Underground Railroad: People of Miller Grove


The Miller Family

The community of free African Americans in Pope County, Illinois came to be known as Miller Grove, presumably named for one of four families that settled the area.

In 1844, the Miller family helped establish a small community of rural dispersed farmsteads. Harrison Miller - the founder and patriarch of the town - brought his wife Lucinda and their three children from a Tennessee plantation to the woodlands of Pope County.

Although Harrison and his immediate family could not read nor write, education was important to him and the community of Miller Grove. Harrison served as an executor for a nearby former slave owner’s estate; later he became the owner and the land was used for the Mt. Gilead African Methodist Episcopal Church as well as a school. Sadly, the original log church burnt down in 1918.

In 1860, the census showed Julia Singleton as a Black schoolteacher. Julia was a freed African American from Peter Singleton, one of the four original Miller Grove families. Archeologists recently found writing slates at Miller-connected sites.

Harrison and Lucinda’s eldest son, Bedford, arrived in southern Illinois as a child and continued to live in the Miller Grove community until his death in 1911. Bedford married Abby Gill and they had four daughters. Their graves can be seen in the cemetery among a hundred others, the only lasting element of Miller Grove in today’s Shawnee National Forest.

Other Millers included Andrew Miller and his sister, Matilda, who moved from a Tennessee plantation after being granted freedom from their owner.


Cheryl LaRoche, Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: the Geography of Resistance

Vickie Devenport and Mary R. McCorvie, “Dear Brother Tappan: Missionaries in Egypt and the Underground Railroad in the Shawnee Hills of Southern Illinois.” 

“Miller Grove, Pope County, IL – Underground Railroad,” http://www.southernmostillinoishistory.net/miller-grove-community.html

This information about the Underground Railroad is part of a geo-located multi-forest interpretive program. Please contact the U.S. Forest Service Washington Office Recreation, Heritage, and Volunteer Resources program leadership with any questions or to make changes.  SGV – Recreation Data and Information Coordinator.

At a Glance

Information Center: The U.S. Forest Service has created this multi-Forest interpretive program to highlight people and places along the historic Underground Railroad. Some of these sites are “virtual” locations and are intended to provoke thoughts and conversation but may not have anything physical present on the ground.  These locations are generally relevant to the topics presented on the webpage.  Please use caution when traveling to these remote locations and consult your local Forest Service office for more details. All of the sites highlighted in this program can be seen by visiting http://www.fs.fed.us/ivm/ and searching within the magnifying glass for “Underground Railroad.”

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