WILLIAM EGBERT MILLER
An influential man, as well as one of the most successful ranchers in Sierra County is William E. Miller, who is the owner of several thousand acres of well improved land, on which he carries on extensive dairy operations and raises large herds of cattle, and who has for many years been a member of the county board of supervisors, of which he has been chairman for fourteen years. Mr. Miller was born on the 4th of April, 1873, on the old Hines ranch, near Sierraville, California, and is the fifth in order of birth of the seven children born to Robert A. and Margaret Mary (Summey) Miller. His father was a native of Illinois and the mother of Indiana, while their marriage occurred in Iowa. The father belonged to that type of restless men who are always found on the frontiers of civilization. During the first twenty-four years of their married life they moved twenty-eight times. The mother, who was very domestic in her tastes, would sometimes call her husband’s attention to the old adage that “a rolling stone gathers no moss,” to which he would reply that “a setting hen never gets fat.” They were numbered among the first pioneer settlers at Sierraville, and possibly the first permanent settlers. Among the other early settlers was Charles Perry, a French Canadian, who married an Irish girl and became the father of a large family. He was a boon companion of Jim Beckwourth, the frontiersman and noted spy, a sketch of whom appears elsewhere in this work. Perry Creek, the crystal waters of which flow past the end of Mr. Miller’s house, and which is the headwater of the Feather River, was named in honor of Charles Perry, who came here in the interest of the Hudson Bay Company in 1847. Among the other early settlers were “Bad Nose,” the Adams’s and the Chapman’s. Mr. and Mrs. Miller settled on a claim here in 1852, but had made their first visit here in n1849. Mrs. Miller was a remarkable woman as a home builder and community worker, having been known far and wide as a nurse, midwife and doctor, and was beloved by all who knew her. She assisted in ushering more children into the world than any other person who has ever lived here, nursed the sick and possessed a remarkable knowledge of medicine. She treated diphtheria and scarlet fever successfully and never lost a case when called before it became hopeless. She died of cancer in her Sierraville home in 1905, at the age of sixty-five years. The father passed away in 1913, at the age of seventy-five. He had made his home with his son William E. after the death of his wife. They became the parents of seven sons, namely: Clarence Albert, who is a rancher in Honey Lake Valley, in Lassen County, California; Francis Marion, who died at the age of one and a half years; George Lawrence, who for many years was employed in the machine shop of the Western Pacific Railroad in Sacramento, until badly crippled in an accident a few years ago, and now lives in Sacramento; Charles Edgar, who is employed as a bookkeeper in Reno, Nevada; William Egbert; Thomas Edwin, who is employed by the government as a road builder and forester in the Tahoe forest reserve; and Warren Willis, a farmer at Fallon, Nevada.
William E. Miller received his first schooling at The Dalles, Oregon, later attended the Sierraville school and the district school of the Mohawk Valley, Plumas County. He then took a commercial course in the Stockton (California) Business College. Later he went to Iowa, where he worked as a cook in restaurants and boarding houses and for threshing crews and also followed the barber trade for a time, but was chiefly engaged in cooking. He was also a teamster, having learned how to handle horses in drawing heavy loads of the mountains in California. Soon after his marriage, which occurred September 10, 1894, Mr. Miller and his bride started for Sierraville, California, arriving with a cash capital of seventy-five cents. They located on the Hines ranch of seven hundred acres, which Mr. Miller bought on contract. Through hard and persistent work, in the course of time he was able to pay for this farm, and has since then bought other tracts of land from time to time, until today he is the owner of nearly six thousand acres. Their early years here were characterized by much hard work, and small income. Mr. Miller worked for twenty dollars a month and Mrs. Miller for twenty dollars a year. To her is due in very large measure the phenomenal success which has crowned their labors. She kept house and cooked on their large farm, and when he bought the Hines place her work was increased, for she never had less than five hired men to cook for. Mr. Miller gradually went into dairy farming and butter making. His cattle increased and he was soon milking seven hundred and fifty cows and in his creamery he made a ton of butter a week, Mrs. Miller personally superintending the butter making. Mr. Miller introduced the first hand cream separator, as well as the first power cream separator, in the Sierra Valley. He was also the first man into introduce Alsike clover into this valley, this variety being recommended to him by the United States Department of Agriculture, with which he has always been in close touch. The skim milk he fed to hogs and soon had a large drove of well-fed hogs, which he butchered on his own ranch and made into many tons of bacon, lard and other products each year, finding ready sale for the meat in nearby towns and lumber and mining camps. His principal product is now beef on the hoof. He brings his steers up to a thousand pounds weight at eighteen months, and the heifers to about eight hundred pounds, and then ships them to the San Francisco market, where they invariably bring top prices. He is the owner of about five thousand acres of land in Sierra County, besides two thousand acres of grazing land in Nevada County, about twelve miles northeast of Lincoln. He runs a dairy of about seventy-five milch cows and is one of eastern California’s biggest beef producers, keeping large herds of high-grade as well as registered Hereford cattle. He puts up from two thousand to three thousand tons of hay annually on his farms near Sierraville, where he winters much of his stock and runs the dairy. He takes large numbers of his young stock down to his pastures in Nevada County, besides which he rents ranges in the Tahoe forest reserve from the United States government. He also runs a large number of Chester White hogs, which find ready sale in the nearby towns and camps.
In September, 1894, at Boone, Iowa, Mr. Miller was united in marriage to Miss Anna Smith, of Polk County, that state, and a daughter of Jackson and Delilah (Adamson) Smith, the former was born in the south. The mother was a Quaker. They were the parents of five daughters and a son, of whom Mrs. Miller is the only one living in California. Mr. and Mrs. Miller had two children, Eunice, who is the wife of Lloyd H. Palmerton, assistant cashier of the Sierra Valley Bank at Loyalton, and the mother of a son, Melvin Albert; and Edith, the wife of Gifford Webber, who assists Mr. Miller in managing his large farming interests and lives on the ranch at Sierraville. To him and his wife was born one son, Donald William. Mr. and Mrs. Miller have also reared the three daughters of her deceased sister, namely: Beulah, the wife of Warren Reddinger, who is a stockman in Grass Valley, California; Vera Buzzard, who became the wife of Orral Gardner, and died, leaving one child, Myrna; and Blanche, who is the second wife of Mr. Gardner.
For many years Mr. Miller has shown a keen interest in the public affairs of Sierra County, and as a member of the county board of supervisors has been effective in promoting the interests of the county. He was elected a supervisor in 1910 and has been reelected every four years since. He has served as chairman of the board continuously since 1916 and has been a leading factor in promoting public improvements. To him more than to any other person in Sierra County is due the construction of the Yuba Pass highway, for which he worked in close cooperation with Mr. Reddington, of Washington, D. C. He also favored the building of the new branch of the Western Pacific Railroad from Keddie, California, to Klamath Lake, Oregon, which will eventually bring the Northern Pacific Railroad, the Great Northern Railroad and the Western Pacific into this section of the state. He appeared before the state railroad commission in San Francisco and warmly advocated the building of this road.
Mr. Miller is a member of Sierra Valley Lodge, No. 184, F. & A. M., at Sierra Valley, one of the oldest Masonic lodges in this state; and Granite Chapter, No. 94, R. A. M., at Loyalton; and he and his wife and daughters are members of the Order of the Eastern Star at Sierraville. He is a man of strong character, high ideals and great determination, and the outstanding success which has crowned his life work is a testimonial to his ability and the valuable assistance which he received from his wife. They are hospitable and kindly and they command the esteem and respect of all to a marked degree.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: Wooldridge, J.W.Major History of Sacramento Valley California, Vol. 3 Pages 210-213. Pioneer Historical Publishing Co. Chicago 1931.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.