A. W. Miller, president of the Miller & Vidor Lumber Company, of Galveston, Tex., is a lineal descendant of John Knox, the great Scotch reformer and leader in Protestantism. Mr. Miller's immediate ancestors in this country were Pennsylvanians for many generations back. He is the son of Thomas Lindsey Miller, of Pittsburg, who assisted very materially in the founding of the nationally and internationally well known firm Carnegie, Phipps & Co., of that city.
Up to 1866 Thomas L. Miller was a steamboat man and latterly very much interested in the steel business, as his just mentioned relations to Carnegie, Phipps & Co. might indicate.
A. W. Miller, the subject of this sketch, was born February 26, 1866, in Pittsburg and was educated in the public schools of Pittsburg. A. W. Miller's mother was Katherine Lane and her father A. W. Lane, both well known members of that prominent Pennsylvania family, hailing from Freeport in that state. Another well known member of the Lane family was James T. Lane, father of A. W. Miller's cousin, Joseph R. Lane, the famous western lawyer, with residence in Davenport, Iowa, who has been so prominently related as an attorney to the lumber interests of the Mississippi valley.
Thomas L. Miller died in 1892, but his wife, A. W. Miller's mother, is yet living at the ripe age of 72 years. Mr. Miller's father was in active business until the day of his death.
A. W. Miller was practically in school until he was 16 years of age, or until 1882, which schooling included, besides the graded and high schools at Pittsburg, a preparatory school.
He began his business career by going directly into the state of Iowa from Pittsburg, where he secured a position with the Green Bay Lumber Company, of Carroll, Iowa, the county seat of Carroll county, situated on the Chicago & North-Western railway. He served there a very onerous but thorough apprenticeship.
Very early in his career at Carroll he observed that the young man who succeeds and gets along and goes swiftly to the top in any line of business must not wait for work to be handed to him, but must hunt for things to do. In divining this condition and rule in planning the architecture of a business career young Miller indicated for the first time to his associates that natural aptitude for diplomatic relations with men which has been most largely the reason for his signal success in business life. He heard the reasons for his presence in the operative force of the company discussed casually one day by one of the heads of the business, who seemed to wish that he might know just the reason for the young man's presence, young Miller at that particular time having assumed an attitude of waiting for someone to hand him work.
It was only a short time, possibly of days or hours, after having heard the query mentioned in the paragraph above that Mr. Miller made a frantic demand to be set at something useful, which launched him in the yard shoving boards, assisting in unloading cars, and doing labor with his hands which has helped him through his entire career as a lumberman.
Mr. Miller's first executive position of any great importance was that of running a retail lumber yard at Kirkman, Iowa, for the Green Bay Lumber Company, at which point he remained three years. While this position was preparatory for the business of the lumber world at large, Mr. Miller was a very busy man and the position was very trying for the city raised man on account of the isolation of Kirkman, which was located at the end of a short line of railroad, where for several months in the winter the inhabitants were snowed in and communication with the outside world was practically impossible.
If there was anything in the retail lumber business with which young Miller did not come into contact it was because at the time it had not been discovered or put into service. He looked after the sales; the stock; proper piling and care of the stock; kept books; attended to correspondence, and learned all these things practically and thoroughly. He was laying the foundation stones upon which he later erected the super-structure of successful business ventures.
He was at Kirkman, Iowa, in the capacity suggested at the duties listed above from September, 1883, to the spring of 1886. In the spring of 1886 Mr. Miller was promoted and sent to Vail, Iowa, where he put in a new yard for his company, and where he remained until the spring of 1888. In other words, having learned all of the principles of the business he was given an opportunity to couple with those principles his own personal originality and to create a part, which he did create in the opening of that yard.
In the spring of 1888 he was promoted from his position at Vail to a position as manager at Audubon, Iowa, to take charge of what was considered the Green Bay Lumber Company's most important yard.
At Audubon, Iowa, began the most important epoch of Mr. Miller's business life. It was there that he learned that the men who rise to any commercial height are the men who own the business rather than those who work for a business on a salary.
Oklahoma was about to be opened. Adventure and the chance of advancement called for men of valor and initiative from every line of work in the valley of the Mississippi between the two ranges of mountains, and A. W. Miller was one of those who felt the call. He resigned his position at Audubon and became one of the original settlers of Oklahoma, where at Guthrie in that new country was founded a yard for the Darlington-Miller company. The members of the Darlington-Miller Lumber Company were E. R. Darlington, of St. Louis, Mo., and A. W. Miller.
This company started other yards at Kingfisher, El Reno, Perry and at three or four other towns, increasing rather than contracting its business. It made money in this Oklahoma game of lumber commercial-roulette and in 1891, with a considerable sum to its credit, the Darlington-Miller Lumber Company moved its operations and achievements from Oklahoma to Galveston, Tex. The company started a yard in Galveston in 1891, which was maintained until the spring of 1900, at which time it began to spread out its business, opening yards at Alvin, Arcadia and North Galveston, Tex. In 1893 the Darlington-Miller Lumber Company bought a yard in St. Louis, Mo., on the corner of Ninth and Monroe, streets.
The company at all times carried on a jobbing business in connection with its retail lumber business and each year this business increased. In 1895 the business of the Darlington-Miller Lumber Company was divided between the two owners, Mr. Miller and Mr. Darlington. The Texas business went to Mr. Miller and the St. Louis and Missouri business to Mr. Darlington. It was an amicable arrangement throughout, the business being divided entirely on account of the exigencies of the locations of the two principals as to their homes. Mr. Miller continued to operate under the original corporation name until the autumn of 1901. In that year the company sold its retail yards and turned its attention exclusively to shipping and manufacturing. At that lime the company had contracts with mills to take their entire cuts.
C. S. Vidor and C. H. Moore came into the Darlington-Miller Lumber Company about the year 1902. Mr. Miller has lived for some years at 1707 Avenue G, Galveston, but is now building a home at 2518 Broadway, that city. He is married, his wife having been Miss Donella Campbell of Port Perry, Ont. Besides his wife Mr. Miller's family consists of Darlington, a boy of 7 years, and Katherine, a girl of 9.
Mr. Miller has few interests outside of the lumber business, having concentrated in this one line which he has learned so well. He is president of the Miller & Vidor Lumber Company and is vice president and treasurer of the Galveston, Beaumont & Northeastern, Peach River & Gulf and the Riverside & Gulf railways of the "Peach River Lines."
He is a very well known amateur golf player and is a member of the Galveston Golf & Country Club, the Gartenverein and the Aziola Club, of Galveston, Tex.