ROCKPORT — Five generations celebrated the 100th anniversary of Miller Farm, their family history and being all together on a sunny summer day.

Ralph and Pat Miller put out the invitation and nearly all of their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren — 28 family members in all — gathered at the farm on Main Street Sept. 18.

Ralph’s grandparents, Ralph and Jesse [Simonton] Miller, bought the farm on Sept. 16, 1921. Ralph was born on the farm in 1934. He lived there with his parents, Lawrence and Merle [Annis] Miller, until the fifth grade, when the house burned down in a fire three days before Christmas. His mother had two brothers who owned farms nearby, and she inherited the family house on Elm Street in Camden, where Ralph, his mother and father soon went to live.

After moving to Camden, Ralph would not live on Miller Farm again for another 40 years. Over those same years, his grandfather and father kept the farm in the family. There were difficult times when farmers were destitute, according to Ralph, and it helped that his mother was a licensed school teacher, and taught several grades. When Ralph’s grandfather died, the farm went to his father, who raised cows and other farm animals there. Ralph remembers there was a time when his father sold milk by the glass from his wagon to women who worked at the Knox Mill.

The seeds were planted while Ralph was in high school for his future as a minister and his marriage to Pat. They went together in high school when he was a junior and she was a freshman, he said, and were very active in the Methodist Church in the village.

At the church, there was a minister who was very likeable, said Ralph, who helped run the youth group and became interested in becoming a pastor. In high school, he completed a Methodist Church course he believes was intended for college students who wanted to be local pastors. After high school, he and a classmate who was valedictorian went to Bowdoin College.

Ralph’s career as a minister with United Methodist Church began earlier than he expected. His mother died when he was just finishing his freshman year in college. This brought financial hardship, and also kindness and help from the Dean of the college, professors and others, for which he is very grateful. At the beginning of his sophomore year, he was assigned to Methodist churches on Orr’s and Bailey islands, which came with a house and a weekly salary.

That was the beginning of many assignments, and moving from church to church, the first two being the Congress Street and Italian Methodist churches in Portland, which are no longer there. Ralph and Pat married, and began their family with their first child, Stephen, followed by Lawrence, Tim and Bethany.

Ralph also continued his studies summers at Boston University and with the New York Theological Seminary, which sent professors to New England. The family followed Ralph to churches including South Portland and Bath United Methodist Church. By mid-career, he became Superintendent for the Maine Methodist Churches Central Region, overseeing around 70 churches. While he may have officially retired at some point, he continued to work as a pastor, with his last church being the People’s United Methodist in South Thomaston, until he was 80 years old.

Every summer, the Miller family stayed at their camp on the property next to the farm, and as children played there and helped their grandparents.

Ralph and Pat returned to Miller farm for good in 1986, when his father died and he inherited the land. There were no homes there, and he decided each of his children, and he and Pat, would choose a two-acre house lot, and he would place the remaining 50 acres in a trust.

Larry, who passed away 10 years ago, was the first to choose a lot in a wooded area at the back of the farm and built a house for his family. Then Ralph and Pat built their house overlooking an apple orchard, with trees Ralph says are now 100 years old. Larry built a brick hearth and chimney that ascends to the cathedral ceiling in Ralph and Pat’s house, and laid a brick with his name on it at the top.

A postcard captures the essence of the pumpkin farm Ralph planted for 20 plus years.

The late 1980s is also the time when Ralph started planting the fields with pumpkins of all sizes and gourds. Over the past 20 years or so, Miller Farm became an annual tradition for countless families and children who picked their pumpkins, and made memories there. Each year — except for this year due to Ralph’s health — he planted the fields and opened the farm for pick-your-own pumpkins, wagon-ride tours of the property he led while driving his tractor, visits from school classes and sales of homemade pickled goods and treats.

As adults, Steve, who didn’t build his house on the farm until a few years ago, and Tim and Bethany continue to come to the farm to visit their parents and the farm, with their children, and lately, grandchildren.

For Bethany, “Rockport, the farm, was always home. That was always the center of the feeling of home and it still is now.” Moving about every five years, for her the farm was the constant place every summer. Her memories are of summertime fun: helping her grandfather, who had pigs on the farm; a pony she had one year and would ride from their camp next door to the farm and back; going up to Lake Megunticook every night to swim.

Now it’s a place of peaceful family time, when she and her husband Alan visit. Her favorite time and place is twilight after the sun sets, talking with her parents on their deck, when “you can look out back and there’s deer and birds,” she said.

Steve ended up building his house on the farm, exactly where he hoped to, even though he picked out his lot last. When he and his siblings were young, “it was a big deal to go to the farm because grandpa had cows and gardens.” They always played in an area where there was granite in the ground, and holes around the granite where animals would go, and they’d try to plug up the holes. “It’s interesting that that’s the area where I’d build my house 55 years later. It’s at the highest point of the farm, up there you can see everything.”

Steve also remembers pranks. His grandfather would feed the cows in the morning and evening. To call the cows, his grandmother would put some feed in a bucket, shake it, and “no matter where the cows were they would just come bombing down.” Steve and his brothers would pick apples, and tried the same trick with the bucket, but when the cows came bombing down, they would throw apples at them.

Grandson Cliff Miller, now brings his family to the farm, as does his younger brother Camden. In his 20s, Cliff got interested in the family history, and has traced the Simonton history back to the 1300s in Scotland, and the Veazie history on his grandmother’s side of the family to the Mayflower. He believes knowing “where we all come from” and the farm’s story is important for future generations, and is also in charge of a major family tree project, now underway.

Growing up in Lisbon, going to the farm used feel like a long ride, Cliff said. Now, they “venture up there quite a bit now, it’s a fun area to be in. We’ve grown to respect and love the farm. We all know the farm will be passed on to us, so we’re focused on keeping true to that,” he said. “It’s near and dear to us. Home,” he said.

Bethany talked about how “it’s very important to him [Ralph] that they keep the farm in the family – and that the family ‘s together and everyone gets along.

Also very important to her parents are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live on the farm, she said. Her brother Larry’s son, “little” Larry, has twin boys Carmello and Antonio, who aren’t yet teenagers, and are at Ralph and Pat’s home all the time. They “bring so much joy to my parents,” she said. The boys had been cooking breakfast for Ralph every morning, before they started middle school, which means an earlier bus, and do all kinds of things without having to be asked.

Ralph also delights in how his great grandsons work almost every day for neighbor Keryn Annis who pays them to help with the vegetable gardens he raises for his farm stand.

It is also important to Ralph that it be known his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are a diverse group. Whether a divorce and or a new partner adds children to the Miller family, in his and Pat’s eyes, all the great-grandchildren are the same and as much a part of the family whether born to a Miller or another parent, he said.