The West
The West

Henry Miller in The West

Henry Miller (1827-1916) was a California cattle baron and a litigant in Lux v. Haggin, a seminal State Supreme Court case establishing California water law. Born Heinrich Alfred Kreiser in Germany, he immigrated to America in 1844 and worked as a butcher before sailing for California in 1949. He adopted the name "Henry Miller" after purchasing a "non-transferable" ticket for San Francisco from a young shoe-salesman of that name.

In San Francisco, Miller built a thriving meat business. In 1858, he merged with his chief competitor, Charles Lux, an immigrant from Alsace. Together they accumulated more than 1.4 million acres throughout California, Oregon, and Nevada.

In 1879, Miller and Lux sued James Ben Ali Haggin for violating their riparian rights to the water flowing from the Kern River through their lands in the Buena Vista Slough. Haggin, a land speculator and farmer with more than 100,000 acres of land upstream of the Miller-Lux holdings, argued that rights of appropriation allowed him to siphon off a major portion of the Kern's volume for irrigation. A lower court held in Haggin's favor, but upon appeal to the California State Supreme Court, Miller and Lux prevailed. The ruling established the "California Doctrine" stating that while riparian water rights inhere in the land, farmers and factory owners could claim rights of appropriation if their use served a beneficial purpose and if their use pre-dated the use of riparian claimants downstream.

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