Miller, John Franklin, 1831-1886

Alternative names
Birth 1831-11-21
Death 1886-03-08

Biographical notes:

U. S. Senator from California 1881-1886. Lawyer, rancher, lived in California during 1853-55. Returned to California in 1865 and lived in San Francisco and Napa. Collector for Port of San Francisco.

From the description of John Franklin Miller Collection, 1855-1890. (California State Library). WorldCat record id: 58855228

Miller was collector of the port of San Francisco, and then President of the Alaska Commercial Company. He was also a member of the California state constitutional convention and United States senator from California from 1880 to his death.

From the description of John Franklin Miller papers, 1852-1884. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702138227

Miller was a lawyer, businessman, and politician who served as a Union Army officer during the Civil War. He was an owner of Millers' Warehouse and President of the Alaska Commercial Company. In 1878, he was elected to the Constitutional Convention of Calif. and in Jan. 1881 to the U.S. Senate, where he served until his death.

From the description of John F. Miller correspondence and miscellany, 1870-1885. (California Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 122544495

John Franklin Miller, born 21 November 1831, in South Bend, Indiana, practiced law in Indiana and for a short period in California. Miller served in the Indiana Senate and was a Union Army officer in the Civil War. In 1865 Miller moved to San Francisco and later to Napa, California. In 1869, he became president of the Alaska Commercial Company. He was active in California politics and served in the U.S. Senate from 1881 until his death 8 March 1886.

From the description of John Franklin Miller papers, 1848-1886. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122510675


John Franklin Miller, the eldest of William and Mary Miller's five children, was born in South Bend, Indiana on November 21, 1831. Young Miller attended a local academy and in 1848 entered the Hatheway Mathematical and Classical School in Chicago. After a year, he returned to South Bend and studied in the law office of Judge Elisha Egbert. In 1852 Miller received his LL.B. from the State and National Law School at Ballston Spa, New York.

Upon completing his education, John Miller returned to South Bend to open his practice with a Joseph Defrees. This partnership lasted only a few months because illness forced Miller to look for a different climate. He joined a group of emigrants headed for California by way of Nicaragua and arrived in Napa in March of 1853. There, he went into partnership with Judge Currey of San Francisco and also served as county treasurer for two years.

In 1855 illness again necessitated a change of climate and Miller returned to South Bend to work with a new partner, Norman Eddy. Shortly after his return Miller met Miss Mary Chess of Monongahela, Pennsylvania, whom he married in 1857. A daughter, Eudora, was born in 1859, and a son, John, some years later. Apparently the boy died while still quite young for references to him suddenly stop after 1876.

John Miller entered the Indiana Senate in 1861 as a Republican. With the outbreak of the Civil War he offered his services to the Union cause and served with distinction until his retirement from the military in 1865. He was originally commissioned a colonel of the 29th Regiment of the Indiana Volunteer Infantry and served under various commanders including Sherman, Buell, Rosecrans, and Thomas. In 1862 Miller was put in command of Headquarters at Nashville, Tennessee. On December 31, 1862 he was wounded in the neck at the Battle of Stone River or Murfreesboro and on March 31, 1863 he lost an eye at the Battle of Liberty Gap. For his bravery in this last engagement, Miller was made a brigadier general of volunteers. At the Battle of Nashville in 1864 he was in command of a brigade and on March 13, 1865, he was brevetted a major general.

On September 25, 1865, John F. Miller resigned from the army and moved his family to San Francisco. There, by appointment of President Johnson, he served as collector of the port for four years. During this time the family lived at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco and some years later moved to Napa.

At some time during his tenure as collector to the port Miller became interested in the seal hunting possibilities in Alaska. There is a story to the effect that a sea captain talked him into backing one such venture that was highly successful. At any rate, in 1869, Miller became president on the Alaska Seal Company, a post he held for twelve years. It was a very lucrative business for all concerned, especially since it held the United States monopoly for this type of enterprise.

In 1872 and 1876 Miller was the Republican candidate for Presidential elector, and a delegate to the second State Constitutional Convention of 1878-79. On March 4, 1881, he became U.S. Senator from California and served until his death on March 8, 1886. As one of the wealthiest members of that body, he belonged to its "Millionaires Club." While in the Senate he was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, supported free labor, and took an active part in anti-Chinese legislation including the modification of the Burlingame Treaty with China and the Exclusion Bill of 1882.

From the guide to the John Franklin Miller Papers, 1848-1890, (Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.)


John Franklin Miller, was a U. S. Senator from California from1881 through1886. He was born in South Bend, Indiana November 21, 1831. A lawyer and rancher, he lived in California during 1853-55. He returned to Indiana and served in the Indiana State Senate. He was a Civil War General with the Indiana Volunteers in 1861-1865. He returned to California in 1865 and lived in San Francisco and Napa. Until 18870 he was collector for the Port of San Francisco Miller died March 8, 1886 in Washington, D.C.

From the guide to the John Franklin Miller Collection, 1855-1890, (California State Library)


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Ark ID:


  • Pioneers--California
  • Ranch life--1831-1886
  • Pioneers
  • California--Politics and government--1856-1885
  • Seals (Animals)
  • Fur trade
  • Ranch life--California--Napa


  • Military officers, Retired
  • Politicians--California


  • California--Napa (as recorded)
  • Alaska (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Aleutian Islands (Alaska) (as recorded)
  • Pribilof Islands (Alaska) (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Alaska (as recorded)
  • San Francisco (Calif.) (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)