John H. Miller

JOHN H. MILLER. In a study of conditions which have combined for the advancement of men of prominence in the business world, the student invariably finds that those upon whom rests dependence for counsel, advice and leadership are those who have won their way to the forefront through the force of their own industry and application, rising gradually and fighting their way in the face of all opposition. The traits of character which may be depended upon for the greatest reward are industry, integrity, self-reliance and perseverance, and to these may be attributed the success that has crowned the efforts of John H. Miller, president of the Miller Refining Petroleum Company, of Chanute. Mr. Miller has been the arehitect of his own fortunes and occupies an enviable position in business and financial circles, not alone on account of the success that he has achieved, but also on account of the honorable, straightforward business policy which he has ever followed.

Mr. Miller was born in Shelby County, Missouri, February 1, 1857, and is a son of John L. Miller. His father was born in 1822, in Scotland, and came to the United States when about twenty-one years of age, first locating in New York City, where for several years he worked as foreman in a shoe factory. He was married in New York, where four of his children were born, and then removed to Shelby County, Missouri, and settled on a farm, being engaged in agricultural operations for some years. Later he turned his attention to the livestock and grain business, and in 1879 came to Kansas and settled at Clifton as a pioneer merchant. He was engaged in the furniture and undertaking business at Clifton until 1895, in which year he removed to Greenleaf, Kansas, and still continued in the same line, being engaged therein until his eightieth year, when he retired. His death occurerd[sic] at Greenleaf in 1907, when he was eight-five[sic] years old. Mr. Miller was an excellent business man, shrewd, foresighted and energetic, practical in his ideas and progressive in his methods. He was a republican, although he never took more than a good citizen's part in politics, and was a strict member of the Presbyterian Church. He married Miss Mary Calhoun, who was born in 1824, in Ireland, and was about twenty years of age when she came to the United States with her sister and settled in New York. She died at Clifton, Kansas, in 1889. To Mr. and Mrs. Miller there were born the following children: Lavina, who died at Los Angeles, California, as the wife of James McMullen; Alexander, who is engaged in farming in Caldwell County, Missouri; George, who is engaged in the grain business and is a rancher in Northeastern Colorado; Mary who died at Kansas City, Missouri, as the widow of C. M. Phelps, a hardware merchant who died at Miltonvale, Kansas; John H. of this review; R. B., who is in the grain and milling business at Hutchinson, Kansas; and Agnes, who is the wife of H. Cado, a clerk of Los Angeles, California.

John H. Miller was educated in the public schools of Caldwell and Shelby counties, Missouri, and when about eighteen years of age gave up his studies to work on his father's farm. Shortly after he had attained his majority, he came to Kansas with his parents, and for a few years devoted his attention to the grain business at Clifton. Later he was interested in the hardware and drug business at Miltonvale, Kansas, but subsequently returned to the grain establishment at Clifton. In 1899 Mr. Miller went on the road for the Clyde Milling and Elevator Company, covering Northern Kansas, Northern Missouri and Southern Iowa, and continued thus employed until 1903, in December of which year he came to Chanute and became manager of the Sunflower Oil and Gas Producing Company. In 1906 he bought out the interests of the stockholders in this concern and conducted the business alone until 1907, when he closed out his holdings. In the meantime, in 1905, he had laid a pipe line from the Sunflower lease to the Santa Fe Railroad, a distance of seven miles, and sold the oil for fuel but during the ensuing years branched out considerably in the line of selling different oils. In 1908 Mr. Miller established branch distributing stations in Oklahoma and placed his son, Frank L. Miller, in charge of these as manager. Three years later, the business had grown to such an extent in Kansas that he was forced to recall his son to Chanute to engage in business with him, and father and son established more stations for the distribution of oil all over the State of Kansas.

In 1912 Mr. Miller leased the Niotaze Refinery, at Niotaze, Kansas, and commenced the manufacture of refined oil products. This business was terminated eleven months later, but during this time Mr. Miller had purchased the old Humboldt Refinery, the first one ever established in the Mid-Continent field, built by C. D. Webster. Mr. Miller has enlarged the plant from time to time until it is now putting out about 700 barrels a day, and, with the new machinery, the two new crude oil stills, the additional tankage etc., will have a capacity of about 1,000 barrels daily. The company owns and operates its own tank cars, of which it has now about fifty in operation. The offices are at No. 30 1/2 West Main Street, Mr. Miller having leased the building, while he owns all the equipment, and here is employed a working force of ten persons. The concern also has warehouses at Chanute to take care of the lubricating products, and has stores at Chanute and Humboldt, the enterprise being at this time the third largest distributor of paint in the state, and still growing. It is taking out of Augusta some twenty carloads of crude oil per day, and in addition to supplying its own refinery is furnishing four others with a portion of their requirement. Altogether, the company is giving employment to about forty men. Mr. Miller is president and general manager of the Miller Refining Petroleum Company and of the Miller Oil Company. Mr. Miller is widely known as a man of substantial worth, whose judgment is sound and sagacity keen.

The pleasant home of Mr. Miller, a modern residence at No. 401 West Main Street, has been made doubly attractive by a beautiful lawn and one of the finest yards in Chanute. He is independent in his political views, and while at Clifton served for several years as a member of the council and for two terms as mayor. He belongs to the Chanute Commercial Club, and his fraternal relations include membership in Hector Lodge No. 64, Independent Order of Odd Fellows; Chanute Lodge No. 96, Ancient Order United Workmen, and the United Commercial Travelers. He has had a leading part in all movements that have benefited the city, and is adjudged a public-spirited citizen, ready to contribute at all times of his means and energies in behalf of civic or educational improvements.

On April 26, 1882, Mr. Miller was married at Clifton, Kansas, to Miss Clara Hay, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George W. Hay, farming people of this locality, both of whom are now deceased. Two children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Miller: Frank Lyle, a graduate of the Clifton High School and the Salina Business College, and now secretary and salesman of the Miller Petroleum Refining Company, and vice president of the Miller Oil Company; and Miss Inez, who resides with her parents, a very talented young lady who is studying vocal and instrumental music.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed February 3, 1999.

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