1896 Biography


HENRY J. MILLER, a successful farmer and lumber dealer of Spring Valley, is one of the oldest, and best known and most highly respected pioneers of the southeastern part of Bureau county. He was born in Dubois county, Indiana, November 30, 1823, and is a son of Henry and Sally (Hall) Miller, in whose family were seven children, who grew to maturity and were married, five sons and two daughters, namely: William, born in Kentucky, died in 1852, at the age of forty-two years; George W., born in Kentucky, died in 1838, at the age of twenty-four years; Eliza, born in Indiana, is the deceased wife of Edward H. Hall; Henry J., of this sketch; Edward H., who was born in Indiana in 1825, died in 1887; Smith, born in Indiana, is a farmer of Hall township, Bureau county, where he has spent every winter since 1832; and Elizabeth, who was born in what is now Hall township, Bureau county, Illinois, in 1833, is now a resident of Fullerton, Nebraska, the widow of Wiley H. Horn.

The father of our subject was a native of North Carolina and was one of the first permanent settlers of Hall township, Bureau county, where he arrived on the 24th of August, 1832. On the 21st of May of that year with his family he started for his new home in the western wilds of Bureau county, it being the same day on which the Indian creek massacre occurred in which a number of their relatives were cruelly murdered by the Indians. This little colony, of which the Millers formed a part, consisted of three families. They were: Edward Hall and wife, Henry Miller, wife and six children, numbering fourteen souls. They were compelled to rest several weeks on Ox Bow prairie, Putnam county, on account of the Black Hawk war, their teams being pressed into government service to haul provisions for the troops, and the brothers of our subject, William and George, served as drivers. In that war two persons took part who in later years became noted characters in American history – Abraham Lincoln, the commander-in-chief of the Federal forces of the United States; and Jeff Davis, who held a similar position with reference to the confederate forces of the seceding states. An uncle of our subject, Rezin B. Hall, and a cousin, John W. Hall, also took up arms against the hostile Indians, who at the Indian creek massacre had murdered the father, mother, and youngest sister of the latter, together with about twelve others in La Salle county, Illinois. After much delay and annoyance, the three families, composing the colony of which our subject was a member, arrived in what is now Bureau county, August 24, 1832. His father subsequently purchased a tract of government land on section 33, Hall township, in 1833-34, at the first land sale in this district held at Galena. Upon that farm he spent the remnant of his days, dying December 6, 1852, at the age of sixty-six years. He was one of the first men in that township to make claim who entered his land and remained on the original claim until his death.

The mother of our subject was born in Georgia, and died July 26, 1847, at the age of fifty-three years. She was an excellent woman, a true helpmeet to her husband, and possessed those ennobling qualities found in the true wife, mother, and friend. Her parents, Edward and Rachel (Barnes) Hall, were natives of Georgia, and of English and Welsh parentage respectively. She was carried, like the other members of the family, from her native state to Kentucky on a pack-horse in the early days when Daniel Boone located there, and before wagons were used in that frontier settlement. Her father died June 28, 1838, at the age of eighty years, and is probably the only Revolutionary soldier buried in Bureau county. He served under the command of General George Washington, participating in many of the hard-fought battles of that long and terrible struggle, and at the close of the war had not yet reached his twenty-fourth year. He was a Methodist Episcopal minister, possessing much of that zeal, earnestness and fire which characterized the preachers of that denomination in those early days. His words of kindness and admonition were long remembered by those who came from far and near to hear him and were pleased to listen. His wife died September 10, 1838, at the age of seventy-nine years. She, too, was a Methodist in religious belief, and active in the service of her Master. In their family of eight children, Mrs. Sally Miller, the mother of our subject, was the sixth in order of birth.

The parents of our subject were also conscientious and earnest Christian people, strict members of the Methodist Episcopal church, and the early preachers made their home a stopping place and there preached until the school house was erected. Many were the times that our subject was sent to notify the neighbors that Brother Royal or Brother Beggs was at his father’s home and was going to preach.

Mr. Miller, whose name introduces this sketch, had but little advantage for securing an education, only being able to attend a country school a part of the winter months for about three years, at which time his father paid his tuition, but he would study on winter evenings by the hickory bark fire and has become a well-informed man. Almost his entire life has been devoted to farming and stock-raising, in which he has been quite successful, now owning a quarter of a section of land in Dakota, three-quarters of a section in Nebraska, and about one thousand acres in Bureau county. He also became connected with the mining interests of Spring Valley, and to him is due in part the organization, development and progress of the Spring Valley Coal Company. As its agent he contracted ht coal rights for five thousand acres, and when the time came for making the final settlement, he, in company with Alexander Campbell, took the coal rights and met the payments. The coal mines, which are among the best in the state, are now in successful operation.

In Bureau county, on the 5th of April, 1849, was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Miller and Miss Mary A. J. R. Williams, who was named for her aunt who was massacred by the Indians. Mrs. Miller was born in Sangamon county, Illinois, February 19, 1831, and by her marriage with our subject has become the mother of six children: George W., who died at the age of ten months and five days; Isadora M., now the wife of James E. Porterfield, a lumber dealer of Toluca, Illinois, by whom she has two children, Edna and Lois; William C., who died at the age of nine years; John H., whose sketch is given on another page of this work; Carmi A., a farmer of Bureau county, who married Sarah I. Windsor, by whom he has two children, Claude and Fenton; and Mary A. J., wife of C. J. Devlin, of Topeka, Kansas, by whom she has four children, James H., Mary, Ethel, and Charles J.

Although caring nothing for public office, Mr. Miller has been called upon to serve in several positions in his township, and in politics is an ardent democrat. Both himself and wife are earnest and devoted members of the Methodist Protestant church. For over sixty years he has been identified with the interests of Bureau county and has taken a prominent part in promoting its welfare and advancement. He is enterprising, progressive and public-spirited and justly deserves to be numbered among the honored pioneers and leading and influential citizens of his adopted county, where almost his entire life has been passed. In promoting his own individual interests, he has materially aided in the progress and development of this section. His courteous, genial manners have gained him the friendship of all with whom he has come in contact, either in a business or social way, and we are pleased to present to our readers this sketch of his life, knowing that it will be received with interest.


(The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall & Putnam Cos., Illinois, pages 21-23, submitted by Shelly Harris)




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