Rev. Simon Miller (1819-1875), a Presiding Elder and a Freeman, Served His Community

Robin Foster
by Robin Foster

In looking for Rev. Simon Miller from the historic newspaper article with Richard Harvey Cain (1825-1887), I admit I had to start from scratch. When I wrote Richard Harvey Cain (1825-1887) Served in South Carolina Senate, I knew I would try to find out more on Rev. Simon Miller because he was the one who was chosen Secretary of that Conference. Little did I know I would find how important he was.

First there is an excerpt about him that I found in South Carolina and Black Migration, 1865-1940, In Search of the Promised Land on page 51by George Alfred Devlin:

“The establishment of the A.M.E. Church in the piedmont was greatly facilitated by the success that it experienced in Newberry County. It was there that the Elder Simon Miller and the Reverend James T. Baker started… Elder Miller was born a slave on August 9, 1819. While still a slave he was hired as an assistant chemistry professor at South Carolina College where he copied lectures for students, assisted the Professor in…” and on page 52 I found: “The Reverend James T. Baker, Elder Miller’s assistant, began to preach to the new converts in the white Methodist…”

That’s where I found his birth date, August 8, 1819. While enslaved, he worked as an assistant chemistry professor where one of his duties was copying lectures for students. After enslavement, he was a leader involved in establishing the A.M.E. Church in the piedmont. I had already begun to see were he had established his abilities.

Mass Meeting of Negroes in Columbia

Next, I found another historic article in The Daily Phoenix, but it was hard to read as you can see below (second article).  I found the article in The Charleston Daily News on 20 March 1867. It was entitled, Mass Meeting of Negroes in Columbia. It told of colored citizens who marched through certain streets of Columbia where they were met and given talks by General Wade Hampton, W. F. DeSaussure, Col. W. H. Talley, E. J. Arthur, and James G. Gibbs who had been invited to address them.

Rev. D. Pickett and Beverly Nash, both freedmen, also addressed them that day. Beverly Nash was known as William Beverly Nash born in Virginia in 1822 and brought to Columbia, SC at age 13. You can find the entire article here: Mass Meeting of Negroes in Columbia. Rev. Simon Miller (freeman) opened the proceedings with prayer.

Blog 127 Image 1
The Charleston daily news. [volume] (Charleston, S.C.), 20 March 1867. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026994/1867-03-20/ed-1/seq-1/
Blog 127 Image 2
The daily phoenix. [volume] (Columbia, S.C.), 19 March 1867.Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84027008/1867-03-19/ed-1/seq-2/

Allen University

I found this history at HBCU CONNECT“The Allen University story begins seven years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and five years after the end of the American Civil War. The end of that conflict saw significant expansion of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in the former Confederate States. Allen University grew out of the church’s desire to educate newly freed slaves and to ensure a well-trained clergy for the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The Right Revered John Mifflin Brown and the assembled clergy of the Columbia District of the AME Church, on July 29, 1870, agreed to raise funds to purchase a 150-acre farm in Cokesbury, South Carolina. They did so in hopes of locating a school there that would be the “FIRST INSTITUTION OF LEARNING CONSECRATED TO NEGRO SELF ACTIVITY AND NEGRO MANHOOD,” in the state of South Carolina.

The Reverend Simon Miller led a five-person committee in the actual development of a school on that land. Reverend Miller, who served as Presiding Elder of the Abbeville District of the AME Church and as founding past of Miller Chapel AME Church in Newberry, saw that hope become reality in the establishment of Payne Institute. The school was named in honor of Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne, a native South Carolinian, the founder of Wilberforce University and the driving force behind the quest for an educated clergy and laity in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Payne Institute came into being in spite on objections of white South Carolinians who had a fear of educated African-Americans, and of black and white missionaries from the northern states, who questioned the ability of the AME Church to undertake such an educational enterprise. Through God’s grace, the Reverend Miller presented the deed for the land and buildings to the Columbia Annual Conference of the AME Church in 1871, making Payne Institute the property of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.”

I could not believe it. Rev. Simon Miller was right under my nose all these years. From Cokesbury, SC to being a Presiding Elder of Abbeville District, to founding Miller Chapel AME Church in Newberry, to presenting the land to the Columbia Annual Conference for Payne Institute. I am so glad to know him now.

Buried in Randolph Cemetery

Rev. Simon Miller at FindAGrave.com
Rev. Simon Miller at FindAGrave.com,https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/157507417/simon-miller, accessed 29 Apr 2020.

I even found he was on FindAGrave.com buried in Randolph Cemetery. His wife is also buried there. My great grandma, Lula Johnson Vance is buried there. He came to Columbia a little earlier than my family did, but I am sure my great grandfather knew him. He was a Presiding Elder from Cokesbury, SC who moved eventually to Columbia and his children were educated at Allen University.

Sharpen the Saw

I cannot believe I have taken these few things about Rev. Simon Miller and actually feel like I know him. I have not even found him on any census yet. Would you like to bring him up on the census? Let us know if you find him: Facebook Group.

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