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Historic Provo

William Miller

Provo Mayor 1864-1867

William Miller

William Miller was born on February 8, 1814 in Avon, Livingston County, New York. His father was not a member of any denomination; his mother was a Presbyterian. William, at age 17, attended revivals in the "burned over district" famous for intensive concern for salvation and emotional church gatherings. Miller was 18 when he first heard the doctrines of Mormonism and began reading the Book of Mormon. On May 1, 1834 he married Phebe Scott in Avon. In October of that same year, Miller traveled to Kirtland, Ohio where he met the Mormon leader Joseph Smith. He and his wife were both baptized into the new church and moved to Kirtland with the main body of the Saints. 1

Miller served a mission to his home state, then returned to Kirtland in 1838. He experienced the wrath of anti-Mormon mobs in Far West, Missouri and moved with other Saints to Nauvoo, Illinois. After Joseph Smith was killed, Miller fooled enemies of the Mormons by pretending to be Brigham Young. In Nauvoo he married his second wife Marilla Johnson. 2

Miller arrived in Salt Lake City on September 20, 1849, but soon found himself in Utah County. He helped defend the Saints against Indian attacks. In October of 1850, Miller was appointed to be an associate justice of the Utah County Court. The chief Justice was Aaron Johnson, Miller's father in law. 3

Miller helped Johnson organize Springville. He lived in Springville, then Iron County, and in the spring of 1853 returned to Springville, where he became a counselor to Bishop Aaron Johnson. In 1856 and 1857 he served a mission in England. He moved to Provo in 1860, where he was called to be a bishop and president of the Utah Stake. In the 1860s he built the first house of any significance on the Provo Bench. Miller donated liberally to fund a chapel and the new Deseret Telegraph line. 4 In 1870 his home was burned and he was taken prisoner during the raid by federal soldiers on Provo. 5

Miller served four years as the mayor of Provo from 1864 through 1867. During the first year of his administration, the first canal taking water to the Provo Bench was completed. After completing his term as mayor, Miller was elected twice to be a city alderman, serving in that office from 1868 through 1871. 6

Miller promoted education and cultural development in Provo. When he first arrived in the community, he was appalled by the lack of schools, so he immediately offered an award to each of the five ward districts if they could build their own schools. By the end of 1861 each district had constructed its school, a milestone in the early educational history of Provo. 7 By 1861 a Provo Dramatic Club, with William Miller as president, was functioning. 8

Miller died in August 1875, one of Provo's leading figures in the church, politics, cultural affairs, and education. 9


Notes

Most of this sketch comes verbatim from David M. Walden, Biographical Sketches of Former Mayors of Provo, Utah: A Report to the Provo Municipal Government, October 1, 1990, 24-26.

1 Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Company, 1901-1935), vol. 1, 481-485.

2 Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Company, 1901-1935), vol. 1, 481-485.

3 J. Marinus Jensen, Early History of Provo, Utah (Provo: J. M. Jensen, 1924), 70.

4 Andrew Jenson, Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Company, 1901-1935), vol. 1, 481-485.

5 WPA Writer's Project, Provo: Pioneer Mormon City (Portland: Binfords & Mort, 1942), 105-106.

6 "Historical Data," Provo City Ordinances (1989), 295.

7 WPA Writer's Project, Provo: Pioneer Mormon City (Portland: Binfords & Mort, 1942), 122.

8 John Clifton Moffitt, The Story of Provo, Utah (Provo, Utah: J. C. Moffitt, 1975), 217.

9 WPA Writer's Project, Provo: Pioneer Mormon City (Portland: Binfords & Mort, 1942), 123.