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Fayette County, Iowa  

 History Directory

Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910

Author: G. Blessin


B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana


Vol. I, Biographical Sketches



~Page 576~


Hon. Christian Miller


Honorable Christian Miller, familiarly known as Chris, is one of the most influential actors in the present business interests of Clermont. Unlike the man who has slipped noiselessly through the world, unheard of, unthought-of, and living solely for his own selfish motives, this man has been seen; heard and felt in every branch of industry - every channel of human goodness and activity has felt the force of his courage and manly powers.

Christian Miller, who was but a lad of nine summers when he came to our shores, was born in Bern. Switzerland, December 21, 1847, a son of Benedict Miller, a native of the same county, born June 12, 1813, and was one of four children. Benedict was the youngest of his parent's family. Rudolph, the second of the children, came to America in 1851, and the following year he took up his residence in Pleasant Valley township, Fayette County, Iowa. Christian continued farming in his native land, and Elizabeth is now the wife of Christian Duby of Switzerland. By occupation Benedict Miller was a carpenter and later in life carried on an extensive building and contracting business. He married Magdalena Shank.

In the spring of 1856, Mr. Miller, with his family, consisting of wife and five children, crossed the Atlantic to America and on his arrival in this country at once came to Fayette county, Iowa, where he purchased a farm of seventy acres in Pleasant Valley township, near the home of his brother Rudolph, who had located there some four years previously. This farm he improved, but it was some years before the income was sufficient to keep his family, hence he engaged in work at his trade. As time passed he not only provided well for his family, but was able to lay up some for investment, and at length possessed two hundred and twenty-seven acres of good land, one-half of which was under cultivation with good buildings. In 1872 he sold his entire farm to his son Christian for the sum of four thousand dollars. On May 22, 1880, in the sixty-sixth year of her age, his wife died. In 1882, accompanied by his son Christian, he returned to Switzerland, where he spent several months, and while he was visiting the scenes of his boyhood days, and renewing old acquaintances, Christian made quite an extensive tour over Europe, visiting places of interest and historic note. They then returned to their home in their adopted land, after which Mr. Miller resided with his children until his death, which occurred February 7, 1893, aged almost eighty-two years.

Christian Miller is the fourth in a family of six children. John F., the eldest, is married and owns a fine farm of two hundred acres in Pleasant Valley Township. He is a well-to-do citizen and an earnest worker in the German Baptist Church of Elgin. Benedict, at the age of twenty-five years, went with his family to Green county, Wisconsin, where he engaged in farming and became an extensive dairyman. He was also the prime mover in establishing in that neighborhood a cheese factory, one of the first in that county. Leaving Wisconsin in 1882, he removed to Moody county, South Dakota, where he is now carrying on farming on a large scale, and is a recognized leader in all the progressive movements for the public welfare. His family consists of his wife and eight children. Anna Mary, the next younger child, in 1866 married Peter Lehman, of Elgin, Iowa, and died in 1885, leaving three children and her husband. Christian is the next younger in his parent's family. Magdelena became the wife of Jacob Frautchy, a prominent, prosperous and enterprising citizen who died on February 7, 1904.

Christian Miller continued on the old homestead farm, purchased from his father, until March, 1906, when he removed to the village of Clermont, where he already had many business interests to demand his personal attention. Among his land ownings, in which his sons are joint owners, he has in Fayette County over two thousand acres of highly cultivated and improved land, besides seven hundred acres in Alamakee county, Iowa, all of which farm lands are rented and carried on by members of his own family and tenants. Within this large possession there are almost five hundred acres of excellent timber land, of great use and value at this date. A portable mill is on it. The firm of Christian Miller & Sons also owns the largest hardware store in Clermont and one of the most modern and extensive brick-making plants in northeastern Iowa. At this plant, which is in the village limits of Clermont, red and white brick of the common grade are made, as well as hollow brick, hollow blocks, for building purposes, and tiling in great quantities. During the year 1909 there were made over three million brick, which product finds a ready market at various Iowa towns and cities, even as far away as central Iowa, Cedar Rapids and Independence. The quality of these brick make a ready and the plant is being constantly enlarged to meet the demand. During the last season, the Millers also shipped five hundred cars of sand and gravel for cement work. These brick and tile works are supplied with an excellent grade of clay (white and red) from eighty acres owned by the Millers.


In 1901, Christian Miller purchased the old pioneer mill known as the Brick City Mills -- the old Governor Larrabee flouring mills, the history of which during the Civil war period is mentioned elsewhere in this work. It was operated by his son, John F., for several years, and then was furnished with new machinery, consisting of the improved sifter system of flour making. It was then operated by the Millers until the autumn of 1909 for general grinding purposes, but is now being converted into an electric lighting and power plant. By it the towns of Clermont and Elgin, with possibly other nearby cities and towns, will be furnished with light and power, a franchise being held with Ossian and Calmar. The Turkey river, upon which this mill site is situated, at this point has a water power "head" of from twelve to fourteen feet, and with two immense horizontal turbine water wheels and a Corliss engine, ample power will be supplied to carry out the enterprise.  When remodeled   this milling plant will be able to run during the daytime the heavy machinery to operate the brick and tile plant and propel the flouring mill, while at night-time the waters of the same steam will run the electric plant, this being one of the most thoroughly modern as well as unique arrangements known of in the entire country.

Mr. Miller also owns several business houses and dwellings in Clermont, which command good rentals. Whether one views his milling plant, his mercantile house, his many farms, with their immense modern barns and farm houses, his hundreds of head of stock, his great brick and tile works, or other business interests, he is impressed with the thought of good business sagacity and an endless amount of hard work to bring all these vast interests to their present state of perfection.


Some men are born rich in worldly goods, but in the case of Mr. Miller he has worked his way up from the bottom rung of the ladder. He put in the years from the time he was a boy of fourteen to past eighteen years of age at breaking the virgin soil of this county, with five and six yoke of oxen and a twenty-four-inch breaking plow, where cutting roots and grubs as large as a man's arm was no uncommon occurrence.  He trapped and hunted and sold furs and game, and with it bought his first live stock (a small calf) now he can count by the hundreds his fat cattle and swine. He not only worked with good hard muscle, but also used his brain-power, with which he was highly favored by nature.  These combined elements have enabled him to succeed in his life's career.

Politically, Mr. Miller has ever voted the Republican ticket, having cast his first vote for Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in 1868. In 1898 and 1900 he was the representative from Fayette county in the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth General Assemblies, where he did most excellent work for his constituents, so much so that not one line of newspaper criticism was ever penned against his conduct as a law-maker. After the termination of his duties at the state capital, he resumed his business routine at home, although he could have been elected state senator, but has respectfully declined further political honors at the hands of his friends and neighbors.  His own business and the care and comfort of his of have been with him of paramount importance, and yet he is a firm supporter of all that is wise and excellent in the party of his choice..

For many years Mr. Miller has been a devoted, consistent member of the German Baptist church, as is also his excellent wife, both of whom have been true to the faith they profess, and have reared their interesting and successful family in the way that they should go, hence are an honor to their parents and reliable, good citizens. Their children all live within the county in which they were born, and are men and women possessed of excellent minds and hearts.

The children born to Mr. and Mrs. Christian Miller are as follows: (1) John F., born February 13, 1872, attended college at Rochester, New York, and now occupies the old homestead in Pleasant Valley township. He is married and has six children: Walter, Edna, Carl, Wilma, Ervin and Clara. (2) Mary, born June 13, 1874, married William HAAS, of Fayette county, and now resides at Clermont, being interested in the electric light and milling business. They have one child, Herbert. (3) Christian C., born February 19, 1876, married Louise Hoffer, and they are the parents of one daughter, Grace. Christian C. is in company with his father in the various branches of his business, especially that of milling, and the electric light plant. He has been mayor of Clermont for several years, and as such gives the highest possible satisfaction. (4) Eddie M., born July 17, 1877, died November 23, 1879. (5) William B., born November 9, 1880, married Jessie Bracken, of this county, and lives in Pleasant Valley township; they have one child, Mildred. (6) Alfred E., born July 5, 1882, married Hulda Hoffer and resides in Clermont. He is associated with his father in the milling industry. (7) Anna M., born August 12, 1885, died October 2, 1888. (8) Clara H., born November 11, 1887, married Otto Krueger, now farming in Pleasant Valley township. (9) Meta M., born February 7, 1889, also farming in Pleasant Valley township. (10) Lillie, born December 13, 1893, died in infancy. Mrs. Miller is the daughter of Freiling Haus, a native of Switzerland who came to America in 1867 and settled in Pleasant Valley township. He was a cabinet maker. He died in 1889. Mrs. Miller's mother died in Switzerland.

~transcribed for the Fayette Co IAGenWeb Project by Georgianna Gray


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