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Nebraska...Our Towns

Miller

Buffalo County

The Miller Public Schools, erected 1893. When the town of Armada found itself on the wrong side of the river, it moved to the other side and changed its name to "Miller" for one of the men who helped bring the Kearney & Black Hills Railway up the Wood River Valley through Buffalo County. The Miller School District is now part of the S.E.M. consolidated school that includes Sumner and Eddyville in neighboring Dawson County.
A Sunday in the park was the same in many towns. Ladies in "go-to-meeting" finery would listen to the band, a speaker or two, and chat with neighbors and friends. [Anderson Photo]

The first settlement in this area started in 1873 as the town of Armada. Most residents lived in dug-outs in the area north of Wood River, and the town consisted of a post office, store, and school. William Craven, named postmaster in 1881, built the first frame home known as the "Halfway House" because it was halfway between Kearney and Broken Bow. It served as a relay station for stage and freighting wagons.

Even after the Black Hills gold rush had subsided, the freight line continued through Armada and the town, known as "Gem City," grew rapidly. By the end of the 1880s the population was over 250, with over 40 homes, four churches, and many businesses.

In the summer of 1890, the Kearney & Black Hills Railroad came up the south side of Wood River Valley. Armada was in the wrong place. So, it moved across the river and changed its name to "Miller" for Dr. George L. Miller, a primary mover in the establishment of the railroad. A big iron bridge was built and before fall, 52 businesses and homes were dragged across the river and most of the 250 citizens of Armada had moved to the new town.

C.M.Houston, editor of the "Armada Watchman," held out for saving Armada, claiming that the town would ..."grow to meet the railroad." But in the end, he also moved to Miller.

When the town site was chosen, there was nothing there but an old buffalo wallow. Streets and alleys were laid out by a single furrow plowed across the prairie. Not everyone was happy about the location, and many settled to the east, in a location called "Kickerville."

Miller grew despite the adversity. The first train arrived August 2, 1890. The school was established, churches were organized, and soon it was business as usual on the main street. Houston's newspaper was called "Miller Union" and later other local newspapers carried the names "Forum," "Carrier," "Gazette," and "Sun."

The railroad was constructed on to Callaway during the first year and extended once after that. However, it never reached the Black Hills. With all the construction, Miller had a colorful and rapidly-changing history. Businesses and shops crowded the main street. A fire in 1916 burned many buildings on the north side of the main street, but brick buildings quickly replaced them. A water system was installed on the hill southwest of town in 1917. The vigorous growth and spirit of the community up through the 1920s were certainly Miller's prime years. They represented frontier life in a way we may never see again.

There is now only a skeleton remaining of the town that started in the buffalo wallow. Like Armada before it, Miller also proved to be in the wrong place.

As better roads replaced the railroad as the primary means of travel, businesses diminished. When the town stopped growing, everything started going down hill. As more people left, other businesses folded. The last senior class to graduate from Miller High School was in 1958. Miller and Sumner combined K-8 classes for several years, and now are part of the Sumner-Eddyville-Miller School system.

The bridge over Wood River met with disaster in 1963 when it collapsed under the weight of a huge roadpacker. The river was straightened and a new concrete bridge was constructed.

Had the Mid-State Reclamation project been completed, Miller would have been at the bottom of the lake! After many anxious delays, however, the project was put aside in favor of other plans for the watershed district.

The community has rallied for a number of special causes. A fire truck was purchased and fire hall built in 1952. The Wood River Valley Clinic was constructed so a doctor would take up residence in the area, and Miller streets received blacktop surface in 1980.

The well-equipped kitchen in the Miller Community Hall makes this a very busy place. In addition to family reunions and Saturday night dances, the building is where many of the local organizations hold their meetings.

Miller is still here! To the people who live here, there is a common bond -- this is "home."

From material written by Opal Quail, and submitted by Carolyn Kappel, Rte 1 Box 53, Miller, NE 68858

 

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: The Miller History Book, published in the early 1980s.