Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 606-08.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  Hon. DeWitt C. Miller

A life of varied activity and large usefulness is that of the Hon. DeWitt C. Miller, now president of the Miller & Chancy Bank of Newell.  He has conducted extensive and important interests in Buena Vista county, not only in financial lines but also as a stock-raiser and has aided in shaping and molding public opinion concerning political questions.  An earnest worker in the ranks of the republican party, he has been honored by its followers with election as representative to the general assembly.  He was born in Livingston county, New York, November 27, 1828, and has therefore passed the eightieth milestone on life's journey.  While he has now largely put aside the onerous cares of a business career, he yet manifests a keen interest in the affairs of life and in spirit seems yet in his prime.  His parents were Allen and Hannah (Tripp) Miller, natives of Massachusetts and Poughkeepsie, New York, respectively.  The progenitor of the Miller family in this country was William Miller, who was of Scotch birth and established his home in Norwich, Connecticut, becoming one of the founders of the town.  The paternal grandfather, Jonathan Miller, was a native of Massachusetts and a minister of the Methodist Protestant church.  He also followed the occupation of farming and when the country became involved in the second war with England he served as a soldier in the American army.  He married a Miss Chase and both died when well advanced in years, rearing a large family.  The Maternal grandfather, Charles Tripp, was a native of Dutchess county. New York, and made farming his life Work.  He had a family of eleven children, Mrs. Hannah Miller being the youngest.


In the place of his nativity Allen Miller was largely reared and throughout his business life he carried on farming and stock-raising.  He reared his family principally in Livingston county, New York, but in the spring of 1848 removed westward to Rockford, Illinois, where he continued to till the soil and raise stock.  There his remaining days were passed, his death occurring when he had reached the advanced age of seventy-nine years and six months.  He was a public-spirited man in his community and his fellow townsmen recognizing his worth and ability, called him to various official positions.  His wife died in 1877, when more than eighty-nine years of age.  Both were Methodists in religious faith and enjoyed in the fullest extent the confidence and esteem of those with whom they came in contact.  Their family consisted of the following children:  Ezra L., deceased; Melvina, who has also passed away; Benjamin, who died at the age of fourteen years; Ruth, Jonathan and Sarah, who have all departed this life; George, a resident of Newell; Amelia, the wife of John McFarland, of Newell township; and DeWitt C. of this review.


DeWitt C. Miller was reared in Livingston county. New York, upon the old home farm and through the summer months was busily engaged with the work of the fields, while in the winter seasons he attended the district schools.  On attaining his majority he began farming and stock-raising in connection with his father and remained with his parents until they departed this life.  Following his father's death he continued the business alone and met with gratifying success in his labors as an agriculturist.  He was twenty years of age at the time of the removal of the family to Rockford, Illinois, and there he made his home until 1879, when he purchased land in Buena Vista county, Iowa, and the following year removed his family to this state.  Here he invested in nine hundred and sixty acres in Fairfield township, forty acres south of Storm Lake and four hundred and forty acres in Newell township.  He improved nearly all of the land and in connection with his extensive farming operations [sic] he was largely engaged in stock-raising, devoting much of his attention to cattle.  However, he brought eleven hundred head of sheep into the county at the time of his removal and for many years was regarded as one of the foremost representatives of agricultural and stock-raising interests in northwestern Iowa. His landed possessions are still extensive and his farms are good income bearing property.  In 1892 he removed to Newell, where he has since made his home.  In 1888 he purchased an interest in the bank of L. H. Gordon, whose holdings he later bought and then admitted George Chaney to a partnership, while eventually another son-in-law, Frank Redfield, became connected with the firm, the former being now cashier and the latter assistant cashier.  The business of the bank is capably conducted along safe, substantial lines and the institution is regarded as one of the strongest financial concerns of the county.  Mr. Miller still retains the presidency although he leaves the active management of the bank to his partners.


On the l5th of May, 1853, Mr. Miller was married to Miss Agnes Lawson, a daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth (Thomas) Lawson, both of whom were natives of Scotland and on coming to America in 1834 settled in Buffalo, New York, where they lived for several years, removing thence to southern Ohio.  In 1858 they took up their abode at New Milford, near Rockford, Illinois, where their remaining days were passed.  Their family numbered six children, Agnes, John, Eliza, Agatha, Thomas and George.  Of this number Mrs. Miller was born in Edinburg, Scotland, June 3, 1831, and was therefore but three years of age when brought to the United States, her useful career terminating when death's summons came October 10, 1008.  She gave her hand in marriage to Mr. Miller in 1853 and they became the parents of six children:  Caroline, who is the deceased wife of Charles Ellingwood, by whom she had eight children, Bernice, Annabel, Herbert, Marvin, Fannie, Grace, DeWitt and Agnes; Belle, the wife of James T. Norton, by whom she has seven children, Fannie, DeWitt, Ernest, Ruth, Edgar, Caroline and Marion; Jessie, the wife of H. J. Eaton, by whom she has six children, John, Robert, Marjorie, Charles, Ruth and Helen; Nellie, the wife of George Chaney, by whom she has six children, Agnes, Osborn, Carrolton, Gerald, Jessie and Caroline; Susie, the wife of Porter Baldwin, by whom she has four children, Paul, Allen, Norton and Loyd [sic]; and Mary, the wife of Frank Redfield, by whom she has four children, Frances, Eldora, Miller and an infant son.  The family is unusually large and it is remarkable that during the fifty-five years of Mr. Miller's wedded life, out of six children and thirty-five grandchildren, his daughter Caroline was the only one claimed by death, until his companion of many happy years recently succumbed to the inevitable.


Mr. Miller is a member and a trustee of the Congregational church, to which his wife also belonged.  To the support of the church he has been a generous contributor and in its work has taken an active and helpful part.  Politically he is an earnest republican.  He cast his first presidential vote for President Pierce and in l856 supported Fremont, the first republican presidential candidate.  Since that time he has never failed to vote for the standard bearer of the party.  He has held various township offices, was mayor of Newell for one term and for two terms represented his district in the state legislature, where he was connected with much important committee work and with various constructive measures.  That he received the endorsement of his constituents was indicated in the fact of his reelection.  He is a trustee of Buena Vista College and has always been interested in educational work.  Whatever tends to promote public progress along the line of substantial improvement has received his endorsement and support and Buena Vista regards him as a citizen who has been a worthy conservator of her interests, his labors in various directions constituting factors in her growth and progress.