Miller was once called "Vanderbilt?" - How Miller Got its Name.

The sign on the Post Office on Hancock Street says "Miller Station." There have several explanations as to how Miller got its name, the most popular having to do with the oldest headstone – “John S. Miller, age 3” in Bethel Lutheran Cemetery, or the old Miller Cemetery as it was called for a number of years.

For a few brief years it was called "Vanderbilt" in Washington, but never here.

The 1850 census of North Township, the jurisdiction that Miller belonged to then, shows the family of Samuel and Susan Miller with a three-year-old son John. Samuel is listed as "Innkeeper." Samuel Miller, and the Inns of North Township are covered in another page on this website, including where he went and his family legacy in California. The very first post office came in 1865 and was designated "Millers Station" by the U. S. Government. And for years the Lakeshore and Michigan Southern Railroad printed “Millers” on its timetables after it arrived in 1852.

The 1930 California obituary of Samuel & Susan Miller's daughter Frances is instructive as it names where she was born, and is pretty definitive for the tie to the family name:

Mrs. Esther Pearson, writing a history of Miller in 1970 gives a different version claiming that Miller was named for John Miller, a construction supervisor who lived in a house on Miller Ave. Given the census returns that this author has studied I think she had been confused by some stories that she'd heard, but here's her rendition, which is close, but it was Samuel Miller, an innkeeper and not a construction worker.


As mentioned on the railroad page Miller was once called "Vanderbilt." Cornelius Vanderbilt's New York Central had gained control of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern railroad, and when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad came through in 1874, Vanderbilt used his influence to have the post office changed to "Vanderbilt." According to The Postal History of Indiana published in 1976 the "Miller's Station" Post Office was established on February 7th, 1865, but on September 8th, 1874 the name was changed to "Vanderbilt" and then back to "Miller's Station" on June 13th, 1879 it was changed back to "Miller's Station." Then in 1882, it was shortened to "Miller," which it was officially known as until 1927. One wonders how that all went down. According to a current Post Office publication, "Historically, local communities suggested the name for their Post Offices, subject to the approval of the Post Office Department." What exactly happened after 1927 is a bit confusing since it was absorbed into various Gary delineations, but the sign on the Post Office today reads "Miller Station."

Despite all of that official stuff, the residents of the Miller over the last several decades have commonly referred to their community as "Miller Beach" and it's unlikely that the sign on the Post Office will be changed. The sign has been missing one letter for quite a while now.

Page updated October, 2022

© Text copyright: Steve Spicer

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