WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Washington County, Utah)
HENRY WILLIAM MILLER
(early settler, church leader)
BIOGRAPHYHenry William Miller was born May 1, 1807, at Lexington, Greene County, New York.
Henry learned the carpintery trade. Being adventuresome, he and his brother, Daniel, moved to Chicago and found ample work as builders. In 1829, they move west and purchased a farm in Quincy, Illinois. There they were joined by their father and and prospered at farming and milling. Henry married Elmira Pond on June 19, 1831. In 1831 and 1832, Henry was a member of the Illinois Militia and served in the Black Hawk Indian War. At this time, he became intimately acquinted with Abraham Lincoln.
In the spring of 1839, many of the Latter-day Saints who had been driven out of Missouri settled in Quincy. Henry learned of their history and accepted their doctrines. He was baptized into the Mormon church in September of 1839 and was ordained an Elder the following year.
Henry disposed of his holdings in Quincy and moved to Nauvoo in 1840. The following spring he donated $4,000 to the church to be used in the building of the Nauvoo Temple. He also made a journey to Wisconsin to obtain lumber for the temple. After the death of Joseph Smith, Miller joined the Saints in their exodus to the west. On reaching the Missouri River in the summer of 1946, he established a home in "Miller's Hollow" which later became Kanesville and still later Council Bluffs. He crossed the plains in 1852 and settled in Farmington, Utah.
In the fall of 1852, Henry was elected to the Territorial Legislature. From 1855 to 1858 he served as a missionary in the Indian Territory and was made president of the mission in 1856. In 1862, he was sent back to the Missouri River and served as captain of a company of that brought back immigrants to Utah. On October 25,1862 he married one of those immigrants, Fanny Gunn from Devonshire England, and began the practice of polygamy.
At the October conference in 1863, Brigham Young called Henry to go south to assist in the settlement of the "Muddy Mission", located at Beaver Dam near the junction of the Beaver Dam wash and the Rio Virgin. In early 1864, Henry and Fanny left for Beaver Dam, about thirty or forty miles southwest of St. George, Utah, in the northwest corner of Arizona. This was said to be the first agricultural settlement in Northern Arizona. The Deseret News of May 24, 1865, refers to a report from Henry W. Miller stating the affairs of the settlement as satisfactory, that fruit trees and grape vines were being planted. But their good fortune didn't last. Under date of December 24, 1867, James G. Blake, a pioneer of St. George wrote, "Millersburg, founded and presided over by Henry W. Miller, known previously as Beaver Dam, was submerged by a flood in the Rio Virgin destroying the results of well-directed labors in making comfortable homes . . . There had been hardships from the beginning of the settlement, but this visitation caused the place to be abandoned. The same flood laid havoc along the Rio Virgin and Santa Clara Rivers". Owing to this disaster and the Indian troubles, the settlement was abandoned.
Henry, Elmira, Fanny, and the unmarried children moved to St. George in 1867. Fanny moved into a house built by William Moody at 496 North 400 East. Henry purchased the house and lot. Fanny started to improve the house and plant a yard with plenty of shade trees. They built a barn and corral on the fractional block across the street north of the house. The Millers served wonderful meals and enjoyed entertaining church leaders when they would come to town. Henry's first wife, Elmira, lived on the same block in what they referred to as "the small house".
Henry took an active part in the development of the community. He was a builder, surveyor, and merchant among other things. He along with sons Alman, Hyrum, and Arnold joined David H. Cannon in 1868 freighting goods back from California including hardware, glass, cuttings of rare grapes, tropical fruits, etc. Henry was a director and manager of the Canaan Co-operative Stock Company (livestock) of St. George, manager of the St. George Co-operative Store, and a participant in the Zions Cooperative Rio Virgin Manufacturing Company (woolen mills). In 1872, he was elected first president of the new Santa Clara Irrigation Company. In February of 1874, Henry was called to be on of the directors of the St. George Stake United Order. On July 14, 1877, he became a member of the high council of St. George Stake, of which he was a member until the time of his death.
After having been quite ill for two years, Henry and Elmira decided to go visit their children in northern Utah, hoping the change in climate would prove beneficial to Henry's health. But that was not to be. They left St. George near the end of May of 1885. Henry died at the home of his son, William, on October 9, 1885 and was buried in the Farmington Cemetery by the side of his brother, Daniel. Elmira remained in northern Utah for the remaining twelve years of her life. Fanny remained in St. George and married John McKenzie four years later.
As he advanced in years, Henry left a will leaving his holdings in southern Utah to his wife, Fanny, and her young children that they should be cared for. But William H. Miller, older son of Henry & Elmira, contested the will on the grounds that Henry was not of sound mind and not capable of making a will. The probate court set aside the will and Fanny lost the house where she had been living for 20 years and various other property. She was only left with a 13-acre farm in the Santa Clara field and "the small house" where Elmira had lived.
Henry William Miller
REFERENCES"Pioneer Sisters of the Covenant: Elmira Pond Miller and Fanny Gunn Miller McKenzie, Wives of Henry William Miller".
Compiled by Jay Gordon Whitmore, P. O. Box 456, Eagar AZ 85925-0456.
A Short Sketch of the life of Henry William Miller
by Lucena Richards Card
Captain Henry Wm. Miller: As hardy a frontiersman as ever walked the valley floor
by Garry E. Bryant
A History of William Henry Miller
Article about William Henry Miller from the Deseret News
Genealogy of the Miller Family