John and Helen (Frisbee) Milholland, 6 North 51 West
In Winterset, Iowa, Carver took a job as hotel cook and attended the Baptist church, where he met John and Helen Milholland who became lifelong friends. Years later Carver wrote to them, saying he would never forget “how much real help and inspiration you gave me. You, of course, will never know how much you did for a poor colored boy who was drifting here and there as a ship without a rudder.”3 The Milhollands encouraged Carver to develop his love for music and art and suggested that he enroll at Simpson College, a Methodist school nearby. The only black student, he found the people very kind and the students “wonderfully good.”4 His art teacher encouraged him to transfer to Iowa State College in Ames, where her father was professor of horticulture. Earning near-perfect grades in botany and horticulture, Carver completed his bachelor’s in agriculture and began graduate study in botany. Still struggling with whether to become a scientist or an artist or a missionary. he took classes at the Chicago Academy of Arts and at the fledgling Moody Bible Institute.
On April 8, 1890, George wrote from Simpson College to John and Helen Milholland of Winterset, Iowa:
I am taking better care of myself than I have. I realize that God has a great work for me to do and consequently I must be very careful on my health. You will doubtless be surprised to learn that I am taking both vocal and instrumental music (piano) this term. I don’t have to pay any direct money for any music, but pay it in paintings….
I am glad the outlook for the upbuilding of the kingdom of Christ is so good. We are having a great revival here. 40 seeking last night and 25 arose for prayers at the close of the service… Shall be glad to hear from you soon.
Geo. W. Carver 4
His art teacher, Miss Etta M. Budd, noticed how intricately he painted plants and encouraged him to study agriculture. He transferred to Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. Student living quarters became crowded and before Carver’s race could be made an issue, the head of the Agricultural Department, Professor James Wilson, let Carver board in his office.
On August 6, 1891, in his first letter to the Milhollands after enrolling at Iowa State College, George W. Carver wrote:
I as yet do not like it as well here as I do at Simpson because the helpful means for a Christian growth is not so good; but the Lord helping me I will do the best I can….
I am glad to hear that the work for Christ is progressing. Oh how I wish the people would awake up from their lethargy and come out soul and body for Christ.
I am so anxious to get out and be doing something. I can hardly wait for the time to come. The more my ideas develop, the more beautiful and grand seems the plan I have laid out to pursue, or rather the one God has destined for me.
It is really all I see in a successful life. And let us hope that in the mysterious ways of the Lord, he will bring about these things we all so much hope for. I wish it was so that we could assist each other in the work as there is such a sameness in it, and I seen by one of the late southern papers that one of their strongest men advocate a broader system of education, and lays down a plan very much like the one I have but not as broad.
And the more I study and pray over it, the more I am convinced it is the right coarse to pursue…. Let us pray that the Lord will completely guide us in all things, and that we may gladly be led by Him…. My hope is still keeping without becoming stale either.
On October 15, 1894, George W. Carver wrote to John & Helen Milholland from Iowa State College:
My dear friends,
I am glad to know that you are all well and that the Lord is blessing you so unsparingly. Beg pardon for finishing with a pencil but my pen has run dry and I have no ink with which to fill it. The Lord is wonderfully blessing me and has for these many years. I cannot begin to tell you all I presume you know. I had some paintings at the Cedar Rapids Art exhibit, was there myself and had some work selected and sent to The World’s Fair, was also sent to Lake Geneva twice to the Y.M.C.A as a representative from our college. And the many good things the Lord has entrusted to my care are too numerous to mention here. The last but not least, I have been elected Assistant Station botanist. I intend to take a post graduate course here, which will take two years. One year of residence work and one non-residence work. I hope to do my nonresidence work next year and in the meantime take a course at the Chicago academy of arts and Moody Institute. I am saving all the pennies I can for the purpose and am praying a great deal. I believe more and more in prayer all the time…
Winterset Madisonian - Wednesday, October 12, 1921
John was the first born of George and Mary Ann Milholland. He first saw the light of day on May 6, 1843 in Butler county, Ohio. These five brothers and two sisters survive him, John, David, Thomas, George, Edgar, Mrs. Charlotte Speich and Mrs. Anna Arnold. William died two years ago. His marriage with Helen M. Frisbie was solemnized May 4, 1871 at Corning, Iowa. One of the happy events of their married life was the celebration of their golden wedding anniversary by Inglewood friends. Soon after his marriage he was graduated from the Cincinnati medical college, and practiced medicine in Harrison, Ohio and Prescott, Iowa. He located permanently in Winterset in 1882 and continued to practice until 1919, when he removed to Inglewood, Calif., where he retired from active practice at the age of 75 years. He is survived by Mrs. Milholland and the following children: Mrs. Ida B. Glenn of Inglewood, Mrs. Leigh Christensen of Iowa, and Miss Fredonia, living at home. For over half a century Dr. Milholland was a devoted communicant of the Baptist church. For many years he served in the capacity of deacon and was serving in that position in the Inglewood Baptist church at the time of his going, Sept. 28, 1921. He was a civil war veteran with a record of three and one-half years of service. A company of comrades of the G.A.R. conducted their impressive burial services at the last rites, which were conducted in the Inglewood Baptist church on Oct. 1 by the pastor, Rev. C. G. Roadarmel.
Winterset Madisonian, Winterset, Iowa April 11, 1935 – page 4
Inglewood, California is mourning the death this week of one of its greatly beloved women, in the person of Mrs. Helen Milholland, who passed away Tuesday, March 12, at 10 o’clock p. m. A life of real service and true Christian living has come to an end. For three months Mrs. Milholland has been confined to her home at 515 South Grevilles Avenue. She had a stroke when first taken ill and several others followed. The end came as calm and peaceful as she had lived. Her loved ones were at her bedside. The profoundest sympathy goes out to her bereaved ones. Helen May Frisbee was born at Buffalo, New York, September 11, 1850 to Elizabeth Chessman Parker and Myron Frisbee. She was converted at the age of thirteen years and joined the church in Washington, Iowa. She was a member of the First Baptist church of Inglewood, being very active and influential while there. She was a true Christian and her Bible was a very real part of her life, having committed many of its passages to memory. She was married May 4, 1871 to Dr. John Milholland, with whom she spent fifty years. He passed away in 1921, shortly after they celebrated their fiftieth anniversary. They made their home in Winterset, Iowa, from 1881 to 1919, when they came to Inglewood to reside. To this union were born five children. One died in infancy and Mamie Helen died at eight years of age. There are left to mourn her going three daughters, Mrs. Ida B. Glenn, of Inglewood, Mrs. L. Edna Christiansen of Beach, North Dakota and Mrs. Helen F. Closson of Los Angeles, California, and three grandchildren, Edison L. Glenn of Wickenburg, Arizona, Charles D. Glenn of Inglewood and John C. Closson of Los Angeles. Mrs. Milholland was instrumental in the conversion, and furthering the notable career of Dr. George Carver, colored educator, scientist and director of Agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, whose life she wrote for publication. She was a true, noble woman and faithful friend. Her’s was a useful life. Behind her are many grateful memories in the hearts of those she befriended. The funeral services were conducted by Rev. Donald Blackie assisted by Dr. A. F. Roadhouse at Hardin’s Funeral home, Saturday, March 16, at 2 o’clock.