Randolph County, Indiana
William E. Miller
was born June 2, 1846 in Germantown, Montgomery county, Ohio. He
is a son of Samuel and Nancy (Troup) Miller, both of whom were born in
the vicinity of Germantown where they grew up and were married. Daniel
Miller, the paternal grandfather, came from Lancaster county, Pennsylvania
with his family in an early day and settled at Germantown and there engaged in
the tailoring business, spending the remainder of his life there. There his son
Samuel learned the blacksmith's trade.
interested in the history of Randolph county does not have to carry his
investigations far into its annals before learning that William E. Miller
has long been an active and leading representative of its business interests
and that his labors have proven a potent force in keeping this county abreast
of her sister counties of the great Hoosier commonwealth. During a period of
forty-two years he has carried on a mercantile business in this county, the
major portion of which has been spent in Winchester where he is now the head of
one of the largest stores in this section of the state, and while he has
prospered in this, he has also found ample opportunity to assist in the
material, civic and moral development of the county, and his cooperation has
been of value for the general good. He is one of the honored veterans of the
Union army who, when the tocsin of war sounded in the nation's greatest crisis,
uncomplainingly went forth to defend with his life, if need be, the honor of
the old flag. His career in every respect has been one of commendation and is
well worth study and emulation by the young man just starting on his life work.
William E. Miller was educated
in the public schools. Leaving school when thirteen years of age, he began
working in a bakery, and when his employer enlisted in the army he went to
Dayton, Ohio and worked in a bakery there, returning to Germantown at the age
of fifteen and purchased the bakery which had been formerly operated by his
first employer. Young Miller had only eighteen dollars to pay down on
his property, going in debt for the balance. He operated the bakery about a
year and had it all paid for when the oven fell in and the party owning the
building would not reconstruct it, so Mr. Miller quit the bakery
business and began clerking in a grocery store. Thus we see how a seemingly
minor accident changed completely a business career for he remained a merchant
instead of a baker. In 1864, he became a clerk in a dry goods store, but
remained there only a short time when he enlisted in Company D, One Hundred and
Eighty-fourth Ohio Volunteer Infantry in which he served faithfully until in
After being honorably
discharged from the army he attended Commercial College at Dayton for three
months, after which he resumed clerking in Germantown in the dry goods store.
In 1867 he went to Dayton and clerked in the large dry goods store of A. B.
Darst, eventually becoming the general buyer for that store and made
frequent trips to New York City. Having mastered the various ins and outs of
the dry goods business, in the fall of 1871, Mr. Miller went to
Ridgeville, Randolph county, Indiana as manager of the firm of W. E. Miller
& Company, a branch of the Dayton store, and he remained in Ridgeville
nine years, building up a large business. In 1872 Henry T. Kitselman, of
that town became owner of one-half of the business, the firm name then becoming
Miller & Kitselman, which partnership continued successfully until
1880, when Mr. Miller sold his interest to Kitselman, Seeney &
Company, who continued the business. In the fall of 1880 Mr. Miller
came to Winchester and began business alone handling dry goods, clothing and
carpets, being successful from the first, his trade increasing with advancing
years through his persistency, able management and uniform honesty and courtesy
to his customers. In 1898 he organized the stock company under the firm name of
The W. E. Miller Company, of which he became president.
When he opened his store at Ridgeville in 1871, Mr. Miller
introduced the one price business for this part of the state, a system now in
use in all first-class stores over the country. The wonderful growth of his
business he attributes to his plan of fair dealing to one and all alike.
It war in the year 1883 that Mr. Miller built his present
substantial business block, and in 1898 when he organized the stock company the
building was remodeled, being greatly enlarged, having now a sixty-one foot
frontage and being one hundred and sixty feet deep, with three stories and a
basement, all occupied by The W. E. Miller Company, one of the largest
department stores outside of the large cities in the state and an extensive and
lucrative business is carried on with the city and surrounding country. The
store is modern in all its appointments, with electric elevators, cash carriers
etc. Everything is under a superb system and a very large and well-selected
stock of goods, commonly found in all up-to-date department stores, is carried
at all seasons. The store is a favorite gathering place for the country people
when in the county-seat and everyone is here made to feel at home and accorded
uniform courtesy and fairness.
Mr. Miller is
deserving of a great deal of credit for what he has accomplished alone and in
the face of obstacles that would have discouraged men of less sterling fiber.
From the humblest beginning he has forged to the front and is one of the
substantial and influential citizens of one of the leading counties of the
state. He is a heavy stockholder in the Randolph County Bank, the Farmers and
Merchants Bank and the Loan and Trust Company He is a director in the Citizens
Water & Light Company, of which he was a promoter, and he is a stockholder
of the Eastern Indiana Telephone Company. He is vice-president of the Woodbury
Glass Company. He also has, valuable and extensive farming interests in
Randolph county, owning in all over six hundred and sixty acres of fine
agricultural land under a high state of improvement and cultivation.
Mr. Miller was married in October, 1871 to Mary Mosier, of
Dayton, Ohio, where she was reared and educated. To this union one son and two
daughters have been born, namely: Vora, now the wife of Thomas L.
Ward, assistant cashier of the Randolph County Bank; Olive, now the
wife of John P. Clark with The W. E. Miller Company, and John
D. Miller who is associated with his father in the store. These children
were all given excellent educational advantages and are all highly respected by
a wide circle of friends.
William E. Miller has been a staunch Republican since attaining
his majority, but has never been active in public affairs other than to
encourage such movements as made for the general progress of his city and county.
He is a member of the Masonic Order and also the Grand Army of the Republic,
Nelson Trusler Post. His family belong to the Presbyterian church, he being a
liberal supporter of the same and of all benevolent work.
Past and Present of Randolph County, Indiana, 1914.
Contributed by Gina Richardson
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