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You are here Miller Family Index > Grandpa "Salty" 06/04/04


Grandpa "Salty"

By Michael R. Reilly, Grandson, December 10, 1995

Revised October 3, 1996

Last Revision 06/04/04

    William Jacob Henry Miller Jr. was born on July 4, 1880 in West Bend to parents William Jacob Henry Miller Sr. and the former Appolonia Immel, daughter of John Immel and Elizabeth Weber.  William had five brothers and one sister that survived beyond the early period of birth; Louis or "Louie", Edwin G. Sr., sometimes called "Murphy", Steffen (Stephen) or "Steve" or sometimes called "Dick",  John, also known as "Feet", Herbert, and sister Melinda. Three other siblings were Louis John (Ludwig Johannes Mueller), Hildegard Emma, and a child daughter of unknown name that died within one day of birth (b. 9/6/1883 - d. 9/7/1883).

    For a number of years William worked as a typo, setting print, in the office of the Washington County Pilot (Later the West Bend Pilot). Before he married in 1906 he worked at a malt house, possibly associated with West Bend Lithia Company where his father worked. Until he married, he lived on his mother's step-father's, Jacob Engmann  farm outside West Bend.

Occupations of William J. Miller as reported in the West Bend Pilot:

    Apr 13, 1898, "William Miller, who was employed in this office (Washington County or West Bend Pilot) as compositor for nearly two years, left us last week to seek a position elsewhere. Willie is a good and willing worker and we hope he will meet with success in his future undertakings."

    January 25, 1899, "Wm. Miller quit his job at the Democrat (West Bend newspaper) office last Saturday to become a salesman for Baumann Bros. wholesale grocers of Milwaukee."

    February 08, 1899, "Wm. Miller will leave for Port Washington to work as compositor at the Star (newspaper) office."

    September 23, 1903, William and brother (?) Albert reported had been working in McCanna (Note: newspaper article printed McCann), North Dakota as farm help but now returned to area to leave on the Van Treek farm in Trenton, rented by his father William. (Note: Follow-up information - McCanna, North Dakota is located in Grand Forks County, Elm Grove Township, Sec 9-152-55. None of the Miller's from the Land Patent Site search live in Elm Grove Township. But, they all live in the area of Elm Grove Township. So, it's still not enough information to easily pin down a Miller family to Albert and William (if it was a Miller family, it could have been relation with a different last name by marriage or ?). Several newspapers existed in this area. One would have to check with the State Archives to see if McCanna had a newspaper during this timeframe. Another city close to McCanna is Larimore, North Dakota. Good luck with your research! Michele Vietz Bismarck, ND) (The info about newspapers in the area concerns the possibility that William may have worked at one while in ND, since he had past job experience in Wisconsin. Mike Reilly) 

    Bef. August 10, 1906, Worked at malt house in West Bend.

    August 10, 1906, "William Miller quit his job in the malthouse last Wednesday and on the following morning began work at Warnkey and Schneiss galvanized iron works."

    Aug 14, 1907, "William Miller, employee of Warnkey and Schneiss tin shop was confined to his home for several days (he stepped on a rusty nail)."

    January 18, 1911, "Wm. Miller came near to going to "Kingdom Come" last Thursday, receiving a vicious kick from his employer's horse while unhitching the animal. He was down and out for some time, but receiving prompt medical attention he recovered rapidly, and Monday morning he was back to his job in Warnkey's galvanized iron works.

    May 31, 1911, "William Miller (Jr?) was badly sunburned while installing lightning rods."

    June 19, 1912, "Horse Fractures Man's Leg - Driver Kicked While Seated on Delivery Wagon. William Miller, employed in Warnkey's galvanized iron works, had his right leg broken just above the ankle in a peculiar manner last Monday. Miller and his fellow laborer, John Thorgerson, were about to drive to their shop with their employer's horse when the animal took fright at an automobile. The horse reared up and in doing so broke one of the snaps on the holdback straps. This break allowed the wagon to bump into the animal's legs and it began kicking furiously, one of the blows striking Mr. Miller on the leg, fracturing the bone. The horse then ran away and the men were thrown off their seat. In falling the line caught about Mr. Miller's left leg and he was dragged fully fifty feet before he was released from the line by Mr. Thorgerson. He was taken to his home and the fracture reduced. He received no injuries in being dragged. The animal's legs are badly cut as a result of its vicious kicking. July 12, 1912 - William Miller, who had his leg fractured several weeks ago is now able to move around with the aid of crutches. Nov 13, 1912 - William Miller's leg still bothers. Dec 18, 1912 - William Mueller, who broke his leg, moved to Milwaukee. Mar 12, 1913 - Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Miller, Sr., visited their sons Wm. and Steve in Milwaukee (See next entry - it appears that it was Wm and Steve in the saloon business.)

    Jul 23, 1913 - Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Miller, Sr., of West Bend visited their son William in Milwaukee. He has about recovered from his fractured leg of over a year ago and is now in the saloon business at Walnut and 18th Street.

    Feb 4, 1914, "The Miller Brothers (William and Steve), former West Bend boys, are now in the saloon business at 1803 Walnut St., Milwaukee.

    In the Milwaukee City Directory, 1914 volume, there listed a "William, tinsmith, h 835 Muskego Ave". In 1915, a "William, saloon, 629 20th, h same" is listed and later in 1916, "William, bartender, h 387 7th" is indicated. While William J. Miller worked as both tinsmith or tinner and also as a bartender, none of the listing above or in the directories can actually be attributed to him.

    On a postcard postmarked September 2, 1915, William wrote to his mother from Templeton (now Sussex), "Hello Ma. This the place I am going to take. Will be in WB (West Bend) in a week." The address was simply, "Mrs. Wm. Miller, West Bend, Wis". The picture on the postcard's front was that of the Mammoth Springs Hotel (presently Dilly's) under the proprietorship of one Thomas McCloskey. The Hotel was both a saloon downstairs and hotel above. It isn't known what William meant by his message to his mother; whether he intended to buy the establishment or to simply work there ( Fred Keller, a Sussex area historian, wrote about the history of the hotel/saloon and nothing mentioned William's ownership.) There further exists a picture ( in the possession of Shirley Ann Arnold, nee Miller) of William standing behind a bar that could be this hotel. It's not sure when or if William began working here because his father, William Sr., suddenly died a few days later on September 5, 1915 while fishing.

    The West Bend News indicated in his father's obituary, dated September 10, 1915, that William resided in Milwaukee. It is thought that the family lived above the saloon while he worked there (in Templeton). Nothing yet has been found that tells of the couple's life until Lena's death in 1917.

William married Magdalena M. Vogt, also known as Lena, on June 5, 1906, 9:30 in the morning at the Catholic church by Rev. Stupfel. Miss Katie Vogt was the maid of honor, Steve Miller the best man with Lena Jansen and Caroline Thoma as bridesmaids, and Nic Vogt and Edwin Miller as the groomsmen. The bride's mother, Anna Vogt, held a large wedding reception at her home for the couple. Lena's father, Franz or Frank Vogt, had died a number of years earlier. The Pilot noted that William, "was a young man of good character, industrious, and of a whole-souled disposition, and will surely prove to be a good husband." William and Lena then lived with his parents for a time at 335 N. 8th Street in West Bend (Note: They would have had to lived with his parents at the Engmann farm)

West Bend Pilot July 29, 1908 - "Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Miller, Sr., moved from the old Engmann farm to their home in this city last Thursday. Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Miller, Jr., on the same day moved to the residence vacated by the former."

The Pilot reported on Aug 11, 1909 that William Miller and family last Saturday moved into the upper rooms of the Anton Michels (possible relation to Robert John (Corky) Michels who married Marcella Miller) residence, southwest of the courthouse (old ) square.

    While living in West Bend, Lena gave birth to their first son, Erwin E. Miller, on August 27, 1907. About a year later, October 27, 1908, Eugene Stephen Miller was born in the town of West Bend (probably on the former Engmann farm). Tragedy struck the couple when Eugene died two years later on November 11, 1910. (West Bend Pilot November 16, 1910  - " Eugene, 2 year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Miller, died last Friday at the home of his grandmother Mrs. Franz Vogt at Milwaukee; had been ill a year; buried at Holy Angels cemetery.") He was buried on November 14 at Holy Angel's Cemetery, Row 28, (next to his grandparents, William Sr. and Appolonia) in West Bend. The cemetery is located on the corner of Main Street and Decorah Road.

    A review of the Milwaukee City Directories for the time period 1910 - 1915 shows that Lena's mother's name first appears in the 1911 volume as "Annie, Wid., Frank, h 426 18th St.". Looking at other Vogt entries in 1911 reveals she lived with Peter, a plumber, and Margaret, an operator. No where does it show a William or Lena Miller living at this address. 

    Lena's obituary reads that she had been sick for a couple of years before her death but that she was improving. A week before she died, she caught a cold which developed into pneumonia, the cause of her death. She died on January 27, 1917 in her mother's home at 426 Eighteenth Street, Milwaukee. She is buried in Holy Angel's Cemetery in Row 37, next to her parents, Frank and Anna. (add in comments about her). Lena had first been ill in November, 1910 as reported by the West Bend Pilot on Nov 9. William went to visit her in the hospital in Milwaukee. Lena was sick again in Dec 1910 and he visited her. She must have been better in Jan of 1912 because she was able to visit her sisters in West Bend. Sometime after this, she must have moved back to West Bend to help her husband who had been kicked by the delivery wagon horse (in June). In Aug 1912, she took son Ervin and visited her mother in Milwaukee (WB Pilot Aug 28, 1912). William continued working in West Bend until Dec 1912 when he moved to Milwaukee, perhaps the family stayed with Lena's mother. Sometime after Sept 15, 1915 (perhaps sometime in 1916?), the couple must have moved to Templeton (Sussex) where William worked at a local saloon. Templeton is listed as Lena's last place of residence before she must have gotten ill again and moved back to her mother's home in Milwaukee where she died.

    At some time he met Margaret M. Semrow, born on May 14, 1883, the daughter of John Semrow and Albertina Hammer. Whether he knew her before Lena's death or became acquainted immediately after isn't known (it's possible that William met Margaret through possible contacts he had with her family who were in the moonshine business for awhile.). Margaret's parents also lived across the street from the Mammoth Springs Hotel (presently Dilly's) under the proprietorship of one Thomas McCloskey where William worked as a bartender.

    He married her on August 16, 1917 (nearly 7 months after Lena died) at St. James Church in Lannon. Father Paul E. Schiedel officiated at the wedding and William's brother Louie was a witness. Their Waukesha County marriage certificate #12-417 indicated that William's occupation was saloon-keeper and that their residence was Templeton. (See photo to the left----->)

   When Prohibition finally shut down the saloon and new owners turned it into an ice cream shop, William and his family possibly moved on to other temporary quarters. A listing in the Rural Directory of Waukesha County for 1919 - 1923 shows William Miller living with a child at a hotel as a tenant at Templeton, Lisbon Township.

    On September 3, 1919, he purchased lot 72 in the town of Hadfield (now Lannon) from Hattie Hartkopf, a widow living in Milwaukee, for $600. The legal description is in Waukesha County real estate record Vol. 163 page 133 that states it's, in the South one half (S1/2) of the Southeast quarter (SE1/4) of Section number 18 in Township 8 North Range 20 East. The lot is 96 feet long by 72 feet wide. Speculation is that there was a house on the lot already. The present house number is 20467 Main St.

    William had four children with Margaret; William John Miller born on October 10, 1919; John on December 13, 1921; Margaret on April 19, 1925 ,and lastly Marie Rose Miller was born on November 16, 1927. On the birth certificate of their first child in 1919, William's occupation was "tinner".

    William worked as a volunteer fireman for the town. The firehouse was right across the street from the family home, and he became 1st assistant fire chief during the years of 1920, 21, and 23. In 1922 he served as 2nd assistant fire chief.

    Also during the 20's, he worked as a tinsmith doing gutter work and installing tin ceilings, a profession he must have learned as an employee of Warnkey and Schneiss tin shop in West Bend.

    (One or more are to exist in the family home). Ray Semrow, a nephew of Margaret, says that he worked for his Uncle in the tinsmith trade during the period of 1925-26, but he didn't know where William had learned the skills (see above). Ed Miller, a nephew in West Bend, remembered that his Uncle Bill built a drain (sink) for Bill's brother John ("Feet") when he ran a tavern called "Mussle's" (?) on north Main Street in West Bend (now the site of 1st National Bank).

    He also built row boats 12 to 14 feet in length made of wood and tin out in the back workshop/garage. The boats were soldered and riveted with soft rivets that were set in place with a ball peen hammer. It's said that he made the boats during the winter, often stacking 15-20 boats on wooden 2x4's, and then selling them in the spring ( would like to find someone who still has one of his boats).

    His grandson Don remembers Dart Ball games & tournaments being held in that garage because of the high ceiling.

    During the week of February 8, 1929 William attended a hearing before Judge C.M. Davidson in Waukesha Circuit Court regarding the application to incorporate the Village of Lannon. Also present were John J. Flanagan, Edward Vanderboom, Alvin Walter, Tony Quartero, John Wessner, and Albert Feltes.

    On January 25, 1930 William officially submitted his nomination paper, running for village trustee.

    On January, 1930, the town was officially incorporated as the Village of Lannon and William Miller's name was on the document. He made sure that all the necessary legal notices were posted for the incorporation vote and forthcoming election of village officers. His name is listed in the Menomonee Falls News dated February 14, 1930 as "Wm. Mueller" one of the new elected officers of the Village of Lannon.

    Lannon residents did not return William to the Trustee position two years later, but he did work as Inspector of Elections earning the amount of $10 for his time at two elections (village and state or national). He also held a position on the Board of Review in 1932 and received $3 from the village.

    After Prohibition was over he would pickup and deliver beer to taverns in the area. Keith Gissal, a former Lannon Postmaster, says he thought one brand was Rahrs which William would drive all the way to Green Bay for in his old pickup truck. William made a box with sloped sides that sat on the back of the pick-up that kept the beer cases from falling off. Some of the beer would be stored in his two-car garage out back. Keith only remembers William distributing case beer and that he may have also brought beer back from Manitowoc.

    William also worked at the T.J. Moss Railroad Tie plant in Granville Center (by Brown Deer Road and 76th Street, now Milwaukee) for a while in the 30's (?). There they cut the ties to length and creosoted them.

    Later or at the same time ( he received $55.20 in 1932 for painting a hall), he worked as a janitor at the old Lannon school, presently the site of the Lannon village hall. Besides painting he also did tin work, installed a stove in the hall and painted the school playground equipment a dark green.

    During 1933 his 12 month salary was listed as $24, prior to this he may have contracted out his services. The money he received for those services don't indicate if it was for labor only. William also spent three months as Village Constable in 1933, filing in for the regular constable who was on leave of absence. After the new Lannon Elementary School was built in1939 near Good Hope and Lannon Roads he worked there. His daughter Marie remembered helping him in his duties at the school. Margaret, his wife, also worked at the school with him. This was the only source of income they had and it appears that he worked there up to the time of his death. (Daughter Marie and wife Hattie weren't the only ones to help Grandpa; grandson Don Miller remembers cutting the school's lawn with a Toro self-propelled lawnmower, and Grandpa giving him his pocket watch for helping so often. Don's sister Shirley remembers hating to clean the boy's bathroom, and that she and Don, took turns walking with Grandpa to school at night when he had to fill the furnace stoker with coal.)

    William's nickname (for how long?) was "Salty". Robert E. Reilly, husband of his daughter Marie, said that he thought the nickname was because of William's extensive use of very flowery language. Robert lived with his future in-laws for a short time before he married Marie, and recalls how Salty would meet him at Hagen's bar (now the Dugout) and tell his stories. He had one story about going hunting with a friend who had a dog. For some reason he ended up shooting off the dog's rear legs. His language never appeared to offend anyone because as Robert said, it was done in a comical sort of way. Keith Gissal remembers Salty calling people a "Lockel" but didn't know what it meant.

    The Miller home had three bedrooms upstairs and downstairs in the kitchen stood a two-burner kerosene stove. On top of that stove Maggie, as she was fondly known, would cook wonderful meals. The bread and pies she always made were baked in a tin box that sat on top of the burners ( they didn't have an oven). They may not have had a lot to eat but they always had a full table. Salty would always tell Robert to eat up any leftovers.

    Granddaughter Shirley recalls sitting under the Mulberry bushes in front of Grandpa's house and enjoying the berries. She also remembers that the bedrooms upstairs had tin ceilings and the light switch at the bottom of the stairway was round like the dimmer switches we have today.

    Shirley also remembers when living on the hill (before moving to Lake St.), going to church at St. James with grandpa, Grandma, Aunt Marie, and Aunt Margaret. Grandpa used to drive the car until he had a accident backing out of the driveway. Years ago when we went to church, we always sat in the same pew every Sunday (She asks, " Did they pay rent back then?) When I was very young, I can remember going to Rossman's Bakery (It was across the road from G&G) and buying hard rolls, and we ate them with lots of soft butter. Also, sometimes on Sunday, they would send me to Frank "Struck's" for ice cream. They would give me a mixing bowl and a little change and I would get scoops of ice cream. That was a Sunday treat!

    Salty liked his schnapps and beer. Robert remembers how Marie would drive Salty and Margaret out to Holy Hill in their '34 Chevy on occasion to attend church on Sunday (normally the family went to St. James). When services were over he would insist they stop at the Downslope Bar (corner of St. Augustine Road and Hwy. 167) to have a beer.

    During the week of October 12th 1949, Salty's son John, living in Colgate with his family, was involved in a 13-vehicle accident near Hwys Q and 41, due to "smog".

    After Grandpa retired (he really had trouble with his legs, probably for many years after having at least one badly fractured in June 1912), on nice days he would sit on the enclosed front porch, and when he would see me (Shirley) walking to the store, he would call "Un Gu Leicht" (spelling may be wrong). I always thought he was calling me "Angel". He also called us kids "mik-mik (mick-mick); never knew what that meant. Anyway, he wanted me to bring him "Cook's" cooked cheese; he really enjoyed the stinky cheese!

    William outlived his second wife as well, when Margaret died on March 3, 1952 (D47-323) of congested heart failure, several weeks before her grandson, Michael, was born. She was buried at St. James' Church/Chapel Cemetery down the road on Highway 74 in what is now a part of Menomonee Falls.

    Two years later William died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 4, 1954 and was laid to rest beside Maggie two days later. The Lannon property was passed on to his children and later sold on (enter date and doc # here) to his daughter Margaret's in-laws, Peter and Rose Nowakowski. Peter and Rose had purchased it as a place for their son and daughter-in-law to live. Margaret and her husband Roy Nowakowski had lived there for some time prior to William's death taking care of him. The house was later sold to Walter and Connie Becker.

Additional Information:

William John Miller born on October 10, 1919; d. 1/5/1991; married Florence Jadwick, b. 10/25/1924. 

John J. Miller was born on December 13, 1921; d. July 6, 1961; married Helen Narr, b. 1/10/21. After John's death, Helen married Kermit S. Thompson.

Margaret on April 19, 1925; d. January, 1986; married Roy Nowakowski; b. 12/28/1923. 

Marie Rose Miller was born on November 16, 1927, d. July 21, 1984. Married Robert Emmet Reilly (b. 12.27/1925, d. 4/30/1994) on June 30, 1951 

Information Sources :

Washington County Register of Deeds; Washington County Pilot; West Bend News; Lannon History - Golden Jubilee 1930-1980; Waukesha County Register of Deeds; the recollections of Keith Gissal, Edwin G. Miller Jr. (West Bend), Ray Semrow and Robert E. Reilly; Shirley Ann Arnold (nee Miller); Donald E. Miller.



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