History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, 1887

Miller Family - FRED REINHARDT MILLER Biography

The man whose name heads this sketch ranks among the enterprising and truly loyal citizens of Williamsport and is at the head of a very extensive book bindery, blank book and job printing establishment, which he founded without means or credit, other than his great energy and peculiar adaptability for such work.

He was born April 13, 1860, at Syracuse, New York. The father was Reinhardt Martin Miller, of Wurtemberg, Sax Mieningen, Germany, born May 21, 1835, and came to America in 1853, first settling at Roundout and then at Wilbur, New York, but subsequently removed to Syracuse-about 1856, but in 1861, during the oil excitement, went to Titusville, Pennsylvania, he being among the first to go there. He worked at the cooper's trade making oil barrels. Later he joined the police force and was a highly successful detective for a period of fifteen years. He handled many extremely difficult cases and displayed much tact in this role, capturing and bringing to justice many hardened outlaws. His parents, also of Germany, came to America. They were Casper and Dorothy Miller, who had nine sons and one daughter. He married early in 1859, Anna Caroline Ziska, born November 21, 1835, at Dresden, Germany, coming to America about 1844 with her father, two brothers and one sister and locating at Syracuse, New York. Her father took charge of one of the German Evangelical Lutheran churches. She was educated in the University of Dresden. Her two brothers were in the Civil war from 1863 and both were captured and imprisoned in Libby Prison, where they died of starvation. This sorrow caused the death of the father in 1866; he died, it is related, of a broken heart. Her mother died about 1851. One sister married and remained in Dresden, Germany, the wife of a large cloth manufacturer. One of the daughters of this lady became a noted singer and sang before the royalty, having been blessed with a remarkable voice which was highly cultivated. Our subject's mother died at Titusville, Pennsylvania, October 4, 1876.

The father, Reinhardt Martin Miller, worked at locomotive building and salt barrel making while at Syracuse. He was a fine musician and a member of the then famous Maurers Band of Syracuse, New York. About 1882 he settled in Chicago, Illinois, but a year later bought property in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he lived for eleven years and died after a four months' illness, March 23, 1895. The first building used as a railroad station at Titusville was constructed by him. His family consisted of a wife and seven children, two living and five died in infancy. Fred R., and Minna, who married Benjamin Althof, of Erie, Pennsylvania, and has an interesting family.

Fred R. Miller accompanied his parents to Titusville, Pennsylvania, when but one year of age, in 1861. He was educated in the public schools until eleven years old, then left for Syracuse, New York, where he attended a German school for sixteen months, and was confirmed in the German Evangelical Lutheran church in 1873. His grandfather was pastor of this church at an early day. He then returned to his parents and again entered the public schools, remaining until the spring of 1875, when on July 6th of the same year he was apprenticed to Jacob Young, a practical book binder and blank book maker, where he served two years and nine months. After this he was variously occupied for three months and then left for Syracuse, this being in 1878, finding employment with August Koehler, who owned a bindery, and in three months young Miller was given charge of the plant, having under him forty persons. At this period he was but eighteen years of age, which shows that he commenced to show good executive and managing ability at a very early age in his career. Here he remained until September, 1879, when he took a situation with a ladies' ruching and lace manufacturing company, as traveling salesman on commission, his route being in southern New York and Pennsylvania. But his sphere had not been wisely chosen and he hankered after the work of his trade, a book binder. So after two weeks of road life he, one dark night in October, 1879, landed at Williamsport with just one cent in his pocket; he expected a remittance for his commission to be sent him at this point, but on account of his having notified the house of his intention of quitting their employ it was not sent and is still due. Not being easily discouraged, however, he deposited his grip-sack over the desk at the old Crawford House and trusted for something to turn his ill into good luck. This was Saturday night and early on Monday morning he was out among the dealers, and sold a few nice bills of goods, still looking for his remittance. The same afternoon of that day he secured employment with G. E. Otto Seiss, then Williamsport's only book binder. Soon after this, he being a single man, he was thrown out of employment, but managed to earn enough to pay his hotel and other bills. About November 2-,, 1879, he left for Philadelphia, but en route he stopped, as if by Providence, at Pottsville, Pennsylvania, where he dropped into the journal office, and upon entering he chanced to meet the manager coining out. He inquired of him for work, whereupon he was pulled into the private office and told that if he was a practical hook binder he might consider himself engaged, thus ending his proposed Philadelphia trip.

After five months there, Mr. Miller could not but believe that Williamsport had some better things in store for him, so April 3, 1880, he left for that city and formed a partnership with a Mr. Heilig. Neither possessing any capital, they leased the old "Banner bindery," trusting to their ability to make a success. After one year they found themselves even, without any profit, however. The partnership was dissolved April 1, 1881, when Mr. Miller leased the plant, continued two years, when the ownership changed, and Mr. Miller was unable to re-lease it, but worked as foreman for two years, and in the autumn of 1886 formed a co-partnership with George Cohick and George B. Leiter, under firm name of Cohick, Miller & Leiter, they purchasing the wall-papering and stationery business of G. Otto Seiss and added a bindery, Mr. Miller taking full charge of that branch of the business, in the same room where a few years before he had earned his first money in Williamsport. On June 16th he sold his interest in the store and on the 17th started the business now known as the "Fred R. Miller Blank Book Company." The bindery was, of necessity, purchased on credit, Mr. Miller giving his notes, which were each and all promptly met when due. At that (late the working force of the concern consisted of Mr. Miller and an apprentice boy, on a salary of $3 a week, and when the first Saturday night came Mr. Miller had to borrow a dollar and a half with which to pay the boy for a one-half week's work. This, however, was the first and last time in his career that this had to be done. The business was known as the Fred R. Miller Blank Book Manufactory, until the fall of 1899, when the present corporation was formed. So great was the expansion of his business that Mr. Miller was compelled each year or two to seek new quarters until the present location was selected, which has been doubled in size since he first moved to it. More than twenty men and women are now employed in this plant, and many hours of extra time have to be put in during the year in order to keep up with orders. The business extends over a large portion of territory, including orders from banks and offices, etc., from nearly every state in the Union. The superiority of workmanship has built up a reputation which of itself is a fortune to possess. From senior partner in the old firm Mr. Miller was elected president of the new corporation.

Mr. Miller was united in marriage in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, April 16, 1884, to Priscilla J. Hill (Cooper). She was educated in Candor, New York, in the public schools, and at Ithaca, New York. Her parents were Charles and Priscilla Hill. The father was a railway engineer and conductor and was killed by accident on the D. L. & W. Railway when she was a small child. Her mother died at her birth. Her ancestors came from England and settled first in Vermont.

Like many another up-to-date modern business man, he of whom we write is connected with various fraternal societies, including these Ivy Lodge No. 397, F. & A. M., of which he is a Past Master; Lycoming Chapter No. 222, R. A. M.; Adoniram Council No. 26, R. & S. M.; Baldwin II Commandery No. 22, Knights Templar; Williamsport Lodge of Perfection (14th degree), of which he is T. P. G. M.; Williamsport Council Princes of Jerusalem, (16th degree) of which he is P. S. P. G. M.; Williamsport Chapter (18th degree) Rose Croix; Williamsport Consistory (32nd degree), of which he was a charter member; Irem Temple A. A. O. N. M. S., of Wilkes barre. He has been identified with the Ancient Order of United Workmen, Lodge No. 233, and he is also charter member of Utility Council No. 1364, Royal Arcanum. Politically Mr. Miller is a supporter of the Republican party.

When one considers the facts above stated, that he began life's battle unaided, and has built up for himself a name so highly known, it should be an inspiration to those who come after him, and should they be as faithful to every trust as has Mr. Miller, success will eventually crown life's efforts.

Source: Genealogical and Personal History of Lycoming County, John W. Jordan, Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1906.

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