Four Generations of the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family
Columbus' Irwin-Sweeney-Miller family have been active in business, religion, politics, art, and philanthropy locally, nationally, and internationally. See the Indiana Historical Society's Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family Collection finding aid for more information about individual family members.
The First Generation: Joseph Ireland Irwin (1824-1910) and Harriet Clementine Glanton (1830-1908)
Joseph Ireland Irwin and Harriet Clementine Glanton married in 1850. Together they had six children although only two, Linnie Irwin and William Glanton Irwin, lived to adulthood.
Harriet Glanton Irwin was active in the Tabernacle Christian Church and preferred to avoid public affairs. The Glantons were among the first families of European descent to settle in Bartholomew County. Her father, James Jeter Glanton, was a farmer and owned Glanton Furniture Company.
Joseph I. Irwin moved to Columbus from a nearby farm in 1846 and began work as a salesman in a dry goods store. Just four years later he purchased the store, thus beginning his career as a savvy businessman. A fortuitous offshoot of the store was Irwin's Bank which he founded in 1871. (For more information on his business ventures, see the Businesses section of the exhibit.) Mr. Irwin, an active member of the Republican Party, chaired the Indiana State Central Committee from 1862 to 1874 and served as a Republican National Convention delegate in 1872 and 1884. In Columbus, he donated land for a city park and public library. His service and philanthropic work included being a founding member of Tabernacle Christian Church, the president of Northwestern Christian University (now Butler University), and the director of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans Home in Indiana.
The Second Generation: Zachary Taylor Sweeney (1849-1926), Linnie Irwin (1859-1944), and William Glanton Irwin (1866-1943)
Of Harriet Glanton and Joseph I. Irwin's six children, only Linnie Irwin and William Glanton Irwin lived to adulthood.
Linnie Irwin married Zachary Taylor Sweeney in 1875. Sweeney was the pastor of Tabernacle Christian Church which the Irwin family attended. Together they had three children, Nettie, Joseph, and Elsie.
Linnie was involved in various family businesses by serving as a board member of Irwin's Bank; Irwin Union Trust Company; Indianapolis, Columbus and Southern Traction Company; and Union Starch and Refining Company. She was also an active member of Tabernacle Christian Church, and she contributed financially to various Christian-affiliated causes including the Christian Foundation, the Butler School of Religion (now Christian Theological Seminary), and building fund for First Christian Church.
William Glanton, who attended Butler College (now Butler University), began his business career helping his father in Irwin's Bank. Like his father, William Glanton began or invested in numerous businesses, most notably Cummins Engine Company. He was also involved in politics at the state and national level working with three Indiana governors and and serving as a Republican National Convention delegate between 1916 and 1936. He joined his sister Linnie in supporting Christian organizations, and he served as a trustee for the Indianapolis Art Association. William Glanton did not marry.
The Third Generation: Hugh Thomas Miller (1867-1947), Nettie Irwin Sweeney (1876-1960), Joseph Irwin Sweeney (1880-1900), and Elsie Irwin Sweeney (1888-1972)
Linnie and Zachary T. Sweeney had three children -- Nettie, Joseph, and Elsie.
In 1900, Nettie Irwin Sweeney married Hugh Thomas Miller. Miller grew up in neighboring Johnson County and attended Butler College (now Butler University). It was while teaching at Butler that Miller met Sweeney. Together they had two children, Elizabeth Clementine and Joseph Irwin.
Hugh Th. Miller would eventually become president of Irwin's Bank (later Irwin Union Bank), director of Union Starch and Refining Company, director of the Indianapolis, Columbus & Southern Traction Company, and director and chairman of the Board of Cummins Engine Company. He served in the Indiana General Assembly from 1902 to 1903 and was the state lieutenant governor from 1904 to 1909. He twice ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate. As with other Irwin-Sweeney-Miller family members he served on the board of Tabernacle Christian Church (now First Christian Church), the Christian Foundation, and Butler University.
Nettie graduated from Butler in 1898 and married Hugh Thomas Miller two years later. She was involved in family businesses including serving on the board of Union Starch and Refining Company, Irwin Union Bank, and Cummins Engine Company. An active church member, she taught Sunday School at Tabernacle Christian Church (now First Christian Church). She, like her husband, served on the board of Butler University and the subcommittee for the School of Religion (now Christian Theological Seminary). She was on the board of the Christian Foundation and was the first board chairman of the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation.
Joseph Irwin Sweeney, the second child of Z.T. and Linnie Sweeney, was a student at Butler College when he drowned at the age of nineteen.
Elsie Irwin Sweeney attended Smith College and received her degree in piano. With her lifelong interest in music, she served on the board of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and of the Friends of Music at Indiana University. She was a benefactor of the Indianapolis Symphony orchestra and the Indiana University School of Music. She was involved with the Bartholomew County Historical Society and the Indiana Historical Society. Like other family members, Elsie Sweeney played an active role in religious and philanthropic aspects of life. In addition to teaching Sunday School at Tabernacle Christian Church (now First Christian Church), she was engaged in the ecumenical movement and held roles in Church Women United and the Council on Christian Unity. She served on the board of the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation.
The Fourth Generation: Robert Stone Tangeman (1910-1964), Elizabeth Clementine Miller (1905-1996), Joseph Irwin Miller (1909-2004), and Xenia Simons (1917-2008)
Elizabeth Clementine Miller and Joseph Irwin Miller were the children of Nettie and Hugh Thomas Miller.
Clementine Miller, like her aunt Elsie Sweeney, attended Smith College and was passionate about music. She continued the family tradition of teaching Sunday School and of being involved with the Christian Foundation and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Her experience as a Red Cross worker in Italy during the Second World War introduced her to the Italian Girl Guides, inspiring her later work for the US national Girl Scouts organization and the International Division. She gave generously to the Emma Willard School (her high school alma mater) and to Smith College. In 1951, she married Robert Stone Tangeman who had a son John from an earlier marriage.
Robert Tangeman was a professor of piano, organ, and musicology, and he taught at the Indiana University School of Music, Union Theological Seminary, and the Juilliard School. After his death in 1964, Clementine and her brother J. Irwin Miller, with support form the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation, helped to establish the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University.
J. Irwin Miller attended Yale University and Oxford's Balliol College. After serving in the Navy Air Corps during the Second World War, Miller would lead Cummins Engine Company and Irwin Union Bank. Miller envisioned the Columbus community would "come to be, not the cheapest but the very best of its size in this country." To accomplish this, Miller worked to improve not only the community's built environment but also civil rights and labor relations. Through his association with the National Council of Churches, Miller was involved in the Civil Rights movement and helped to organize both the March on Washington and the National Conference on Race and Religion in 1963. As chairman of Cummins, he established the Cummins Engine Architecture Foundation, a program in which the Foundation recommends architects and provides for funds for an architect's design fees for selected public projects. Today, Columbus is recognized as center of modern architecture and design with works by internationally renowned designers. Miller married Xenia Simons in 1943; together they had five children: Margaret, Catherine, Elizabeth, Hugh, and William.
Xenia Simons, born in Morgantown, Indiana, grew up and went to school in Columbus. While working at Irwin Union Bank, she attended business school with a loan from her future mother-in-law Nettie Sweeney Miller. While working at Cummins Engine Company, she joined the Office Committee Union and was a member of the union's bargaining committee. It was during a bargaining meeting that she met J. Irwin Miller. Xenia Miller was a founding member of North Christian Church and served on the board of the Christian Foundation and Christian Theological Seminary. With her husband, she collected modern art. She had a love for folk art and shared architect Alexander Girard's passion for crêches from around the world. She was involved in historic preservation projects in Columbus, overseeing the restoration of several nineteenth-century homes. Her commitment to the arts led to her involvement in the Indiana Arts Commision, the Indiana Endowment for the Arts, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and Columbus Pro Musica.
The Family's History on Display
In the small conference room adjoining Mr. Miller's office is a roll-top desk by A.H. Andrews & Co. Displayed on the desk are plaques, paperweights, and other memorabilia documenting the lives and businesses of the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller family.
Although most of the objects are connected to J. Irwin Miller, many offer insight into other family members. Hugh Thomas Miller, J. Irwin Miller's father, is represented by a gavel with an elegantly inscribed metal band reading "Senate 1905 Hugh Th. Miller Lieut. Governor." A Robert Indiana LOVE paperweight has an inscription on its base reading "To Xenia Miller From the Visitors Center In Appreciation April 24, 1980." An abstract metal statuette recognizes the family's patronage of the it arts; the plaque reads, "Mayor's Art Award Sweeney - Miller - Tangeman Family Columbus, Indiana 1983."
J. Irwin Miller's commitment to architecture and design excellence is represented by a plaque from the National Building Museum and a silver cube for "The Tiffany Award for the Encouragement of American Design." Miller's involvement in community design projects is evident in a clear acrylic paperweight containing miniature documents related to Columbus city planning and redevelopment. The silver-colored bear statuette on a wooden base with an inscription in Cyrillic script and dated 1962 seems likely connected to US visits of Russian church delegates while he served as president of the National Council of Churches.
The significance of objects such as the leopard's head, the Pre-Columbian shoe, and the brass turtle remains a mystery.