GOVERNORS OF MINNESOTA
Fourth State Governor
January 11, 1864 - January 8, 1866
Born: January 7, 1816
in Carroll, Pennsylvania
Died: August 18, 1881
in Worthington, Minnesota
Married to: Margaret Funk (1839)
Ethnic Background: German
Occupation: Railroad superintendent, merchant, editor, legislator
Frail health prompted Stephen Miller, a Pennsylvania German businessman, to leave home at age 42 and follow his friend Alexander Ramsey to Minnesota, where the climate reportedly was more congenial. Miller established a mercantile business in St. Cloud and, within two years, had risen to prominence in the state Republican Party.
During the Civil War, this middle-aged soldier with no previous military experience advanced rapidly from the rank of private to colonel in Minnesota's First Regiment of Volunteers. In 1862 Miller returned from the South and replaced Henry Sibley as commander of Mankato's Camp Lincoln, where 303 Dakota men, convicted of participating in the Dakota War of 1862, awaited their fate. Four months later he supervised, by order of President Lincoln, the mass execution of 38 Dakota men condemned for their part in the war.
His military career and Ramsey's support assured Miller of a gubernatorial victory in 1863. He was the first of several Civil War veterans to serve as governor of Minnesota. Although lacking a college degree himself, he valued higher education and advocated generous appropriations to state normal schools and the University of Minnesota. In his final address to the legislature, he strongly but unsuccessfully urged adoption of a black suffrage amendment to the state constitution.
Miller chose not to run for re-election and was unemployed until 1871, when he became a railroad-company field agent in Windom. He served as a congressman in 1873 and as an electoral college representative in 1876. In 1881 the one-time war hero and popular governor died alone, an impoverished widower.