John Campbell Miller
Builder of Fancy Homes in Rural West Virginia
by Becky Hatcher Crabtree and Fred Ziegler
Beautifully illustrated and with charming detail, this book documents fifty-nine houses and public structures of builder John Campbell Miller primarily in southwestern Monroe County, West Virginia, which were constructed between 1886 and 1923. They range from the high Victorian Queen Anne style to the twentieth century Colonial Revival and Craftsman styles, and many are elegant farmhouses that stand out from the bucolic landscape.
Readers gain a glimpse of the era when large farming families were the norm and horse-drawn wagons were giving way to motorized vehicles. Organized by community, this book contains over two hundred photographs, roughly half of which are vintage, and a text that covers the stylistic elements as well as the family stories of each. These details have been resurrected through visits and interviews with current residents as well as from the files of the Monroe County Historical Society. The identification of Miller’s buildings is based on a list and photo file maintained over the last hundred years by generations of his family.
The time range of these buildings spans the period during which the famous “kit houses” of Sears and other companies were developed. These contained architects’ plans, and a wide choice of accoutrements such as windows, cabinets and molding styles that could be selected, in addition to the lumber for the house itself.
About the Authors
Author and educator Becky Hatcher Crabtree lives in Monroe County, West Virginia, near Lindside, in the midst of these artistic reminders of rural America’s history. She writes on the front porch of one of John Campbell Miller’s houses where she and husband Roger live. Their three daughters grew up there and now five grandchildren roam the fields and climb the trees and limestone outcroppings much like rural West Virginia’s children have for centuries. Currently, she teaches science at nearby James Monroe High School and helps tend a mountain farm complete with sheep, chickens, dogs, and one cat. In addition to watching high school sports, gardening, and reading, she participates in environmental activism, and advocates for unheard voices. Previous works include Alaska Hoops, Tales from the Girls’ Locker Room, a collection of essays; a fictional trilogy set in Monroe County, Drunk on Peace and Quiet, Hungover with Grandma, and Pick Your Poison; and a biography, Try and Be Somebody: The Story of Dr. Henry Lake Dickason.
Fred Ziegler retired in 2003 from teaching and researching Historical Geology and Paleogeography at the University of Chicago, and moved to West Virginia, where he and his wife Barbara bought “Cook’s Old Mill,” in Greenville. He became interested in local history and has written books on The Carriages of Monroe, West Virginia, and the Settlement of the Greater Greenbrier Valley. He has served as the president of the Monroe County Historical Society and spearheaded the building of the Carriage House Museum in Union. The museum now has eight full-size horse-drawn vehicles, including an Omnibus, which at one time conveyed visitors to the resort spas at Sweet Springs and Chalybeate Springs. Future book projects include The History of Red Sulphur Springs, Monroe County.