John S. Miller (1849 – )




Prominent among the energetic, far-seeing and successful business men of Sterling is John S. Miller, president of the First National Bank. There has not been a single esoteric phase in his career. On the contrary his business methods have ever been such as will bear the closest investigation and scrutiny and his advancement has come through the recognition and utilization of opportunity and the exercise of energy and enterprise—his dominant qualities.

A native of Pennsylvania, Mr. Miller was born in Pottsville, April 13, 1849, his parents being John S. and Barbara (Bach) Miller, both of whom were natives of Germany, the former born at Simothaven and the latter at Elwagen. The father was reared in Germany to the age of sixteen years and acquired his early education in that land. He then crossed the Atlantic to the new world and without means landed at Pottsville, Pennsylvania, where in order to provide for a livelihood he followed the baker’s trade, and to secure progress along intellectual lines he attended the night schools. In 1857 he came west to Freeport, Illinois, where he entered into partnership with C. J. Fry in the manufacture of alcohol. They sold out in 1862 and on the 1st of May, 1864, Mr. Miller became a resident of Sterling, where he continued the manufacture of alcohol until his death, which occurred February 27, 1874, when he was fifty-three years of age. His wife survived him and lived to be sixty-five years of age. He figured in business circles in Sterling not only as a manufacturer but also as a prominent representative of its financial interests, being one of the original promoters of the First National Bank, which was organized in 1870. He was chosen its first president and continued as its chief executive officer up to the time of his death, placing the institution upon a safe, reliable basis and instituting a conservative policy

that has awakened uniform trust. The bank is capitalized for one hundred thousand dollars and has heen a successful institution from the beginning.

Both Mr. Miller and his wife were members of the Lutheran church and were people of the highest respectability, winning for themselves a creditable position in the regard of their fellow townsmen. Of their family of seven children two were sons and five were daughters. The record is as follows: Margaret, deceased, was the wife of Frank Bartholomae; John S. is the second in order of birth; William H., who was associated with our subject in the banking business, died of heart disease while on a hunting trip in Dakota in 1903; Mary, deceased, was the wife of Bernard Roesing; Julia, deceased, was the wife of E. Stein; Louise M. is the wife of T. T. Ramsdell and is now living in Buffalo, New York; and Alice, deceased, was the wife of W. P. Kennard.

John S. Miller, the immediate subject of this review, spent the first eight years of his life in the place of his nativity and then accompanied his parents to the west, living for six years in Freeport, Illinois, and one year in Chicago before the family home was established in Sterling, where he has since continued. He attended the public schools in these different towns and for two years was a student in Clark’s Seminary at Aurora and for two years in the high school at Chicago.

Mr. Miller then entered the office of his father as a grain buyer and was engaged in the manufacture of alcohol until 1884, forming a partnership with his brother, William H., on the death of their father in 1874. He also became his father’s successor as president of the First National Bank of Sterling and is still at the head of that institution, which is widely recognized as one of the strongest moneyed concerns of this section of the state. The bank now occupies one of the most handsome bank buildings in Illinois outside of the large cities. It was remodeled in 1908 and is fully equipped with every modern convenience for the transaction of business and for the protection of depositors.

On the 22d of January, 1879, Mr. Miller was married to Miss Carrie Ware, a daughter of Richard C. and Carrie (Cameron) Ware. The latter was a daughter of Mrs. Sarah Cameron, whose children were as follows: Mrs. Ware; Marcella, who became the wife of General E. C. Kirk and after his death of Dr. Charles H. Thomas; Sarah, the wife of Dr. J. B. Patterson; Josephine, who married Dr. P. G. Clark, and Elianna, the wife of Albert Vincent.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Miller were born four children: Carl W., who is now a medical student in Chicago; Howard, who died at the age of two and a half years; Alice Louise, who passed away when but a few days old, and Fred W., who died at the age of four months. Mrs. Miller passed away December 19, 1889, at the age of twenty-nine years and her death was deeply regretted in the Episcopalian church, of which she was a member, and by the community at large. Mr. Miller is also a member of that church and his political allegiance is given to the republican party. He has traveled extensively, crossing the ocean ten times and visiting thirteen foreign countries. He has thus gained the experience, knowledge and culture which only travel can bring and is an entertaining gentleman, to whom the world instinctively pays deference by reason of his social qualities as well as the success he has achieved.”

Source: History of Whiteside County, Illinois, Vol. 1, by William W. Davis, The Pioneer Publishing Co.,  Chicago, 1903, pages 445-7

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