In 2011 Vancouver is celebrating its 125th birthday and I thought we might celebrate the event by posting on a regular basis some mini-biographies of notable Vancouverites. Not a hall of fame, certainly, but not a hall of shame either. Just a few people who've captured my attention as I've gone about my investigations into the city's history.
Such as Jonathan Miller, for example. Miller (1834-1913) was the city's first postmaster but before that, when Vancouver was still going by its original name of Granville, he was the tiny community's only peace officer. As such he lived in the lone public building in the village, a small cottage near the corner of Water and Carrall streets next door to the infamous Gassy Jack Deighton and his saloon. The two-room gaol was in the backyard. When Granville became Vancouver in April 1886, this modest building served for a while as the first city hall.
Miller was assisted for several years by a one-armed gaoler named John Clough who sometimes doubled as the lamplighter -- a difficult job, one would have thought, for a man with only one arm.
It was Miller who created the chain gang of hung-over drunks and petty criminals who went out from the jail each day to clear land and maintain roads. Watched over by an armed guard, the chain gang was a feature of civic life until 1917.
At Vancouver's creation, Miller was offered the job as first police chief but he preferred the more peaceful job of postmaster, which he held until his retirement in 1909 at the age of 75.
Miller was also a member of the board of the community's first school. The school was supported by the management of the Hastings sawmill and held classes in a small building donated by the mill. Miller's daughter Alice, born in 1871 and a graduate of the school, later became business manager at the World newspaper and married its proprietor, the successful local politician Louis D. Taylor.