Of excellent old New England stock and of Welsh ancestry, Mr. Miller was born in Litchfield, Conn., Jan. 23, 1826. This branch of the Miller family was first represented in the United States during the Colonial days by three brothers, one of whom settled in South Carolina and two in the New England States. Rev. Jonathan Miller, the paternal grandfather of our subject, was born in Torringford, Litchfield Co., Conn., and was graduated from Yale College in 1777. While a student at Yale the British landed in New Haven, and young Miller, with his comrades, assisted in defending the town.
After being graduated from Yale Grandfather Miller at once entered the ministry of the Congregational Church at Burlington, Conn., where he spent the remainder of his life, dying at the age of sixty-three years. He was married and became the father of three sons and three daughters, among whom was Ebenezer, the father of our subject, who was born in 1799. Ebenezer desired to educate himself for the medical profession, but his father objected saying the profession was drifting into infidelity in regard to the Christian religion, and the aspiring youth abandoned his inclinations and became a manufacturer of clocks at Bristol. In this he was successful, but finally turned his attention to the manufacture of cloth. He was equally successful at this business until the financial panic of 1837, when he lost heavily, closed out and in the fall of 1840 sought his fortunes in the West.
The father of our subject, upon coming to Illinois brought with him about $1,000 in money and purchases 100 acres of land at $12 per acre. It had been but slightly improved, but by the exercise of diligence and economy the hardy pioneer succeeded in making a pleasant home for the family. He was rigidly opposed to slavery, and his house became a station of the underground railroad during the troublous times ensuing upon the agitation of that dismal question.
Before leaving Connecticut the father of our subject delayed his departure a few days in order to cast his ballot for James G. Birney, the first Anti-Slavery candidate for the Presidency. From 1840 to 1856 he voted with the Abolition party, and in the year last mentioned cast his ballot for John C. Fremont, the first candidate of the Republican party. In 1860 and 1864 he voted for Abraham Lincoln, and died on the 17th of February, 1865. He was a man outspoken in his views and strong in his adherence to what he believed to be right. In religious matters he was an active member of the Congregational Church. The wife and mother, Mrs. Permelia (Hopkins) Miller was of English ancestry and was born in Connecticut. The Hopkins family was represented in New England for several generations and many of them became widely and prominently known.
To the parents of our subject there were born seven children, five of whom lived to mature years. Margaret, the eldest daughter, married Solomon Richards, and died in Connecticut in 1857; Sarah became the wife of F. C. Bushway and died at Lincoln, this State, some years later; Abbie P. married Joseph Johnson and is living in Iowa; Helen P. was first married to George Ross, who died, and she then became the wife of J. E. Barrett; they are now living at Mt. Vernon, Iowa. The mother died at her home in Waverly, in March, 1883, at the age of eighty-three years.
The subject of this sketch was the only son of his parents, and was fourteen years old when they made the long journey from Connecticut to Illinois. They were in limited circumstances, and as young Miller was exceedingly anxious to obtain an education he worked hard, saved his money and realized at least a reasonable measure of his ambition. In 1849 he entered Illinois College, but on account of failing health was obliged, after a few months, to return home and recruit. In 1853 he entered the law school of Yale College, from which he was graduated in 1855. He practiced law at New Haven, Conn., until 1862, then returning to this State opened an office at Springfield. The Civil War, however, broke in upon his plans and expectations, as it did upon those of many others, and there being little call for the exercise of his talents in this direction, he returned home. His father being then about to build a dwelling, Henry M. obtained his first instruction in downright manual labor by digging the cellar of the contemplated structure. In 1863 he became interested in Osage orange for fencing purposes, and planted seeds in a considerable quantity, from which he realized, by the sale of plants the snug sum of $2,470. He was the first man to introduce this species of fencing from Texas into this State, and which has become very popular for this purpose.
After the death of his father our subject remained with his mother, looking after the homestead, practicing law to a certain extent, but giving the greater portion of his time to the farm of forty acres which he purchased, and which he has by degrees transformed into one of the finest fruit farms of this locality. He has a large orchard planted with 700 apple trees of one variety. In the meantime he has always interested himself in local affairs, holding the various offices, and was the first Mayor of Waverly.
Politically, Mr. Miller voted first, like his father before him, with the Abolition party, but after its abandonment affiliated with the Republicans until 1878. He subsequently advocated the doctrines of the National Greenback party, of which he has twice been a candidate for Congress. He is a rapid thinker, forcible and energetic in his conversation., and thoroughly well informed.
Mr. Miller was first married to Miss Ann M. Rowe, by whom he became the father of one child, a son, Charles H., who is now a publisher in Springfield, Mass. His second wife was Cynthia L. Hopkins, and of this marriage there were born two children, both of whom are living - Maggie L. and Walter E.