"Just a Railroadin' Family" by Carol Powell
Railroads played a vital role in transforming the Arizona Territory from a frontier to a settled and accessible environment, with a booming economy. When the first territorial settlers arrived, it was with wagons and horses; travel was slow and dangerous and contact with the outside world was difficult. The coming of the railroads changed things dramatically, bringing people in and taking products out.
The men who operated and maintained the railways may not be as visible or as famous as the Arizona Cowboy or the Tombstone Gunslinger-but they were crucial to Arizona's future. This is the story of one Arizona railroad family.
Sometime in the late 1860s, Clara Olmstead Howard, a widow with three children, met Louis Miller, a first generation immigrant from Holland. They met and were married in Texas , where several more children were born, including the sons who were destined to go on to become Arizona Railroad men. In all, Clara bore an amazing twenty-two children, many of whom dedicated their working lives to railroading, and two who lost their lives on the rails on in Washington the other in Arizona.
Most of the Miller children were born in Texas, but something drew the family even farther West, and by 1884 they were on their way to Arizona. The father of the family, Louis, never made it past Fort Huachuca , where he became a statistic in the Indian wars, being killed by marauding Apaches. But the rest of the family, except for the first son Louis, Jr, pushed on to Phoenix, where by 1892 they were employed in a variety of jobs around town.
Louis, Jr, is something of a mystery. Did he die with his father in the Apache raid? Did he stay behind in Texas? All that is certain is that his name never again appears in documents concerning the family. Though most of the family was living together in Phoenix, the third son, Otto, was living in Mrs. F. Baxtor's Boarding House by 1892. It looks as though he had a promising career in the newspaper business, working first as a compositor for the Daily Republican. Along the way, he met and married Isabelle Harvy of Prescott; and then progressed to a job as a foreman at the Arizona Gazette.
William Service Miller, the fourth son, was still single and living at home, and was working as a laborer. The other boys had various jobs around town, but the family apparently did not like Phoenix, or did not do as well there as they expected, so they stayed only a few years before moving to Prescott by 1903.
Railroads came early to Prescott, then the Territorial capital of Arizona, beginning with the Prescott and Arizona Central Railroad. Unfortunately, the P&AC railroad did not do very well, due to over-high rates and a poor service record. When a promised Prescott-Phoenix extension failed to materialize, the way was open for a competitor to step in.
And a competitor did soon appear, when in April of 1893 the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix pulled into town. It was the first North-South Arizona line, and the "PeaVine," as it was known, made a huge impact on the lives of all Prescott residents, and became one of the main employers of the town. The Santa Fe was a cohesive force, giving free passes, picnics and other social events, good salaries and job opportunities to the families of the men it employed.
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