Famous Saranac Lake ancestors

Obituaries write the history of those who have died, but in another sense they keep history alive. Katherine Finnegan Miller died in Saranac Lake in 1901 and was married to Milo B. Miller, one of our earliest settlers. They had one child, a daughter, Mary, who was married to H.H. Tousley. She may be Tom Hyde’s great-grandmother, but I could not verify that relationship because Tom was away as I write this Nov. 13.

Diversity still runs strong in Saranac Lake. This little bit of history was revealed when talking to Jack Finegan, vice president of the Lairs Club which meets daily at the Airport Cafe. Finegan, another way to spell that famous name, said his mother, Mary Leahy, was born in County Kerry in the southern tip of Ireland. The mother of his late wife, Mary, was Anna Janicheck, born in Tarnow, Poland.

Jack Lawless has of late joined the Liars Club and, with some of his many tales, may soon be named second vice president.

Mrs. Miller’s obituary

“The grim monster of death has again entered our midst, this time taking Katherine Finnegan Miller, wife of Milo B. Miller, to her last rest on Saturday, Dec. 21, at 7 a.m. Mrs. Miller was born in the town of Willsboro, Essex County, the 24th of April, 1841, her parents’ names being Michael and Mary Anne Finnegan. In 1868, she came to Saranac Lake, then a small hamlet, and on June 29th was married to Milo B. Miller. One child, Mary, now the wife of H. H. Tousley, was born to bless their union.

“Mr. and Mrs. Miller have resided in the Town of Harrietstown since their marriage in ’68 and have seen it grow from a country village to its present size. She was loved by all who knew her and was one of the best friends to the poor who will miss her kind remembrances and pleasant words. She was of a lovable disposition and made friends of all with whom she came in contact.

“She leaves a husband, a daughter and eight brothers; James, George, Henry, William, Thomas, John, Charles and Richard; two sisters, Mary Wallace and Mrs. P. H. Carey, besides a host of other relatives and friends. The interment took place from her residence on Main Street on December 26th 2:30 p.m. and from the church at 3:00 p.m. with Rev. H. Larom officiating. Her remains were followed to her last resting place by many people. In respect all stores and businesses in town were closed for two hours.”

John Herbert Miller

Founded the Democratic Party in Harrietstown.

This Mr. Miller was the son of another famous early settler, Van Buren Miller. He was born in Wilmington on April 10, 1858, and came to Saranac Lake with his parents as an infant. When he died, his obituary said “he overtaxed his strength by hard work and over study which brought on brain fever from which he never recovered. A serious kidney trouble brought on disease of the heart and rheumatism from which he died.” I will condense here some of his accomplishments from a very long obituary:

-He attended public schools and entered Beman Academy in New Haven, Vt. in 1877 where he prepared for college and graduated second in his class.

-During the summer months he was the clerk for V.C. Bartlett of Bartlett’s Hotel and Edwin Derby at the Prospect House.

-In the winter of 1880-81 he was the principal of the Saranac Lake Graded Schools.

-In the fall of 1882 he entered upon a mercantile career and operated a flourishing business for several years.

-From 1882 through 1889 he was town clerk and then supervisor.

-In 1885, while still supervisor, he was made postmaster “under the first Cleveland administration” and held that office until January 1890.

-In 1890 he received the nomination for county clerk and for member of assembly in 1894. “Though, of course, he was defeated in a county so strongly Republican.”

-In 1885 he had been a delegate to the state Democratic convention in Buffalo. He organized the Democratic Party in Harrietstown and was its leader for many years.

-He was one of the founders of the Adirondack Guides Association, organized in 1891, and held the office of secretary from its inception until his death.

-In 1892 he took up the business of surveying and was one of the most valuable men on the Hon. Verplanck Colvin’s state surveying party, locating the boundary lines of the state’s Adirondack holdings.

-In October 1884 he was married to Margaret E. Barry, and besides his widow he leaves three children: Julian Harold, aged 10; Helen Marguerite, aged 7; and Herbert Dwight, only seven months old.

Now it is hard to believe that with all he accomplished, this bright young man was only 38 years old when he died on April 10, 1896.