Under the eaves… Volume 2 Issue 3

Henry Jr. and his sister Nellie

Father and son…

There is a popular saying, ‘we parent as we are parented.’  This was certainly true of Henry Miller.  His father was very strict and had high expectations of his only son.  Henry was a very devoted husband and father, always providing everything possible for his family.  However, he had difficulty expressing his feelings for his children and little tolerance for their weakness and misbehavior.  Like his father, Henry’s relationship with his only son was tenuous.

Henry Miller, Jr., was a frail child who went to private school in San Francisco.  He disdained any type of work, preferred partying, became a heavy drinker and contracted a very debilitating venereal disease at a young age.  Miller was deeply disappointed in his son and responded by almost completely ignoring him.

One evening Miller came home to San Francisco and wanted to discuss a business matter with his son.  He was informed that his son was out.  Miller waited until the coach returned, but Henry, Jr., was not in it.  Miller continued to wait.  His son returned home quite late to a furious father.  Miller told his son that he should not have stayed so long at the home of Miss Maud Oldham.  Henry, Jr., proceeded to tell his father that he could stay as late as he wished since the young lady was his wife.

Miller was so enraged that he called in the coachman, Kane, and fired him.  The next morning, Miller went to the office of the Mercury newspaper and published the following in the next edition;

I hereby notify the public generally that my son Henry Miller, Jr., has no longer any connection with my business in any way, either personal or mercantile, either in my own or in that of Miller & Lux.  I will not be responsible for him in any way or recognize his acts in any manner whatsoever from this date.  September 18, 1889 Henry Miller Sr.

The next day Miller was interviewed at his San Francisco home, 34 Essex Street.  “I do not know where he is or where he intends to live.  Nor do I care.  It is true that I intend to have nothing further to do with him.  I made known my objections to his marrying, and he willfully disobeyed me, and therefore, I am done with him.  It looks hard for a father to do as I have done; yet I did it with the full knowledge of the facts, and I have not yet found any reason to change my decision.  He has made his own way, now let him make the best of it,” stated Henry Miller Sr. (1)

A follow up story was published and stated, “Young Mr. Miller and his bride are still living at Gilroy, and as far as can be ascertained are not at all bothered about his father’s stern decree.”

There are many reports by people who described Henry Miller Jr., as an alcoholic and an irresponsible and reckless person, who disrespected his parents as well as his wife, and never engaged in any productive work.  However, one former Miller & Lux employee, James Dermot, also blamed Miller himself for the fact that his son “went to the dogs” because he neglected him too much and failed to prevent older people from getting young Henry drunk and “taking him places where he shouldn’t have been.” (2)

By 1900, Henry Jr., seemed to be back in the family and a house was built for him on Mt. Madonna.  After his first wife died at an early age, Henry, Jr., married Sarah Onyon, and his father approved of the connection.  Soon, Henry, Jr’s., health began to fail and his father helped to take care of him.  Miller saved his son from the San Francisco house when fire took it after the 1906 earthquake.  Henry Miller, Jr., died on May 9, 1907 at the age of 45.


Edited by Charles Sawyer, Interviews by Ralph Milliken, One Man Show Henry Miller in the San Joaquin, (Los Banos: Ralph Milliken Museum Society, 2003)

(2)Waldschmidt-Nelson, Britta. “Henry Miller: The Cattle King of California.” In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to Present, vol. 2, edited by William J. Hausman.  German Historical Institute.  Last modified September 05, 2013.  http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=153


I hope that you found this story interesting and enjoyed learning more about Henry Miller and his son Henry Miller, JR’s relationship. The photograph of Henry JR is with his sister Nelli. Our next story will be about “Gussie”  Sarah Alice Maud Miller.

Questions and comments are always welcome.  Contact me (Patti Perino) at 408-410-1495 or email at millerredbarn@outlook.com 

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