Born January 27, 1848, near Greensburg, Indiana, he earned B.S. and LL. B. degrees from Indiana University and became a prosecuting attorney and judge, as well as a member of the legislature in 1877 and 1878. He was also a member of the Indiana University Board of Trustees. Upon returning to Bloomington from Congress, he resumed his law practice and was again elected judge in 1914.
On May 9, 1872, he married the former Belle Ryors, daughter of Alfred Ryors, and they had two children, Bertha and Daniel Kirkwood Miers. Kirkwood became private secretary to his father, and married the former Blanche Wicks in 1898.