An American Family History

John Delbert Miller

San Diego, California was incorporated in 1850, the same year California became a state. The original Old Town was located several miles inland. In the late 1860s, Alonzo Horton promoted a move to New Town on the bay. New Town grew quickly and became the city center. In 1915, San Diego hosted the Panama-California Exposition.



John Delbert Miller was called Dot. He was born in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota on August 22, 1882. He was the son of John Wilson Miller and Victoria Zellena Dwinnell

He moved to San Diego with his family as a boy. In 1901 he was a laborer. In 1903-04 he was a vaquero. In 1905 he was a horseshoer for R. L. Israel. In 1906 he was a horseshoer for J.A. DeHay. In 1908 he was a horseshoer.

He married Nellie Treahy on June 30, 1908. Their daughter, Jessie Miller Finkenkeller was born July 18, 1909 in San Diego, California. Jessie's sister May Treahy married Dot's brother Robert Wilson Miller, Sr.

n 1913 he was a horseshoer. In 1914-15 he was a blacksmith. Later he was the chief horseshoer at Remount Depot, a Horseshoeing School at Tacoma Camp and he did leather work.  He made a pair of silver spurs as a Christmas present for the movie actor William Hart.

Sends Gift to Hart
Admired because of his daring stunts, William Hart, the movie actor, is to receive a pair of silver spurs as a Christmas present from J. D. Miller an expert blacksmith of this city.  Miller said he had admired the riding of Hart for some time and had made up his mind that he would give him the present. The spurs are hand-engraved with tiny hearts, Miller packed them neatly in a holly box and sent a note with them stating that he would look for them in the next picture released with Hart as the star. Miller will be remembered by many of the boys at remount station.Camp Lewis, having erected the blacksmith shop there. He has been working at his trade here for some time and has made many pairs of fancy spurs.

Big Anvil Chorus at Remount Depot
Horseshoeing School at Tacoma Camp is Busy Place

Fifty puffing, glowing forges; 50 anvils clanging a chorus such perhaps as has no equal in this country; a long vista of plunging animals and hurrying men - that is the first impression of the horse shoeing school at the auxiliary remount depot.

Four months it takes a green man to emerge an expert in the art with a diploma that marks him qualified to handle anything in the mule or horse line.

Nor is it all toiling, sweating, practical work.  A large part of the education is "paper work" that takes in every phase of the hoof and that part of the leg adjoining.  The man must know the name and location of every bone, muscle and nerve.  The construction of the hoof itself is learned by heart, as well as the proper temperature to shape the shoe and fasten it to the animal.

One glance at an example examination is enough to convince that to be an expert shoer one needs know far more than how to drive a nail into a shoe.

A horse a day is the quota for each student, the shop being conducted for educational purposes solely. Watching to see that they do it properly are four experts with two assistants each.

john d

Civilian is the Chief
John D. Miller, a civilian, is the chief horseshoer.  The other experts are Sergt. Henry J. O'Connel, an old time army shoer, with nine years service to his credit, much of the time in the Philippine islands; Sergt. R. S. Beeler, who was a journeyman shoer in Seattle, and Pvt. R. E. Carney who formerly was the proprietor of a shoeing shop in Los Angeles.

As head instructor in blacksmithing Capt. Jackson has appointed J. D. Miller to take charge of the big school soon to start. Miller will have 20 instructors under him and 160 students. A building 300 feet long, with 65 forges has been constructed for the school.  Miller started out as a cow-puncher in Mexico, later broke into horseshoeing and followed the trade with great interest and success.  He has shod everything and wears iron shoes, for track, polo grounds, and trail. Last November he took the job of shoeing all the wild horses at Ft. Lawton after all the horseshoers of Seattle had refused the task. Many of them he had to throw and shoe upside down.

A blacksmith forges and shapes iron with a hammer and anvil.

The 1918 influenza pandemic was also called the Spanish flu. It was caused by an unusually deadly strain and most victims were healthy, young adults. The pandemic lasted from March 1918 to June 1920. One third of the world's population, became infected.

He moved to Puyallup, Pierce County, Washington a year before his death. He was employed by C. C. McCoy at the time of his death. He died due to a lingering illness on May 17, 1919 which was caused by an attack of the flu when he was age 37. He is buried in Washelli Cemetery in Seattle with his mother.

At the residence, 1608 Terry Avenue, May 17, 1919, John Delbert Miller, aged 36 years, beloved husband of Nellie, father of Jessie, son of Victoria, brother of R. W. Miller of Puyallup; Mrs. D. I. Fish of Seattle; Mrs. I. M. Johnson and Mrs. William Johnson of Seattle. Member of Century Lodge, F. and A. M

Masonic funeral services will take place from the chapel of the Home Undertaking Co., Ninth at Union, Monday May 19, 1919 at 2 p.m.  Interment Washelli cemetery. Friends invited to attend.

A freemason (mason) is a member of an international fraternal and charitable organization pledged to mutual assistance and brotherly love.


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©Roberta Tuller 2020
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