Lewis Miller - farm boy - religious rebel - entrepreneur - lad o' pairts !

Balloch Loch


 Lewis Miller was a local lad who of all the outstanding people  from the Strath in the 19th century most stand out clearly from the crowd . Farm worker, forester, entrepreneur, philanthropist are but a few words to describe a man who in a comparatively short life achieved so much.

The Parish of Muthill lies immediately to the south of Crieff and is extensive – extending to Braco and Greenloaning in the south, Blackford in the east and Comrie in the west. Registration of births, marriages and deaths was brought into force in Scotland on the 1st of January 1855. Prior to that we had to rely on the parish registers which were not compulsory and covered baptisms (christenings), births and marriage but seldom deaths. The records of Muthill commenced in 1676 but were lost and recommenced in 1704. These records were destroyed in an accident when there was a fire in the Parish Clerk’s house. They were partially re written but sadly are seriously incomplete. Using census returns I have however been able to piece together a general scenario of the Miller family. The spelling of Miller with an “ e “ and not an ” a” assists although I have found a number of discrepancies where the latter occurs.

The Millers farmed the land of Balloch which is on the southward side of Turleum Hill . The name is derived from the Gaelic and probably means “ place by the Loch “ .The first OS map of 1863 shows the area as the “ The Balloch “. Its early place in Strathearn history occurs when the dominant family in “ The Balloch “ the McRobbie’s assisted the Drummonds to victory in a Clan battle on Knock Mary, the hill immediately to the north. In the 18th century, the small farms would be about 5 or 6 acres in extent and would rely on the smallholding or crofting syndrome where they cultivated barley (or bear) and had a cow or two as well as a pig which was killed in salted for winter sustenance. The Statistical Account for the Parish written in 1843 tells us that a flax mill was set up in Balloch. This was part of a Government scheme to encourage the growing of flax and linen cloth weaving became an important cottage industry. The 1841 census for Balloch shows a William Miller, aged 71 described as a linen weaver. He was probably the brother of Lewis Miller, the grand father of Lewis  Miller , the subject of this “Blog”. Balloch was an area where deciduous timber was abundant (as mentioned in the Statistical Accounts of the Parish for 1795 and 1843) and again it is probable that the Millers were involved in saw milling from an early time. I  found the grand parents of Lewis and their family listed in the Parish Records ( the OPRs ). I will refer to this Lewis Miller (born 1848) as Lewis “ Benachie “ Miller purely to differentiate from others in this saga of that name .

John Miller and Martha Livingstone were Lewis “ Benachie “ Miller’s parents.

The 1841 census was the first carried out in detail in Britain. It occurred some 14 years prior to compulsory registration which came into being on the 1st January 1855 and is important in providing information on family groupings. Regrettably it was imprecise in detail. It did not give relationships between members of the household and did give their place of birth, just whether or not they were born in the county of the census ie Perthshire. Ages were precise for children 15 and under but for adults ages were rounded up or down (normally) to the nearest 5 years.  Examination of the Census  for Balloch  shows four  houses located at the Mill of Balloch all occupied  by the Miller family ! House  No. 4  was occupied by Lewis Miller’s  grand father and father . Nearby was the  “ fermetoun “ of Woodneuk again occupied by Millers in all three of its  dwellings .  

It is most probable that these Millers were all “ family “ but regrettably because of paucity of records I cannot be absolutely certain. Jean (65), Janet (55) and Mary (50) were probably grandfather Lewis Miller ‘s sisters. I know from the old parish records shown above that Lewis had married Elizabeth Miller about 1797 and that six children were born and baptised in the parish kirk. This included John Miller, the father of Lewis “ Benachie “ Miller. The James Miller farming Woodnook and living in House 1 was again in all probability the older brother of Lewis whilst linen weaver William was also probably a brother. Interestingly, James Miller is referred to in Macara’s “ Crieff: Its Traditions and Characters “ published in 1881 when a story got about that Napoleon’s ancestors had hailed from “ The Balloch “ !

The truth of the story was duly vouched for by the late intelligent tenant of Broadlea (Woodnook), Mr James Miller. About the middle of the last century (1750s), a hedger named Bayne and his family lived in the Balloch. Having a strong leaning to to the Duke of Perth and Prince Charlie, and having seen the last of the ‘45, resolved to seek a home in another land, and with this intent he and his family and others set sail for France. A storm came on, and they were driven on Corsica, where they were hospitably received, and were known as Bayne, or Buon and his party. In course of time his sons were called Buon- de-parte, or Buonaparte, and who now figures in the history of the world as the great Napoleon. Hurrah for Balloch!   

I checked the parish records and found the birth of Lewis and his younger brother William . John Miller had married Martha Livingston from Crieff on the 8th November 1846. She was the daughter of Robert Livingston, a handloom weaver in Crieff and Josephine McQueen. Weaving in the 1820s in Crieff was the major trade with some 40% of the working population engaged in hand loom weaving or spinning. By this time flax had been replaced by cotton as the principal fabric. In the 1861 census we find the Miller’s farming 15 acres at Mill of Balloch with Lewis, aged 13 the oldest of 5 children.

John Miller, Lewis’ father died on the 26th August 1863 at Mill of Balloch of heart disease. Lewis was 15 and had a brother and four sisters younger than him. I now looked at the 1871 census to see whether the family were still at Balloch.

The 23-year-old Lewis was listed as head of the household and described as a farmer of 68 acres and a wood merchant. The farm had grown from the 15 acres of 1861. His brother William was listed as a “ wood manager “ obviously working closely with Lewis. Mother Martha was listed a housekeeper whilst his sisters apart from Janet (listed as a servant) were given as “ scholars “.

Five years later , Lewis married Annie McEwan, on the 1st March 1876 in Crieff. Annie was the daughter of Alexander McEwan a successful woollen manufacturer in the town and Annie McOwan.  The marriage took place in the North United Presbyterian Church. The North UP at that time was situated in what is now Church Street and was demolished only about 2003. Lewis Miller was actively involved in UP Kirk matters. The UP Church was formed from the original secession from the established Church of Scotland in 1733. The “ Seceeders “ were radical and strongly opposed to patronage in the church which saw ministers appointed by the local lairds and not the congregation. About the time of his marriage the North UP Church was getting larger and required a new building to house the congregation. On the 24th January 1881 “ the Session empowered Dr Meikle (founder of the Strathearn or Crieff Hydropathic), Mr William Veitch and Mr Lewis Miller to report to the Congregation about the need for a new church, provided a suitable site could be found and the necessary money would be forthcoming. ”   Lewis would have been only 33 at that time – clear indication that this young man was already an eminent person in local affairs. It was clear that his timber interests were steadily growing. It is interesting to note that on his wedding certificate his late father, John Miller, is described not as a farmer but as a “ timber merchant ”. His best man and witness at the wedding was Hugh Morgan, member of another Crieff timber family with saw mills at the Turret.

With his marriage, Lewis purchased a large triangular area of ground to the west of the new UP church site in Strathearn Terrace (or George Street as it was originally known) extending to some 5 or 6 acres. He built a large detached stone property extending to some 23 rooms and with superb views out over the Strath. Looking at the 1901 OS map, one sees that the policies of Benachie were wooded with a mixture of coniferous and deciduous trees giving it much privacy and presence

Benachie was named after the mountain in Aberdeenshire that Lewis had purchased and afforested. It was of course historically famous as being allegedly the site of the Battle of Mons Graupius . Here Agricola and the Romans defeated Calgacus, King of the Picts.

After the  death of Lewis Miller’s wife  , Benachie was bought  by the  Rule family . The Miss Rules donated it to Crieff and it is now run as a residential home for the elderly of the town and is now called Richmond House A newer property to the rear was built by the Rules and it is called Benachie. Despite changes and alterations to suit modern care requirements, Benachie, the original, is a beautiful building. The Parana pine staircases and timber lining are a mellow blend with the soft sand stone. Lewis Miller chose well .Lewis Miller also built other property in Crieff with his family in mind. Dunnydeer again named after his Aberdeenshire lumber interests was constructed in Gordon Road, below Benachie.

Out at Balloch, a new Balloch House was built . In 1881 the census for Balloch shows Lewis’s mother Martha was nominally farming the land. Not at Mill of Balloch but a few hundred yards down the road at Woodnook . Balloch is a place quite detached from the bustle  of nearby Crieff . The loch is a place of some bucolic bliss surrounded by trees no doubt similar to those hewn by young Lewis in days gone by .

In 1998 my late father in law took up residence in Richmond House / Benachie. I recall clearly the resident care manager at the time showing me a framed photograph of a young man an woman with three children dressed in sailor type suits. He asked me if I had any idea who they were. I looked up the census of 1881 (see above) and realised that they were Lewis Miller and family. The Children would probably have been John (Jack) Miller, Annie McOwan Miller and Alexander (Tosh) Miller. I re visited Benachie in June 2006 and was kindly shown around by the administrator Mr Chris Murray. I had spoken to him about the picture but after considerable effort it could not be located. He did however show me a picture of 2 children on a rocking horse still within the house . I believe them to be John and Alexander Miller .

Lewis Miller had itchy feet and as a young  man ventured outwith Strathearn. Suffice to say that not only did he venture to the north of Scotland and Inverurie and Aberdeenshire in particular but carried out ventures in Ireland, Sweden and in Canada, particularly in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. At home he managed to raise a large family as well as be involved in church matters, local schools and the Crieff Town Council.

The following extracts were copied in the AK Bell Library in Perth (the County Archives and Local History Departments) pertaining to Lewis Miller.

Blairgowrie Advertiser August 1880

Lewis Miller, timber merchant, Crieff, one of the largest dealers in growing timber in Scotland, has purchased the estate of Caskieben, near Aberdeen for £39 000

The Strathearn Herald Saturday April 10 1909

Funeral of Mr Lewis Miller, Crieff

On Monday afternoon, the funeral of Mr Lewis Miller, timber merchant, took place from his residence in Crieff. Amid many manifestations of mourning in the community with which he had been associated during his lifetime. The universal esteem and respect in which Mr Miller was held by all classes was shown by the great concourse of mourners who followed his remains to Crieff Cemetery, the funeral being probably the mot largely attended that has ever been seen in the town and district, people coming from near and far to pay their last respects to the departed. All shops were closed from 12.30 till 2pm; while the town bell and those of the North and South United Free Churches were tolled during the obsequies and flags on public buildings etc., floated at half-mast. Practically all the tradesmen and other businessmen of the town were present.

Locally his importance as a person was recognised when Porteous in his “ History of Crieff “ included the picture of him amongst his peers as shown below and also a glowing testimonial to his influence on matters local and further a field .The biography of Miller included by Porteous says it all

Lewis Miller

(The History of Crieff: Alexander Porteous. Edinburgh .1912)

Page 408

Lewis Miller was born at Balloch, where his father had a small farm, in 1848. In or about 1869 he commenced business in the district as a timber merchant, and before ten years had elapsed he had acquired a large and lucrative connection not only in Perthshire, bur also in Aberdeenshire and various other counties in the north of Scotland. He made Crieff his home and the centre of his large business ramifications. He had a great connection in Ireland and conducted a large trade in Norway and Sweden. Turning his attention to America, he purchased immense tracts of forestlands in Newfoundland, but sold these and, purchasing similar land sin Nova Scotia, where he also planted thousands of acres. He soon became recognised as an authority on the subject of forestry, and expressed his concern and alarm at the threatened depletion of the forest lands in Europe ands America; while his evidence, given before the Royal Commission on Afforestation, especially as to the re afforestation in Scotland, was of the utmost value.

Mr Miller endeavoured by every means in his power to advance the interests of Crieff. He was a member of the town Council for several years, and also Chairman of the School Board for a time, besides being a governor of Morrison’s Academy and a JP for Perthshire. He belonged to the United Presbyterian Church, and latterly was an elder in the North UF Church .In private life he was a friend to all; his advice was gladly given to the many who sought it, while in him every philanthropic object found a cheerful giver; but the full extent of his unostentatious charity will never be known. By his death, which occurred on the 1st April 1909, Crieff lost a kindly and generous benefactor.
Lewis Miller died at Benachie on the 1st of April 1909. He was only 61 but in that comparatively short life span had made a considerable impact both locally and further a field. He died of pneumonia and cardiac syncope after a short illness. His wife Annie died in 1911. The extract written below was sent from Canada and was
written by Jean Audrey (Johnson) MacDonald about 1995 and is reproduced in full. She is the grand niece of Annie Miller, m.s McEwan, wife of Lewis Miller.

" Ann McEwan was born on 16th March 1850 and died on 9th September 1911 aged 61 years. Married Lewis Miller, born 8th January (blank) and died 1909. They had three sons and two daughters Annie, John (or Jack), Alexander (they called Tosh) Rhoda, Martha and Lewis Jr. They all lived in and around Crieff. I don't have much about Ann however. I did find a write up from a newspaper in Scotland sent to my grand father Alexander J McEwan in Canada. It reads as follows:

Death of Mrs Miller, Benachie. Our obituary of today records the death of this lady, which took place at her residence Benachie, Drummond Terrace, on Saturday morning last, after a long and painful illness. Deceased was the youngest daughter of the late Mr Alex. McEwan, manufacturer, Dallerie and was married to the late Mr Lewis Miller, the well-known timber merchant, between thirty and forty years ago. Mrs Miller was of a very retiring disposition, but, like her husband, who preceded her in death two and a half years ago, her benevolence and kindness towards the poor and needy was unbounded, as well as her liberality to every philanthropic and religious purpose. Mrs Miller was a life long and attached member of the North UF Church, and her interest and liberality in its concerns was well known. Deceased leaves a family of three sons and two daughters. The former are in the business founded by their father; whilst the eldest daughter is married to our respected townsman, Mr S (Swanston) Drysdale, solicitor. At the funeral on Monday, which was private, the Rev JC Ingles, of the North Church conducted the service in the house, assisted by the Rev Dr Henderson, and at the grave, prayer was offered up by the Rev Professor Kay of St Andrew's University, an old friend of the deceased. Mrs Miller, like her lamented husband, will be much missed by the poor of Crieff.

Lewis Miller had a very interesting life. He was born on a farm near Crieff on the " Ancaster Estate “.
His father died when he was 15. He left his brother to run the farm and look after all the children while he went to earn enough to keep them. He went to Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, planted trees on Benachie and Dunnydeer. For every tree he cut down, he planted three or more! These names were later the names of houses built by him in Crieff. He then went to Corrygour in the west, bought an estate and planted hardwood. He later went to Norway and on to Newfoundland. He was in the timber business. There were places named after him, namely - " Lewisporte " and " Millertown “. He also built some of the railways in Newfoundland. In the meantime in Crieff, he is mentioned in Porteous ' History of Crieff (last page). He was on school boards and renowned as a philanthropist. After his marriage to Ann McEwan he built Balloch House, then Benachie in Crieff (his house telephone number was Crieff 1 and his office Crieff 2) In the meantime he kept his brothers and sisters as well as his mother. He received telegrams from Queen Victoria to export timber. He later moved to Labrador, all the time taking his Swedish and Scottish workers. He then went on to Chester, Nova Scotia and had sawmills at Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. While in Chester, he built three houses on the sea front - the " Lewis House “, the " Miller House " and " Next Door “. Marion (now O’Brien) has the last two and is there in summer. Lewis Miller had a younger brother. He was married twice and had a daughter called Phyliss (second marriage). She was married to a Gordon and as I mentioned earlier they went to live with Nettie E Whyte at different periods. "

Lewisporte  Labrador Canada

Thanks are given to the late Mrs Winifred Kelley of Comrie for permission to include this biography I researched for her in 2006. Mrs Kelley was an exceptional lady, who just happened to be Lewis Miller’s granddaughter.  Winifred was honoured to visit both Lewisporte and Millertown in Labrador and attended a civic reception in honour of Lewis Miller . She was into her noneties  when she  made this historic trip .


The Simple Stone In  Crieff  Cemetery Ford Road 
Lewis Miller and Ann McEwan 
Winifred Kelley from Comrie at the Millertown Heritage Society in Newfoundland


  1. Amazing tale of a family and how they spread around the world. Great Scots!

  2. I am the grandson of Alexander "Tosh" Miller. My grandfather died in Chester Nova Scotia Canada
    Anyone with information on the Miller family, please email me - ostraus3@aol.com


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