Biography of Hon. Tannes E. Miller

Many interesting stories might be told by the early pioneers of Idaho, but it is not likely there are many men living in the state who could tell more stories, or stories of greater interest, than Senator Tannes E. Miller; and Senator Miller can go back of the pioneer days in Idaho and tell tales of the building and sailing of ships in Wisconsin and of pioneer life among the Indians.

Senator Miller is one of Idaho’s most useful citizens and one of Latah county’s most prominent pioneers and most successful farmers. He has a model farm, which is located two miles east of Genesee. It is not only a very productive farm, but a very beautiful homestead, for Senator Miller is a man of refined taste, who believes there is nothing too good for his family.

Tannes E. Miller was born in Norway, August 6, 1840, eldest child of Tabias and Christine (Elle) Miller, and came to America with his parents and brothers and sisters in 1849, and located in Wisconsin. His father had been a sea captain, but took up the life of a farmer and made a success of it. Mr. and Mrs. Miller were of the Lutheran faith. Mr. Miller died at the age of seventy-two, his wife at the age of sixty-three. Mrs. Miller died only a year later than her husband. They had eight sons and a daughter, five of whom are living.

When the Millers arrived in Wisconsin the future senator was nine years old. For a boy of his age he was quite well educated, for his father had taken him to sea with him and had taught him with much system and thoroughness. Those were pioneer days in that part of Wisconsin in which the Millers had found a home, and the boy was busy, and educational facilities were meager, and he attended school but twenty-one days in Wisconsin. But he studied at home, read when he had time, kept his eyes open wherever he went, and grew to manhood intelligent, alert and well informed.

He lived the life of a farmer boy and youth, attaining his majority in 1861, a few months after the outbreak of the war of the states. He early formed a determination to enlist for soldier’s duty in the Union cause, and September 6, 1862, he joined Company D, Sixty-seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry, with which he served three months. In 1863 he enlisted in the First Wisconsin Heavy Artillery. He was in the memorable battle of Missionary Ridge, in which the federal troops covered themselves with so much glory, and later was on several detached services as bugler and clerk, etc. He was on General Stoneman’s staff and later was chief bugler to General Steadman. He was once appointed by his lieutenant colonel for drum major of the regiment, but his captain refused to transfer him because he was the only company bugler, so he could not accept the promotion. He was honorably discharged from the service at Nashville, Tennessee, September 6, 1865, just three years to the day after his first enlistment.

Returning to Wisconsin, he gave himself up to the acquisition of the trade of ship-builder. He began at rough work and finished in the draughting department. But by the marriage of the son, his father gave him a small farm and it was so located and situated that it demanded his time and attention, and this event changed his plans. After a few years he sold that property and bought another farm, in Waupaca county, on which he lived four years, then took charge of his father’s farm until, April 9, 1878, he started for Idaho. He made this journey via San Francisco and by ship to Portland, Oregon. Thence he made his way to Lewiston, and May 6 following his departure from Wisconsin located on the farm which has since been his home. He preempted a claim of one hundred and sixty acres and an eighty-acre timber-culture claim. He came to the place with a wife and eight children and a cash capital of twenty-five dollars, all the money he had left after paying the ordinary expenses of the journey for ten persons. But he faced the future bravely, and his ability was recognized by his pioneer neighbors. On the day of his arrival he was chosen superintendent of the construction of a fort for the protection of the settlers from the Indians, who were quite numerous and whose friendship was not to be relied on implicitly. Less than two months after he came to Idaho he was the prime mover in the organization of as good a Fourth of July celebration as the few settlers could put up. It was not numerously attended, but the entire population was present and it was very patriotic.

Senator Miller was formerly, for years, a Republican, but is now a Populist of very independent thought, studying all economic problems for himself and favoring that only which he deems best for the country. His interest in public education has been deep and abiding, and he has served his school district for twenty years as a trustee. He was elected to the state senate in 1894, and served on several important committees and was prominent in championing the location that was adopted for the Idaho State University. When his fellow senators found that he could not be led and was fearless and aggressive, he exerted a strong and valuable influence. Senator Miller raises a variety of crops on his farm. The principal one is wheat. He has planted many kinds of fruit trees, shade trees and flowers, which combine to render the place one of the most beautiful in the part of the state. The home life of the family has always been happy in the extreme. Mr. Miller was married April 7, 1866, to Miss Anna Halverson. Several of their children are now settled in life. The eldest daughter married in 1885 and died in 1889, leaving a son and a daughter, and the former is now a member of the household of his grandfather Miller and the latter has a home with her paternal grandfather. Roderick C. Alfred and Leo Miller, three of Senator Miller’s sons, are farmers on the Nez Perces reservation. Rachel Christine, Frederick and Charlotte are members of their parents’ household. The Millers are talented as musicians and artists, the Senator himself being a proficient player on eight instruments, and a painter of no mean ability. His children have inherited his genius, and the walls of the Miller home are hung with paintings made by different members of the family, many of these productions being artistic and elegant. Mr. and Mrs. Miller were formerly Lutherans, but the family are communicants of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which Senator Miller is recording steward and of which he a generous supporter.


Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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