Biography of Mrs. Richard Smith Miller

Mrs. R. S. Miller. The power and effectiveness of woman’s work in the community as well as in the home had been splendidly exemplified at El Dorado by Mrs. R. S. Miller. The dignity of woman becomes more than an empty phrase when considered in connection with her many varied activities and lines of useful influence. Her career is a fit subject for consideration in the history of Kansas, along with that of her honored husband, the late Dr. R. S. Miller, who gained the esteem of Butler County citizens by his many years of faithful service as a physician and by his valuable civic enterprise.

Mrs. Miller was born at Batavia, Illinois, January 24, 1852. Her maiden name was Viola De-Ette Waite. Concerning the remote ancestry of the family it is pertinent to recall a tradition concerning the origin of the name. During the reign of William the Conqueror in England from 1066 to 1087 a band of Scotch musicians had gained the favor of the conqueror, who pensioned them and ordered them to wait upon his pleasure. The members of the band had each his individual name, but the king called them collectively Waits or Tarrymen. In the annals of English genealogy the name Waite cannot be found prior to this time. The traditional history goes on to state that nine brothers of the name emigrated to the American colonies after 1700 and settled in Rhode Island. There the name was spelled Waite.

Simon Waite, father of Mrs. Miller, was born in New York State in 1817. He was reared there, but when a young man removed to Ohio and located near Zanesville, where he married. Soon after his marriage he went to Batavia, Illinois, farmed in that vicinity, and afterwards near Dwight, Illinois, where he remained about fifteen years. Moving into the Town of Dwight, he became a hardware and grocery merchant for about ten years. Moving still further West, he spent 1½ years in Nevada City, Missouri, but in the spring of 1871 took up a homestead of 160 acres 2½ miles southwest of Towanda, Kansas. Thus he became one of the pioneer Kansas farmers in this section of the state and in time increased his holdings to 320 acres. He finally retired from farming and removed to Towanda, where he died in 1890. His youngest son, Wilbur D. Waite, now owned the old homestead. Simon Waite was a republican in politics, and an original stand-patter. While interested in political questions and problems and a loyal supporter of the party candidate, he himself never aspired to office. He was a member of the Congregational Church in Dwight, Illinois.

Simon Waite married for his first wife Miss Goodspeed. By that union there was one child, Clark. This son was a farmer by occupation and finally went out west, and he is now in the soldiers’ home in Colorado. For his second wife Simon Waite married Mrs. Maria (Denman) Henry. She was born in Ohio, near Janesville, in 1826, and died on the old farm near Towanda in the fall of 1903. By her first marriage to Mr. Henry she had a daughter Ellen. This daughter married Charles Libby, and both are now deceased and are buried at Denver, Colorado. Mr. Libby was a contractor and builder.

Mrs. Miller was one of the six children of her father and mother. The oldest, Frank, born in 1849, was a farmer and died near Towanda in 1880. His death resulted from his going to the rescue of a neighbor who was working in a well and had been overcome by the “damps” and he too was killed. Frank Waite owned the second quarter of the original farm which his father subsequently acquired. The second of the children is Mrs. Miller. The third, Walter Simon, is a contractor and carpenter and is temporarily a resident of Salt Lake City. Wilbur had been already mentioned as owning the old homestead. The two youngest children, Ada and Lenore, died of diphtheria, the former at four and the latter at two years of age.

Mrs. Miller was educated in the public schools of Dwight, Illinois, graduating from high school, and at the age of fifteen she became a teacher in her native state. She taught there three years, taught one year at Nevada, Missouri, and one year at Towanda, Kansas. She was the third teacher of the Towanda school. She is a talented musician and for a number of years taught music both in Indiana and in Butler County, Kansas. Mrs. Miller had long been prominent in church and club circles. She is a member of the Woman’s Mutual Benefit Club, was president of the local organization, and had also been active in the District and State Federations of Woman’s Clubs. She served as vice president and president of the Eighth District Federation, as chairman and as member of the Legislative Committee of the State Federation of Woman’s Clubs and attended the National Federation Convention at Boston as a state delegate and the National Federation at San Francisco as the delegate from the Eighth Kansas District. Mrs. Miller was president of the Woman’s Mutual Benefit Club when the question of securing a chautauqua for El Dorado was taken up by that organization. Largely through her individual efforts and untiring labors the chautauqua was inaugurated in Butler County under the auspices of the Redpath Bureau.

While the Miller family lived in Towanda Mrs. Miller served as superintendent of the church Sunday school and for several years was assistant superintendent. Her work among the boys of the Sunday school was especially successful. She always had charge of the children’s entertainments, and in that and others ways she exercised a strong influence over the developing minds and spiritual natures of her young charges. She also had charge of the choir in the Towanda Methodist Church, and at El Dorado had been president of the Foreign Missionary Society. She is a member of the El Dorado Literary Club and the City Federation Club. For the past two years she had been sub-chairman of the State Civil Service Committee, and is now chairman of the legislative committee of the El Dorado Federated Club.

Wherever possible she had lent her influence and effort to the upbuilding and uplifting of the city. She had served as a member of the Public Library Board of El Dorado almost since its organization. When the city took over the library, Mrs. Miller was the one who circulated the petition to get the required number of signers in order to bring the proposition to a vote. She never ceased her efforts until this project was carried through successfully, and when that had been accomplished the first forward step had been taken to give El Dorado a public library worthy of the name.

On December 24, 1872, on the old home farm near Towanda, Miss Viola Waite and Dr. Richard Smith Miller were united in marriage. Reference to the career of Doctor Miller is made elsewhere. Doctor and Mrs. Miller had six children. Noble Eugene died in infancy. Tessie May was born May 28, 1876, and died in August, 1904. She was a graduate of the El Dorado High School, had taken art courses in the University of Kansas and had also continued her artistic instruction under New York teachers. She was married in January, 1904, a few months before her death, to D. C. Porter. Mr. Porter is a prominent educator and is now superintendent of the schools at Bridgeton, New Jersey. Pearl De-Ette, the third child of Mrs. Miller, was born January 12, 1880, is a graduate of the El Dorado High School, had the degree of A. B. from the University of Kansas, and is now living at home with her mother. She had taught in Butler County, two years in the high school at El Dorado, two years in the high school at Douglass, and also served as deputy in the county register of deeds’ office. Grace Lavera, the fourth child, was born December 12, 1884, is a graduate of the El Dorado High School and of the University of Kansas with the degre of A. B., and taught at Whitewater, Kansas, one year, and two years in the El Dorado High School. She was married June 13, 1913, to Robert H. Worline, who is a successful attorney at Kansas City, Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Worline have two children, Bonnie Bess, born August 3, 1914, and Marian Miller, born January 15, 1916. Frank, Mrs. Miller’s fifth child, was born January 15, 1887, and died when five and a half years of age. Bess, the youngest of the family, is living at home with her mother in El Dorado. She was born August 2, 1890, finished the course of the local high school and was graduated Bachelor of Music from the University of Kansas.

Richard S. Miller, M. D.A singularly gifted and useful citizen was the late Dr. R. S. Miller, who for forty years or more was a resident of Butler County. He died at his home in El Dorado January 15, 1916, and was interred in the Towanda Cemetery, where the three deceased children are also buried. He had first become acquainted with Butler County when it was in its earliest pioneer development, afterwards spent a number of years in Indiana, but returned to this county and made it his permanent home from the late ’70s until his death.

Doctor Miller was born in Green County, Wisconsin, December 9, 1851, a son of Jacob and Ann (Breaks) Miller. His parents were both born in Indiana. The father died when Doctor Miller was young, and the widowed mother soon returned to Indiana and lived at Crawfordsville in that state until her death in 1865. Doctor Miller was the youngest of three children. His oldest sister, Elizabeth, married James Taylor and now lives in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The second child, John, died when a young man.

As a boy in Indiana Doctor Miller had the advantages of the common schools. He also attended the historic institution of higher learning, Wabash College, at Crawfordsville. In the summer of 1868, at the age of seventeen, he first came to Kansas, locating at Topeka, where he lived for a year and a half. While here he attended the Kansas State Normal School at Emporia about a year and then removed to Butler County, locating at Towanda. He came to Towanda with Doctor Angel, with whom he had read medicine at Emporia, and at Towanda Doctor Miller established the first drug store of the town. The public well on the main street in Towanda stands as a memorial to Doctor Miller’s interest in public welfare. He suggested digging the well, threw out the first shovelful of earth and assisted in the work until it was completed. While looking after his store he continued the study of medicine under Doctor Angel. Later he expanded his mercantile interests by entering the hardware business at Towanda in partnership with Harvey Dickey. In 1872, while living at Towanda, Doctor Miller was married to Miss Viola De-Ette Waite.

In 1875, having sold his mercantile interests, he returned to Crawfordsville, Indiana. For four years he was in the drug business there, and in the meantime pursued the regular course of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Indianapolis, where he was graduated M. D. in 1878. Doctor Miller practiced one year at Crawfordsville and then at Linden, Indiana, until 1882.

His health failing, he determined that Kansas climate was what he most needed for its restoration, and on giving up his practice in Indiana he returned to Butler County and again located at Towanda. Here he spent his time chiefly on the farm, and in a few years was restored to robust health. Doctor Miller resumed practice at Towanda in 1892, but two years later moved his home and office to El Dorado. From that city as his headquarters he extended his service as a physician and surgeon over a wide scope of country and continued active until his death twenty-four years later. He was an able physician, always had all the practice he could attend to, and was a leader in professional circles as he was in other matters with which he became identified.

In 1909 Doctor Miller was the choice of the citizens of El Dorado for the office of mayor. He served two terms. In the opinion of the best informed citizens El Dorado never had a more efficient and progressive mayor than Doctor Miller. Much of the history of real municipal improvement and advancement might be written in connection with his four years of administraton. It is said that the first official letter he penned upon becoming mayor was to Andrew Carnegie, calling the attention of that philanthropist to the need of a library at El Dorado. He worked first and last heartily with other promoters of the library project and he rendered a signal service toward the final culmination of the plans when he appointed a committee of live and energetic citizens who were willing to push the matter to success. While he was mayor the first permanent paving was done in El Dorado. This consisted of fourteen city blocks. The first concrete crossings were laid, and El Dorado’s White Way was installed. At the same time the other business of the city went on apace and with efficiency and economy. The people of El Dorado regard with special admiration his administration because it was economical as well as progressive. He had unusual judgment in financial matters and saw to it that municipal affairs were conducted on a systematic business plan.

It is proper to cite his fidelity to his trust as a public official as something worthy of emulation. During all the time he was mayor of El Dorado he missed only one meeting of the city council. For seven years he was a member of the school board, part of the time president, and throughout that period he never missed a single meeting, either special or regular. This is the more remarkable when it is recalled that he was burdened with a large practice as a physician, which made the most exacting demands upon him. Doctor Miller in school affairs first advocated the erection of the McKinley school building as a separate and independent structure. His plan was carried out and the judgment of later years had especially approved his wisdom. More than anything else his service to the school board was invaluable in meeting the financial problems involved. When he became a member of the board the school finances of the city were in a critical condition. While for several years the board had levied the legal limit of taxes, there was a regular annual deficit. Doctor Miller proposed a radical reformation. As a result of his plan the schools were maintained without creating additional burdens, though it was necessary to reduce the school term one month each year and the teachers’ salaries correspondingly. As there was no other alternative, this situation was accepted cheerfully by those who understood the difficulties confronting the board.

The citizens of El Dorado can point to many things and say that Doctor Miller’s hand and influence was here and was there and always to benefit. He was the first to advocate the purchase by the county of the entire square where the new court house stands. It had been the original purpose to erect the new building upon the site of the old court house. In these prosperous times the wisdom of his proposition is clear to everyone, though at the time many deemed it impracticable. Doctor Miller also inaugurated the movement for the erection of Murdock Memorial Fountain on the court house square. This work was carried out by popular subscription at the cost of $600, and Doctor Miller was the chief contributor and was largely responsible for the success of the campaign.

Such a citizen is an asset to any community and any state. What he did so wisely and so well for his city and county he did indirectly for the entire commonwealth of Kansas, which should properly value his services and consider his example as one to be followed and esteemed by subsequent generations.

Doctor Miller was affiliated with the Fraternal Aid, the Knights and Ladies of Security and the Modern Woodmen of America. In politics he was a republican and was always able to justify his allegiance by forceful argument.

Doctor Miller left his family well provided for. He owned 800 acres of land in Butler County, now under cultivation and in the immediate vicinity of the oil fields now being developed; also owned a two story office building, opposite the court house in El Dorado and a beautiful home at 115 Mechanic Street. His other property included three dwelling houses and a four section flat, all in the residential section of El Dorado. All of his property is without any debts against it.


Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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