Dr. John Miller was born July 24, 1825, in York District,
South Carolina; entered Erskine College in 1840; graduated in 1843; and
was licensed in 1845; preached in Virginia in 1845, and came on horseback
from Virginia to Lebanon Church, Wilcox County, Alabama, in 1846, and was
installed pastor the same year. In 1846 he was married to Miss Sarah
Pressly, youngest daughter of Dr. Samuel Pressly and Elizabeth Hearst Pressly.
In 1853 and 1854 he conducted a large school at Society Hill, in Wilcox
County, along with his pastoral duties, and in 1855 was elected President
of Wilcox Female Institute, at Camden, Alabama. In 1858 he was elected
President of Erskine College, but declined to accept. He was at different
times moderator of the Synod, twice delegate of his church to the General
Assembly of the Presbyterian church, and was member of a committee of his
own church to revise the metrical version of the Psalms. He died
June 3, 1878, pastor of his first and only charge, at Oak Hill, Wilcox
County, Alabama, over which he was the under shepherd for about thirty
years. He left a widow, since deceased, and five sons and three daughters,
viz.: Hon. J. N. Miller and Hon. B. M. Miller, Camden, Alabama; Hon. J.
N. Miller, Birmingham, Alabama; Mr. James P. Miller, Rosebud, Alabama;
Mrs. Barnette M. Pogue, Gadsen, Alabama; Mrs. A. G. Brice, Chester, South
Carolina; Mrs. Janie M. Dale, Oak Hill, Alabama, and David P. Miller, Camden,
Alabama, since deceased. The degrees of A. M. and D. D. were conferred
on Dr. Miller by his Alma Mater. In 1866 he purchased the Wilcox
Female Institute, at Camden, Alabama, and for five years made it one of
the first institutions of learning in South Alabama. At the end of
five years, he returned to his people at Oak Hill, as pastor.
During the war he visited
his young men in the army at Port Hudson, in Mississippi, an preached for
them for several months, and the "Wilcox True Blues" presented him with
a handsome family Bible, which he greatly prized.
He was a loyal and liberal
friend of his Alma Mater. He had by virtue of subscription to the
ante-bellum endowment of Erskine College a perpetual scholarship in the
College and until that endowment failed by the disasters of the war, he
kept a worthy young man there as the beneficiary of this privilege.
The forgoing constitutes the
outline of the work and achievements of Dr. Miller. When he graduated,
Dr. Ebenezer Pressly, then President of Erskine, said, as Dr. Miller, a
boy of eighteen years, took his seat after delivering his graduation speech,
"I expect to hear from that boy." Dr. Miller in his youthful ministry
wrote his sermons in blank verse - he was not only of a philosophic but
poetic turn of mind. Hon. W. A. Lee, of Abbeville, South Carolina,
a classmate of Dr. Miller, in writing a sketch of the class of 1843, said
of the subject of this sketch, "He was a poet and a genius, with a mind
singularly acute and philosophical, whose early promise has been amply
verified in the achievements of after life. He came to Due West in
the first flush of his early youth and bright with the glow of health and
intellect and remained a model student to the close of his Academic career.
After years of labor in pulpit, school room and college, as has been herein
before recorded, he spent the closing years of his life as Pastor of his
first and only charge, among the scenes of his early labors and in sweet
accord with the youthful and dearest associations of his life."
Dr. Miller was not only a
scholar, but an orator. It is recorded of him that while he taught
in school and college, he never ceased to preach each Sabbath, and that
he was a man of great and recognized pulpit powers. His wonderful
research and earnestness, his resist less force and amazing profoundness,
attracted up to his death great admiration. "He loved the work of
Pastor. He was devoted to the cause of the risen Savior." His
people not only respected but loved him. He labored for them a lifetime,
and the church he founded at Oak Hill stands as a memorial. It has
stood like a rock in the cause of right now near a half century, true and
loyal, not to Christ and his cause alone, but loyal to the distinct features
of our denomination. Dr. Miller was too broad a man to be sectarian,
but he was too true to be disloyal. It takes a special form and quality
of loyal and moral courage to stand almost alone on the frontier for the
peculiar tenets of our faith. With our ministers in the West, there
is no touch of elbows as in the East.
In the wall of the church
at Oak Hill, to the right of the pulpit he occupied so long, is a marble
tablet with the inscription: "To Rev. John Miller, D.D. Our
Pastor for 30 years. The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance."
Rev. A. J. Witherspoon, D.D.,
himself then a citizen of Alabama, in giving an account of Dr. Miller's
visit in 1875 to the Presbyterian General Assembly at New Orleans, as delegate
from our church, said "that Dr. Miller was one of the foremost men in the
pulpit of Alabama." When the history of old Lebanon on Prairie Creek,
and Bethel at Oak Hill, and female education in Wilcox County, and Associate
Reformed Presbyterianism in Alabama, and the great overshadowing cause
of the gospel truth in Alabama, are fully recorded, the name of Dr. John
Miller, D.D., will be interwoven with them all.
-from the Centennial History of the Associate Reformed
Presbyterian Church, 1905