FRED H. MILLER, now retired, is one of the citizens whose careers have been longest and most influentially identified with the community of Great Bend. He has been both a farmer and merchant, and has always played a dignified role in public affairs.
Mr. Miller has been an American for over half a century, having come to this country when about fourteen years old. He was born in Steyerberg, Hanover, Germany, February 16, 1850, son of Fred and Mary Hemker Miller. His parents were natives of Hanover, and their forefathers were identified with that kingdom for generations. The family connection for many years was Lutheran. Fred Miller, Sr., was a brick and stone mason and plasterer. On May 1, 1864, he embarked with his family at Bremen on the sailing vessel Atlanta and on the 28th of May reached Castle Garden, New York, and proceeding into the interior of the country reached LaCrosse, Wisconsin, June 5th. In Wisconsin Fred Miller engaged in farming, and that was his occupation the rest of his years. As a result of an accident he died in 1872, at the age of forty-seven. His widow continued to live there and died in 1917, at the venerable age of eighty-seven. Their children wore: Fred H.; Dietrich, of LaCrosse County; Sophie, Mrs. F. Nuttleman, of LaCrosse County; Henry, of Larned, Kansas; Dora, wife of George Sprehn, living in Wisconsin; and William, a Wisconsin farmer.
Fred H. Miller grew up on his father's farm in Southwestern Wisconsin, and there acquired considerable knowledge and experience valuable to him in later years and some capital which he brought with him to Kansas. In LaCrosse County, Wisconsin, March 5, 1875, he married Miss Annie Sandman, daughter of Deitrich and Margaret (Sprehn) Sandman. Her father also came from Hanover, Germany, and was a farmer in LaCrosse County, where Mrs. Miller was born in July, 1853, the oldest of a family of two sons and seven daughters.
The advent of Mr. and Mrs. Miller to Kansas was in the nature of a wedding trip. They arrived at Great Bend March 12, 1875, just a week after their marriage. In the fall of 1874 he had bought a piece of land, and he and his wife took possession of this, living in a shanty 12 by 16 feet, which Mr. Miller had constructed. He busily gathered together some stock and implements, broke up his land for a crop, and sowed oats on the sod. These oats produced feed for the following winter and in the fall he sowed his first wheat crop. This crop returned the seed, and the following year he repeated the experiment, with better results, the yield being fourteen bushels to the acre. In 1878 a good crop was harvested, but for five years following there was a dearth of "biscuit stuff," and the only reward for his efforts was feed for his stock. The limited amount of capital he brought with him to Kansas disappeared during these years of hardship, and quite frequently he found it to his advantage to seek work off his own land. A stone mason by trade, he was frequently employed in local building enterprise, though the country was too poor to justify much construction, as there was a general scarcity of money everywhere.
Mr. Miller continued to live on his farm five miles west of Great Bend until 1886, when he moved with his family to the county seat. Here he changed his calling completely, entering the implement business as one of the Great Bend Implement Company. In 1896 he established the firm of Miller & Hemker, hardware, implements and plumbing. He was the senior partner in this well known firm until 1910, when he felt the weight of years of strenuous activity and retired from all business connections.
Mr. Miller has contributed to the progress and growth of Great Bend as a merchant, and he also constructed both business houses in which he did business, besides his home at 1311 Madison Street. Since retiring from active life he has become a stockholder in the First National Bank of Great Bend and is a member of its board of directors.
A not unprofitable pastime has been bee culture. Many years ago he got his first hive of bees under the influence of the old maxim that "a bee sting is a cure for rheumatism." Mrs. Miller was a sufferer from that malady, and the results of the experiment justified the truth of the proverb, since the virus of the bee sting seemed to give Mrs. Miller relief and the rheumatism finally disappeared altogether. With this introduction to bee culture Mr. Miller has proceeded to effect some wonderful things. His apiary is in his back yard. In 1917 he took 1,700 pounds of honey from twelve stands of bees. One hive produced 224 pounds, and at the price of 18 cents a pound the honey yielded about seven times the value of the hive.
Mr. Miller has also become well known as a political figure in the county. He always favored public improvement and municipal advancement. In political affiliations his interest has been divided between the two old parties, resulting in a rather independent stand. He cast his first presidential vote for Horace Greeley in 1872. Several times since then he has changed party allegiance, and in local affairs he always supports the man. The first county office he was candidate for was on the fusion ticket as candidate for county treasurer in 1892. He was elected, having been nominated while away from the county and not seeing fit to decline the honor. He defeated his opponent by a good majority. Two years later his predecessor, D. Bosse, defeated him. He was also for four years a member of the city council, and during that time the city hall was built.
Mr. Miller is affiliated with the lodge, Royal Arch Chapter and Knight Templar Commandery of Masonry, with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Modern Woodmen of America. He has several times been consul of the Modern Woodmen. He and his family are not members of any church. Mr. and Mrs. Miller have one daughter, Ella, wife of Fred Hemker of Great Bend. There are six grandchildren: Alfreda, Herbert, Walter, Arthur, Willard and Carl. These grandchildren all possess musical talent, and they comprise a home orchestra that is well known locally. The oldest grandchild, Alfreda, is a teacher in Barton County.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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