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Southfield in Oakland County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad

This Page in Our History

 
 
The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad Marker image. Click for full size.
By Joel Seewald, December 30, 2019
1. The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad Marker
Inscription.  
The Covenanter Church
Southfield Reformed Presbyterian Church

In 1834, Scots-Irish pioneer settlers from New York established the Church in Southfield Township. The Reverend James Neill served as the first pastor from 1842 until 1851. The second pastor was the Reverend J.S.T. Milligan who led the congregation from 1853 to 1871. The membership grew significantly during Milligan's tenure.

The congregation worshipped in homes and barns until the first church was built. Since 1838 this land has been home to the Southfield Reformed Presbyterian Church. With the need for a larger more permanent worship facility, the current church building was constructed in 1861. John Parks donated the land for the church and the cemetery.

Some the founding members of the Church were early families of Southfield Township, including the Stewarts, Parks, Erwins and Thompsons. David Stewart, at nearly 70 years of age, went from house to house to raise money for seats in the first church. He was the first to be buried in the cemetery. This cemetery is the final resting place for a number of Southfield's early settlers.

The
The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad Marker - left image image. Click for full size.
2. The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad Marker - left image
September 24, 1858

Dear Friend Garrison,
Our first appointment, outside of Detroit, was in Southfield, where we availed ourselves of the hearty cooperation of Rev. JST Milligan and his faithful band of Covenanters
Yours,
for the speedy downfall of slavery,
William C. Nell

To: William Lloyd Garrison
c/o The Liberator
Boston, Mass
Underground Railroad

Evidence of the Movement in Southfield

One of the earliest religious organizations to take a firm position against slavery was the Covenanter Church. In the early 1800s, the Covenanters required all members of the church to free their enslaved African Americans.

Utilizing the Southfield church as an underground railroad station, the congregation and the Reverend Milligan became active participants in the movement. As agents, activists and conductors, they helped fugitive slaves escape to Canada.

Reverend Milligan was the son of an influential minister and born into an ardent abolitionist family. He frequently housed fugitive slaves at his farm. One freedom-seeker, J. Sella Martin, stayed six weeks at Milligan's home. Milligan called Martin the smartest man he ever met.

The Southfield Reformed Presbyterian Church played a vital role in our community. Southfield has always been at the forefront of community integration. From prior to the Civil War to initiating the first Martin Luther King Day Peace Walk on January 20, 1986. This is our legacy.
 
Erected by City of Southfield.
 
Location. 42° 29.066′ N, 83° 14.454′ W. Marker is in Southfield, Michigan, in Oakland County. Marker
The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad Marker - right image image. Click for full size.
3. The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad Marker - right image
December 5, 1895

Dear Professor Wilbur H. Siebert,

I was first settled as pastor in Southfield, Michigan, 16 miles from Detroit, in a good but retired community of people, mainly abolitionists and had in my house or in my congregation always a supply of escaped slaves. They would come from Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri, and sometimes singly, sometimes in groups of from two to ten into the keeping of the faithful, who either sent them to me or to Canada for shelter and employment.

They frequently returned to me from Canada when wages were low and workers superabundant. Slave-hunters oftem came to Detroit in pursuit of valuable slaves. J. Sella Martin, a slave from Alabama, was pursued to Chicago and then to Detroit and a reward of $1,000 offered for his capture. He was six weeks in my house and was the smartest man I have ever met. I put him through a theological course in that time. He afterward became a very eloquent Baptist minister in Boston
is on Evergreen Road, on the right when traveling north. Marker is 0.2 miles south of West Eleven Mile Road and Interstate 696. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 26550 Evergreen Road, Southfield MI 48076, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Memorial Marker (approx. 0.4 miles away); Mary Thompson House (approx. half a mile away); Mary Thompson Farm (approx. half a mile away); Lawrence Institute of Technology (approx. mile away); Historical Site (approx. 1.1 miles away); Southfield United Presbyterian Church (approx. 1.1 miles away); Pioneer Cemetery (approx. 1.2 miles away); Church of Saint Bede (approx. 1.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Southfield.
 
Also see . . .
1. Biography of J.S.T. Milligan. Biography of James Saurin Turretin Milligan on The Underground Railroad in Southfield, Michigan website. (Submitted on January 3, 2020, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.) 

2. A Brief History of Our Congregation. History of the congregation on the Southfield Reformed Presbyterian Church's website. (Submitted on January 3, 2020, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.) 

3. William Lloyd Garrison. Wikipedia article (Submitted on January 3, 2020, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.) 

4. William Cooper Nell. Wikipedia article (Submitted on January 3, 2020, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.) 

5. Wilbur Henry Siebert
The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad Marker image. Click for full size.
By Joel Seewald, December 30, 2019
4. The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad Marker
View looking to the north along Evergreen Road.
. Wikipedia article (Submitted on January 3, 2020, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.) 

6. J. Sella Martin. Wikipedia article (Submitted on January 3, 2020, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.) 
 
Categories. Abolition & Underground RRChurches & Religion
 
The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad Marker image. Click for full size.
By Joel Seewald, December 30, 2019
5. The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad Marker
View of the Southfield Reformed Presbyterian Church building. The cemetery is on the left side of the church building.
 

More. Search the internet for The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 3, 2020. This page originally submitted on January 3, 2020, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan. This page has been viewed 33 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on January 3, 2020, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.
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