05 September 2008

La Vida Mineral Springs Founder William Newton Miller

According to a historical timeline of Orange County that I found online, La Vida Mineral Springs, Carbon Canyon's most significant spot, was founded in 1924 by William Newton Miller and a "son-in-law." After spending a little time doing some research, I came up with the following on Miller:

According to his World War I draft registration card, dated 5 June 1917, Miller was born in Ava, Missouri on 6 July 1889. When he reported for the draft, Miller was living in the Kern County oil town of Taft, where he was a driller for the Head Drilling Company. He was described as of medium height, slender build, dark hair and blue eyes. He was claiming the fact that he had two children as grounds for not being inducted into the military.

Miller's background in southwestern Missouri, specifically Douglas County, goes back to the mid-1850s. His grandfather, William M. Miller, a native of Tennessee, was a fairly prosperous farmer in Clay township in 1870, claiming real estate valued at $2,000 and personal property at $1,930. There were four children, including John T., born in July 1866, who was William Newton Miller's father. By 1880, when the Millers were in Finley township, the family had added two more children to the brood and John was old enough the work on the farm.

In about 1888, John Miller married a woman named Kate and began his own family, with William Newton being the eldest child. The other children were Joseph, Thomas, and Cassie. In 1900, the family resided at Benton township where John Miller had left farming behind and became the keeper of the Douglas County jail. At the time of the census, taken on 20 June, there were two prisoners being housed at county expense.

By 1910, however, John Miller returned to farming in a place that happened to be called Miller township, still in Douglas County. By then, Newton, as he was listed in the census, was old enough to assist his father on the farm. Notably, though, younger brother Joe was working as an oil field laborer. Within a few years, William Newton would take up that occupation, move to California, marry Minnie Myrtle Pugh (what a name!) and start his family in Taft. The two eldest children of William and Minnie were born in Taft, including daughter Lois (b. 1914) and son Glen (b. 1916). Not long after William Newton registered for the draft, though, the family pulled up stakes and headed south for Orange County. In December 1919, the third child, Ina, was born in Anaheim.

In 1920, the Millers owned and lived in a home at 506 N. Claudina in Anaheim, just a few blocks north of Lincoln Avenue and a block east of Anaheim Boulevard. William Newton's occupation was "Oil Company driller". Four years later, according to the online timeline, he opened La Vida Mineral Springs. The problem with the timeline account, though, is mention of a son-in-law. In 1924, Miller was only in his mid-30s and his oldest daughter just ten years old, so there is an error there. A search did not find any other William Newton Millers in Orange County (which would have been really surprising, given how sparsely populated the county was then.)

Although William Newton Miller worked for years as an oil field driller, he managed, during the 1920s, to move up in the world. By the 1930 census, he was an "oil producer" and had moved his family on a couple of blocks west in Anaheim to 521 N. Lemon Street, catty corner from Pearson Park. His self-declared value for the home was $15,000, about twice the price of an average home. It is worth noting that he had indeed found better digs, given that his neighbors included Charles Boege, Anaheim city treasurer and proprietor of a sporting goods store that still exists, and the Millers' next door neighbor, hay, grain and feed store manager Benjamin Karcher, whose nephew Carl soon would come from Ohio, work for his uncle and then launch the famous Carl's Jr. fast food chain.

According to some sources, the La Vida Mineral Springs resort was owned, by 1932, by a Los Angeles boxer named Archie Rosenbaum. This seems to explain why an Olinda oral history I recently referenced noted that La Vida was heavily patronized by Jewish residents of Los Angeles. Perhaps Miller was losing money as the Great Depression hit or simply wanted to get out of the resort business. Whatever the reasons, he and his family stayed in Anaheim, where his wife died in 1963 and where La Vida founder William Newton Miller died, age 85, in 1974.

Given that there were three children, I am assuming there are some descendants around. It would sure be great to know more about the Millers and especially find a direct link showing Miller's founding of La Vida. It would make sense that, as a member of the oil industry, especially if his producing yielded enough money to own a nice home in Anaheim and buy the land to create the resort (which itself was the site of oil speculating back in 1893, according to one source.) But, so far, there has been no specific evidence to show that Miller owned the resort. Perhaps further research will yield something!


Robert said...

William Newton Miller actually had a fourth child later in life who is my father, Bill Miller. This of course would make William Newton Miller my grandfather. My dad worked at La Vida as a boy but would later take a different path and not work for his father. I believe most of the information in the post I'm responding to is correct but I will send this to my father Bill Miller to verify it. Some of the information may not be correct. I will post an update in the near future.

Robert Miller

Robert said...

Based on my father's memory, he is now 75 years old, the above information is correct.

Robert Miller - grandson of William Newton Miller

Robert Miller said...

Undated email address for Robert Miller is robert@sokovox.com

prs said...

Hello Robert, a friend just provided a copy of a public dance business license application for La Vida from 1924, which includes the Pugh & Miller company and other owners of 160 acres. More on this will be shared on the blog soon, so keep checking for a post. Thanks!

Robert Miller said...

Hello PRS, Is there any chance I could get your blog./text about my grandfather William Newton Miller emailed to me? I'd love to share it with other family members who aren't very tech savvy. robert@sokovox.com
Thank you, Robert
P.S. Thank you for your research and posting this wonderful information.

prs said...

Hi Robert, absolutely. A post is coming tonight or this weekend on the 1924 La Vida dance hall application, so that will be included, as well. Thanks for the nice comments.

Judy Miller said...

Hello! My name is Judy Miller Rye. I am the daughter of Ina Miller. It's so exciting to read your research. I would love to talk to you and give you more history. How do I contact you?

prs said...

Hi Judy, would you be OK leaving your e-mail address here--I'll remove the comment afterward. Thanks!

Donna Miller said...

Hi, I am researching my friend's family tree. Her father was Joseph Claude Miller who owned the Pugh-Miller Drilling Co. along with William Newton Miller. She is the niece of William. Could you send what you have to me at sparemama@gmail.com. Thank you.