Biography of Joseph H. Miles of Miles Farm

Joseph H. Miles, born on December 13, 1850, in Delta, Pennsylvania, was a significant figure in Nebraska’s banking and ranching sectors. A resident of Richardson County, Nebraska, since 1862, Miles was involved in various ventures, including serving as president of the First National Bank of Falls City and the State Bank of Rulo. He managed extensive land holdings, including the 6,000-acre Miles ranch near Dawson. Miles was also a civic leader, serving as mayor of Falls City and actively participating in politics. His marriage to Sue A. Easley in 1882 produced six children.


Joseph H Miles
Joseph H Miles

Joseph H. Miles, president of the First National Bank of Falls City, president of the State Bank of Rulo, proprietor of the great Miles ranch in the vicinity of Dawson and the owner of much other land in this county, for years regarded as one of the leading bankers and stockmen in Nebraska, is a native of the old Keystone state, but has been a resident of Nebraska and of Richardson county since 1862, and spent his boyhood days in this county on the great ranges of the early days, having thus been a witness to and a participant in the development of this region since pioneer days. Mr. Miles was born at Delta, in York county, Pennsylvania, December 13, 1850, and is a son of the late Stephen Boyd and Hannah (Scarborough) Miles, the former a native of that same county, and the latter a native of the state of Maryland. Extended mention is made of Stephen Boyd Miles elsewhere in this work.

Joseph H. Miles was reared on the Miles ranch and from boyhood was accustomed to the free life of the range. During the Civil War period he was in attendance at St. Benedict’s College at Atchison, Kansas, and in 1865 pursued his studies in Highland University, later (1866-1868) attending the school at Peru, Nebraska, in the neighboring county of Nemaha, which school was raised to the rank of a normal school in 1867. Upon the completion of his education he returned to the home ranch and was there actively engaged with his father in the cattle business until 1872, when he went to St. Louis and perfected himself as a telegraph operator, a vocation in which he then engaged, finally becoming a train dispatcher, and was continually engaged in railroad service until 1880. He then embarked in the mercantile business in Rulo, this county, where he married in 1882. Two years later, in 1884, he became engaged in connection with his mercantile business, in the banking business at Rulo in association with his father. In 1888 he sold his store and devoted his attention to the bank and his live-stock interests on the ranch and was thus occupied until 1890. In that year he went back with his father to his birthplace at Delta, Pennsylvania, and they organized the Miles National Bank of Delta. In 1891 he became cashier of the First National Bank of Falls City, with which institution he has been connected, as a member of the board of directors, from the time his father, Stephen Boyd Miles, established the bank in 1882, and was elected president of this bank in 1903. He is also interested in the State Bank of Rulo and in addition to his banking interests continues to give much of his personal attention to his extensive land interests. He operates the original Miles ranch of six thousand acres in the neighborhood of Dawson; besides which he owns other valuable tracts in Salem, Speiser, Nemaha and Grant townships, a total of about ten thousand acres in all, his sons, Stephen B. and Warren C., assisting him in the management of his various land holdings.

Miles Ranch House near Dawson
Miles Ranch House near Dawson

After the death of his father in 1898, Mr. Miles was made executor of the large estate left by the old banker and ranchman and considerable time was consumed in finally and definitely closing the trust. A vast amount of litigation ensued as a result of relatives and heirs-at-law starting a contest to break the will left by Stephen Boyd Miles, which provided for the disposition of an estate valued at over one million dollars. Attracted by the possibilities of rich fees, lawyers from St. Louis, Omaha, Lincoln, Kansas Cite and Falls City, took part in the effort to break the will, being actuated by a desire to win a contingent fee of forty per cent. of the amount secured if they succeeded in breaking the will. The celebrated Miles will contest was begun in 1899 and occupied a period of twelve years. A host of lawyers took part in the contest only to meet with disappointment in the final outcome. The case was brought up in the supreme court of Nebraska five times and was finally disposed of in 1911, the validity of the will made by Stephen Boyd Miles being upheld in the final decision given ‘in ‘favor’ of Joseph H. Miles and other beneficiaries whom the father recognized in his will.

Old Barn Built of Native Lumber, on the Miles Ranch, near Dawson
Old Barn Built of Native Lumber, on the Miles Ranch, near Dawson

Mr. Miles has ever taken a warm interest in the growth and development of his home town and county, and among his numerous acts of public, spirit was his presentation to the city of the ground occupied by the public library of Falls City. He is a Democrat, as was his father, and has for years taken an active and influential interest in county and state politics. He has been interested in county politics to the extent of assisting his friends to election to public office, an assistance which has always been given whole heartedly and without stint. He attended the Democratic national convention which nominated William Jennings Bryan for the presidency in Chicago in 1896, and was also a delegate to the succeeding convention of his party held at Kansas City in 1900. To local civic affairs Mr. Miles has been equally attentive and has served two terms a mayor of Falls City, occupying the executive chair in 1893 and again in 1897. Fraternally, Mr. Miles is affiliated with the Knights of Pythias, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Royal Highlanders, the Improved Order of Red Men, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He became affiliated with the Knights of Pythias in 1875 and is a member of the grand lodge of that order for the state of Missouri.

On January 31, 1882, at Rulo, Mr. Miles was married to Sue A. Easley, who was born at Rulo, this county, a daughter of Drury T. and Mary (Thomas) Easley, natives of Virginia and pioneers of this county, the father of Mary (Thomas) Easley having been one of the early Baptist ministers at Rulo. To this union six children have been born, namely: Mrs. Mabel Meyer of Los Angeles, California; Stephen B., of Falls City, who is managing the Miles ranch; Joseph T., who died in 1912; Warren C., who is living on a section of the Miles land in Nemaha township; Edna, who is at home with her parents, and Mrs. Sue Adele Dulin, of Los Angeles.

Source

Edwards, Lewis C., History of Richardson County, Nebraska : Its People, Industries and Institutions, Indianapolis : B.F. Bowen, 1917.

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