John Ford Miller was born in Ithaca, New York in 1830 and spent his entire adult life as a railroad employee, beginning as a carpenter in 1850. In 1864 he was named Superintendent of the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad. which was headquartered in Richmond. By the time of his retirement in 1900, he was one of the most prominent railroad men in the entire country. Even though later in his career much of his work was centered around Columbus, Ohio, he maintained a residence in Richmond until he died.
Miller had a very distinguished railroad career. He was well known within the Pennsylvania Railroad system as the man who could help resolve labor strikes. Reportedly, during a strike in 1877, the governor of Ohio made him a colonel in the state militia, so that he could have greater authority. Miller kept the honorary title of Colonel for the rest of his life. In 1889, Miller was tasked with repairing the rail lines into the devestated town of Johnstown after it had been swept away by the disastrous flood. With 1,100 handpicked men, Miller had the lines open in less than two weeks.
In 1880, he bought the farm of Nathaniel Hawkins just east of Richmond and used his own funds to transform it into a park. Five years later he sold it to the city, and since much of it was located in a glen, the name became Glen Miller Park.
Miller’s home in Spring Grove was also a parklike setting, complete with a lake and expensive trees and shrubs. His home sat up on a hill overlooking the lake. In 1904, Daniel Reid purchased this land for the new hospital that he was going to build for the city. The main building of the hospital was completed in 1905, and Miller’s house remained a part of the complex until the 1950s.
Miller was a personal friend of President William McKinley. After McKinley’s election, he traveled to Washington in Miller’s private rail car, and in 1901 he named Miller a commissioner to the upcoming World’s Fair in St. Louis.