Biography - William C. Miller

WILLIAM C. MILLER, ex-County Treasurer of Shelby County, occupies a conspicuous place among its native-born sons who have done so much within the last generation to advance it to its present high standing as a rich and prosperous community. he is one of the principal farmers and stock-dealers in this section and conducts an extensive and profitable business in his line in Flat Branch Township, where he has a large farm that is complete in its appointments and is a valuable property.

Our subject is a son of Christopher Philip Miller, an old and well-known resident of this county, still living on the homestead farm that he developed from the wilderness on Robinson Creek, Ridge Township, where William was born in his pioneer home February 16, 1842. The father is of German birth and origin, born twelve miles from Hesse-Cassel, October 10, 1803, a son of John Christopher and Hannah Francisco (Strallmann) Miller, who were also natives of the same locality as himself. In 1804 the grandparents of our subject left their old home in Germany to emigrate to the United States of America, voyaging across the waters in a sail vessel and landing at Philadelphia. The family settled in Chester County, Pa., and went from there in 1817 to Ohio with a pair of horses and a wagon. They were among the first to settle in Fairfield County, that State, where the grandfather, who was a shoemaker, used to ply his trade, going from house to house as was the custom in those days, he died in that county in 1825, his wife having preceded him in death the year before. They reared nine children.

Christopher P. Miller was one year old the day he landed with his parents in Philadelphia. He remained with them in Pennsylvania and Ohio until his mother's demise, though he was but a boy when he began to earn his own living, he lived in Hickory Township, Fairfield County, Ohio, until 1839, and then with his wife and the four children that had been born to them there, he came to Illinois, the journey being performed with a pair of horses and a wagon, he spent his first winter in this State in Shelbyville and in the spring of 1840 selected a suitable location on the banks of Robinson Creek and became one of the first settlers of Ridge Township, where he has ever since made his home on the place that he then purchased. During the half century and more that it has been in his possession he has wrought a great change, improving it into a fine farm. When he settled on it the prairies were but sparsely settled and deer and other kinds of game were abundant. There were no railways here and for some years St. Louis, one hundred and ten miles away, was the nearest market and depot for supplies.

The father of our subject was first married September 24, 1829, to Miss Amanda Carpenter. She was born near Lancaster, Ohio, and died in that State November 28, 1834, leaving two children, of whom Ezra, a resident of Assumption, is the only survivor. The maiden name of Mr. Miller's second wife, mother of subject, was Catherine Spear. She was born in Dauphin County, Pa., and died on the home farm in Ridge Township, February 28, 1869. There are six children living of that marriage, namely: Amanda, wife of Sam Yantis; Henry M.; William C.; Mary, wife of Alvin P. Weakly; Eliza, wife of G. W. Townsend, and Henrietta, wife of William H. Bickner. James C., the oldest child, died at the age of fifty-eight years.

He of whom this biographical sketch is written was carefully reared under good home influences in his native township. The first school that he attended was held in a typical pioneer log school house that stood in the woods on the bank of Robinson Creek. The building was heated by a large fireplace which occupied almost the entire end of the school room, and the furniture consisted of slab benches and a writing desk of the same material supported on pins of wood that were driven into the wall. September 3, 1863, our subject was the victim of a serious accident whereby he lost his right arm just above the elbow. This loss changed the tenor of his life to a great extent as it determined him to secure a higher education than he had already acquired, and the same fall before his arm was healed he enrolled his name as a pupil in the seminary at Shelbyville. He studied in that institution diligently for a year and in January, 1865, entered the profession of a teacher, taking charge of a school in Flat Branch Township. As soon as that term closed he was called to teach a school in Ridge Township near his old home, and after that he taught a two month's school at Assumption. He then immediately returned to Ridge Township to teach there again, and his services were in such constant demand, so successful was he in imparting knowledge, showing himself to possess in a full degree the best requisites of an educator, that his time was almost wholly given to his vocation with scarce an intermission for an entire year. He was afterward engaged in teaching in Ridge, Flat Branch and Tower Hill Townships for several winters. In the summer he devoted his time to raising hedge plants and was thus employed for eight seasons with good financial returns.

For some years prior to his marriage Mr. Miller became a resident of Flat Branch Township and here he bought his first land, and after he was married he located on a farm on section 33. At the close of his second term as County Treasurer, in the fall of 1877, he located on his present farm which is situated on section 24, Flat Branch Township. He has six hundred and fifty-five acres of choice farming land which he is cultivating assiduously besides carrying on a lucrative business in trading in stock. He is a man of large enterprise, keen foresight, possessing a good understanding of the best ways of conducting his business so as to make the most money out of it, and has a taste for speculation in which he is in variably successful, combining boldness and caution in due proportion in his operations.

The same traits that have made our subject one of our solid business men have also given him weight and influence in the public and political life of the county and gained him distinction as an office holder. He has always affiliated with the Democrats and has generally supported that party in State and national issues, although he has sympathized with the National Greenback party where questions of finance and currency are concerned and shared its prejudices in regard to monopolies. When the farmer's movement was at its strongest in this county he was one of the most active leaders, and in the summer of 1873 was honored by nomination to the office of County Treasurer at a convention held at Shelbyville composed of the supporters of the Farmer's movement. There was no opposition candidate and Mr. Miller was, of course, elected, and after looking after the finances of the county two years to the perfect satisfaction of all concerned, irrespective of party, he was again a candidate on the people's ticket. Though opposed by the nominee of the Democratic party, so popular was he, he polled sixty-six more votes than his opponent, and that, too, in a county that is usually overwhelmingly Democratic.

Mr. Miller was first married July 13, 1871, to Miss Mary Chadwick, a daughter of William Chadwick, and a native of Flat Branch Township. She died June 10, 1878, after a brief but happy wedded life in which three children had been born, of whom these two survive, Ada May and Charles Cyrus. The youngest, Bertie Sylvan, died after its mother's death at the age of nine months.

Our subject was married a second time February 2, 1881, to Mrs. Nancy (Armstrong) Goodwin, daughter of John Armstrong and widow of Joseph Goodwin. She was a consistent member of the Christian Church and is in every way worthy of the respect of the community that she shares with her husband. Mrs. Miller was born in her father’s pioneer log cabin in what is now Penn Township, July 18, 1835. Her father was born in Warren County, Ky., April 4, 1803, his father, Aaron Armstrong, a native of South Carolina, being a pioneer of that section of the country, he resided there until 1809, when he came to Illinois which was in that year organized as a territory by an act of Congress. He located in Madison County, being one of its early settlers, and lived there during the War of 1812, having to live in a fort a part of the time. He improved a farm in that county and made it his home until death closed his earthly pilgrimage.

Mrs. Miller's father married in Madison County, Jennie Roach, a native of Kentucky, and in 1826 he, too, became a pioneer, coming to Shelby County to build up a new home in the wilderness that then prevailed here. He made claim to a tract of Government land including the southwest quarter of section 6, of township 14, range 3, east of the third principal meridian, now known as Penn Township. He occupied a log cabin on his land and for a time his nearest neighbor was ten miles distant. Deer, wild turkeys, wolves and other wild animals were plentiful in this then uncivilized region which the hand of man had done but little to reclaim. Mr. Armstrong entered and bought other land besides his homestead and resided on the farm that he improved until after the death of his wife in 1875. He spent the last eight years of his life with his daughter. Mrs. Miller, dying at a venerable age August 10, 1883.

Mrs. Miller developed into a vigorous womanhood in her parental home and was taught all useful household duties, including the art of carding, spinning and weaving cloth. She was first married in 1870 to Joseph Goodwin, a native of Tennessee. He was a farmer by occupation and passed his last years on his farm in Penn Township, dying in 1875. By that marriage Mrs. Miller has one child, Flo Goodwin. Mr. and Mrs. Miller's children are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. They are being carefully educated and all are students at the state Normal School, at Normal, Ill., at the present time.

Extracted 29 May 2017 by Norma Hass from 1891 Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties Illinois, pages 279-281.

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