Miller, which was annexed by Gary in the early 1920's, is older than Gary, which was founded in 1906. Situated at the south end of Lake Michigan, the land is former lake bottom with sandy soil and an abundance of wetlands. Teeming with fish, wildlife and berries, it was a popular hunting and food gathering area for the Indians.
Miller's history began in 1851 when a train stop, eventually called "Miller's Station", was constructed by a predecessor of Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad. It has been long held that Miller got its name from someone named Miller, since the oldest stone in the cemetery is that of John S. Miller, age 3 and is dated 1851. More about that on the How Miller Got its Namepage. The railroad timetables identify the stop as "Millers" but the U.S. Postal Service named the post office "Miller's Station" in 1865 when the station was established. It was shortened to "Miller" at one time, but for one five year period was named "Vanderbilt" by the Post Office. For many years Miller remained an unpopulated, out of the way railroad junction surrounded by swampy terrain hardly suited for farming. The first inhabitants were often fishermen, squatters along the beach who made their living fishing and selling berries that grew wild in the dunes. The Carr family was prominent among these people for many years, not only claiming claiming ownership of a lot of the beach until 1930, but developing early tourism in the area. Swedish immigrants, many fleeing Chicago after The Great Fire, moved to the area in the early 1870's. They founded a church, eventually building a frame church in 1894 that still stands today on Lake Street.
The most important experiments in aeronautics prior to the the Wright brothers invention of the airplane were conducted on the beaches of Miller and just to the east of Miller. Octave Chanute, the elder statesman of aeronautics at the time, performed glider experiments on the beach which developed the basic bi-plane design which was adopted by the Wright brothers.
In the early 1900's the desolate dunes and broad beaches along Lake Michigan were a primary attraction to many. Our most famous 'hermit' - "Diana of the Dunes" - was actually a well educated, if somewhat romantic, University of Chicago graduate who rebelled against the competitive, materialistic world of bustling Chicago and in 1915 fled to the dunes with nothing but a knife, spoon, blanket, jelly glass and two guns, becoming a local legend.
Miller's unique terrain and proximity to Chicago continued to be a draw for people
wanting to get away from the city and enjoy lake breezes. In the 1920's the Marquette
Park Pavilion and the Bathhouse were built. Small cabins began to appear in the
dunes east of the Park. After World War II many year-round homes were built and
today the attraction continues as many choose Miller as their primary residence
or as a location for a summer home.
Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana now has a Miller office at 541 S. Lake Street. 219-947-2657
The Calumet Archives and the IU Digital Library have put over 2000 pictures from the US Steel Photo collection online. Spanning the years 1906 to 1971 it includes pictures of very early Marquette Park and many other pictures of interest. Check it out at the US Steel Image Collection
For a number of years IUN History professor Jim Lane has been collecting oral histories of 'da region' which he publishes, along with his reflections and wanderings, in "Steel Shavings." This is an amazing collection of historical and current information which, by March of 2015, has reached 41 volumes. Contact the Calumet Archives (219-980-6628) to examine older issues or order recent ones. Jim also is an avid blogger about life in Northwest Indiana and the people who live here: northwestindianahistorianjamesblane.blogspot.com/
Make sure you check out the Miller Historical Society's website.