July 20, 2010

Clint Miller . . . Lost Legacy and Dying Memories

Today's Winston-Salem Journal had a small blurb in the "Ask Sam" column, in regards to an old roadway near Miller Park and was actually a bowling lane installed in 1942 on land donated to the city of Winston-Salem by A. C. (Clinton) Miller. Clint as he was called, is the older brother of Ida Miller whose picture is posted in a previous post. There is another (older) brother, Frank Miller who was named after their father Frank Miller, and grandchildren of Harmon Miller, who was second in line after Robert Gray when the new city of Winston was founded as the county seat of Forsyth County in 1849. Harmon Miller's grandfather was Hermanus (Mueller) Miller, who traveled to North Carolina with Bishop Spangenberg in 1752 and established the Moravian settlements in Wachovia.

A. Clinton Miller was more than a prominent business man as the "Ask Sam's" column stated. Clint came from a quietly wealthy family. His father left in the neighborhood of $2,000,000 when he died in the early 1900s. All three children received a share and Clinton owned somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty properties in and around Salem as well as land in Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas. Prior to Charles Lindbergh's cross-country tour with a scheduled stop at Winston_Salem's Maynard Field in 1927, Miller donated $17,000 for the purchase of land to build a bigger field for the landing of Lindbergh and his Plane, "The Spirit of St Louis.

Even before Lindbergh's visit, Miller was known for his generosity and was a strong advocate of promoting sports in the area, having given money for the building of a professional baseball stadium on the South Side of Winston - this later became Ernie Shore Field.

But as in the case of Miller field being renamed Smith Reynold's Field for a young aviator son of R. J. Reynolds and who died at the age of twenty-one under "mysterious" circumstances. Then even Ernie Shore Field has been replaced, rather the home of baseball moved to the new Winston-Salem Dash stadium which is called BB&T Ballpark.

I think it comes down to --- he who has the bigger wallet wins and just about any place can be renamed (except for Lincoln's tomb and others so aptly named after the final resident).

In 1942, Miller donated 30 acres of land on the west side of Winston-Salem providing that the city would donate another 8 acres of land. Miller Street had already been named and since the land passed through the new park, the park was named Miller Park. So at least Miler Street and Miller Park are still in existence though it is doubtful that few people survive who remember the Miller family and their contribution to settling this area.

Clint never married and died in 1948. I have a letter dated the week before his death. I have letters he wrote as a young man off to school in New York and Boston. Letters from his travels, his investments, his family concerns, the stock market crash, letters to his sister Ida, his brother Frank before he died in 1933, and letters to his mother and father before their deaths.

My favorite letters are those that tell the story of youth and growing up, of weddings, births, and personal family matters which have turned me into a voyeur of life in a long ago bygone era of defiant grandeur, in the time when millionaires were made.

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