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Miller, Oscar P.


Posted By: Roseanna Zehner
Date: 7/24/2006 at 07:30:34


Oscar P. Miller, the president of the Lyon County National Bank, and widely recognized as one of the leading and influential citizens of Rock Rapids, was born in Chautauqua county, New York, May 15, 1850, son of Phineas J. and Sylvia (Winship) Miller, both natives of Chautauqua County.

Levi C. Miller, the grandfather of the Rock Rapids banker, came from Oneida county, New York, to Chautauqua county at an early day, where he followed farming, and where he died. Phineas J. Miller was a miller by trade, and in 1853 removed to Ashtabula County, Ohio, where he still pursued his trade, but five years later sold out, and settled in Fayette county, Iowa, where he became a farmer. In 1884 he came to Rock Rapids, to make his home with his son, Oscar P., and here he died at the advanced age of eighty-eight years, December 30, 1903.

The Miller family originally came from Scotland and England, and the ancestors of Mr. Miller have been in this country for three hundred years. An uncle of Oscar P. Miller was a graduate of West Point, and rose to the rank of major in the regular army. He made a good record under General Wolfe. He last fought with the Sioux Indians, and was taken ill with a fatal fever. Phineas J. Miller enlisted in the Union army August 18, 1862, as a nurse in Company H, Thirty-eighth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and served throughout the war.

The brothers and sisters of Oscar P. Miller were as follows: Julius C., of Rock Rapids; Mary I., wife of George G. Armstead, manager of Thorp Brothers' General Store, at Manchester, Iowa.

The subject of this sketch received a very liberal education for the day of log school houses and frontier teachers, including a term and a half at a private institution of learning. When he reached the age of sixteen years he was pronounced competent to teach school himself, and for eleven terms he led a successful pedagogical career. In the winter of 1870 he purchased a small drug store in Auburn, Fayette County, and established himself in that business. In 1872 Mr. Miller and D.W. Redfield entered into partnership relations as Miller & Redfield, to carry on a drug and musical instrument business at Elgin, Iowa. After two years Mr. Redfield retired in favor of J.A. Hoagland, the new partnership continuing for three years. The two partners during this time organized the Exchange Bank of Elgin, with a capital of $4,000, dividing space in the same building with their store and post office, Mr. Miller being postmaster at that time. The banking business so increased that within a year it was reorganized as the Citizens' Savings Bank with a capital of $25,000.

Mr. Miller retired from the drug business in 1877, and gave his attention to the work of the bank, of which he was cashier. In June, 1879, he formed a partnership with J.K.P. Thompson, who at that time was the senior member of the firm of J.K.P. Thompson & Co., then the proprietors of the Lyon County Bank at Rock Rapids, Iowa. The new firm was known as Miller & Thompson. This firm purchased the assets of J.K.P. Thompson & Co. and continued business under the corporate name of Lyon County Bank, associating with them Senator Wm. Larrabee, Col. R.A. Richardson, and L. Sutter of Fayette County, Iowa, as special partners.

The business continued under the firm name of Miller & Thompson until January, 1903, when Mr. Thompson died and by order of the court, the business was continued for one year, or until January 11, 1904, when the bank was reorganized as a national bank with a capital of $75,000, Mr. Miller being elected president. Messrs. Richardson and Sutter retired as special partners in December, 1883, and Senator Larrabee continued as special partner until December, 1892.

The same parties in company with Wm. Jacobson and R.B. Hinkley and other local stockholders, organized the Rock County Bank at Luverne, Minnesota, with a paid up capital of $25,000.
In 1883, in company with Senator Larrabee, T.A. Black and other local stockholders, the Pipestone County Bank of Pipestone, Minnesota, was organized with a capital of $25,000, of which he has been director and vice president since its organization.

In 1884, in company with Senator Larrabee, T.A. Black, C.E. Dinehart and F.D. and Chas. Weck, he took part in the organization of the State Bank of Slayton, with a capital of $30,000, of which he has always been a director, and since 1901, vice-president.

In 1889, in company with Mr. Chas. Creglow, M.A. Cox, M.D. Hathaway, E.G. Bowman, E. Huntington and F.M. Thompson, he organized the Doon Savings Bank, with a capital of $10,000. In 1903 this institution was reorganized as a national bank, with a capital of $25,000, and a surplus of $3,000. From its organization, Mr. Miller has been its president.

In July, 1901, Mr. Miller associated with F.B. Parker, J.K.P. Thompson, M.A. Cox, Chas. Creglow and E. Huntington, purchased a controlling interest in the Citizens State Bank of Sioux Center, having a capital of $25,000. In August, 1904, this institution was converted into The First National Bank of Sioux Center, having the same capital, with Mr. Miller as president, Chas. Creglow, vice president and Neil Mouw, cashier. Mr. Miller is also a stockholder in the Farmers & Merchants State Bank of Blue Earth, Minnesota.

Mr. Miller was married December 25, 1870, to Miss Ellen M. Fowler of Fayette county, Iowa. She was born in Wisconsin, a daughter of Addison and Mary Putnam Fowler. Being a direct descendant of the Putnam family of Revolutionary fame. Her father was a native of Vermont, and settled in Wisconsin, removing to Iowa in 1868. He was born in Halifax, Vermont, January 4, 1809, and married March 14, 1838, Mary S. Putnam, who was born July 28, 1819. They had a family of eight children, the first three of whom were born in Vermont, the others in Wisconsin: Addison Putnam; Charles King; Maria Nancy; Eugene Clarence; Ellen Mary; Henry Clarence; Alber Willie; and Francis Leslie.

Elias Fowler, the paternal grandfather of Mrs. Miller, was born February 6, 1776, and in 1797 he married Jerusha Summer, who was born October 21, 1779. They lived in Halifax, Vermont, where they reared a large family of children, whose names were as follows: Daniel; Daniel (2); Clarisa; Elias; John; Addison; Prentis; Charles; Harriet; Juliet; Olive; Thomas, and a babe unnamed.

To Mr. and Mrs. O. P. Miller have come the following children: Clarence J., a graduate of the University of Iowa, and the Northwestern University of Evanston, Illinois, now an attorney at Rock Rapids; Mabel, who died in 1882; Arthur G., a graduate of Cornel in 1903, and now a bookkeeper in the Lyon County National Bank; Oscar P., Jr., now a student in the Rock Rapids high school.

The family are connected with the Methodist Episcopal church, in which Mr. Miller has long taken an honored part, having united with it at Elgin in 1875. In 1896 he was elected to the general conference at Cleveland, where he was placed on the book committee, a position he held for four years. He was a delegate to the general conference, held in Chicago in May, 1900, serving as a member on the committee on arrangements. There he occupied the position of treasurer during the illness of that official. He was also a member of the general conference of 1904, held at Los Angeles, where he was elected treasurer, and disbursed more than $130,000. He was again chosen a member of the book committee for eight years, and if he completes his term of office, he will have served on the one committee sixteen years.

For twelve years Mr. Miller has been a trustee of Cornell College, and for four years has been vice president of the board. At home he has served as a member of the official board and as treasurer for many years. For over twenty-seven years he has served as superintendent of Sunday schools. Has served the First Methodist Episcopal Sunday school at Rock Rapids as superintendent since its organization twenty-two years ago.

Mr. Miller has led an active and useful life through these many years that we have hastily followed his career, and is the only man now in business in Rock Rapids that was here in 1880. He votes the Republican ticket, but has no desire for political honors.

Source: Compendium of History Reminiscence and Biography of Lyon County, Iowa. Published under the Auspices of the Pioneer Association of Lyon County. Geo. Monlun, Pres.; Hon. E. C. Roach Sec’y; and Col. F. M. Thompson, Historian. Geo. A. Ogle & CO., Published, Engravers and Book Manufacturers. Chicago, 1904-1905

Transcribed by Roseanna Zehner, Darlene Jacoby and Diane Johnson


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