Winchester Miller

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Winchester Miller

Born: 1835, in Morgan, Ohio
Died: November 29, 1893, in Tempe

About 1863, Winchester Miller went from Iowa to Texas on his way to California. He stayed in Texas and served as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War. After the war, he continued west, and passed through the Salt River Valley on his way to California. He returned to Arizona in 1869 and settled in the area that would later become Tempe. Miller homesteaded land along the Kirkland-McKinney Ditch, at what is now the northeast corner of Rural Road and University Drive. Within a few years, he had one of the most prosperous farms in the valley, with 320 acres planted in wheat, 160 acres in vegetables, and a 35-acre fruit orchard with plums, peaches, pears, apricots, and apples. He soon built a spacious two-story adobe house.

In addition to operating a farm, Miller was involved territorial politics and other activities. He became president of the Tempe Irrigating Canal Company in 1872, and dominated the organization for nearly two decades. He also served as Maricopa County sheriff in 1870s and '80s, and gained a reputation as a fearless Indian fighter. He was a trustee of Tempe School District No. 3. Miller also ran freight wagons to Yuma several times each year, and returned with tools and supplies to trade in the Salt River Valley and in nearby mining camps.

Winchester Miller had four children by his first wife, Melinda Young, who died in Texas. W. Y. Miller, Albert Miller, and Laura Miller Haigler were raised by their maternal grandparents in Iowa; an infant daughter died in Texas. His son Albert came to Tempe in 1875, at the age of 15, to help his father.

On January 8, 1873, Winchester Miller married Maria Sotelo, the daughter of his neighbor, Manuela Sotelo. They had ten children: Sam, Andrew, Benjamin, Louis, Winchester Jr., Clara, Manuela, Sally, Rose, and Lydia.