The Frank Millers of Northern Colorado
At the Fort Collins Landmark Preservation Commission meeting last week, there was a house being reviewed for historic designation that had been owned by Frank Miller back in 1902. But the City staff felt like it made the most sense to landmark the property based on its architectural significance rather than its relationship to Frank Miller because, “There are numerous Frank Millers in the Fort Collins area in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries.” I read that, rolled my eyes, and thought (in my best internal Hermione Granger voice), “Honestly! How many Frank Millers could there be?!’
So I decided I’d do a really quick (3 – 5 hours) dive into answering that question and it turns out… Well, you’d be surprised just how many Frank Millers there were in Northern Colorado in the late 1800s and early 1900s! I’ve spent somewhere north of 30 hours on the question so far, with no end in sight. (More keep popping up all the time.) So what follows is a veritable Who’s Who of Frank Millers in Northern Colorado (or at least those I’ve tracked down so far).
Frank Carl Miller, Sr. (1850 – 1905)
Photo from the January 1, 1894
Fort Collins Express.
Frank was born in Bandholm, Denmark in April of 1850. At the age of 18, he traveled to the United States where he spent a few years in Wisconsin (with some short stints in Chicago and Des Moines), before moving to Blackhawk, Colorado. He hoped to strike it rich in the mines, but eventually found money in running a saloon instead.
He married Christine Nilsdotter in 1876 and they had two little girls, Lillie and Rose. In June of 1882, Frank visited Fort Collins with an eye toward moving his business there. He bought two lots at the corner of Laurel and Mathews before heading back to Blackhawk to pick up his wife and kids. The whole family moved to Collins by fall and by the end of November, Frank was ready to open his saloon in E. T. Dunning’s business block. (I *think* it was about where the women’s clothing shop is today, right next to the 1980s water fountain with geese. Dunning’s building is now gone.) He also served food in his establishment and, with a pre-order, would bottle beer or soda water for pickup.
Frank had a brick house built on the lots he’d bought earlier. (The house was located where the expansion of Centennial High School is today.) Frank and Christine had two more children, Frank, Jr. and Otto.
In 1886, Frank moved his saloon to somewhere along College Avenue (possibly 173 N. College where his brother had a bottling shop) where he also put in a billiard room. And in 1887, he purchased the lot at the corner of Linden and Walnut where he built one of the pearl’s of our downtown today — the Miller Block. (By this point, however, he had already moved his saloon to Linden, and it’s possible that it was across the street from where he built the Miller Block. W. S. Bernheim was one of the first tenants of the Miller Block.) The section closest to Walnut was built first with a later addition made along the south side. The building even included a second-story outhouse in back. (The door to it is still there, though the outhouse is long gone.)
The Miller Block sits on the south corner of Linden and Walnut. It was almost torn down in the 1970s to make way for an extension of Remington street. The downtown property owners banded together and fought back by creating the Downtown Historic District, which protected this and other buildings.
Running a saloon came with certain pitfalls, and on more than a few occasions, Frank faced trouble with the law as he was accused of allowing gambling on his premises. Liquor licenses had to be renewed every three months, and on one occasion, Frank got in trouble for not renewing his license in time.
But despite these legal troubles, people still liked the man well enough to elect him to a position of alderman (which was the equivalent to being on city council). And as more Frank Millers moved into the area, Frank C. Miller, Sr. was often differentiated by referring to him as Alderman Frank Miller, or after his term expired, as Ex-Alderman Frank Miller. (There was another Frank Miller that became Alderman after Ex-Alderman Frank Miller’s passing. But I haven’t been able to figure out which Frank Miller that was.)
Frank was also known for his love of animals. On July 23, 1885, the Fort Collins Courier reported that “Frank Miller’s coyote broke from his fastenings a few days ago and went skirmishing around among the coops on the west side of town on his own hook. He made sad havoc with the fowls until captured and caged Tuesday.” And on December 29, 1887 there was a report in that same paper of a horned owl that was found. It was beat up, but appeared to be the victor in the fight as it was consuming what the remained of its opponent. The article then states that the gentlemen that found the owl considered fattening it up and selling it to Frank Miller. Clearly the man had a love of wildlife and everyone in the area knew about it.
Frank and his family were fairly well-to-do, which enabled them to travel now and then. In 1893, they went to the World’s Fair in Chicago. In 1897, Frank took the family to Europe and brought back exotic delicacies such as Swedish dried and canned fish, cheeses, and other imports, which he sold in his shop. And that same year he paid, out of his own pocket, to have Remington street extended and re-graded.
In 1896, Fort Collins became a dry town. Frank Miller’s liquor license was the last one to expire, which meant that he was the last person legally able to sell alcohol before the law went fully into effect. No longer able to continue his primary line of business, Frank bought shares in the Fair store, moved it into the Miller Block, and leased out the rest of the building to other businesses.
In 1905, the Millers traveled to California for several months in the winter along with friends from Wisconsin. As they drove back to Fort Collins at the end of their trip. Frank passed away in Salt Lake City, Utah. He had suffered from Bright’s Disease for some time and finally succumbed in April 1905.
Frank Carl Miller, Jr. (1886 – 1953)
Frank was born in Fort Collins in May of 1886. He grew up in the family’s brick house at 644 Mathews (where the extension to Centennial High School is today).
Frank would hang out in his dad’s saloon where he would meet local cowboys as well as those passing through. It was from them that he learned to shoot guns and twirl a rope. By the age of ten he was presenting ad hoc shows for his father’s patrons.
In 1897, the family traveled to Europe together. There the art museums particularly effected him, leading to a life long passion for painting. (The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery has several of his paintings in their collection.) His earliest known piece was painted in 1902. And by 1906, the city directory listed him as an artist by profession.
Frank had a penchant for adventure and was an excellent marksman which led him, in the early 1910s, to join the Irwin Brothers Wild West show. He traveled around the country with them for a few years before settling back in Fort Collins where he opened up the Northern Garage in 1916 (just to the north of the Northern Hotel).
It was in 1913 when the Buffalo Bill Show went out of business, that Frank bought an old stagecoach from Bill. (The stagecoach is now on display at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and has a long story of its own.)
In 1918, Frank rescued a bald eagle from a coyote trap. He brought it home and named it Uncle Sam.
In the late 1910s Frank met Florence Leedle (a recent divorcée who also went by the name Peggy). Peggy became the bookkeeper for the Northern Garage and she rented a room in the building where Frank lived on Chestnut street. Peggy was a singer in Western performances in the area and they performed in shows together. They were best known for an act in which Frank would shoot a cigarette out of Peggy’s mouth from 25 feet away.
It was also in 1920 that Frank bought a property in the mountains which he named Trails End Ranch.
Historian Ken Jessen gave Frank Miller’s bear cage a test run on June 23, 2020.
Frank built several cages on his ranch to hold a variety of wildlife. Most notable was his pet bear, which he’d take on trips with him. On a recent trip to the Trails End Ranch, local historian Ken Jessen posed in what we believe would have been the enclosure for his bear. Way in the back, on the right, is a cozy little cave where the bear could have slept. Frank also held grand events at his ranch and thousands of people would come every summer to see his private collection of animals, Native American performers, and of course, Frank and Peggy’s own show. Will Rogers, Buffalo Bill Cody, Captain A. H. Hardy and other friends were known to visit.
By 1922, the city directory shows that Frank and Peggy were married. In 1929, they adopted a 2-year old boy named Teddy. Unfortunately that same year, Peggy filed for divorce. Despite this, Frank and Peggy are still listed as a couple in the city directory as late as 1933. The Depression was hard and despite several attempts to keep things going, the bank foreclosed on Trails End Ranch and the garage was sold. Frank tried to make some money through a mining claim, but that didn’t pan out.
In 1946, Teddy was killed in a military accident overseas following the war. Frank was heart broken. He donated his stagecoach to the city to be put on display in the median on Laporte Avenue near College. It stood near the war memorial as a reminder of Teddy Miller. By this point Frank was living alone in a room of the Linden Hotel, kitty-corner from the Miller Block that his dad had built. Sorrow consumed him, as did alcohol, and people on the street were known to cross to the other side when he came by. In 1953, he died of a heart attack.
Of all of the Frank Miller’s of Northern Colorado, this Frank is probably the best remembered. But for some reason, when Ansel Watrous wrote his History of Larimer County, he failed to include either Frank C. Miller, Sr. or Frank C. Miller, Jr.
Frank Eugene Miller (1873 – 1951)
Frank was born in Des Moines, Iowa in December of 1873. Soon after, the family moved to Black Hawk, Colorado, where Frank’s dad, Robert (AKA Bob), worked as a laborer.
Frank Eugene Miller was the nephew of Frank Carl Miller, Sr. and the cousin of Frank Carl Miller, Jr. His dad, Bob, built and ran a bottling company on N. College, in the building where Old Town Art & Framery is today. The brothers, Robert and Frank, conveniently ran businesses that suited each other. Robert made the bottles in his shop and Frank filled them with beer in his.
On November 23, 1898, Frank married Anna May Dievendorf of Buena Vista. They lived for awhile at 411 Canyon before moving just up the street to 310 S. Meldrum where they lived out their days. (Both houses have since been torn down. The property on Canyon was placed with an office building. And the house on S. Meldrum was replaced with a parking lot for the Federal building/Post Office.)
From 1900 to 1904 Frank was deputy county treasurer under Clark Smith. As the Fort Collins Weekly Courier explained one year:
Clark Smith, reelected county treasurer, retains Frank Miller as his deputy. Mr. Miller has made himself thoroughly familiar with the duties of the office and his well known courtesy and affability have served to make him a favorite with the tax-paying public and with all others having business to transact in the treasurer’s office.
At the end of 1904, Frank accepted a job as bookkeeper with the Poudre Valley Bank (seen below at the corner of College and Mountain). It must have been while working there that he got the idea of buying the book store nextdoor.
Frank’s bookstore was just to the south of Poudre Valley Bank.
(Image from the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery Archive, H13404).
In 1905, tragedy struck when Frank’s dad was shot by the city marshall, William Richart, during a botched arrest. Robert was accused of bottling liquor. (This was when liquor was outright fobidden in town.) Richart then proceeded to snoop around the back room of the shop. Bob and his son George demanded to see a search warrant, which Richart didn’t have. Son John was in the front of the store and ran to get brother Frank, a block down the street at the bank. Richart proceeded to search the place, picking up a bottle to smell its contents. That’s when Bob started throwing bottles at him. Richart shot him straight through the chest. Bob was 62 years old upon his death. Frank, as the oldest son, was the executor of his father’s estate.
Despite this sad affair, Frank went on to be a successful business owner. At his book store you could also buy fishing tackle, Indian blankets, and other odds and ends. Frank and May never had any kids. Frank passed away in January of 1951.
Frank Howell Miller (1878 – 1951)
Frank was born in Towanda, Pennsylvania in February of 1878. Though all of his studies were conducted in Pennsylvania, Frank married his wife, Della, in Detroit, Michigan in 1903. Frank H. Miller, Jr. was born in 1905 in Pennsylvania right before the family moved to Fort Collins.
In 1907, Frank became the head of the grocery department at the State Mercantile Company, which had recently opened in Fort Collins. On January 1st, 1910, he was made manager of the entire store and he became a stockholder in the company in May of 1911.
Frank and Della lived at 506 W. Laurel, which was replaced with the Atrium Suites building in 2005.
Frank and his family moved to Placer, California in the early 1920s.
Frank Miller (Denver)
On October 9, 1884, the Fort Collins Courier announced that “Frank Miller, the Denver saloon keeper, who killed Will Cauthers, [was] sentenced to three years in the penitentiary.” The fact that Fort Collins also had a saloon keeper named Frank Miller must have provided a point of interest to many readers. (See section on Frank Carl Miller, Sr. above.)
Frank Cheatem Miller, Sr. (1866 – 1947)
Frank was born in Tennessee around 1866. He and his family are listed in the 1940 census records as having lived at 412 S. Howes (where a new apartment building is today). No occupation was listed for Frank, who was 74 years old at the time. He passed away around 1947 in Denver.
Frank Cheatem Miller, Jr. (1917 – 2007)
Frank, was born in September of 1917 in Wichita Falls, Texas. He attended Colorado State Agricultural & Mechanical College in the early 1940s. He and his family lived at 412 S. Howes, which is now the site of a new apartment building. They also lived at 601 S. Sherwood for a time, as that address is listed on Frank Jr’s WWII registration card.
Frank eventually moved to Bronson, Florida, where he passed away in December of 2007.
Frank W. Miller (Born around 1878)
On October 16, 1900, somewhere in Larimer County, Frank W. Miller married a gal by the name of May Buckles.
Frank C. Miller (Born around 1879)
Frank was born around 1879. On October 26, 1903 he married Ida V. Bosworth in Fort Collins. I couldn’t find any other mention of him (although it’s possible that some other mentions I found of Frank Miller refer to him. They just don’t give enough identifying information to figure that out.)
Frank Miller (1880 – 1888)
Frank was born in November 1880 to Theodore and Lucinda Miller. He died in May of 1888. He was 7 1/2 years old. He was buried in Grandview Cemetery in Fort Collins.
Frank Miller (Born around 1880)
Frank was born around 1880 in Missouri. He and his wife Edna, as well as their three boys — Joe, Henry, and Herbert — lived on Elm street when the 1920 census was taken. Frank worked as a dairyman (possibly at the farm at what is now Martinez park). Frank and Edna are not mentioned in any of the city directories, though there was a different family at their address in 1919. It’s possible they were in Fort Collins for only a very short time.
Frank Miller (Born around 1881)
Frank was born in California around 1881. When the 1885 Colorado census was taken, he was four years old. His parents were Henry and Lettie and his siblings were Jessie, Lettie, Cassie B, Mina, Flora and Henry. They lived somewhere in Larimer County. The census doesn’t indicate where in particular.
C. Frank Miller (~1881)
Frank was born in Nebraska around 1881. He was married to Bertha and together they had three children: Gene, Bessie, and Barbara. They farmed in Wellington in the early 1900s, at least up through the 1940s.
On February 7, 1906, the Fort Collins Weekly Courier announced that Frank Miller and family were now living in a new house on the farm of O. E. Olden north of town (likely north of Wellington based on this notice being given in the Wellington news section of the Fort Collins paper).
Charles Franklin Miller (1883 – 1944)
Frank was born in Belle Center, Ohio in June of 1883. He moved to Fort Collins around 1902 or 1903 to work in the new sugar factory.
On October 18, 1903, Frank and Margaret (Maggie) were married. They moved into a rental house at 620 Laporte Ave. and there they had two children — Marguerite E. and David Arthur.
Frank is mentioned a few times in the newspaper. In order to differentiate him from the other Frank Miller’s, he’s often called “Frank Miller of the sugar factory,” as Frank was a foreman there.
On May 30, 1912, Frank Miller was driving home from work when he struck deep sand in the road. It caused his car to skid, knocking a pedestrian, C. W. Reed, down and running him over. Reed, a fellow sugar factory worker, suffered a gash to the scalp and a twisted ankle and was promptly driven to the hospital for care.
Some time after this incident, Frank and the kids moved to Fort Morgan. Maggie passed away and Frank was remarried to a woman named Zula.
Frank Miller (Born around 1892)
Frank was born in Austria around 1892. He and his wife Frances lived on the main road in Hudson, in Weld County. They had four children: Joseph, Mary, Anna, and Fred. (According to the 1920 census.)
On July 13, 1900, the Fort Collins Weekly Courier described a particularly horrible storm that caused flooding, wind damage and hail damage. Within the report is the following note:
The rain suddenly changed to hail, and the storm moving eastward from the Frank Miller farm, destroyed nearly all the small grain in its wake clear to the county line. It is impossible to estimate the damage done to the farmers and their crops by the wind, the flood and the hail, as it will take years of hard work to restore some of the farms and their improvements to their former condition.
On September 12, 1900, the Loveland Register included the following article:
A man giving his name as Frank Miller was taken in custody Thursday by Marshal Whittaker and removed to Fort Collins, where he was examined Saturday to determine whether or not be was crazy. The court decided the man was insane, and he was removed to the county jail to remain until the asylum at Pueblo can receive him.
On February 8, 1905, Frank and Myrtle Miller finalized their divorce in Fort Collins. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any other information on them.
On June 20, 1906, Frank and Lida Miller finalized their divorce in Larimer County. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any other information on them.
On August 5, 1933, Frank Miller and Frantzes C. Allen were married in Loveland. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any other information on them.
There were two articles in the October 10, 1906 Fort Collins Weekly Courier, one right after the other, that read as follows:
Brothers in Jail. From Friday’s Daily. Frank Miller was arrested yesterday by Sheriff McCreery and lodged in the county jail. Miller is being held as an escaped convict from the Missouri state penitentiary. He is a brother of J. G. Miller, the piano dealer, who eloped with Miss Jessie Porter of Wellington, a few days ago, the two being apprehended at Log Cabin. Frank has been doing excavating at Wellington for some time.
From Saturday’s Daily. Frank Miller, who was arrested because he was thought to be a fugitive from the Missouri state penitentiary and was placed in the county jail, was released yesterday afternoon. It was found that Miller is not the man wanted. J. G. Miller, who was arrested at Log Cabin in company with Jessie Porter of Wellington, was released Saturday from the county jail, the two cases against him being dismissed by the district attorney.
Frankie R. Miller
Frank lived on Rural Route 4, at box 115 in 1936.
Frank Jerome Miller (1920 – 2015)
Frank was born in Wiley, Colorado in October of 1920. He was the son of Ward and Evaline Miller.
Frank attended Fort Collins High School and lived at 1415 S. College Avenue (which has since been torn down to make way for the CSU Health Center). The photo at right is from the 1937 Lambkin Yearbook.
In high school, Frank was on the student council, in the dramatic club, the “U” Club, Benzene Ring, International Club, Junior Hi-Y, Spilled Ink, Lettermen’s Club, Band, Junior Play, A Cappella, Vaud, Football, Track, Press Club, the Boys’ Quartet and orchestra.
Frank also attended Colorado State College (now CSU). It’s unclear where he went after college.
Frank passed away in Williamsburg, Virginia in April of 2015.
Franklin S. Miller
Frank was listed in the 1919 Fort Collins city directory as being a student at the Colorado Agricultural College (now CSU).
Franklin B. Miller
Frank was a student living in Berthoud in 1927 according to the city directory.
Frank married Myrtle I. Kinny on July 24, 1899 in Greeley.
Frank L. Miller
Frank and Dorothy Miller lived at 401 Tedmon Drive in the Hanna Farm neighborhood according to the 1973 phone book. They had two children: Robert and Lonice. The house at 401 Tedmon Dr. is still standing.
Frank Lester Miller
Frank was born in December of 1941 in Lewistown, Montana. He married Dorothy Ann in Fort Collins on April 1st, 1982. Four years later, they were divorced in Cascade, Montana.
M. Frank Miller
Frank was married to Charlotte and lived at 434 N. Cleveland Avenue in Loveland (as listed in the 1927 city directory).
In October 1914, the Fort Collins Weekley Courier announced that Frank Miller of Boulder had paid a visit to Wellington. (Apparently we didn’t have enough Frank Millers of our own. We had to bring some in from other parts of Colorado on occasion.)
Frank was born in March of 1961. He lived at 3805 Capitol Drive in Fort Collins at some point (probably in the 1960s and 1970s). The house is still standing.
So that house that the Landmark Preservation Commission saw last week… the one that Frank Miller owned…? After at least 30+ hours of researching the Frank Miller’s of Northern Colorado, I still have no clue which Frank Miller owned that house.
Ancestry.com was my primary resource for locating all of the Frank Miller’s listed above. Through Ancestry.com I was able to view census records, marriage and divorce data, yearbooks, and city directories.
ColoradoHistoricNewspapers.com enabled me to fill out some of these stories a little more. I primarily found information in the Fort Collins Courier and the Fort Collins Weekly Courier, but there was one article from the Loveland Register and one article from the Fort Collins Express that yielded information. The photo of Frank Carl Miller, Sr. also came from the Fort Collins Express.
Fort Collins Museum of Discovery had a timeline of Frank Carl Miller, Jr. that helped me realize that Frank Eugene and Frank Carl Jr. were cousins. It also provided details about Trails End, Frank’s animals, and the fact that he feel in love with painting after the family’s visit to Europe. Having access to the city directories online also enabled me to cross-check addresses and time periods in which particular Frank’s were in Fort Collins. The photo at the very top of the article is, I believe, of Frank Carl Miller, Jr. It is from the Archive’s collection, reference #S01403. The photo of Frank with his pet bear was also from the Archive, reference #H05020.
The photo of Frank Carl Miller, Sr. and family comes courtesy of the McCarty/Bzdek family, who are decendants of Lily Miller.