The Miller Story
When Hiram Miller moved to the Brunswick area in 1833, he was a strange new breed of settler. Hiram, one of the foremost leaders in the township upon education matters, believed it was his religious duty to aid runaway slaves.
That didn't please his neighbors much - a good many of them being members of the Ku Klux Klan. There was quite an active Klan based in Medina for many years.
A historian of the family was Leonard Miller who lived with his wife Helen and three boys, Kenneth, Ronald and Gary, on Catherine Drive. Leonard kept all the information possible about the family history which takes place on West 130th Street, on the Hinckley side, near Laurel Road.
It began when Hiram talked his father, Lyman, into moving from their farm and hotel in Henrietta, New York. The Miller's hotel was known as the "Coffee House" and they ran it for 20 years. Lyman was a minuteman in the war of 1812. He was married to the former Celia Wheeler. The Wheelers settled in America in the early part of 1700 in Massachusetts, so the family has long ties in this country.
According to the History of Ohio of 1881, here's what transpired in 1833.
Lyman and Hiram Barlow Miller, father and son, came to Hinckley in the spring of 1833 from their home in Monroe County, New York, to view the lands in the township. They purchased 650 acres in the western part of Hinckley, returned to their home in the east and in a few months came back with their families to settle. The men had engaged the services of builder Asabel Welton to erect a cabin for them, but Welton was unable to find the exact spot - and he didn't want to make a mistake - so the cabin wasn't ready when the families arrived.
The Millers came by Erie Canal to Buffalo, across Lake Erie to Cleveland then by wagon to Brunswick where they hired Thomas James to pilot them through the woods to their new land.
Hiram (born in 1807) was married in 1829 to Mariah Deming (born in 1808). The couple had three children, Cordelia, 5; Delight, 3; and Carthusia, 1, when they arrived at the homestead which they had to clear by hand. The Lyman Millers died in the homestead after living to see the unbroken forests blossom into fertile fields. Six more children were born to the Hiram Millers while living in Hinckley. They were Sherman, Marietta, Betsey, Laura, Franklin (who served in the 150th ONG for 100 days during the Civil War) and Harvey T. (who was in the Barber Sharpshooters throughout the war). Harvey was the father of Floyd who was the father of historian, Leonard.
Hiram, in addition to being a well-respected citizen on educational matters, was an efficient worker in the temperance cause and was a member of the Meridian Sun Lodge of Richfield. The History of 1881 goes on to tell about this work in the area of slavery.
Prior to the war, he gained an extended reputation from his prominent connection with the underground railroad. Even before the enactment of the fugitive slave law in 1850, he had deemed it his religious duty to use his best efforts in aiding runaway slaves to escape. But upon the passage of the law, believing as he did that Divine approval would sanction its violation and avoidance, he made it a part of his religious duty to assist the frightened and fleeing slaves to Canada.
Some residents of his neighborhood were hostile to his movements of humanity, and often sought to discover slaves in his care in hopes of getting the promised reward. But no runaway slave who sought his protection was ever captured. "Why," said he, "Mr. Reporter, I've had as high as five runaways eating at my table at one time for each of whom a reward of $500 was offered. One day, while working in the field, suddenly a gigantic negro rose from the grass in front of me and said, 'Oh massa, can you tell me whar Nigger Miller lives?' 'Why, bless your soul, you poor fellow,' said I, 'I'm Nigger Miller.' 'Oh, massa Miller' exclaimed the delighted slave while his face lighted with joy, 'You look better to me than money.'"
Hiram traveled with Joe Mason, a "gifted colored man" to lecture in this and adjoining counties about the sins of slavery, finding mixed reaction and even violent reaction in some places. Miller, for his efforts (says the history) deserves to be classed with such men as "Old" John Brown, Owen Lovejoy and others who fought for years against the degrading and cruel influences of slavery.
Members of the family formed an association in 1929 to keep alive the history and tradition of Hiram Miller, and in 1931, a bronze plate was cast and dedicated. In 1948, the 12-foot-square plot of land was deeded to the Medina County Historical Society and can be seen, though often wee infested, just north of the corner of Laurel and West 130th Street on the Hinckley side. The memorial commemorates his help to over 1,000 people.
The families of Lyman and Hiram Miller are buried in Townline Cemetery. Harvey is buried in the Bennett's Corners Cemetery.
Leonard recalled visiting his aunt, a Widdifield (members of that family still reside here) who ran the telephone company in Brunswick while it was locally operated, and his grandmother, who lived on Pearl Road across from what is now Walt's Pizza. His aunt's first home was on Grafton at Stop 66 of the Interurban.
Family stories abound, including that of Robert E. Lee coming to hunt wolves in Hinckley with his brother Seth and staying at the home of Hiram Miller.