The Little Cities Archive

Shawnee, Ohio

Doctors Jim and Bob Miller

Posted by littlecitiesarchive on July 7, 2010


with permission from the Community Life News….

Doctor Robert Miller

Doctor James Miller

As the story is passed down, James and Jane Miller sailed the Atlan­tic Ocean to America from their home in the tiny mining town of Lead Hills, Scot­land near Ayr, in 1879. The couple, 25 and 26 years of age at the time, brought with them their three sons James Jr., 6 Bob, 4, and David, 1. They were fol­lowing the dreams of their mother for them to be well educated and success­ful in the promising lands of the United States. Awaiting them was the eco­nomic opportunity that the great in­dustrial revolution of post-Civil War America held. One could imagine that as they arrived at Ellis Island that news of the great coal boom underway in the Hocking Valley of Ohio was spread. Many Scottish, Welsh and Irish, min­ers by trade, headed in this direction as agents of the rail and coal compa­nies recruited the newly arrived.

Whatever the circumstances, a fu­ture vision of some sort or a basic ne­cessity for survival once on American soil, or a combination of the two, brought the Miller family to the newly arisen mining community of Buckingham, Ohio located just a stone’s throwaway from today’s Miller High School – the school that was named in honor of James Jr. and Bob in 1964,86 years after their arrival here. Their rise to local fame as the area’s pre­miere doctor and surgeon is a story that touched nearly a century of families in Southern Perry County.

James Miller, Sr., one of 10 children, went to work in the mines at Buckingham upon arrival. His brother John would come to America several years later, enter the mines as well, and establish a store in Hemlock that his wife Maude would operate. By the time Jim, Jr.,. Bob and Dave reached their teenage years they were also working in the mines at night, after school and in the summers. Dave even­tually would become owner and opera­tor of several mines in the area, not fol­lowing his brothers into the medical profession.

Jane Williamson Miller, the energetic and visionary mother of the Miller brothers quickly became known for her industrious ways. She soon began supplementing the family income by becoming an agent for the Hoster Brewing Company of Columbus, while also opening a tavern in Buckingham. She and her sons became known in the Southern Perry County area as they de­livered kegs of beer from their horse drawn wagon to the taverns of the area’s thirsty mining towns. Through her determination and business savvy the family income grew. “Every penny she could make she invested in prop­erty in Columbus,” retells Thea Murray Burns of Bexley, Granddaughter of John Miller and one of the few living relatives of the Millers left in the area.

Mrs. Miller’s legend became that of a successful businesswoman, an un­common vocation for a women of that time period.” Her accumulation of wealth was for a purpose and is attrib­uted to her sons being able to receive the education they needed to gain their medical degrees, according to Burns.

Successful in school at Buckingham and later Shawnee, the younger Miller boys departed for college. Jim went to Washington, D. C. where he enrolled at the prestigious Georgetown Univer­sity; Bob to Ohio State’s Starling Medi­cal School and then on to Northwest­ern University in Illinois to study sur­gery. Both turned down opportunities to settle in more cosmopolitan cities to open their practices and returned home to practice medicine. Jim returned in 1901 and moved to Congo where he opened up a practice and served as the mining company’s doctor before mov­ing to Corning several years later. Bob opened his practice in Hemlock.

It is believed that competition ex­isted between the two from their child­hood. It is known that there were peri­ods of conflict and harmony between the two, but it seldom interfered with their medical practice. They lost the most unifying force in their early lives, their mother, who drowned in the dev­astating flood of 1913 on the west side of Columbus at the age of 59. Their father died at 60, two years later.

Although there was a careful separa­tion between the careers of Dr. James and Dr. Bob Miller, the mention of one is nearly synonymous with the men­tion of the other in the recollection of those who knew them during their ca­reers that lasted until the late 1950’s. They both proved their loyalty to the community during the serious flu epi­demic. that struck the area during the years of 1917 and 1918, working day and night tending to the sick and dy­ing. They both were tireless devotees to their patients throughout their ca­reers, with house calls a standard part of their service. . They both were very lax about collecting payments from their customers. Both were known for their rather brusque bedside manner and both were known for their love of the automobile and the speedy and daring operation of their vehicles as they tra­versed the narrow, windy roads of Southern Perry County. They both faithfully dressed in suits and ties, car­rying inscribed gold pocket watches purchased for them by their support­ive mother. Most all saw them as they were utilized daily in checking a patient’s pulse. The mention of either or both, brings a warm smile to the face of most all who knew them. They were colorful characters who you could rely upon in the most difficult of times. They were treasures of this community.

They worked as a team on many op­erations. When Doctor Bob was con­ducting surgery on one of Doctor Jim’s patient, Jim often served as his anesthe­siologist. Although personal difference separated them at times, they always stuck together as a medical team.

Doctor Jim

Doctor Jim’s practice in Corning was first located in the Hopkins Building on the lot where the Bank of Corning park­ing lot is now located. He made his first house calls by horse and buggy. Hazel Fisher, 97, Corning remembers. “On a day when he knew a woman in town was expecting a baby, he would tie his horse and buggy to a post on the street in Corning so he could take off at a mo­ments notice. Sometimes the horse would stand there all day switching flies and relieving himself. Towns­people sometimes complained.  He also made frequent trips to the boom mining town of San Toy during these early years. He kept horses at his access for many years after turning to the automobile to assure that he could traverse the muddy and snow covered roads of the area in inclement weather.

Doctor Jim would be known as a trendsetter. He generated his own elec­tricity for lighting while the town was still reliant on gas lighting. In 1912 he bought his first car, one of the first in Corning as well.  Shortly after establishing his practice,

Doctor Jim married Mary H. Peart of Shawnee on December 31, 1901. Mary was seen by the people of the town as a very beautiful women who lived quietly in the background. They had one daughter Jane Elizabeth who rebelled against their wishes for her to attend college. “Jane was the love of Doc Jim’s life,” said Burns. He attempted to keep close control of her to no avail. She was involved in three marriages that were apparently without the blessings of her father. Two were secretive, one to a Wil­liam Clarke in an unattended wedding in Johnstown, Ohio and the other to Jefferson Robinson, the manager of Corning’s A & P Store with whom she eloped to West Virginia to wed. She was also wed to Harold Parsons of the vil­lage. She brought all three husbands home to live at the family residence on North Valley Street. The marriages ended shortly after they were under­taken. Jane Elizabeth died of cancer in 1944 at the young age of 35.

Lu Brown of Corning, now 90 years of age, was taken into the Miller home in 1924 as a companion for Jane Elizabeth. She had lived in the Children’s Home in New Lexington up until that time and had met Dr. Jim there who was taken by her personal charm and drive. Dr. Jim wanted her to serve as a companion to his daughter, an only child. In many ways Lu became the loyal daughter that Miller was seeking. She established her­self in Corning after graduation from Corning High School and became a suc­cessful  business woman there wedding town leader Murray Brown with whom she entered the grocery business. Brown remembers Doc Miller with fondness: “He and his wife were very good to me. He never would turn a patient away who couldn’t pay.  I got in trouble with him once when I turned away a patient who called him too early in the morning.  He accepted everyone regardless of who they were what time of the night they called.”

Brown continues, “He was up early every morning making his rounds.  He claimed that he was the one that go the birds up in the morning.  I drove him on long trips in his later years.  I remember driving him to the Millfield Mine Disaster in early 1930’s and to the hospitals when he  got so he couldn’t drive very well.  He was a smart man.  He always tapped his bald head with his fingers when he was thinking.  He didn’t have much time for fun but he liked to go over to the Masonic Hall at night and play cards with G. D. and Elmo Keller and that gang. That was his favorite past time.”

Miller was well known as a baby doc­tor, overseeing the delivery of thou­sands of area youngsters for over 50 years, including this writer who was one of his last.  Hazel Fisher remembers that Doctor Jim was present at her home for the delivery of eight of her nine chil­dren. As a child, Bill Dunlap of Drakes who grew up across the street from Miller’s office in Corning, thought that babies were delivered in Miller’s black medical bag. With no hospitals in close proximity, home deliveries were still commonplace through the World War II years. After that, Miller was known for blazing a trail to hospitals in Zanes­ville and Nelsonville with the expect­ant mother and harried father follow­ing behind desperately trying to keep up with him after they made the call. Prenatal care was not a part of the routine in those days. Most mothers only remember letting him know they were expecting so that his services were re­served to be present at the birth. Prenatal care was nonexistent in those days.

Miller made house calls day and, night. Often staying for dinner, and an occasional nip, before going on to his next call. Nonie Eickle Pompey re­members that he liked Grandpa Lusetti’s “Dago wine” and drank too much on one visit, falling into the bushes on his way back to his car. As did his brother Bob, Doc Jim carried a large black bag with him on visits. Jim Eing of Corning remembers, “He had most any pill you wanted in his bag. They didn’t have prescriptions that you had to take to the drug store to get filled back then. He kept his base­ment full of pills.” He usually didn’t collect for his services at the time of delivery, often responding to inquir­ies regarding charges with a familiar, “I’ll catch you next tune.”

If you weren’t too seriously ill you could visit his office. He built a new brick home with an attached office on North Valley Street in 1924, just one lot up from his original office. The structure still stands today as one of Corning’s most prominent homes, the residence of Barbara Siemer. A visit to the office was an unpredictable ex­perience. No appointments were taken, a nurse was not in attendance and he was easily called away from to visit the home of a needy patient. Some remember as children that he could also be quite gruff, often calling out from his examining room in the back of the building to the next a wait­ing child in the waiting in the front, “Get back here.” The office was usu­ally staffed by Miller’s bookkeeper and business partner Delmar Foraker who worked in the middle room of the narrow office. The facility also con­tained an “X-Ray Room”, which was one of the few in the area at that time. Miller took his politics more seri­ously than his religion. He was an avid Republican who was easily enraged by a political argument or the mention of Franklin Roosevelt. Although a mem­ber of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Corning located next to his home and office, Miller was not an active par­ticipant.

He served on the school board for many years and handed out diplomas at graduation where he was known to have something to say about each graduate at the ceremonies. He often engaged in heated discussions with his counterpart on the school board, the highly educated Bertha Levion-­Corning’s revered downtown business woman. The 1948 Corhian Yearbook praised Miller for a contribution of $1,000 to the school library which made it one of the finest in the county. He was a follower of the Corning Rail­roader basketball teams and was known for disagreeing with the men in the striped suits at the ball games when he found time to attend.

He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Corning and served as the company physician for the New York Central Railroad Yard located in Corning, giving physicals and blood pressure tests for the numer­ous railroaders who lived in town. He rose to become a Knight Exemplar in the Masonic Lodge in Corning.

Despite his reluctance to collect from his patients, Miller apparently inher­ited some of his mother’s real estate and business savvy. He owned sev­eral rental houses and business prop­erties in Corning and invested in sev­eral business ventures. He built a one story brick building on Main Street in the 1930’s and leased it to A & P and later to other grocers. The building still bears the Miller name in the stone at the top center of the buildu1g. He also held partial ownership with his brother Dave in the Thistle Oil and Dixie Coal Companies located nearby. Dr. Jim outlived his wife Mary who died in 1948. He was remarried to Goldie Bolyard soon after her death He maintained his practice until he became ill in 1958. He died December 18, 1958 at Bethesda Hospital in Zanes­ville, one day after his 85th birthday.

Doctor Bob

After college Dr. Robert Miller re­turned from Illinois and settled in the community of Hemlock where he opened his practice, four miles away from his brother and only a mile away from his mother in Buckingham. It is hard to imagine, but some might classify him as a more tireless worker than his brother Jim often outdoing him by a step. Bob’s propensity for outdoing his older brother may have started in childhood, but to the historical re­searcher it became apparent when he gained a degree in surgery in addition to his doctor of medical status. It con­tinued into adult life and was evident in his professional career. While Dr. Jim was described by most as a wise and competent doctor, Dr. Bob was known as a top notch surgeon, one of the fin­est in this end of the state. The colorful characteristics of the two, apparently passed down from their well known and loved mother, were also more evi­dent in Bob. While Dr. Jim’s bed side manner was considered blunt and to the point, Dr. Bob’s went a step further to “gruff.” If Dr. Jim was considered a fast and careless driver, Dr. Bob was even worse: “hell on wheels” is how several remember him. Dr. Jim, known for never turning down a patient who couldn’t pay, was outdone in this cat­egory by his brother who was not only generous, but notorious for overlook­ing the financial end of his operation. Dr. Bob would marry Gladys Beall, the wife of Hemlock Hotel owner John Beall, after the two had separated. He adopted his wife’s daughter Thelma af­ter their marriage. He and Gladys would then give birth to a daughter Authorene. They made their home in the upstairs of a downtown storefront building with Doc Miller’s office located below. His wife became crippled early in their mar­riage and was known by most in town to conduct her affairs from the overhang­ing porch where she spent many hours during the warm months.

It was Dr. Bob’s ability and confidence with the knife that is credited with sav­ing many lives in these hills. He was of­fered jobs in hospitals around the state and country but held steadfast to his home community. His reputation spread further than that of his older brother be­cause of his specialization in surgery. Most of Dr. Jim’s patients knew Bob since they relied on him for surgical needs. In addition to being the chief surgeon for Southern Perry County’s hill country, Dr. Bob served as the primary family doctor for the Hemlock and Shawnee area. He delivered babies and treated illnesses in addition to his surgical duties. Miller had numerous surgical patients in the New Straitsville area backing up Dr. Switzer and Dr. Price who were the town’s family physicians. He took over many of their patients in the 1950’s when their practices closed.

With little or no access to hospitals dur­ing the early part of the century, Miller relied upon the kitchen table to perform surgery. If the patient was too large for the table, a door would be removed and serve as the surface for the operation. Whoever was in the room was often put to work, boiling hot water or serving as his operating assistant as he directed the event with authority. Stories of tonsillec­tomies, appendectomies, amputations and more performed by the Scottish lad abound in the memories of local citizens. When Dr. Miller would arrive, he wasted little time getting to the point of the visit, and seldom hesitated about his decisions. Shawnee native Alice Harbarger of Lo­gan remembers vividly his no-nonsense approach: “My oldest brother had to have his tonsils out and Dr. Miller came to do the surgery at our house. The morning he came, I was crying and Mother and Dad told Dr. Miller that they were giv­ing John the choice of a scooter or $7 in cash to get him to have the surgery. I wanted that choice, too. Dr. Miller checked me out and said, ‘Her tonsils need to come out, too!’ He did both of us that morning.”

Miller may of been ahead of his time in his approach to recuperation from sur­gery. Wayne Wilson of New Straitsville remembers: “I was over in the Logan Hospital getting my appendix out by Dr. Webb. I was in there fourteen days. He wouldn’t let me move. Ruth Stobbs up there had hers taken out on the kitchen table by Doc Bob at about the same time and she was out walking the street in three days!”

Like his brother Doctor Bob would come day or night, and seemed to like the challenge of a snow storm or a muddy road to traverse. In the great snow storm of 1950, at the age of 75, he arrived in New Straitsville on a bull dozer to see a needy patient. Rev. Charles Titko of Zanesville, remembers vividly one snow storm when he came to see him as a child in the 1940’s: “1 credit Dr. Miller with saving my life. It was during the winter of 1943-44 and there was a significant snowfall. We were living in Hemlock at the time, but because I was very ill with pneumonia my parents took me to my grandparent’s house, Jesse and Martha Bishop, on Manley Hill in Shawnee. They were quite worried about me and weren’t sure I was going to make it. I was near death. This was during the war and they had just started using Penicillin. I was one of the first patients that Doc ever gave penicillin to. He came in that storm and gave me a large dose of penicillin in a shot and then left more of the pills to take. It brought me out of it. But the story doesn’t end there. He had made it part way up the hill in his car and just parked in the middle of the road because the snow was so bad. When he left the house after seeing me the snow was so deep he didn’t know where the drive­way was and he walked right out the front yard over a deep embankment and fell into the ditch, breaking his ankle. My mother and father went right out. He knew it was broken. My parents offered to drive him to Corning so his brother could set it, but he refused. They weren’t speaking to one another at the time. So, he instructed my mother through each step to wrap his ankle. He got in the car and drove himself, stick shift mind you, in the snow to New Straitsville where Dr. Price could set it.” Miller didn’t let his injury stop him. Others recall seeing him making house visits with crutches and canes in the snow that same win­ter.

“Old Doctor Bob believed in pure pain,” remembers Wes Tharp, Jr., a Hemlock native who recalls hearing the screams of patients from Miller’s office when he was a youngster. He didn’t knock you out like they do these days. Hemlockite Vince Hope, now living in California, verifies Tharp’s claim recalling the day Miller circum­cised his teenage brother Elmer: ”You could hear him scream all over Hem­lock.” His brother Paul, who has re­tired back home to Hemlock, also re­members that Miller was also the man to see in town if a teeth needed pulled-another procedure performed without numbing.

Again like his brother-perhaps even more so, he worried little about pay­ment for his service. The health of the patient was his primary concern. Pay­ing Miller at the time of service was difficult for most area families and never requested, getting a bill from the stubborn Miller after the service was even harder. Harbarger recalls: “Dee Trew, an attorney, knew he owed Dr. Miller for some visits to his home, but he would ask for a bill and Dr. Miller wouldn’t give him one. Dee knew there were lots of folks who couldn’t afford to pay, but he. could and wanted to. He called Mrs. Miller and asked her to send him a bill which she did. When Trew picked up his mail at the post office, wouldn’t you know that Dr. Miller was there at the same time. He saw the bill, took it from Trew and tore it up, saying he would sent out the bills.”

No one doubted that the feisty and often argumentative Doctor was in control. Tharp recounts a tale he has heard more than once around Hem­lock: ”Doc Miller was supposedly in­vited back to Illinois to speak and be recognized at a medical conference. The speaker up at the podium was  talking about an amazing operation old Doc had performed. The opera­tion was on old Mr. Hornyak whose life he saved. Mrs. Hornyak was al­ready gone and Mr. Hornyak had this large growth in his stomach. No one thought he would live either. Old Doc Miller knew that if he didn’t perform surgery he would probably die, and if he did perform surgery he probably would die, too. But any­how he went ahead. Well it was late ate night and Mr. Hornyak’s daugh­ter Julia, just a young girl at the time, was the only one there to help him. She boiled water and held the kero­sene lamp so he could see. Well, he got the tumor out and old Mr. Hornyak lived–for a long time after that.. Well this type of operation was unheard of at the time and they were going to recognize him. Well, the speaker was telling the rest of the medical people about this operation and said, ‘God must have been with you there in that room that night Dr. Miller. ‘ Old Doc Miller supposedly jumped up and said, ‘No, God wasn’t there. He had nothing to do with it. It was just me and Julia Hornyak in that room. We were the only two. ‘” On another occa­sion when chided by village barber John Powell who predicted that Miller that would deliver a fourth baby to a women in town who had never paid him for the first free, he only laughed and agreed.

In addition to his wife, Miller often relied on village resident Grace Russell to assist him as his nurse. Russell was the 3rd and 4th Grade teacher at nearby Central School.  According to Titko, a substitute was called if Miller needed her for a par­ticularly difficult surgery.

Margaret Higgins of Hemlock and her late husband George Higgins were close friends with Doctor Bob. She recalls: “He stopped for coffee a lot and to visit. He had a rough exte­rior. A lot of children were afraid of him. He wanted it that way. But, he was truly a kind hearted man. My husband’s people were Scotch and so was the doctor, so that is why I think we became so close. The Scots were clannish you know. We considered him as a good friend.

Miller followed his brother’s tradi­tion for community service, serving on the school boards at Hemlock Cen­tral and Shawnee and serving as Perry County Coroner in the 1950’s before his death.

After the World War II Miller began conducting most surgeries in hospi­tals. He became a highly respected member of the surgical staffs at Good Samaritan and Bethesda Hospitals in Zanesville and at Mt. St. Mary’s Hos­pital in Nelsonville, leaving early in the morning to perform surgeries there and then working his way back home by performing house calls through the afternoon and into the evening until the time of his death.

The Automobile & Hugh White

Most discussions about the Miller brothers with those living today who knew them turns rather quickly to the topic of their automobiles and their driving habits. The advent of the au­tomobile certainly added to the effi­ciency of their house call-based prac­tices

The Miller’s connection to the auto­mobile was bolstered by the fact that their dynamic mother had taken in and raised a young lad by the name of Hugh White at their home in Buckingham. White adopted Jane Miller and her son’s industrious ways and opened what is believed to be the first automobile dealerships in Rendville and Corning in the teens and twenties, before moving on to Zanesville. Ever gracious for the op­portunity provided him by the Miller family, White regularly provided the doctors with new automobiles that they quickly consumed in fender benders, crashes and by just plain wearing them out due to the shear number of hours per day they were on the rugged washboard roads of South­ern Perry County. “One day you’d see Doc Miller’s car all muddy and beat up and the next day there’d be a brand spanking new one in his drive way. Old Hughie took good care of them,” remembers Jim Eing. White eventually became one of Ohio’s premiere car dealers opening Chevrolet agencies in Zanesville, Columbus, Cleveland, Mansfield and Lima, He never forgot the Miller’s, however, providing them with new cars on a regular basis until the time of their death.

White’s prominent dealerships lo­cated at the Y-Bridge in Zanesville and at the comer of Cleveland Avenue and East Broad in Columbus were patron­ized by many area residents. The Mill­ers were known to help arrange sales themselves. Zanesville insurance agent George Phillis, a Corning native, remem­bers returning home from the Korean, conflict in 1953 and looking for a car at Hermey’s Ford Garage in Corning and at Whites in Zanesville. Doc Jim got word that he was looking. Phillis tells, “Doc saw me and said ‘George, glad to see you home. Let me call Hughie White. He’s giving a discount on autos for returning veterans.’ The next day a salesman showed up at my door and offered me a car for $300 less. That was a lot of money in those days-a monthly salary. I ordered the car.”

With cars at their disposal the Miller’s traveled local roads with “no fear.”  Stop signs were considered a nuisance, speed the primary objective, and pass­ing slower vehicles on the area’s nar­row and winding roads a regular oc­currence. Doctor Bob’s competitive­ness was obvious on the road as Alice Harbarger recounts in a story told to her by the late Walter Harrop: “Harpie told about the time Doc Miller tried to pass him on the road from Hemlock to Shawnee. Harpie speeded up because there wasn’t a good place to pass a car. Both were going too fast. Finally, Harpie got to the stop sign in Shawnee and stopped. Dr. Miller didn’t stop­ as he passed him and waved as he went by.”

Trips to the hospitals in Zanesville and Nelsonville replaced home deliv­eries. “Follow me to the hospital,” was the common response when the expect­ant family rang the doctor. That was no easy task. Bill Dunlap of Corning remembers with pride when Dr. Bob was surprised at his ability to keep up with him on a trip to Zanesville for the de­livery of one of his children.  Nonie Pompey remembers riding in the car with Dr. Bob for the delivery of one of her children. “I was never so scared in my life.”

As WPA projects and post World War II economic conditions improved the highways of the area, the speed at which the Miller’s traveled increased along with the age of the gentlemen. Higgins remembers, “Doctor (Bob) would get a speeding ticket every time he went to Lancaster, and he got a lot in Zanesville, too. He’d always try to get out of them. My husband George had surgery over there in the hospital and Doctor brought him home. He told me, ‘I was in a lot more danger coming home with him than I was in surgery!'” Eing remembers that Dr. Jim Miller crashed through the railroad pump house in the village on one occasion, missing the zig,-zag that was required on State Route 13 at that time. Dr. Jim turned his driving duties over to others as he grew older but Dr. Bob continued, until he met his death in the automobile at the age of 82.,

On November 6, 1957, Doctor Bob I went left of center in his Chevy on St. Rt. 155 and crashed into another vehicle, killing him instantly and injuring the driver of the other car, Buck Wilson of Hemlock, a person he had been know to automobile race in earlier days.

Miller High School

The death of the Doctors Miller within two years of one another left a huge void in the lives of area residents. Charles Titko, president of the Shawnee High School Class of 1957, remembers the era  vividly and the circumstances that he believes led to the recognition of the’ Miller’s contribution that still touches the community today: “In 1956 the state passed sweeping changes in education. Minimum requirements were upped. We knew then that we were on the road to consolidation. There was al­ready talk of a new school. We started talking among ourselves at Shawnee about naming of a new school. As you know competition was fierce between the schools in the area and we thought that one of the unifying factors between the communities of southern Perry County were Doctor Bob and Doctor Jim Miller. They were something we all had in common. We dedicated our 1957 yearbook to Doctor Bob Miller with this’ thought in mind. Of course, he was killed shortly after that. I believe it was among our class that the seed was planted to name the new school after the Millers.”

Although the potential exists for a debate  about who had the idea first, naming the new consolidated high school after the Millers was a brilliant and logical idea that did catch on. Consolidation between Shawnee and New Straits­ville High Schools and between Corning and Moxahala High Schools took place in the late 50’s as the crunch of new state standards, a failing local economy, and population decline took its toll. The Southern Local School District was formed in 1960 and with pressure being applied by the state of Ohio” voters approved a bond levy shortly thereafter for the construction of a new consolidated high school.

Miller High School opened in Janu­ary of 1964, named in honor of Doc­tors Jim and Bob Miller. It was dedi­cated as Miller High School in ceremo­nies on April 26, 1964, a day where one might say the “Southern Perry County” community (with a capital “S”) was formed. The ceremony was led by a mix of Southern Perry Countians. County Judge Daniel Jenkins, a Shawnee na­tive, gave the dedicatory ad­dress. County Superintendent Wm. Jones, a New Straitsville native and Principal Rodney Hearing, a Portersville native who taught music in several Southern Local High Schools prior to consolidation, accepted the keys to the schools from the architects and contractors. Becky Hartley of Corning led the chorus in singing patriotic songs to celebrate the event. Minis­ters Kenneth Brown of the Corning E. U. B. Church and Rev. Edward Sadler of the Shawnee Methodist Church gave the invocation and benediction. Civic leader Myrtle Owens of New Straitsville presented a flag from Rob­ert Taft to fly over the school, a large dictionary and framed pictures of the Doctors for the new school library in honor of the Millers.

The common thread that the lives of the Millers gave to the new school community set an example that complemented the planting of other seeds that would eventually tie the once divided communities together.  The new school was located on a farm just east of Hemlock that was plotted at the exact center Coal, Monroe, Pleasant and  Saltlick townships.  Representatives from each community were seated on the school board.  Care was given to bring a mix of teachers from the village schools to the new staff.  Despite these efforts for harmony in the beginning, the competitive­ness of the Miller brothers was paral­leled among the communities the school served. But as the years have passed the Southern Local community has grown together under the “Miller” theme with the rivalry between towns that still cripples many rural consolida­tions from the 1960’s, becoming mostly a non-issue here.

A feature on the front page of the April 23, 1964 Perry County Tribune announc­ing the school’s dedication ceremonies perhaps describes the Miller’s role as bringing the community together best: “Most of the students attending Miller High School were delivered by either one or the other of these doctors. Their passing created a void that affected the entire community. Could they have lived to see the new school located in the community where they worked and lived for so many years, it would have pleased them because through their lifetime they contributed liberally towards education for the betterment of future generations.”

Not only did the consolida­tion of the local schools spell the end of an era in Southern Perry County, so did the death of the Millers. The Hemlock and Shawnee-New Straitsville neighborhoods have never re­placed Doc Bob’s services lo­cally. Corning was able to re­place Dr. Jim with several doc­tors staying for short stints until Dr. Robert Kramer settled there in the early 1960’s as a young doctor with a family. However, his death several years later ended the fading hope for the continuation of the tradition of community-based doctors in Southern Perry County.

The impact of the Miller’s legend­ary voyage from Scotland in search of education lives on in this community over 100 years later. The colorful lives of the young Scottish lads marked by daily presence and tireless service to those who settled here along with them, were major threads in the fabric of community life in Southern Perry County for half a century. Both their story and their name help describe our community today.


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