The following was printed in the Falls City Journal, Dec. 30, 1997
Miles Ranch Had Big Role In County History
by Stephen B. Miles
With the selling of the Miles Ranch (south of Dawson) and the nearby Kansas Line farm, both probably to be completed in 1998, the often tight 146-year link between Richardson County and the Miles family will be severed for good.
For many years after 1852, the first Nebraska Miles, Stephen B., provided mail service and stagecoach travel to Richardson County. On his mail route from Independence, MO., to Ogden, Utah, this S.B. saw, fell in love with, and claimed from the government thousands of fertile acres in the county, the headquarters of which became Miles Ranch--originally the resting place for his hundreds of horses and mules.
After S.B. gave up his mail route, and stagecoach business in 1871, Miles Ranch, which by that time was one of the first large-scale livestock-and-grain operations west of the Missouri River, had laid the foundations of a Miles fortune estimated at s.B.'s death in 1898 to be the equivalent of what would be, at 1997 prices, about $45 or $50 million.
S.B. and after him, his son, Joseph H., sold about 300 cattle and 1000-1500 hogs a year, with thousands of acres growing corn, wheat, oats and barley. The old mail contractor was not deceived about the fertility of the virgin Richardson county soil. At a time when average nationwide corn yields were about 25 bushels per acre or less, Miles Ranch was reputed to be growing 40-50 bushels per acre, year after year.
In addition to being a landowner, S.B. also became a banker, organizing a number of banks, including the Falls City First National Bank & Trust, and the Rulo Bank, as well as several out-of-state banks. S.B.'s success as a banker seems almost weird in view of the strange events surrounding his death and the famous 12-year Miles Will Case.
The will S.B. made about 10 years before his death left almost his entire fortune to his one son, J.H., excluding almost entirely his other son, Sam A. Miles. Subsequent to the probating of that will, another will was purported to be found in which S.B., shortly before he died, and attired in old, wornout clothes, was supposed to have furtively devised a second will, the mail beneficiary of which was to be Sam. The Miles Will battle, one of the Midwest's most sensational around the turn of the century, was finally settled by the Nebraska Supreme Court, after five tries, in favor of J.H.
By that time, the course of history had irrevocable changed. To escape the bitterness of Sam's partisans, the large J.H. family had moved to Los Angeles, Calif., leaving behind as "temporary" residents, only the three sons-and beginning the long schism in the Miles family between Richardson County and the West.
In Los Angeles, old S.B.'s fortune other than the Richardson County land, was gradually (and then rapidly as the depression of the 1930s hit) dissipated. Years later, the two surviving grandsons of S.B. also moved to California.
Before the Miles Will Case and the trek of his family to California, J.H. Miles had shown an interest not only in farming and banking, but in Nebraska and local politics. He was twice elected mayor of Falls City and might well have been, like the other two of the business partnership of Miles, Morehead and Weaver, become governor of Nebraska. But although J.H.'s heart remained in Richardson County until the day he died in 1936 and although he made trips back as often as he could, he kept Los Angeles as his legal residence.
This left only one of old S.B.'s grandsons, also named Stephen B. Miles, and one of his sons, Nebraska's third Stephen B. Miles, to carry on the Richardson County-Miles tradition. These two Miles each inherited, and kept at least of share of a shrunken Miles Ranch and Kansas Line farm, and each lived part of his life in Falls City.