Recently, I was doing some genealogy work on families from Millerton, NY – my home town (village, actually). I wondered if the village’s namesake, Sidney G. Miller had descendants who yet lived in the area or beyond. There is a large Miller family (which I also have in my heritage) from Columbia County – perhaps he was a part of this clan. Looking online for “Sidney G. Miller” generally brings up statements like those found at the Tri-State Chamber of Commerce’s website – that the village was named “in honor of Sidney G. Miller, the congenial and sympathetic civil engineer, in charge of railroad construction.”

Millerton is a vibrant little place with two main roads that bring much-needed traffic to its businesses, restaurants, cafes and boutiques. Until the 1990s or so, Millerton was a village in decline as the local agricultural industry faded. The Harlem line of the current MTA out of Grand Central Station in New York City ends at Wassaic, but trains once ran from there through Millerton and connections were available to Connecticut. Passenger service to and from Millerton ceased in 1976 and shortly after that, freight trains stopped as well.  The trains that had previously transported both people and milk and were for more than 100 years the link that made Millerton a bustling hub were brought to the area by Sidney G. Miller and his company on contract with the New York and Harlem Railroad.

There is in Millerton (as with many small Northern Dutchess towns and villages) a love-hate relationship between the full-time residents of the locale and the visitors or second-home owners from “The City”. No one can deny that the influx of those of a more southerly origin has brought a higher level of prosperity to our Main Street. It is obvious in the many wonderful places to eat and the boutique stores found there. But this influx has also brought high price tags on both meals, antiques, and real estate that those who are originally from the area find disquieting. Thus, “City People” get a bad wrap (and often worse monikers).

 I was surprised and amused to find that Sidney G. Miller was not a local; that in fact, the man for whom Millerton was named, was a “City Person”.

miller

This image is from “A Beckon Call To A Village – Early Millerton, NY” by Diane Thompson for the North East Historical Society

Sidney Green Miller was born c. 1817 in New York City. He was the son of Silvanus Miller (1772-1861, a New York City Surrogate Court Judge) and Margaret Ackerley from Long Island. He married Sarah Frances Williamson (1824-1896) daughter of (first name unknown) and Sarah (maiden name unknown, born c. 1791) on 15 Nov 1846 in Warren, MS. Frances’s mother Sarah Williamson died 23 Sep 1854 in Saugatuck (Westport), Connecticut where her daughter’s family lived at the time. Miller was a civil engineer and contractor, working for various rail road companies at the height of the mode of transport’s expansion.

They had many children, including Cecily born c. 1848, Kate born c. 1851, and Sidney born c. 1854 in Connecticut, Frances born c. 1857, Theodore Williamson born 4 Dec 1859 (who married Edith Louise Gates), George W. born c. 1864, and Helena W. born c. 1868 in Virginia. The family moved quite a bit, probably following Miller’s work. In 1850 they were living in New York City and in 1854 in Westport, CT. It was at this time that Miller worked as a partner of Morris, Miller, and Schuyler – the company contracted to work on the New York and Harlem Railroad that went through the village that would be named for him.

In 1856, the family of seven (at the time) moved to Alexandria, VA, renting a house called the Lee-Fendall House until 1863 when they were “forced to leave their home as the (house) was seized by Surgeon Edwin Bently of the 3rd Division General Hospital of the United States Army of the Potomac. From 1863 until 1865, the house was converted into a wing of the Grosvenor House Hospital.” Two more of their children were born in Virginia after this date. Miller’s son Sidney died in 1861 in Alexandria, VA.

In 1870, they lived in Savannah, Georgia with four servants listed in their household during the census: three white and one black. In 1880 and 1885 they were in Chatham, Morris County, New Jersey and a grandson, Arthur W Myers, born c. 1870 in Georgia was with them. Their daughter Katherine Myers is listed as divorced. Sidney G. Miller died 24 Dec 1900 in New York City at age 84. Below is his obituary.

Sidney Green Miller, some years ago a well-known civil engineer – and railroad builder, died at the home of his son, G. W. Miller, 62 West Ninety-third Street, last night. Mr. Miller was eighty-four years old, and was born in this city. He was the only surviving son of Judge Sylvunus Miller, who was graduated from Columbia College In 1793 and was the first Surrogate of New York. Mr. Miller was associated with Ferris Bishop In the building of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad and the Naugatuck Road, and also built a number of railroads in Virginia and the South. He is survived by four daughters and two sons.

– New York Times, 25 Dec 1900

Sources:

  • Thompson, Diane. (2001) A Beckon Call To A Village – Early Millerton, NY: North East Historical Society
  • Mississippi, Marriages, 1800-1911, index, FamilySearch
  • US Federal Census 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880
  • New Jersey, State Census, 1885, index, FamilySearch
  • Fridley, Beth. Alexandria Co, VA Births, 1853-59 p. 38
  • New-York Daily Tribune, 27 Sep 1854
  • New York Daily Tribune, 6 Mar 1861
  • Louis Berger Group, Inc. (2011) Archaeological Investigation for Restoration of the Lee-Fendall House Garden, Alexandria, Virginia, Washington, D.C.
  • Find A Grave Memorial# 103853024