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What I've Learned, | Dec 29, 2016

Bill Miller, autobiographer

This outdoor enthusiast has spent his life appreciating the wilderness and community in Brown County.

Bill Miller, pictured here as he appears in his autobiography Son of a Coal Miner's Daughter, shares his passion for the people, wilderness and art of Brown County. /Photo courtsey of Bill Miller

Raised as a farm boy in Brown County, William “Bill” Spencer Miller, 78, joined the Peace Corps after graduating from college, traveling from Indonesia and Thailand to the Philippines.  After returning to the Indiana 10 years later, Miller bought and restored a house built in 1879 in Elkinsville, where he and his family have lived remotely ever since. He recently documented his experiences in his autobiography Son of a Coal Miner's Daughter. Miller shares with 812 what he’s learned about his home in Southern Indiana.

There’s no place like home.

I’ve lived in places that many people would call “paradise,” and while Indonesia and the Philippines were beautiful, there’s no place like Brown County. It has always been and always will be a wonderful place to come back to. It’s a place people dream of living — the wilderness, the art and the community.

Brown County’s biggest asset is its people.

The people who came here in the 1900s were able to establish an art colony because they were welcomed with open arms. There’s a wonderful mix of people. That’s why I came back after traveling. I always wanted to raise my children here.

Engage yourself with the outdoors.

I grew up hunting and fishing, and this is the perfect place to be outdoors. We have Lake Monroe, Brown County State Park and Yellowwood State Forest. There are 50 or 60 thousand acres of public land neighboring my house alone.

Midwestern hospitality is real.

When I started restoring my house, people would stop by and offer to help because they were so happy to see somebody trying to save it. I had lots of help from neighbors and friends who would encourage me. There were many times I needed that to get through the process. It was a challenge, but it was so rewarding.

You’re nothing without your history.

I see so much of the history of Brown County being torn down and not preserved. It breaks my heart. It’s a big job to take care of history, but it’s something we need to do. Restoring my house gave me the opportunity to be outdoors and preserve that piece of history. 

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