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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


Thomas Bell Miller

In Rhea county, Tenn., Thomas Bell Miller was born December 31, 1826, a son of James P. and Charlotte (Bell) Miller, the former a native of Virginia, who went to Tennessee in his youth, and the latter a native of the state of Tennessee. From 1830 to 1835 the Miller family resided in Alabama and then moved to Arkansas. In 1840 James P. Miller located in Newton county, Mo., and after two years he returned to Benton county, Ark. In 1846 he enlisted in the Twelfth Regiment of United States Infantry, and served throughout the Mexican war with distinction, a lieutenant of his company. At the close of the war he returned to his family and in 1849, with his two sons, Thomas Bell and Gideon T., set out on the overland journey to California and located at what was afterwards known as Millerstown, near Auburn, Placer county. There he opened a general merchandise store and later went to Marysville, where he located on the Yuba river and continued his mercantile pursuits until 1850, when he returned to his family with the intention of bringing them to the coast, but his death occurred a short time afterward.

On the arrival of Thomas Bell Miller at Sacramento he proceeded to the mines in Placer county near Auburn There he was engaged until the spring of 1850, when he went to Nevada City, Nevada county, Cal. In that city he made quite a strike and became the owner of a very good mine. Leaving there, he went to the middle fork of the Yuba river, and was engaged with thirteen others in digging a large ditch into which they turned the middle fork of the river, thinking to find much gold in the bed thus made dry. The enterprise was a failure as far as finding gold was concerned and Mr. Miller went to Cache creek, Yolo county, abandoned mining operations and, for the winter, farmed at this place. Not satisfied with his location in Yolo county, in the fall of 1851 he came to Sonoma county and engaged in farming near what is now known as Sebastopol. In 1853 he went to Blucher valley, about three miles south of Sebastopol, and there entered into farming operations. From there he went to Marin county, near Tomales, and remained until 1855. Near Healdsburg, on the Russian river, he first purchased a settler’s claim to one hundred and sixty acres of land, taking up his residence upon it, and later was compelled to purchase the claims of the grant holders. There and on the coast he engaged in farming and in stock-raising until 1874. In that year he sold out and came to Santa Rosa and later purchased three hundred and twenty acres of land on Santa Rosa creek in the Hall school district, about five miles west of Santa Rosa. From that date until his death Mr. Miller devoted his time and attention to the cultivation and improvement of his farm. Fifty-five acres were devoted to hop cultivation and there were two large hop-curing houses on the place, measuring 80x24, with twenty foot studding, the capacity of these dryers being four tons daily, which was considered very good at that time. A portion of the land was devoted to prunes, peaches, cherries, apples and pears. After his death the land was subdivided and sold off in small tracts.

On April17, 1853, Mr. Miller was united in marriage with Mary Ann King, daughter of James and Elizabeth (Hohn) King, natives of Virginia, who resided in Missouri before coming to California in 1850. To the union of Mr. and Mrs. Miller there were born the following children: James P., a resident of Russian River; Charlotte E., the wife of E. H. Parnell, and residing near Graton; Thomas Boone, an extensive hop-grower in Russian River township; Louisa H., the wife of Samuel Walter Purrington; Mary Alice, the wife of Alexander Ragle, of Eldorado county; Irene B., the wife of S. E. Ballard, of San Joseph; Josephine, now Mrs. Spencer Grogan, of Santa Rosa; Laura E., widow of Thomas Barlow, of Sebastopol; Henrietta, the wife of F. Byron Chenoweth, of San Francisco; and Robert L., deceased. Politically Mr. Miller followed Democratic principles and religiously was a member of the Christian Church. His life was one that was an open book and of him it is said that he sincerely strove to do all the good in the world that he was able to. He died January 26, 1892, and his wife died January 9, 1904. Mrs. Miller was very active member of the Christian Church of Santa Rosa. She came across the plains with her father and brothers in 1850. They finally located in Marin county, where her marriage occurred.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011