The Miller Family
Their contribution to America*
Compiled by Richard R. Wilt

      During the mid 1700s Europe was falling apart. Austria was the dominant Empire and was at war with or allied to about every country in Europe. In 1762, Peter III came came in as Empress of Russia, Elizabeth's successor after she died. He admired Frederick II and didn't want to continue supporting Prussia's enemies. He broke alliances with Austria and France and made separate peace with Prussia. On December 15, 1763 finally an agreement was come to and a treaty was signed. The Seven Years' War ended with no clear winner. A treaty signed that confirmed Prussia's hold on Silesia, which was a great loss for Austria. The Treaty of Paris was also signed, and gave most of France's North American colonies to Britain, which also maintained its dominant position in India. Treaty Signed

      In the middle of all of this the population just couldn't see things changing for the best so thousands decided to just pack up everything they had with their families and moved to the new world with all of it's rich land and opportunities.

      One of these individuals was Johan Ludwig Miller who came to America from Wttemburg, Germany with his wife Katharine Rothenberger from Heidelberg, Germany to Philadelphia in 1771. They later between 1784 & 1787 moved to the area of York County, Pennsylvania. Ludwig was a teacher in a parochial school of the Lutheran Church. Ludwig and Katherine had ten children: Joseph b. c.1784, Benjamin b. November 11, 1788, John E. b. c. 1790, Lewis b. May 3, 1796, Michael, Elizabeth, David, Philip, Catherine and John≥ M Miller.

      Of these children, Joseph became a doctor and moved into Virginia where many of his descendants still live. Another, Lewis, named for his father became a well known artist and writer and wrote many chronicles and illustrated them with thousands of water color paintings depicting his travels ranging throughout Pennsylvania, Virginia, and at least one trip back to Germany accompanied by his nephew, the son of his brother Joseph.

      I am descended from the second son, Benjamin born on November 11, 1788. As were all of the Miller children he was well educated by his father in the German Reform Church and also as a carpenter. As a young man Benjamin and his brother John served in the local militia during the war of 1812. This is documented in a chronicle and paintings by his brother Lewis. Benjamin married Elizabeth Hibner on October 28, 1811. Benjamin and Elizabeth had one daughter whom they named Henrietta. It is not known but Elizabeth died either in child birth or very shortly after birth.

      Of course, this tragedy saddened Benjamin and he struggled to recover but he gave his daughter to his family to rear and he decided to follow his fate by going west into the mountains of Virginia west of the mountains where he heard there was land to be had. Benjamin moved to Upshur County, VA (later to become West Virginia) Here Benjamin met Sarah Black, the daughter of Alexander and Isabella (Wilson) Black of the neighboring county of Lewis and married on March 14, 1818. There is no record of Benjamin owning his own land but there are records of him having a farm located on Henry Jackson's land which lay between the West Fork River in Lewis County and the Buckhannon River in Upshur County.

      Jackson had made a tomahawk claim to several thousand acres of land in this area.

      Benjamin and Sarah had 8 children, Lewis, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine, Rachel, Sarah, MinterĻ. Benjamin and Sarah appear to either being tenant farmers or rented land from Henry Jackson as noted in the Will of Henry Jackson dated November 20, 1848. The Jackson families owned a large parcel of land stretching from Turkey Run located on the Buckhannon River to Hackerís Creek located on the West Fork River, approximately a distance of 20 miles. Benjamin and Sarah later moved to Upshur County Virginia either very near or with son, Minter. This probably occurred when Minterís wife Frances died in 1858/59 leaving him with a small child. Benjamin died on January 1, 1861 and is buried in the Kesling Mills Cemetery. His grave is the oldest marked grave in the cemetery. There are no further official records of where Sarah lived until she moves to Washington in 1869 and was listed living with her son Lewis in the 1870 Washington Census.

I will follow two of the sons, the eldest, Lewis and the youngest, Minter.

      Lewis Miller was born in Lewis County, VA on December 26, 1818, the day after Christmas. He grew up on a farm which his father worked since coming to the Lewis and Upshur County area several years earlier. Lewis grew up being the eldest of 8 children of Benjamin and Sarah Miller. It appears that Lewis was given a very good education in the local school system. He, of course, could read and write noted in his correspondence and a development a flamboyant and artistic hand writing. He could have also been blessed with an artistic talent as did his uncle, Lewis, the creator of the art and chronicles of the pioneers.

      Lewis married into an old and well known family in this part of Virginia. He married Rachel Cecilia Jackson, the aunt of General Stonewall Jackson of Civil War fame. Lewis and Rachel were married on September 11, 1836 and are found living in Wirt County, VA with three children and Rachel's brother Edward Jackson. Edward was mentally challenged as listed in some correspondence as being "slow witted". It appears that Rachel took it upon herself to care for her older brother. It is not really known why Lewis took his family west to Wirt County, VA. I believe that Lewis was already making plans to travel to the west of America due to the proximity of Wirt County to the Ohio River which in 1850 was being used to travel to the jump off destinations to the north west where land was available for the taking. Lewis was an ambitious man and wanted land and a home of his own.

      He and his family remained for a very short time while making plans to travel down the Ohio River on barges as was the accepted way to travel to Cincinnati. After obtaining the needed supplies including oxen and wagons the family along with several other families headed north from Cincinnati to meet on the Missouri River for the long journey up the Oregon trail for the long trek through some very hostel territory. It was in July of 1851 they were making their way towards Oregon. The trip so far had been uneventful but one episode of the Lewis Miller family occurred as they crossed the plains. The event was recorded by Rachel, and has been passed down through the family.

      The Miller family had just come up on Massacre Rocks in Idaho on the banks of the Snake River just south west of Fort Hall one of the major forts and trading posts along the Oregon Trail.

      Lewis Miller and Rachel Miller, his wife, and the mother of 2 children, Aleen (Sarah) 11 years, and Mary Miller 10 months old came from Virginia, a good old southern state, but were all anxious to get to Oregon. The date was July 27, 1851. The Indian encounter written by Rachel follows:

"Our oxen seemed so tired we drove them slow to rest them. We got behind 2 miles or more, when we looked in the distance and saw many Indians in their war paint on horseback. We were scared and tried to whip up the slow oxen. The Indians were savage, rebellious, ready to commit any depredation. We knew we were at their mercy, At the mercy of an Indian only those who know them know their cruelty. The Indians were coming toward us, we were scared.

We are in for it, we cannot escape them, but I will fight to last. He then got his gun and ammunition By that time they were close to us shooting our cattle down. As he raised his gun to shoot his arm was shattered by a bullet. The gun fell to the ground, he grasped it in the other hand and fired, and fell wounded. My God; Rachel what can I do to save you and the children. I am almost helpless to the brave wife save yourself, Lewis; just yonder is a clump of brush, try to crawl in and hide, he was very weak from the loss of blood and anxiety, he fainted when he got there. The was beside herself in the great danger, no one to tell what to do. She run to unyoke the dead oxen. Edward Jackson the young brother of Mrs Miller run to help her unyoke the dead oxen. The Indians shot and instantly killed the brother. Mrs. Miller was in great terror and fright. She looked in the wagon and screeched. Aleen run, run, with little Mary but did not know the Indians had wounded Aleen in the hip. She stole secretly to the bunch of brush where her husband's hiding place, took her apron and bound his bleeding wounds.

Aleen, eleven years old snatched up her baby sister and run ahead with the baby clasped in her loving arms. She kept on running though severely wounded. They had shot her in the hip and shot a part of one ear off. She run near 2 miles in that condition. Her good angel was surely helping her Ö... was helping her to give her courage to stand the strain or might it not have been her innocent childish mind she had unconsciously lifted the mind above all matter, because of her unselfishness in forgetting self to save others. Aleen was still running when the men see her that was going to the rescue of the Miller family. They was armed and on horseback to meet the treacherous Indians, Red Skins. They met the brave little girl with great sympathy and tears in every ones eyes. She was still running and clinging to the baby to see how seriously she was wounded and exhausted. It seems a miracle how she kept up. They went back to the wagons to find the Indians gone the wagons all robbed and everything, food, bedding, blankets, clothing and all was gone, only the dead and wounded."

      They let Mrs. Millers relatives know their condition and they nobly responded to their great need. Their names are Henry Jackson, Ulysses Jackson, John Jackson, they sent money to continue their journey.

      Lewis and Rachel with their children continued on the Oregon Trail after recovering from the Indian attack. When arriving in Oregon Lewis and Rachel took up a donation claim near Hillsboro. Later he sold his claim and moved to Woodland, Washington. Here Lewis farmed for many years and he and Rachel had 4 more children.

      After the Civil War the railroad was completed into Washington and it was possible to travel from Washington to the east coast in reasonable comfort of the day. In 1869 Lewis decided to travel by railroad to visit his family in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This is noted in one of the paintings by his uncle Lewis of him visiting the sight of a new bridge in Pennsylvania and he also travel with his uncle Lewis to visit his brother Minter living near Buckhannon West Virginia. A painting and chronicle appears in his uncle Lewis' collection of their visit to Minter Miller in Buckhannon, West Virginia. Lewis returned to Washington bringing his mother back with him. It is not known if she traveled from West Virginia or had met Lewis in Missouri where she may have been staying with her daughter.

      In the early 1870s Lewis had a roving eye and was believed to have taken up with more than one women so Rachel served Lewis with divorce papers. The court read as follows:

      This cause having been brought on to be heard, this twenty second day of April A.D. 1872, upon the complaint herein taken as confessed by the Defendant upon the proofs taken herein and upon the report of William S. Dadge, Esquire Refferee in this cause to whom it was referred, to take the proofs of the facts set forth in the complaint, and make his findings of facts from the same and draw his conclusions of law from the same and to report the same to the court; and the same Referee having taken the testimony by written questions and answers and the same to the court from which it appears that all the material allegations of the complaint are sustain by testimony free from all legal exceptions as to its competency, and sufficiency. That said matters so allegiance and proved are sufficient in law to entitle the plaintiff to the for relief in her complaint.

That said Plaintiff was a resident of Clark County Washington Territory at the time of commencing the suit and was a resident of the Territory of Washington for more than seven years continuously prior thereto.

And it appearing to this court that the said Plaintiff is the better person to have the care custody and education of the minor children. To wit; Jasper Miller, Melissa E. Miller and Emily A. Miller. And it is considered by the court and is hereby ordered and decreed that Plaintiff do have the care custody and education of said minor children.

† And it is considered by the court that Plaintiff do have. And that Defendant do deliver to Plaintiff all of their household goods, and furniture and articles of housekeeping. And all farming utensils. And all mechanic implements. And all other personal property belonging to the Plaintiff and the Defendant as a portion of alimony allowance and as a portion of the common property to which by the proofs, testimony and facts so reported by the said Referee. She is entitled by Law:

      It appears in the records that Rachel gained control of nearly all of the family holdings but she moved into the home of her son Orlando and Lewis continued living in the homestead. This arrangement seemed to work until the fall of 1875 when Lewis decided to remarry and move his new wife into the homestead. Rachel could not tolerate another women living in her house and using her furniture so Lewis showed up on October 14, 1875 with several family members and was moving all of her furniture out of the homestead and Rachel proceeded to try to stop him, so he became upset and abusive.


The following is the account of the happenings which appeared in The Oregonian Newspaper:

Tuesday, about 3 p.m., our community was startled by the news that Lewis Miller, a well-known character in this country, had been shot and instantly killed by one John Hugill, a nephew of the deceased. The affair occurred at Miller's own house, about two miles above here, and the particulars, so far as we have learned them, are as follows: Miller, who was recently married to his second wife, had been having considerable domestic trouble lately, and, it seems, had determined to move his household effects from the house where his wife was living to another place some miles distant, and, in the company with a brother-in-law and son-in-law, went there for that purpose. The wife objected to the removal, and appealed to Hugill to assist in preventing it, and in the melee Hugill seized a shotgun from the lands of a third party and fired, the charge striking Miller under the left eye and penetrating the brain. Hugill came to town immediately and gave himself up to the sheriff. A coroner's jury was summoned but have not reported up to this time. Hugill is a young man of quiet, industrious habits, and has hitherto borne a good character. The deceased was aged 56 years and was an old resident of this coast."

Rachel lived in Clarke County, Washington for many more years and died on January 30, 1912.
The following article appeared in the local newspaper:
Mrs M. E. Houchen of Chinook received word last week from her two sisters living near Woodland, Wash that their mother, Mrs. Rachal C. Miller, was not expected to live but a few days at the most. She left Friday for Woodland, Mrs. Miller was born and raised in Old Virginia. Her maiden name was Jackson, being a full cousin to Stonewall Jackson of Civil War fame. After her marriage to the late Lewis Miller , they went to West Virginia. Being there a few years with their family of four children. In 1851 they crossed the plains, arriving at Portland, Or. And settled on a donation claim on Dairy Creek, Washington county where the balance of their family was born, consisting of five sons and four daughters. One son and four daughters are still living. Mrs. Miller is a great great grandmother. Her husband, Lewis Miller, was killed near Kalama about 30 years ago, by his nephew, John Hugel, in a quarrel over some old furniture. Mrs. Miller had three brothers who proceeded her across the plains. They also settled in Washington county, near Glencoe and Hillsboro. Their names, Ulysses, Hiar and, John B. Jackson, and were highly respected in their time. Mrs. Miller is in her 94th year. In crossing the plains the family was attacked by Indians, her brother being killed and her husband shot down with an ounce bullet in his hip. The oldest girl had a piece shot out of her ear. They lost a fine race mare and a lot of bed quilts, also the most of their provisions. Mrs. Miller was afterwards met at The Dalles by her brothers. Lewis Miller and family moved to Lewis River in 1863, near what is now the present town of Woodland, and formerly owned a part of the present town site. Many descendants of Lewis and Rachel to this day still live in the northwest territory of the United States. .

*From the research of Edna Miller Birchill and Richard R. Wilt

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