Marjorie Miller was integral to Rye's history
A tribute to founder of Morgan horse farm and co-founder of Civic League
When Marjorie Brown Miller recently passed on, she was best known as founder of the Brown Lane Morgan horse farm. But as with so many people, there was more to her than meets the eye.
Marjorie Miller was a founding member of the Rye Civic League in 1968 with Frances Holway and Joan LaFrance. This civic group had as it mission statement the desire to “provide factual, accurate information on town happenings to the residents.” If ever there were three strong and independent “Founding Mothers” of an organization, they were it! Soon this robust troika and others were attending town government meetings and then doing the hard work of writing and editing their findings in a monthly newsletter which was run off on an old mimeograph machine in Frances’ basement. Red plastic bags were placed around town in businesses and other public places for people to pick up the “News” free, and members paid dues and had it mailed to them. By 1984 Marjorie was co-editor of the “Town News” and I joined her in that role for the next two years, but Marjorie carried it on until 1992 when the League disbanded and the famous “Red Bags” were no longer seen around town. The Concerned Citizens of Rye emerged in the 90’s to take up some of the slack left by the League, but there was no published citizen voice on town issues other that letters to the editor in the Herald.
Marjorie was steadfast in holding the feet of town officials and others “to the fire.” Did she ever overstep her bounds in some of what appeared in the Town News? Yes. Do town officials ever overstep their bounds? Yes. We all know, that in this regard, there is “nothing new under the sun.” These kinds of conflicts have been playing out all across our land from the beginning. As President Obama reminded us in his State of the Union: “Democracy is noisy and messy.” And we all remember what Churchill said about it being “the worst form of government ever devised, except for all the others.”
Marjorie and other RCL members always felt that most of what the Town News published was fair minded. Since many meetings were over contentious issues, it was inevitable that those on one side of the issue would not always agree with the way it was presented in the Town News. Marjorie often said: “If people are behaving themselves, they should have nothing to fear from the Town News.” Many would still say that it is better to have an imperfectly published citizen voice on a monthly basis than none at all. Through its untiring work over a quarter of a century, the RCL contributed to that “noise and messiness” and the town was well served by it. As Marjorie Miller, an integral member of that political history always said, “If we don’t speak for Rye residents. who will?” In recent years she realized that she needed to dispose of the remaining funds in the RCL treasury, so she generously donated all of it to Rye Senior Serve.
Many have admired Marjorie’s horses over the years. She was an avid horse person from her youth, always riding and working at Hooper’s horse farm (Independence Farm today). When her grand-daughter Sarah said she wanted a pony, Marjorie obliged and that’s where her horse farm started and where it will continue under family management.
The farm where Marjorie grew up on West Road was owned by her parents, Harrison Garland Brown and Mildred Lane Brown and inherited from her grandparents Moses Brown and Henrietta Garland. Both men laid many literal foundations of Rye, quarrying granite from outcroppings on their land. Her ancestors also include other Founding Families: Berry, Wallis, Philbrick, Locke, Parsons, Drake, Jenness, et al. She was pure Yankee stock, tough as the granite on her farm and fierce in her belief that people have a right to know what is going on in town government, a right to speak up and a right to influence decisions.
When I visited her last fall to get advise on how to revive the Civic League she was delighted it was coming back to life, and she had plenty of ideas on how to make it work: “Hold their feet to the fire!” In honor of and in memory of Marjorie, Joan and Frances, the Civic League has been reborn as a monthly e-newsletter. (for information contact: email@example.com)
We know we stand on the strong granite foundation that Marjorie Miller helped build and we will carry it on.
Alex Herlihy is Chair of the Rye Historical Society.
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