Biography of Alexander R. Miller
Washington County, IA Biographies





Alexander R. Miller, who according to the consensus of public opinion has measured up to the full standard of manhood in all of life's relations, is now editor of the Washington Democrat. He is well known in this part of the state where he has spent his entire life, being numbered among the native sons of Washington county, his birth having occurred in Marion township, February 6, 1865.

His parents, Peter P. and Barbara (Sommer) Miller, were both natives of Holmes county, Ohio, where they were reared. The former was a son of Moses P. Miller who was born in Pennsylvania. He became a farmer and was also prominent in the Mennonite church, becoming one of its clergymen and also a bishop of that denomination. He gave his services to the cause of Christianity without pay, and rode horseback over Indiana, organizing many churches. Who can measure the influence of such a life, characterized by self sacrifice and by the utmost devotion to the work of promoting the moral and religious progress of the race? He died in Holmes county, Ohio, at the age of seventy five years, while his wife, Mrs. Catharine (Miller) Miller; was about seventy years of age at the time of her demise. They were the parents of seven children who reached years of maturity: Sarah, who died unmarried; Jonathan; Maria, who died single; John; Mrs. Catharine Kauffman; Moses, living in Tuscarawas county, Ohio; and Peter P. The last named, the father of our subject, was reared on the home farm in his native county until fifteen years of age, when he became a stock drover and was thus employed for ten or twelve years. He came west with a partner, Philip Yoder, with five thousand head of sheep and located in Marion township, Washington county, Iowa, where he engaged in farming in 1863. He was married in this county in January of that year, the lady of his choice being Miss Barbara Sommer, a daughter of Joseph Sommer, who was a native of Pennsylvania and one of the early settlers of Holmes county, Ohio, where he accumulated considerable property. He came to Iowa with his family in 1853, driving across the country to Van Buren county, and located soon afterward in Washington county, his home being a refuge in pioneer times for all newcomers. He, too, was a Mennonite and was one of the founders of a church of that denomination in this county. He lived an active, useful and honorable life and was called to his reward in 1888 at the age of eighty years. His wife, Mrs. Martha (Miller) Sommer, died in 1875 at the age of sixty five years. They had a large family, namely: Catharine, the wife of Daniel Winter; Susan, the wife of Samuel Hagie; Lydia, who wedded Rev. Benjamin Eicher; Eve, the wife of Peter Goldsmith; Barbara, the wife of Peter P. Miller; Lucinda, who married John A. Rumble; Henry, residing at Wheatland, Wyoming; and Martha, the wife of G. W. Neff, of Wayland, Iowa.

As stated, Mr. and Mrs. Peter P. Miller were married in January, 1863, and at that time Mr. Miller purchased a small tract of land of twelve acres whereon he resided for five years, during which time he engaged in teaming and in gardening. Later he rented land for some years and eventually became the owner of one hundred and fifty five acres, his industry and economy bringing him to a position of comfort. He died February 3, 1899, at the age of sixty years, while his wife survived until March 7, 1905, and passed away at the age of sixty three years. Both were members of the Mennonite church and were laid to rest in Eicher cemetery in Marion township. Their family numbered five sons and two daughters: Alexander R., of this review; Caroline, who died at the age of forty years; Agnes; Joseph, of Wayland, Iowa; Stanley, editor of the Free Press, at Mount Pleasant, Iowa; John M., deceased; and Charles R., of Wayland, Iowa.

In taking up the personal history of Alexander R. Miller we present to our readers the life record of one who is widely known in Washington county, having spent his entire life within its borders. He was reared on the home farm, pursued his early education in the district schools and later attended the Eastern Iowa Normal School, at Columbus Junction, and the Washington Academy. He lived at home until twenty five years of age, giving his attention to the work of the farm and also to school teaching, which profession he followed for ten years in the district and village schools always in Washington county. He then read law with Dewey & Eicher, well known attorneys of Washington, and was admitted to the bar in 1892, but he did. not follow the profession, and in 1893 became connected with journalism, purchasing a half interest from George G. Rodman in the Washington Democrat, thus becoming a partner of William N. Hood, with whom he was thus associated for five years. Mr. Hood was killed by the cars September 14, 1898, and that year Mr. Miller by purchase acquired the entire plant and has since conducted the paper alone. The Democrat was established in 1878 and its name indicates its political complexion. Mr. Miller has a fine plant, most modern in all of its equipment, and in addition to the publication of his paper, which is an attractive sheet and has a large circulation, he also conducts an extensive job printing business.

On the 28th of May, 1895, was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Miller to Miss Ola Babcock, a daughter of Nathan L. and Ophelia (Smith) Babcock. Mrs. Miller was born in this county while her father was a native of New York and her mother of Ohio. The former was a son of Stanton Babcock, a native of New York, and one of the honored pioneer residents of Washington county, Iowa. He married Thurza Babcock, whose surname was therefore not changed at the time of her marriage. Both lived to an advanced age and their remains were interred in a cemetery of this county when they were called to their final rest. They had three children who reached mature years. The maternal grandfather of Mrs. Miller was a farmer by occupation. He married a Miss Rogers and they were early residents of Iowa where Mrs. Smith died at the age of thirty three years, her grave being made in Richmond. Mr. Smith afterward married again and died at an advanced age. By his first wife he had five daughters: Harriet, the wife of Adam Page; Ophelia, the wife of N. L. Babcock; Cora, the wife of Nial Van Sickle; Emma, the wife of Anthony Van Sickle of Washington; and Mrs. Elizabeth Canier, a widow.

Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Babcock became residents of Washington county at an early day and the father engaged in farming here. Espousing the cause of the Union at the time of the Civil war, he did active duty for two years in the Nineteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry. For the past thirty years he and his wife have lived in Washington where he has been engaged in dealing in live stock. They were the parents of seven children, but only three are now living, Ola, John and Josephine. Of these the first named became Mrs. Miller, and by her marriage three children have been born, Joseph, Ophelia and Barbara, but the first named died in infancy.

In his fraternal relations Mr. Miller is a Mason, prominent in the order as a member of Washington Lodge, No. 26, A. F. & A. M.; Cyrus Chapter No. 13, R. A. M.; and Bethlehem Commander, No. 45, K. T. He is also affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America and his wife is a member of the Methodist church. His political allegiance is given to the democracy and that he is one of the prominent workers and foremost representatives of the party in this section of the state is indicated in the fact that he is now serving as a member of the state central committee from the first district. He also uses the columns of his paper to further the political interests in which he believes but is not bitterly aggressive in his attacks upon those holding opposing views. In fact his salient qualities are those which characterize progressive and honorable American manhood and throughout the state wherever known, he is regarded as a dynamic force in furthering the best interests of his native county.

From:
History of Washington County, Iowa
From the First White Settlement to 1908
Vol II
BY: Howard A. Burrell
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1909


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