, Iowa; C.O. Baughman, 66, of Pleasantville, Iowa; and W. M. Weaver, 65, of 3831 E. University ave.


Des Moines Iowa Register and Tribune – 1937

Transcribed by Carol Yates Wilkerson  – August 11, 2010 ©

Frances Eveline Holmes Miller – Champion Old Fiddler 1937 Iowa State Fair

Mrs. Frances E. Miller, Des Moines, Iowa – 1937

Frances Eveline Holmes was born 20 February 1865 in Harrison County, Missouri to parents Sarah Ann Fallis and Paul Holmes. Paul was the fifth child of Elizabeth Hensley and David Oliver Holmes, and he was born in Tennessee. “Eva” as she was called married Kendall Miller 26 January 1882 also in Harrison County, Missouri.

And except from the Des Moines (Iowa) Register and Tribune 1937 states, ” Mrs. Miller….taught herself to play the violin when she was a young girl of 12 years.  I found a broken fiddle lying around the house….. I tuned it up with a piece of heavy pack thread and plucked.  She plays entirely by ear.”

The 1937 article is a bit hard to read as a xerox copy, but I plan on transcribing it as best I can and posting it at a later date as a link to this article.

Eva Heads to NYC and The “We, The People” Radio Show

Fame and recognition wasn’t done with Eva Holmes Miller just yet though.  After her surprising win at the Iowa State Fair that year, she was invited by the National Broadcasting Company to play on their radio show We, The People.

Frances E. Holmes Miller is my 2nd cousin, 4 times removed through my Yates line.  Eva’s great uncle and my fourth Great Grandfather was John Holmes b. 1784 in Virginia.   John was married to Lydia Register and I descend through their daughter Deborah Holmes who married 28 August 1840 Miles Yates.


Darlene Kappelman Wellington, last known address Boise, ID.  She generously shared her family files and the xerox copies with me some years ago.

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