Hiram Owens Miller, Donner Party

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Hiram Owens Miller

Birthdate: (50)
Birthplace: Kentucky, USA
Death: October 19, 1867 (50)
San Jose, Santa Clara, California, USA (Smallpox)
Place of Burial: San Jose, Santa Clara, California, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of George H. Miller and Mary "Polly" Miller
Brother of George H. Miller; Alfred Miller; Catherine Miller; Elizabeth W. Houston; Lemuel Miller and 2 others

Occupation: Teamster for the Donner Party; Blacksmith in San Jose, California, in 1867
Managed by: Private User
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About Hiram Owens Miller, Donner Party

Hiram Owens Miller was the son of George and Polly (Ownes) Miller. He was a member of the infamous Donner Party. Hiram was a teamster for the Donner family. Although Miller is not generally included in rosters of the Donner Party, he was a member of the original Springfield group. He was a friend of James F. Reed’s, but worked for the Donner's. Tamzene Donner mentions Miller in her letter of June 21, 1846, along with her other employees John Denton and Noah James.


On May 12, 1846, the day the Donner's and Reed's left Independence, Miller began making daily entries in a journal. When he left the company, the entries were kept up by Reed. This document, the Miller-Reed diary, is one of the most important sources of the Donner Party’s itinerary.


Miller left the company on July 2 to join eight other single men who left their wagons and set out with pack mules. This, the Bryant-Russell Party, was the first group to take Hastings Cutoff. Miller later helped rescue the trapped emigrants as a member of the Second and Third Reliefs.

Shortly after the disaster, Alcalde John Sinclair appointed Miller guardian for George Donner’s daughters, a role that was later taken over by their half-sister Elitha’s husband, Benjamin Wilder. Eliza did not remember Miller with any fondness, for he had been unkind to her while on the Third Relief. When he came to see her and Georgia in 1852, Eliza recalled, many years later: Mr. Miller’s stocky form in coarse, dark clothes, his cold gray eyes, uneven locks, stubby beard, and teeth and lips browned by tobacco chewing, were not unfamiliar; but he looked less tired, more patient, and was a kindlier spoken man than I had remembered.

Miller settled in Santa Clara County near his friend James Reed. At the beginning of the gold rush he did a booming business: "Hiram Miller, blacksmith (you know him,) was worked down in making picks, night and day. He has made money," Reed wrote in 1848. Miller contracted smallpox in the early 1860's and lived with the Reed's as an invalid for the last five years of his life. He is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose next to the Reed-Lewis family plot.

Parents: George H. Miller (born about 1792 in Kentucky, died 1839 in Sangamon County, Illinois) and Polly Owens (born December 7, 1796 in Kentucky, died 1875 in Sangamon County, Illinois.)

NOTE: When Hiram registered to vote in Santa Clara County, California, on August 16, 1866, he was living in San Jose, California, was 48 years old, born in Kentucky, and working as a blacksmith.

From Newspapers.com - The Montana Post, November 16, 1867, Saturday: "The San Jose Mercury announces the death of Hiram O. Miller, and adds that he was one of the rescuers of the celebrated Donner party, whose terrible sufferings in the snows of a Nevada winter, in early times, have become a part of California history."


Find A Grave.com

California Voter Registers, 1866-1898; Ancestry.com


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Hiram Owens Miller, Donner Party's Timeline

Kentucky, USA
October 19, 1867
Age 50
San Jose, Santa Clara, California, USA
San Jose, Santa Clara, California, USA