Richard Nixon’s Maternal Grandfather Franklin Milhous Succumbed to Spanish Flue Epidemic of 1919

Original Milhous family home as it is today in Whittier

In 1897, Franklin Milhous moved his family, including his wife, their nine children and his mother to Whittier. Franklin built the family’s first home on the south side of the old El Camino Real (now Whittier Boulevard), a mile down the hill from Whittier College and the First Friends Church. In 1952, the home was moved 500 feet south, to its current location on Starbuck Street, and it is still occupied by Milhous descendants today.

The Milhouses, a close-knit family of devout Quakers, set down roots in Whittier, becoming members of the First Friends Church, and Franklin quickly became a popular man in the community. His mother Elizabeth Milhous was a preacher, and she performed a great deal of missionary work, giving sermons and starting Sunday schools. Franklin’s wife Almira was the anchor of the family and she became one of the spiritual leaders of their new community. Instilled with their religious commitment, daughter Hannah was devoted to her family, church and school; an excellent student, she earned her high school diploma from the fledgling Whittier Academy. Friends described Hannah as a wonderful young woman, “very intelligent,” “down-to-earth,” and in her minister’s words, “One of the finest Christian ladies you could ever know.”

By 1907, Frank Nixon worked his way from Columbus, Ohio to Southern California. In 1908 Frank met Hannah, and they wed that just four months later, eventually moving to Yorba Linda where Richard Nixon was born on January 9, 1913.

The Milhous clan remained in Whittier, where the family continued to grow in the community. Franklin Milhous had four siblings, nine children, and 27 grandchildren. Three of Frank Nixon’s four siblings lived nearby with all of their children. Richard Nixon’s childhood friend, Agnes Brannon, reflected, “I think about half of the community there was related in some way to the Milhous and the Nixon … families. They were all interrelated.”

But tragedy befell Franklin Milhous when he took ill in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919. Too weak to climb the stairs to his second story bedroom, for weeks Franklin, bedridden, fought off the virus in the sunroom off the front parlor of the Milhous home. He succumbed to the virus on February 2, 1919 and was buried at the family plot in nearby Rose Hills.

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