(July 21, 1827 – October 14, 1916)
There is one description of Henry Miller, California’s cattle king, which sums up his contributions to this community: Henry Miller – Founding Father of Los Banos.
Born 1827 in Brackenheim, Kingdom of Wurtemberg, Germany, Miller left the family farm at age 14 to make his way in the world. He arrived in New York City in 1847, just as California’s Gold Rush was getting underway. Lured by the promise of treasure, Miller joined a myriad of others heading West, arriving in San Francisco in 1850 with less than $6 in his pocket.
Relying on his boyhood farming experiences, Miller worked as a butcher and owned his own shop just one year later. Miller’s reputation for hard work, opening early and closing late became the foundation of his business.
Miller’s meticulous attention to detail helped his business prosper. Miller personally selected Valley cattle for his business and established better stock breeds, feeding regimens and feed crops. In 1857 Miller secured options for all the cattle north of the Tehachapi Mountains, and partnered with fellow German butcher, Charles Lux to create the Miller & Lux Corporation. By 1900 Miller & Lux was the largest integrated cattle-raising and meat packing enterprise in the United States, which secured Miller’s position as California’s cattle king.
Being a hands-on businessman, Miller established his headquarters at Canal Farm in Los Banos, where he could oversee his 1.4 million acres of cattle pasture and farmland extending from California to Oregon and Nevada. From Los Banos, Miller traveled the length and width of his company’s California operation.
The Los Banos headquarters also is where Miller created one of the West’s largest water irrigation systems. A series of gravity-fed canals, thus the name “Canal Farm,” were dug to transport water from the San Joaquin River to the fertile farm fields. The system is still used today to irrigate more than 244,000 acres of prime farmland on which is grown more than 40 food and fiber crops.
In Los Banos, Miller brought the railroad to town, constructed a bank, company store and many other building improvements. In addition, he planned and developed housing areas for local citizens and enhanced the quality of life in many ways. Miller created the May Day celebration, which still is observed in Los Banos, as a way of thanking his employees for their hard work and dedication.
By the age of 89, when Henry Miller died in 1916, he had given millions of dollars to numerous worthy causes. Today the City of Los Banos is proud to honor his vision and legacy.