John Miller was born in Dryden, New York on October 29, 1843. As a youth, he gained his education through the state’s common schools.
In 1878, he moved to the Dakota Territory and settled in Richland County on a bonanza farm, 17,000 acres in size. His efforts were richly rewarded with bountiful grain crops on the bonanza farm. With his friend, John W. Dwight, they established the Dwight Farm and Land Company with a board of 13 directors to manage the farm.
On February 22, 1882, Miller married Addie S. Tucker. The couple later became parents to one daughter.
A member of the Republican Party, Miller’s first political experience took place when he participated in North Dakota’s constitutional convention in 1889. North Dakota’s admission to the union was declared by President Benjamin Harrison and took place on November 2nd of that year. Miller was later persuaded to run for governor as the Republican candidate. He won the popular vote in the general election. His inauguration occurred on November 20, 1889 and he served one term, from 1889 until 1891.
From its inception, North Dakota was a Republican Party stronghold. During Governor Miller’s term in office, he faced a turbulent initial legislative session which fought about the question of legalizing lotteries and prohibition. In the process, he proved to Alexander McKenzie and the "McKenzie Gang," which dominated the Republican Party, that he could not be either bribed or swayed in his way of thinking by any of the powerful political forces. He was also instrumental in preventing the Louisiana Lottery from entering the state. Miller stood firm against a number of the state’s newspapers and at the end of his term, decided not to run for re-election, choosing instead to retire from political life.
Miller returned to his farm business and organized the John Miller Land Company in 1896, with offices in Amenia, North Dakota and Duluth, Minnesota. The company’s main function involved buying and selling of grain, produce and merchandise. They were also involved with the owning, leasing and operation of numerous grain elevators.
Chaffee-Miller Milling Company began in 1906 with Miller as president. In this position, it was Miller’s responsibility to acquire and manage both private and public grain warehouses. Also involved was the manufacture and sale of mill products, such as flour and feed.
Governor Miller died on October 26, 1908 in Deluth, Minnesota.