Miller Family

About the Miller Family

The Miller family produced numerous quiet leaders who usually showed great interest in communal living and support for the ideals of the colony as expressed by Dr. Keil.  It was Samuel Miller who first heard Dr. Keil preach in Ohio and decided to bring his family to the Bethel Colony.  Some very interesting people emerged from this family but for years they have not been well represented as participants in the Aurora Colony Historical Society and thus their important roles in the colony have been underplayed.  The Miller Family, as the subject of our summer 2010 exhibit, will finally receive the recognition that they deserve.

Edward Miller’s story about Wilhelm “King Keil”

On March 3, 1928 the Oregonian published a long article about “King Keil” and the Aurora Colony that was written by colony descendant and then Automobile Editor Edward Miller.  The article included a spectacular panoramic of the village taken from the water tower, a view that was soon to be changed forever when highway 99East cut a swath through the grid pattern of the original town.  Miller eventually became Managing editor of the paper and before his death in the 1970’s he donated the guitar that was played by his grandmother Henrietta Will Miller.  This guitar was restored by the historical society as part of its Oregon Music project in 2009.

Jacob Miller’s Assessment of Dr. Keil

Jacob Miller worked a wood turner in the colony and served them in this occupation at both Bethel and Aurora.  He had excellent knowledge of business and law and thus provided invaluable help to the Colony when they decided to disband the communal way after the death of Dr. Keil.  His appreciation for the challenge of sustaining a communal lifestyle is seen in the following comments that he made some years later:
“Such an enterprise can succeed in but one of two ways; either through a natural-born leader, who is deeply impressed that he is serving God, or else by military power.  As long as Dr. Keil was able to make his people accept him as the former, they obeyed him as if he were their father.  In time the spell he held over the older folk began to weaken and younger generations came on, with different ideals and different purposes”

George Miller: Railroad Station Agent in Aurora

George Miller was born at Bethel, Missouri on October 8, 1855 to William and Catharine Miller.  His birth occurred just five days before Dr. William Keil penned a letter from Willapa Bay, Washington to the colonists remaining at Bethel in which he described his great disappointment with the western site selected by his scouts.  George and his family did not come to Aurora until a few months before Dr. Keil died in 1877.  As a young man he worked as a wagon maker and 1883 he was hired as the Aurora Station Agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad.  After he retired in 1925 his service to the company was remembered in the following manner: “during all of these years of railroading Miller’s record was one of unusual merit, never having neglected either in receiving or sending a train order, which, no doubt, would have resulted in a serious accident, and in those days, train orders were very numerous.  Hop shipments to the eastern states and London was quite an industry years ago, which work alone, necessitated long trying hours.”

Aunt Annie Miller Fry

Anna ( Annie)Miller was born in Columbia County Ohio on July 22, 1841 to John and Catherine Miller. In 1845 her family went to Bethel and then on to the nearby sister colony of Nineveh where she lived with her family until 1865 when she joined them in the Oregon Trail migration to Aurora.  Annie was one of fourteen children. After a romance of some five years she married William Fry, the colony’s Blacksmith and he built her a home in the village of Aurora in 1874 that stands to this day. Annie was always eager to receive guests to speak about the colony as she did in an interview conducted by a newspaper writer on July 22, 1934 upon the occasion of her 95th birthday.

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