Wild as a Hog: Who Was Cullman’s Newton Mack “Hog” Miller?

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Ancestry.com

HOLLY POND – Newton Mack “Hog” Miller was considered to be an industrious entrepreneur. He was typical of the early settlers who brought their families to Cullman County, Ala., in the late 1800s. Born in Georgia in December 1854, he was a farmer, saw mill operator, and probably the largest distiller of corn whiskey in the eastern part of Cullman County. At one time, he owned more than 600 acres of land along Duck River near Holly Pond. Many tenant farmers and saw mill laborers lived on his farm. It is said that he developed a type of voucher system for paying his employees. They could use the vouchers to purchase necessities from the local farm store or supply house.

Mack moved his family to Cullman County, Ala., from Haralson County, Ga., sometime after the death of his father in 1892. His mother, Mary Powell Miller, had died in Haralson County in about 1880. 

There’s an old family story that has been passed down throughout the years that proves that Mack was not a man to mess with. According to the story, Mack was leaving the Haralson County Courthouse one day when he saw a man untie his horse (some say mule), then slapped the animal on the rump to make it run away. 

“That’s a durn sorry thing to do to another man’s animal!” Mack fumed, and from there a fuss ensued. The discussion got so bad, it turned into a feud.

“I challenge you to a dual,” the other man hollered and spat. “Do you want to use guns or knives?” he bellowed.

“Knives!” Mack growled, digging into his pocket and grabbing his knife.  

There are different versions of the story that explain what followed, and all of them end with the man dying. There was an inquest or hearing conducted; however, Mack was never charged with a crime.

After coming to Cullman, Mack became known throughout the area as “Hog” Miller. One possible reason was because he kept some of the best hog breeding stock in the county. It was extremely common to see farmers on the road carrying his sow to visit one of Mack’s boars.

“Where are ya going?” the farmer would be asked.

“Carrying the hog-to-Millers,” he’d usually reply. Eventually the response was shortened to just “Hog Millers.” 

In the early 1900s, entertainment and social activities were very limited, especially in the county. Families worked hard throughout the week and reserved Saturday and Sunday afternoons for fun and relaxation. In the Holly Pond area, there were two places where people tended to gather, both old and young alike. One of these was the home of Dr. H. E. Watts located in the town of Holly Pond. The other was the home of Hog Miller located a few miles west of town.

The people that met at the Watts home were well chaperoned. There was lots of croquet tournaments played and horseshoe champions crowned. 

Things were a lot wilder at the Miller’s place. Not only were there horseshoes, but also horse racing and boxing events where the contestants wore gloves – sometimes. Some people participated in drinking contests on Saturday nights. The Miller farm had a power plant that provided lighting for the home and grounds that allowed festivities to continue late into the evening. A baseball game seems to have been the main event for both days of the weekend.

Many of the young men and women of the community were strictly forbidden by their parents from attending the events at the Miller farm as they did not feel that their children should be exposed to such events and the associated activities. 

Even though Mack “Hog” Miller was considered a little rowdy at the time, he was respected by the people of the area and appears to be a man of good standing in the community. As one person put it, “You didn’t have to like Hog, but you had better have some respect for him.”