RICHARD S. MILLER, M. D. A singularly gifted and useful citizen was the late Dr. R. S. Miller, who for forty years or more was a resident of Butler County. He died at his home in El Dorado January 15, 1916, and was interred in the Towanda Cemetery, where the three deceased children are also buried. He had first become acquainted with Butler County when it was in its earliest pioneer development, afterwards spent a number of years in Indiana, but returned to this county and made it his permanent home from the late '70s, until his death.
Doctor Miller was born in Green County, Wisconsin, December 9, 1851, a son of Jacob and Ann (Breaks) Miller. His parents were both born in Indiana. The father died when Doctor Miller was young, and the widowed mother soon returned to Indiana and lived at Crawfordsville in that state until her death in 1865. Doctor Miller was the youngest of three children. His oldest sister, Elizabeth, married James Taylor and now lives in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The second child, John, died when a young man.
As a boy in Indiana Doctor Miller had the advantages of the common schools. He also attended the historic institution of higher learning, Wabash College, at Crawfordsville. In the summer of 1868, at the age of seventeen, he first came to Kansas, locating at Topeka, where he lived for a year and a half. While here he attended the Kansas State Normal School at Emporia about a year and then removed to Butler County, locating at Towanda. He came to Towanda with Doctor Angel, with whom he had read medicine at Emporia, and at Towanda Doctor Miller established the first drug store of the town. The public well on the main street in Towanda stands as a memorial to Doctor Miller's interest in public welfare. He suggested digging the well, threw out the first shovelful of earth and assisted in the work until it was completed. While looking after his store he continued the study of medicine under Doctor Angel. Later he expanded his mercantile interests by entering the hardware business at Towanda in partnership with Harvey Dickey. In 1872, while living at Towanda, Doctor Miller was married to Miss Viola De-Ette Waite.
In 1875, having sold his mercantile interests he returned to Crawfordsville, Indiana. For four years he was in the drug business there, and in the meantime pursued the regular course of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Indianapolis, where he was graduated M. D. in 1878. Doctor Miller practiced one year at Crawfordsville and then at Linden, Indiana, until 1882.
His health failing, he determined that Kansas climate was what he most needed for its restoration, and on giving up his practice in Indiana he returned to Butler County and again located at Towanda. Here he spent his time chiefly on the farm, and in a few years was restored to robust health. Doctor Miller resumed practice at Towanda in 1892, but two years later moved his home and office to El Dorado. From that city as his headquarters he extended his service as a physician and surgeon over a wide scope of country and continued active until his death twenty-four years later. He was an able physician, always had all the practice he could attend to, and was a leader in professional circles as he was in other matters with which he became identified.
In 1909 Doctor Miller was the choice of the citizens of El Dorado for the office of mayor. He served two terms. In the opinion of the best informed citizens El Dorado never had a more efficient and progressive mayor than Doctor Miller. Much of the history of real municipal improvement and advancement might be written in connection with his four years of administraton. It is said that the first official letter he penned upon becoming mayor was to Andrew Carnegie, calling the attention of that philanthropist to the need of a library at El Dorado. He worked first and last heartily with other promoters of the library project and he rendered a signal service toward the final culmination of the plans when he appointed a committee of live and energetic citizens who were willing to push the matter to success. While he was mayor the first permanent paving was done in El Dorado. This consisted of fourteen city blocks. The first concrete crossings were laid, and El Dorado's White Way was installed. At the same time the other business of the city went on apace and with efficiency and economy. The people of El Dorado regard with special admiration his administration because it was economical as well as progressive. He had unusual judgment in financial matters and saw to it that municipal affairs were conducted on a systematic business plan.
It is proper to cite his fidelity to his trust as a public official as something worthy of emulation. During all the time he was mayor of El Dorado he missed only one meeting of the city council. For seven years he was a member of the school board, part of the time president, and throughout that period he never missed a single meeting, either special or regular. This is the more remarkable when it is recalled that he was burdened with a large practice as a physician, which made the most exacting demands upon him. Doctor Miller in school affairs first advocated the erection of the McKinley school building as a separate and independent structure. His plan was carried out and the judgment of later years has especially approved his wisdom. More than anything else his service to the school board was invaluable in meeting the financial problems involved. When he became a member of the board the school finances of the city were in a critical condition. While for several years the board had levied the legal limit of taxes, there was a regular annual deficit. Doctor Miller proposed a radical reformation. As a result of his plan the schools were maintained without creating additional burdens, though it was necessary to reduce the school term one month each year and the teachers' salaries correspondingly. As there was no other alternative, this situation was accepted cheerfully by those who understood the difficulties confronting the board.
The citizens of El Dorado can point to many things and say that Doctor Miller's hand and influence was here and was there and always to benefit. He was the first to advocate the purchase by the county of the entire square where the new court house stands. It had been the original purpose to erect the new building upon the site of the old court house. In these prosperous times the wisdom of his proposition is clear to everyone, though at the time many deemed it impracticable. Doctor Miller also inaugurated the movement for the erection of Murdock Memorial Fountain on the court house square. This work was carried out by popular subscription at the cost of $600, and Doctor Miller was the chief contributor and was largely responsible for the success of the campaign.
Such a citizen is an asset to any community and any state. What he did so wisely and so well for his city and county he did indirectly for the entire commonwealth of Kansas, which should properly value his services and consider his example as one to be followed and esteemed by subsequent generations.
Doctor Miller was affiliated with the Fraternal Aid, the Knights and Ladies of Security and the Modern Woodmen of America. In politics he was a republican and was always able to justify his allegiance by forceful argument.
Doctor Miller left his family well provided for. He owned 800 acres of land in Butler County, now under cultivation and in the immediate vicinity of the oil fields now being developed; also owned a two story office building, opposite the court house in El Dorado and a beautiful home at 115 Mechanic Street. His other property included three dwelling houses and a four section flat all in the residential section of El Dorado. All of his property is without any debts against it.
A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by students from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, October 21, 1999.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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