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Guide to the John Franklin Miller Papers, 1848-1890
Special Collections M059  
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: John Franklin Miller Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1848-1890
    Collection number: Special Collections M059
    Creator: Miller, John Franklin
    Extent: 2 linear ft.
    Repository: Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions:


    Publication Rights:

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.


    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. K. Cecil, 1955

    Preferred Citation:

    [Identification of item] John Franklin Miller Papers, M059, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


    John Franklin Miller, the eldest of William and Mary Miller's five children, was born in South Bend, Indiana on November 21, 1831. Young Miller attended a local academy and in 1848 entered the Hatheway Mathematical and Classical School in Chicago. After a year, he returned to South Bend and studied in the law office of Judge Elisha Egbert. In 1852 Miller received his LL.B. from the State and National Law School at Ballston Spa, New York.
    Upon completing his education, John Miller returned to South Bend to open his practice with a Joseph Defrees. This partnership lasted only a few months because illness forced Miller to look for a different climate. He joined a group of emigrants headed for California by way of Nicaragua and arrived in Napa in March of 1853. There, he went into partnership with Judge Currey of San Francisco and also served as county treasurer for two years.
    In 1855 illness again necessitated a change of climate and Miller returned to South Bend to work with a new partner, Norman Eddy. Shortly after his return Miller met Miss Mary Chess of Monongahela, Pennsylvania, whom he married in 1857. A daughter, Eudora, was born in 1859, and a son, John, some years later. Apparently the boy died while still quite young for references to him suddenly stop after 1876.
    John Miller entered the Indiana Senate in 1861 as a Republican. With the outbreak of the Civil War he offered his services to the Union cause and served with distinction until his retirement from the military in 1865. He was originally commissioned a colonel of the 29th Regiment of the Indiana Volunteer Infantry and served under various commanders including Sherman, Buell, Rosecrans, and Thomas. In 1862 Miller was put in command of Headquarters at Nashville, Tennessee. On December 31, 1862 he was wounded in the neck at the Battle of Stone River or Murfreesboro and on March 31, 1863 he lost an eye at the Battle of Liberty Gap. For his bravery in this last engagement, Miller was made a brigadier general of volunteers. At the Battle of Nashville in 1864 he was in command of a brigade and on March 13, 1865, he was brevetted a major general.
    On September 25, 1865, John F. Miller resigned from the army and moved his family to San Francisco. There, by appointment of President Johnson, he served as collector of the port for four years. During this time the family lived at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco and some years later moved to Napa.
    At some time during his tenure as collector to the port Miller became interested in the seal hunting possibilities in Alaska. There is a story to the effect that a sea captain talked him into backing one such venture that was highly successful. At any rate, in 1869, Miller became president on the Alaska Seal Company, a post he held for twelve years. It was a very lucrative business for all concerned, especially since it held the United States monopoly for this type of enterprise.
    In 1872 and 1876 Miller was the Republican candidate for Presidential elector, and a delegate to the second State Constitutional Convention of 1878-79. On March 4, 1881, he became U.S. Senator from California and served until his death on March 8, 1886. As one of the wealthiest members of that body, he belonged to its "Millionaires Club." While in the Senate he was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, supported free labor, and took an active part in anti-Chinese legislation including the modification of the Burlingame Treaty with China and the Exclusion Bill of 1882.


    The John Franklin Miller Papers consist of personal and military correspondence, business, financial, and legal papers, official documents, calling cards, clippings and photographs, and some printed matter covering almost forty years, 1848-1886. The bulk of the material is dated between 1848 and 1865 and deals with Miller's early legal career and his military service during the Civil War.
    The correspondence and other papers relating to the Civil War are the most important and significant part of the collection. Miller wrote almost daily to his wife between 1862 and 1865, except when she was with him in Nashville and Murfreesboro. These letters describe men and conditions in military camps, skirmishes, and the battles of Liberty Gap and Stone River and others. They also give accounts of conversations which sometimes include plans and strategy. There are also letters to Miller by men of military and political importance in Tennessee and nationally. In this category are letters from Andrew Johnson, Schuyler Colfax, Mrs. James K. Polk, and General Rosecrans. The letters of Henry M. Cist, Miller's aide and later on the staff of General Thomas, give long and detailed accounts of troop movements. Various other military correspondents describe recruiting procedures and problems as well as troop movements and battles.
    From 1865 to 1886 the correspondence is much slimmer, but contains many names of political importance including Cabinet officers and Miller's Senatorial colleagues. There are also some papers and clippings dealing with seal hunting in Alaska and two letters from the Alaska Commercial Company of which Miller was president.
    Included in the Miller papers are several folders of letters to Miller's daughter Eudora from her husband, naval officer Richardson Clover. There are some sketchy descriptions of an expedition to Alaska, but most of the correspondence is purely personal.


    In the front part of many of the folders are handwritten lists of correspondents with short notes as to contents.