Millar was born about 1822 in Kent, England. He was employed by Captain W. C. Grant for a term of five years in 1849 and was one of a contingent of between 60 and 80 emigrant labourers [60 according to Judith Hudson Beattie and 80 according to John Sebastian Helmcken] that arrived on board the Norman Morison on March 24, 1850. It's not clear if Finlayson and Douglas expected such a large contingent and the makeshift accommodation combined with unseasonably cold and wet weather resulted in much dissatisfaction amongst the new arrivals. On April 15 Finlayson wrote: "Some of the new recruits from England refused to work for a part of this day because it was raining." Six weeks later, a party of seven men, including Millar, deserted. Apparently they were recaptured later the same day. Nevertheless, Millar deserted once again in July and headed south to Nisqually and Fort Vancouver along with Samuel Robertson.