I’ve wanted to write about this home on Ray Avenue for a while as it looked like an effort was being made to fix it up and make it a home again. It is nice to explore the origins of a house that will soon have a new life.
A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.
The Miller family was originally from the town of East Berlin in Adams County, Pennsylvania. It was there that Philip Miller (1791-1840) and his wife Catherine (1800-1862) raised their nine children, seven boys and two daughters. One of the sons, John W. Miller (1829-1906) was apprenticed to a carpenter after his father Philip died in 1840, and eventually made his way to the city of York, Pennsylvania. After completing his apprenticeship in York, John met and subsequently married Lydia Glatfelter (1834-1906) around 1852. After their marriage the couple immediately set out to establish themselves in Ohio.
John and Lydia arrived in Tuscarawas County right around the time of the birth of their first child, a daughter named Fannie (1854-1940), in 1854. John easily found a market for his carpentry skills in the growing city and among his first jobs was the creation of the interior woodwork in one of the fine homes along West High Street. John and Lydia initially lived in rooms above a store front on West High as John worked to build his carpentry business. The family grew to include two more children by 1859 after the birth of sons Edward (1856-1888) and Upshur (1859-1927). The family was quickly outgrowing their small, rented rooms.
John’s carpentry business was doing very well and he was often noted in the local newspaper for payment for work done for the county. Later newspaper accounts also stated that he had a hand in virtually every major building project undertaken in the city. While John registered for the draft during the Civil War, there is some confusion as to whether or not he actually served. There was a John W. Miller that served in an Ohio regiment during the war, but his home was listed as being in Noble County at the time. There is no reference in John’s lengthy newspaper obituary to any military service during the war and the name John Miller was an incredibly common one at the time.
The growth of the Miller family necessitated a move from their small rented rooms to a proper home. John and Lydia acquired lots 389 and 390 on West Ray Street sometime in the late 1860s and it was on lot 389 that John began construction of his own home in 1871. The style of home that John designed and built was in a style referred to as Second Empire and popular from about 1855 until the mid-1880s. The most identifiable features of this style of home are its mansard roof with dormer windows, decorative molded cornices, and decorative brackets under the eaves of the roofline. While much of those decorative elements no longer survive on the home, it is doubtless that a carpenter with the skill and reputation of John Miller would have included them in the design of his own home.
The Miller’s eldest son, Edward, followed in his father’s footsteps as a carpenter. Edward and his wife and son lived on Fair Avenue when, in 1886, Edward’s wife, Hetta Whitman (1861-1886) passed away from tuberculosis. Edward only lived two more years before he too died from the same disease in February 1888. Edward and Hetta’s son, Percival (1879-1966), moved into John and Lydia’s home after the death of both of his parents. The Miller’s other son, Upshur, built a home next door to his parents and worked in the manufacturing industry. Fannie, John and Lydia’s daughter, never married and continued to live in her parents home.
John, Lydia, and Fannie were all living the home on West Ray Street when, in 1903, John’s health began to deteriorate. Percival, after finishing school, had left the home and moved to New Mexico. Three years later, in early March 1906, John and Lydia both contracted a case of pneumonia that quickly proved fatal. John W. Miller died on March 10th and Lydia Miller died five days later on March 15th, 1906. Fannie, now alone, continued to live in the Miller house on West Ray until her death in 1940. John and Lydia Miller are buried in Fair Street Cemetery.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.