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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


MRS. LAURA MAY MILLER, of Highland, is one of the ladies of San Bernardino County who belongs to pioneer stock, and one who through her father and her grandfather possesses the right to be considered as a descendant of several of the founders and developers of the present-day civilization in all of this region. She was born near San Bernardino, October 9, 1872, a daughter of Charles and Eugenia Black, the latter of whom was also born at San Bernardino.

Charles S. Black, born at Augusta, Maine, made two trips around the world before coming to San Bernardino. He came here in the early '50s and was a freighter between Los Angeles, California, and points in Arizona for years before the building of the railroads, during a period when hostile Indians made each trip hazardous. He had many narrow escapes from capture or death at their hands, and from the equally dangerous outlaws which infested all of the frontier towns. In spite of all of these disadvantages he persisted in his line of business and the winning of the respect of all with whom he was associated.

One of the grandfathers of Mrs. Miller, Zina G. Ayer, a native of Vermont, born August 14, 1810, was a man with a family when he went to Kentucky and there met and married a lady whose name was Mrs. Mary Power Applegate, and who was a native of Madisonville, born August 5, 1819. Her maiden name was Mary Power. She married a Mr. Applegate, who was killed in the Mexican war. Years later she married Zina G. Ayer. After their marriage they journeyed together across the plains with an ox-team to Salt Lake, traveling over the old Mormon trail. They suffered untold hardships, were constantly in danger of attack from the Indians, and just at the end of their journey lost by death three children of their party, now buried at San Bernardino. In 1852 they made a permanent settlement at San Bernardino, where Mr. Ayer became one of the wealthy and prominent men of his day. A far-sighted and astute business man, he invested heavily in realty, and became the owner of all of the land now between Fourth and Second streets, but sold before San Bernardino became a city. Possessed of progressive ideas, he introduced new appliances into the county, and owned the first lathe in all of this region.

The maternal uncle of Mrs. Miller, Thomas T. Cook, was another of the notable men of the early days of the West, and later of San Bernardino County. Mr. Cook was born in Georgia, March 29, 1830, a son of James Cook, of that state. By the time he attained his majority the attention of the whole country was turned Westward as a result of the discovery of gold in California in 1848, and he, following the example of many of his neighbors, set out on the long and dangerous trip, crossing the plains with teams. Unlike a number, however, his objective was Oregon, and after his arrival he spent two years there, but then came down into Northern California, and for seven years was engaged in mining. In 1860 he went to Virginia City for a year, leaving it for Idaho, and later Montana, spending thirteen years in the mines of those two states. In 1874 he went into Arizona, but after a year came to San Bernardino County. In 1876 he married Mrs. Amanda Weaver, of Indiana, a daughter of Joseph Applegate, who died while in the service during the Mexican war. By her first marriage she had five sons : Warren, Augustus, Abraham, Henry and William.

Mrs. Miller grew up at Highland, and was educated in its schools. She has witnessed many of the really remarkable changes which have come to this region, and talks very entertainingly of them. She was a little girl when the road between Colton and San Bernardino was constructed, under the superintendence of Harry Davis. Mr. Davis was subsequently killed in a wreck occasioned by the passing of the first motor over Lytle Creek bridge, when the bridge collapsed, Wiling him. This was prior to the opening of the road. His son, then a lad, and Mrs. Miller, together with five small companions, used to have the Chinese laborers put a hand car on the tracks, and then they would pump it from Colton to San Bernardino and back before a train went over it or before it was finished. The opening of this road was the beginning of modern history for San Bernardino County and the passing of the days of the freighters, who were crowded out by steam and later by electricity and gasoline.

On December 29, 1892, Laura May Black was married to Albert Miller, a native of Ohio and a son of Mr. and Mrs. Mason Miller, of Ulrichsville. Albert Miller is an orange grower, owning a grove on Pacific Avenue, Highland. For the past thirty-three years he has been in charge of the James Fleming estate. Mr. and Mrs. Miller have two sons, Albert F. and Howard E. Albert F. Miller was born at Highland, May 9, 1894, and was educated in his native city and in San Bernardino. On November 29, 1915, he married Miss Hester V. Shanklin, and they have one child, Helen Marjorie, who was born October 31, 1916.

Howard E. Miller, the second son, was born at Highland, March 11, 1898, and was there reared, attending its schools and those of San Bernardino. Enlisting in Company K, California National Guard, he served as a bugler, and later was part of the old Seventh Regiment, which did active service on the Mexican border during 1916. With the entry of this country into the World war he enlisted in Company K, One Hundred and Sixtieth Division, and received his training at Camp Kearney, and was among the first contingents sent overseas. After his arrival in France he spent six weeks in the Signal School, and was then transferred to the Twenty-sixth Division, composed principally of New England men and known as the Yankee Division. He was motorcycle messenger, carrying messages between headquarters and first line trenches, a very dangerous service, in which he continued, although he had three machines shot from under him, and escaped from death or capture by a very narrow margin countless times. His third machine was blown from under him and gave him a shell shock, this occurring eight days before the signing of the armistice. The shock was so severe that he was sent to the hospital and for three days he was speechless. This accident occurred at Verdun, and he was also in the battles in and around the Argonne Forest and the Meuse, belonging to the defensive sector, was in the St. Mihiel drive from start to finish, in all being in six engagements. After his release from the hospital he was transferred to the One Hundred and First Regiment, and once more served as bugler. After the return of his unit to the United States he served for two months as military police at Paris. He then received his honorable discharge in France, but for the subsequent three months served with the food commission in France, returning home a civilian on board of the steamship Rotterdam. In spite of all of his experiences, real bravery and endurance this young man is only a little past his majority, proving the contention of the highest military authorities that the very young men make the best soldiers. He is now at home with his parents.

While her younger son was serving his country abroad and proving himself worthy of the good, pioneer stock from which he sprung, Mrs. Miller was also demonstrating her 100% -Americanism by working early and late in behalf of the Red Cross, for which she was decorated with the American Red Cross badge, which testifies to the fact that the wearer has given at least 700 hours of service to the organization. She had charge of the two Red Cross drives. Not satisfied with all of this she was very active in canteen work. Since the war she has found an outlet for her energies and public spirit through her membership with the Woman's Club and the First Congregational Church of Highland. Mrs. Miller is typical of her generation, and is proving that she is a true daughter of the pioneers who bravely did their part in shaping the history of their times.


History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011