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of Freeland, Pa.
Christian T. Miller and a visit to President McKinley
Christian T. Miller, Benjamin F. Davis and other Freelanders paid a visit to William McKinley in 1896 - Collaborative information from Bill Davis, Charlie Gallagher, and Charles and Katherine Miller
This photo comes from Bill Davis, and when I
first posted it we didn't know much about this photo. You can see the
original discussion about it on the page showing past featured photos
from my home page.
Bill Davis had no names identified other than Benjamin F. Davis, 9th from the left or 8th from the right. Charlie Gallagher began looking around Freeland to see if he could identify the house. He didn't find it, but he did notice that the man in the center of the photo was President McKinley. !!! He speculated that this may have been a Republican Party meeting or delegates to a convention. He also thought that McKinley looked younger than when he became President, putting the photo at perhaps the late 1880's early 1890's.But where was that house? Charlie did a bit more reading and sent this follow-up note: Here's the answer..
It's also on the William McKinley page on Wikipedia.
Now, a year later, we have even more information. Katherine Miller has written to say that her and her husband Charles Miller's research indicates that the photo was taken in Canton, Ohio in 1896. It was indeed a Republican delegation, her relative Christian T. Miller was part of the delegation, and he is in the photo, the tall man standing 5th from the left, in front of William McKinley's home in Canton, Ohio. This was an example of the front porch campaigning that McKinley was known for. and that helped to enhance his popularity. What follows comes from Charles and Katherine Miller:
Christian T. Miller was born May 6th 1859 in the number 3 Village of the Pardee Coal Company in Hazleton. His family moved throughout the Freeland/Hazleton coal region. Christian married Jane Iles the daughter of a miner from Highland. They moved to South Heberton.
Christian was a political organizer, town burgess, elected state delegate and appointed commonwealth inspector, during his life time. He was active in the Odd Fellows, Jr. American Mechanics and the Red Men. Christian was a life long republican. Christian is appointed permanent chairman of the Republican Party for the Freeland area [4th Legislative District, PA] in 1890.
In addition, recent information links Christian to the Presidential election of 1896. The trail of evidence is as follows:
In 1896, the Miller family was living in Onedia, PA, just outside of Hazleton, PA. Christian had moved to accept an assistant foreman job [promotion] in the mines. [Hazleton is a short distance from Freeland, PA.]
In October 1896, a group of 15 Freeland personnel [14 men + one female] along with other delegations from the anthracite region [….Hazleton….] made a train excursion to Canton, Ohio, just prior to the national election for President. Included were H. C. Koons, J. C. Berner, A. Oswald, B. F. Davis, M. H. Hunsicker, George Hartman, Jonah Evens, Henry Tully, B. F. Rute, Owen Fowler, Ely Crawford, Andrew Zemany, Richard Druntra, and Elmer Salmon.
They traveled to Ohio in support for William McKinley, then Governor of Ohio and the Republican nominee for President. It is credible that Christian Miller would have attended because of his former position as the Chairman of the 4th Legislative District, PA. and he continued to be an active Republican.
Adding to the story, a photograph, from 1896, given to a Freeland history researcher, shows 16 men posing in front of the porch of a home. The photograph donor identified one of the men in the picture as his ancestor, B.F. Davis. [See Photograph]
Knowing B.F. Davis [a leading Freeland businessman] is present and identified as being in the photograph, gives a start to the process of linking the newspaper article to the photograph. With B.F. Davis identified, this leaves 15 unmatched or unknown people to name.
It is logical to associate 13 of the pictured men with the men named in the newspaper article. Thus, all 14 of the men in the newspaper article are present and acknowledged. [We know one of the Freeland residents making the trip was a young lady, who obviously is not in the picture.]
This now leaves two unidentified men to complete the basic identification process and analysis of the photograph.
There are two men standing, front and center, in the picture. [B.F. Davis is close at-hand] Typically this indicates they are important to the overall photographic composition. By first examining the facial features of the front right-center man and comparing facial characteristics to a known photograph of Presidential candidate William McKinley [the reason for the trip in the first place] it appears this man is none-other than the future President of the United States, William McKinley.
[The newspaper article also confirms McKinley met with the visitors from Freeland, PA.]
All that remains is the identification of the front [left- center] man in the photograph.
Christian Miller was appointed Republican Permanent Chair for the 4th Legislative District, which included Freeland, PA in 1890. It is reasonable, therefore, to believe, given his active history in the Republican Party, future rise in local and commonwealth politics, the fact that the railroad also carried passengers from Schuylkill County to Ohio and his personal friendships with Freeland Republicans and business men, he would logically have made the trip to Canton, Ohio.
Using the only currently known [July 2015] picture of Christian and comparing the facial features of the unknown man in the photograph, it appears the man next to McKinley is Christian Miller.
Finally, in examining the house directly behind the group of men, it structurally resembles the front porch of McKinley’s home, the place where he typically met with prominent Republicans and the general public during the general election of 1896.
Christian’s prominent position in the local and state Republican Party, along with knowledge of his residence, as provided by the census, his eventual climb in local and state politics, the physical resemblance of the men in the 1896 picture to known photographs of the man in question and the background house, draws us to the strong conclusion that Christian T. Miller is indeed pictured in the photograph.
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