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Biography of J.S.T. Milligan

James Saurin Turretin Milligan

The Reverend James Saurin Turretin Milligan, 2nd Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Southfield, Michigan was born in Ryegate, Vermont on August 25, 1826.  He was the second son of James Milligan, D.D., a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanter’s) church, a lifelong abolitionist, and an associate of William Lloyd Garrison.

J.S.T. Milligan was installed as the pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Southfield, Michigan on November 11, 1853 where he remained until April 11, 1871.

In a letter dated Dec. 5, 1895 to Professor Wilbur H. Siebert, an Underground Railroad historian, Milligan describes how he and the members of his congregation had always sheltered escaped slaves at their homes and farms.  The fugitives came primarily from Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, singly or in groups on their way to freedom in Canada.  Occasionally former slaves would return to live temporarily with the Milligan family in Southfield when they needed work. 

“It was not only difficult to support a family in those days, but it was equally difficult to pay the preacher.”  (Edgar) Many early ministers supplemented their income by farming.  In  “The Covenanter Church of Southfield and Its Early History related by Miss Mary E. Thompson” the author reports that the Rev. J. S. T. Milligan owned a farm at the northwest corner of 11 Mile and Evergreen, where the Birney School is now located.   Plat maps of 1864 indicate that the Milligan farm was in that square mile, but located closer to 12 Mile and Evergreen.

“Although the pastor’s salary for 1858 amounted to only $350, there was still great difficulty in raising that sum. One year, after paying all expenses, the [Southfield church] treasurer reported a balance of $0.37. But that was after one of the better years for there were times when the congregation failed to meet its salary payment.”   (Edgar)

In 1871, J.S.T. Milligan went to North Cedar (now Denison), Kansas and established a church, many from Southfield going with him.  He was installed as pastor of the congregation of North Cedar, Jackson County, Kansas, on October 8, 1872. 

The Rev. J.S.T. Milligan and his wife, Jane Thomson Johnson had 9 children, 8 of whom were born and reared in Southfield.  They, too, accompanied their parents to Kansas.  Milligan spent his time in Kansas until he retired.  J.S.T Milligan died August 12, 1912 in Pittsburgh, PA.  He was buried in Denison, Kansas.

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