John Miller, a son of Capt. Harry and Elizabeth E. (Realey) Miller, was born in the year 1845, at Spring Lake, Mich. His father, who was born in 1806, at Lubeck, Germany, was an old salt-water skipper, who commenced his seafaring life in 1818, at the age of twelve years, continuing on the ocean until 1832, during which period he commanded many excellent ships. He then came to the United States stopping a short time in New York city, but finally locating at Spring Lake, Mich., a short distance above Grand Haven, on the east shore, at that time a great lumber district, where he was numbered among the early pioneers. After reaching the lake region he again commenced his sailing career in the employ of Barber & Mason as master of the schooners Commodore Perry and Porcupine. He also sailed for Oliver Newberry, of Detroit, and Perry & Son, of Grand Haven. He then purchased the schooner Ocean, and sailed her until he retired, which was in 1859, a year after the death of his wife. The children are: Captain David, who died in 1894; George W., a hardware merchant of Grand Haven, Mich.; Capt. Daniel F., of the steamer McVea; Mary I., now the wife of I.H. Sanford, of Grand Haven; Marshall, and John. The father died in 1876 at the age of sixty-nine years.
John Miller, the subject of this sketch, attended the public schools of his native town, with the exception of one summer, when he went as fireman on the steamer T. Jones out of Grand Haven, until he reached the age of sixteen years. At the breaking out of the Civil war in 1861 he enlisted in the 3d Michigan Light Artillery, and was assigned to the Sixteenth Corps of the Western Army, and was with General Sherman on his great march to the sea. His battery participated in nineteen battles, among which were Farmington, Corinth, Iuka, Cheraw, Resaca, Lookout Mountain, Kenesaw Mountain, Decatur, Atlanta, Tuscumbia, Goldsboro, Savannah and Bentonville. He was honorably discharged June 21, 1865, at Detroit, Michigan.
After his return home he went to school a short time, and in 1866 at the age of twenty-one he took out marine engineer's papers and was appointed chief engineer of the steamer tug, Hunter Savidge, holding that berth two seasons. In 1868 he was chief engineer of the steamer T.D. Dole. In the fall of that year he was one of the volunteer lifeboat crew, under the command of Capt. Richard Connell, that rescued the passengers and crew, numbering about sixty persons, of the steamer Milwaukee, wrecked on Lake Michigan, off Grand Haven. In 1869-70, he was chief engineer of the steamer Tempest, and in 1871-72 chief engineer of the steamer Leader. In 1873 he went to Chicago and was placed in charge of a locomotive on the Chicago & West Michigan railroad, with which company he remained four years; after that he passed four years with the Illinois, Midland & Valdalia Railroad Company as locomotive engineer.
In the spring of 1881 he returned to his lakefaring life, serving as engineer on the T.W. Snook for two seasons. In 1883 he shipped on the steamer C. Hickox as chief engineer, retaining that berth four seasons. The seasons of 1887-88 he was chief of the steamer H.L. Worthington; 1889, chief of the steamer M.C. Neff, laying her up January 10, 1890; chief of the steamer A.D. Hayward for the Howell Lumber Company, of Chicago, four seasons; 1895, again chief of the A.D. Hayward. In 1896 he entered the employ of the Barry Brothers, of Chicago, as engineer of the tug Welcome, in the wrecking business, and in the spring of 1897 he shipped as chief engineer on the steamer Siberia with Capt. R.C. Pringle, thus covering a period of thirty-one years as engineer.
In 1870 Mr. Miller was united in marriage to Miss Mary I. Dixon, daughter of George W. Dixon, of Spring Lake, Mich. Their children are: Lulu F., who is assistant librarian in Hackley library, Muskegon, Mich.; and Daisy M.E., a teacher in the public school at Muskegon, where the family reside.
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This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.