Southfield in Oakland County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
The Covenanter Church / The Underground Railroad
This Page in Our History
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.
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 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. ¾ 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 (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 RR • Churches & Religion •
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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.