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George L. Miller, Reminiscences in 1905

Seward County historian W. W. Cox included reminiscences from pioneer Nebraskans in his classic history of Seward County, published in 1905. George L. Miller, physician and later founder of the Omaha Herald, remembered of his early arrival in Omaha:

"I arrived in Council Bluffs on the night of the 18th of October, 1854, after an overland journey of five days and four nights in a Concord coach of the Western Stage Company from Keokuk, Iowa. I had come from my home in Syracuse, N.Y., by way of St. Louis and steamer to Keokuk by appointment to meet my father, the late L. Miller, by whose influence I was persuaded to become a citizen of the new territory, which was born into the Union in the earlier months of that year. I accompanied him in the wild venture to the new land on that delightful journey.

"On the morning of the 20th of October we crossed the Missouri, planted foot on Nebraska soil, and took our first view of the untamed region from what is now the chief town in one of the youngest and greatest agricultural states of the national sisterhood. My age was twenty-four, I was by profession a physician, and I claim whatever distinction may attach to the fact that I was the first medical practitioner bearing proper credentials who located in Nebraska."

However, Miller did not do as well in the practice of medicine as he had hoped at this early date in Omaha, and he entered Democratic Party politics and journalism. During his first year in Nebraska Miller was elected to the territorial legislature. He served one year in the House and then was elected to three terms in the Council. He ran for territorial delegate to Congress in 1864 but was defeated. The next year he started the Democratic Omaha Daily Herald, which soon became the chief Democratic organ in the state. Eventually Miller built it into a nationally influential newspaper, serving as its editor for about twenty-three years before selling it in 1887.

Miller made many worthy contributions to Omaha and to the state of Nebraska. He helped recruit the First Nebraska Regiment prior to the Civil War and thereafter was sutler at Fort Kearny until 1864. He helped acquire for Omaha the transcontinental railroad and the Union Pacific bridge. He served on committees to promote the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in Omaha and was its president in 1899. He served as president of the Nebraska State Historical Society from 1907 to 1909. Miller was also a promoter of tree planting and a booster of Nebraska agriculture. Along with George Holdrege, manager of the Burlington Railroad lines west of the Missouri River, he was instrumental in successfully introducing winter wheat into Nebraska. He also advocated a new method of sowing wheat.

Miller inspired both intense admiration and enmity during his days in Nebraska politics. Miller and J. Sterling Morton, the other prominent member of the Democratic Party in Nebraska, carried on a bitter personal feud during these years. Yet Morton recognized Miller's ability and said of him: "No other man, either by the power of money, or by the power of brawn, or by the strength of brain, did as much to make Omaha a city."

(September 2007)



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