The History Of Our Store
Miller Brothers Newton is an established men’s clothing store with roots dating back to the 1840’s.
The store originated with 2 men, George Hagar and E.G Whitcomb. The 1850 Manufacturing Census listed the name ‘Hagar and Whitcomb, Tailors’. George Hagar was born in Lincoln MA on January 17th, 1820. He had a common school education and a course of study at Woburn Academy. Upon leaving the academy his father gave him 2 choices, go full time to an in-state college or go to work in the mercantile business.
Well, at 16 he started working as a clerk in a general merchandise store in Keene, New Hampshire. He worked there for 7 years and with his natural talent and his pursuit to own his own business he started Hagar + Whitcomb with E.G Whitcomb around 1844. He ran a successful business for years until the announcement that gold had been discovered in California. Disposing of the business, he set sail for California. Taking the long way around Cape Horn, arriving 6 months later in San Francisco. Two months in the gold business, was enough time to convince him that panning for gold was not for him and he returned to his old love, the mercantile business.
He opened a general store and ran it for four years. He settled in Colusa, California where he succeeded in many endeavors as well as being a chawton member of the Colusa County Bank. He was affectionately known as Colonel George Hagar. The title Colonel was given him as a young man in New Hampshire where he enlisted in the New Hampshire Militia and was elected Colonel of the Twentieth Regiment. In 1894 while living in Colusa he sent a $500 contribution toward the Unitarian Church in Keene.
After Colonel Hagar left for California, Dauphn White Buckministon started working with E.G Whitcomb and in 1856 he established D.W Buckminston + Co. He operated the store until 1863 when he was then chosen Registrar of Probate for Cheshire County. He held that office for the rest of his life.
Joseph R. Beal was born in Nelson in 1834. He also worked as a clerk in an mercantile store before partnering with Jonas Parker in 1856, eventually renaming the store Parker and Beal. Joseph R. Beal became sole owner in 1859 and renamed it J.R Beal + Co. J.R Beal + Co. was known for their custom tailored civil war uniforms. Joseph Beal was elected to the House in 1870, Common Council member, an Alderman for 2 years, a City Treasurer and a Director of the Keene National Bank.
The store continued after his death, in 1895 under the management of William Huut Beal and James W. Russell. In 1900 Henry E. Swan became proprietor renaming the store Swan + Beal and in 1905 making it H.E Swan + Co. A short time later 3 brothers got involved and the beginning of the longest run of the store name game begins. The 3 brothers were the Millers from Dummerston Vermont. The 3 brothers each ran a men’s clothing store independently. Ernest Miller was in Newport NH, Warren Miller was in Springfield VT and Avery Miller was in Keene. H.E Swan and Avery worked together in Keene and around 1914 is when it gets interesting. There was talk on how Avery acquired the store from Mr. Swan, [with no one to substantiate in my family this statement] but, it is rumored a Polish bet could have decided the evolution into Miller Brothers. William Newton worked at Miller Brothers as manager and a 17 year old man started full time as a clerk/bookkeeper in 1916 and his name was William J. Wichland. Bill Newton managed this store and after Avery Miller’s death, Bill Newton
married Avery’s widow, Edith. Bill Newton added his name in 1921 and that’s the way it still stands today.
Bill Wichland became irreplaceable to MBN, in part, to Bill Newton’s failing eyesight. Bill Wichland became buyer, seller, bookkeeper and overall manager for many years. Bill Wichland purchased the store in 1947 and worked there well into his eighties.
Bill Wichland brought his family into the business starting with his oldest son Bill. Bill worked part time and possibly full time if not for his failing health. Vincent Robert, mostly known as Bob started part time in 1952. Bob began full time in 1956 and worked over 50 years. Bill’s two other sons, John and David each started part time at 13, doing miscellaneous chores and eventually into full time positions. John (now 73) is still actively working and at the time he turned 67 years old, he had well over 50 years experience. Dave just a couple years younger, is also still working and is showing no signs of slowing down. Dave has 50 years of his own in the haberdashery trade. Bob, John and Dave purchased the business in 1975 and over the years, the family tradition continues.
Almost all of their family members have worked or are still working at the store. After Bob’s retirement, one of his son’s, Bruce, became part owner and John’s son Ben started full time. Currently the 4th generation is working and you never know, maybe another generation some day. Miller Bros-Newton expanded in 1996 and had an additional store located in Brattleboro, Vermont, until July of 2018 that closed after John’s retirement. The keys to the success and longevity of Miller Bros-Newton, unquestionably is quality product and exceptional customer service.
Meet the men who uphold our reputation for Fine Men’s Clothing!
Hardworking Haberdasher Retires