MILLER, JOHN CLASSON (Clausin, Clauson), lumberman, politician, and office-holder; b. 16 Dec. 1836 in Yonge Township, Leeds County, Upper Canada, son of Samuel Miller and Melita Hayes; m. 2 Aug. 1859 Adelaide Augusta Chamberlain, and they had at least one child, John Bellamy; d. 2 April 1884 at Colton, Calif., and was buried at Parry Sound, Ont.
John Classon Miller was educated at local schools in Leeds County, and as a young man bought a mercantile business at Seeleys Bay from George Tennant. He was active in political affairs and was for a time deputy sheriff for the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville. When he moved to Toronto he was employed by the Ontario Crown Lands Department on 10 March 1868. Although classified initially as a clerk, later as chief clerk, Miller acted as superintendent of woods and forests until he was forced to resign on 31 Dec. 1871 because of a partial loss of sight. Under his supervision the sums paid by the lumbermen to the government for timber dues, ground rents, and bonuses had increased greatly. Miller then joined Anson Greene Phelps Dodge and other lumbermen in the purchase from H. B. Rathbun and Son of extensive timber limits and a sawmill in Parry Sound. The new firm was incorporated in 1872 as Parry Sound Lumber Company. In 1877 Miller took over Dodge’s interests in the business, thereby becoming the owner and general manager of one of the most important companies in the Georgian Bay area. By 1878 the company was sawing 11 or 12 million feet of lumber annually, bringing in 4,000 barrels of flour a year, and operating a general store in Parry Sound. A second mill, also in Parry Sound, was purchased in 1880; over the years shipping facilities and docks were expanded and a shingle mill and box shook factory were added. After Miller’s death his son served as president of the company, which survived until 1931.
In 1875 Miller was the Liberal candidate in the newly established provincial riding of Muskoka and Parry Sound. It was a difficult constituency to contest and to represent; large in area but sparsely populated, it was divided by the divergent interests of the two regions in such matters as transportation and tariffs on American goods, and also by conflicts between the settlers and the lumbermen concerning the ownership of the pine stands. Although Miller was elected with a majority, on 17 Sept. 1875 he was disqualified on petition with a variety of charges. The decision was reversed by the Court of Error and Appeal on 22 Jan. 1876, and Miller immediately took his seat in the legislature. From the beginning Miller was active in debates, especially those relating to railways, lumbering, and land settlement, and he was a strong supporter of government subsidies for roads and railways to open underpopulated areas of the province such as the one he represented. To encourage settlement he proposed an amendment to the Free Grants and Homestead Act of 1868 which would have permitted a settler who had occupied his holding for six months to sell his improvements under specified conditions. Although the amendment did not pass it won general approval in his riding.
Miller retained his seat in the provincial election of 1879 with a substantial majority, but resigned in 1882 to contest the riding in the federal election against Colonel William Edward O’Brien. Although the first count showed Miller leading, a recount indicated that O’Brien had won by three votes. By this time Miller’s health was failing rapidly. He spent the winter of 1883 in Florida and the following winter in California where he died of tuberculosis.
Ont., Legislative Library, Newspaper Hansard, 1876–82 (mfm. at AO); Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, Companies Branch (Toronto), Parry Sound Lumber Company file, no.13877in. Parry Sound Public Library (Parry Sound, Ont.), J. C. Miller news-cuttings scrapbook, 1875–80. Univ. of Toronto, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, Rare Books and Special Coll. Dept., Muskoka clipping coll., 1869–1944. Alexander Kirkwood and J. J. Murphy, The undeveloped lands in northern & western Ontario; information regarding resources, products and suitability for settlement . . . (Toronto, 1878), 78–79. Ont., Legislative Assembly, Journals, 1876–82; Statutes, 1872, c.98. Globe, 4 April 1884. CPC, 1875–83. Dominion annual register, 1879–82; 1884. [W. E. Hamilton], Guide book & atlas of Muskoka and Parry Sound districts, 1879 (Toronto, 1879; repr. Port Elgin, Ont., 1971), 2, 15–17, 31. T. W. H. Leavitt, History of Leeds and Grenville, Ontario, from 1749 to 1879 . . . (Brockville, Ont., 1879; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972), 113–14, 174, 198. A miscellany of notes and sketches on the history of Parry Sound, comp. Sam Brunton (Parry Sound, 1969).