Recognising Thomas Henry Miller
Born in Maryland, U.S.A. in 1813 the father of a slave, while Thomas and his mother had been set free. Under “grievous” circumstances” they left the United States, arriving in Owen Sound around 1851””when there was already a colony of about 300 Negroes established.” “Thomas Henry Miller had begun preaching home to home, later holding services in” the old Salvation Army barracks on Third Avenue East.” – Excerpt from Growth of a County Town, Owen Sound: 1900 – 1920.
Emma Scott Naismith, “one of Owen Sound’s most talented daughters” (Sun Times) wrote a sketch on Father Miller that was published in the Toronto Star Weekly in the 1920s. Quote: “Whenever I think of the beauty and courtesy and true politeness, I invariably see a dark figure standing out against the sky of memory – a silhouette of ebony, an old negro slave. Father Miller we called him.” He would come over the hills singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot. Thomas Miller and his wife looked after Emma’s parents farm. She states, “ They made stronger our faith in humanity, both black and white. He was the spiritual influence that held together a little group of colored people, who stood for good citizenship. He taught them to love righteousness and the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
At a camp meeting consisting of “Dan Coker, a slave by trade, and owned by Edward Lloyd in whose slave quarters the celebrated Fred Douglass was born; Nathan Lyon and Joe Young … designated old Young, but was more generally known as “The Man of thunder in the Woods.” He was a freedman and a full cousin of the well-known lay preacher Thomas Miller of Owen Sound, Ontario.” – Broken Shackles, Edited by Peter Meyler
Owen Sound’s first Black church, ‘Little Zion”, was a log building on the Sydenham River, where the city’s Market Square now lies. This congregation was served by a lay preacher, Father Miller, who was respected by the whole community.” – The Freedom Seekers: Blacks in Early Canada – Daniel G. Hill
Thomas Henry Miller was also the originator of the Owen Sound Emancipation Picnic.
Some say “Thomas Henry Miller, Henry Cousby, Edward Patterson and Thomas Green who arrived in the settlement (Owen Sound) sometime around 1851 should all be recognized as the first to arrive. One thing is certain, Mr. Miller holds the distinction of being the first minister at the first British Methodist Episcopal Church in Owen Sound.“ He was one of the first Trustees of the B.M.E. Church in Owen Sound along with James Henson, Isaac Wilson, Samuel Barnes and John Edwards. - Paul White, Owen Sound the Port City:
“His wife predeceased him in 1890 … leaving 4 sons and 5 daughters,” Stephen, Buffalo, New York; Joshua, Hamilton; George and Bill in Owen Sound; Mrs. George Grant, St. Catherines; Mrs. Woodbeck, Clyde, New York; Mrs. R. Barton, Ashbury Park, New Jersey; Mrs. W.Burton and Mrs. Charles Brown, Owen Sound. The pallbearers were Messrs. Wm. Harrison, J. Green, J. Johnston, W. Johnston, A. Douglas and T. Green. “Father” Miller passed away October 30, 1911 at 99 years ole. He “had been a much respected and beloved citizen, by all people.” In a December 19, 1925, Sun-Times article, he was recognized as “Saintly Old “Father” Miller – Best known, most respected of the coloured colony.”