Primary source: “The Passing of a Veteran Stockman.” obituary, The Breeder’s Gazette, Jan. 10, 1906, p. 63.

William “Atha Willie” Miller Jr was born on September 24, 1834 [1833 in some sources], near Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. He came to Canada in 1838 with his parents, Helen (Farrish) and William Miller Sr, and his older brothers. The family settled on Atha farm, Lot 25, south part Concession 7, Pickering Township, Ontario County. He attended local Pickering schools, and finished his schooling in Scotland.

He was the first Miller to return to Great Britain to import livestock for both Atha and Thistle Ha’ farms in 1854. He worked on the homestead farm with his father, building up a famous herd of Shorthorn cattle.

He married Elizabeth Milne of Markham, Ontario on November 29, 1862. They lived at Atha farm, where their five children were born: John, Eliza, Helen (died in infancy), Mary and Hannah.

He was a major force in the trans-Atlantic livestock trade, making over one hundred trips across the Atlantic in his lifetime. He moved his family to Virgina in 1877 to become an early exporter of fat cattle by the shipload back to Britain, including shipments from the famous herds of John D. Gillette of Illinois. He then returned to Canada to manage Mr Simpson’s farm at Coteau Landing, Quebec. Upon Simpson’s death, Willie continued to operate the farm for a couple of years while the estate was wound up.

In 1886, he moved once again to become general manager of Lakeside Farm, a Storm Lake, Iowa hobby farm owned by Boston liquor merchant Luther Adams. By 1889, Willie had made several importations of the best livestock from Scotland, building Lakeside Shorthorns into the dominant American herd of its era. At the height of its fame, Adams sold Lakeside and some of the cattle in 1889 to Mr Thomas H. Sherley of Louisville, Kentucky. After managing other herds for a couple of years, Willie returned to Lakeside to resume management of the farm, selling an interest in the Shorthorn and Aberdeen Angus cattle that he brought with him to Sherley. After dispersal of the Shorthorns in 1895, Sherley and Miller focused on improving their herd of Angus “doddies” and developed an early “Iowa corn-fed” steer feeding business supplying the Chicago slaughterhouses. In 1898, he purchased Lakeside from Sherley, and continued farming there with his son-in-law Len Lamar. It is said that he became ill during a visit to Thistle Ha’ in the summer of 1904 [presumably to attend his brother John’s funeral], and his health declined until his death at Lakeside farm on December 21, 1905.

His obituary declared that the value of his contribution to the American Shorthorn breeding industry “was almost incalculable. And it was due to the keen judgement, indominable energy and the broad seasoned knowledge that no man possessed to greater degree than William Miller.”

Of his character, The Breeder’s Gazette continued: “Bluntness characterized the mental habit of William Miller. His contempt for subterfuge was marked. His mental processes were swift as the lightning’s stroke and won to the heart of a question almost as if by inspiration. He was rather chary of words. He used them to express rather than conceal thought, and he needed remarkably few of them to give utterance to an idea in mind. His intellectual gifts were generous and his mind had been cultivated by a wide course of reading and study. It is related of both his father and himself that a single reading of a book would make them master of its contents, and both of them knew the Bible from end to end. A mind like that of William Miller would have achieved fame in legal or literary pursuits. His clearness in reasoning and his force of expression were of high order. He was a dangerous antagonist in controversy. Along with his brilliancy of intellect, his sure grasp of a subject and his logical exposition of it ran a wit that pierced the joints of the harness and a sarcasm that withered. He could rise to heights of rare eloquence when he felt the inspiration, but he was inclined to underestimate this gift and usually indisposed to utilize it to its full extent. Some of his contributions to our holiday issues take their places among the classics of live stock literature. A remarkable compliment was paid to him by Donald G. Marshall when he was requested to contribute a special article to a Christmas Gazette. He thus wrote: ‘When you can secure such matter as Mr. Miller’s article of last year from within the ranks of your own constituency, I do not see why you need call professional literary men to your aid.’ Rare old ‘Willie’ Miller! The love of his friends will deal charitably with his faults. His life work has built for his memory an enduring monument in the live stock world.”