Benjamin Miller

275 Thames Street, Empty Lot Across from Parking Lot at 24 Horton Street East.


Benjamin Miller settled in London after running away from his enslavement in Missouri and served as a spiritual leader of the community.

His story comes from Benjamin Drew’s 1856 book, The Refugee: Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada.


I came from St. Louis, Mo., about twenty years ago. I had the privilege of purchasing my freedom, and had paid of the $500 asked, all but $220: then I had good reasons to believe, from information which I received, that after all was paid, I was to be carried down the river and sold. I then made for the North. I was a slave, to be sure, but was doing business as boot and shoemaker. I learned the trade while I was paying $120 per annum for my time. If I had been sure of my free papers, I could have paid the $220, and would have been doing a good business there. My partner was a free man.

I have lived in and about London ever since I came out. My property here is worth about $1,800. It consists partly of a house and land. I have brought up a large family–have a wife and eight children living,–have buried ten–three in St. Louis, the remainder here.

I feel thankful that I can mention that I have given a part of my time to the spiritual interests of the people here without pay: having served them as pastor in the Methodist denomination some years.

I have travelled in all the principal places in Canada West, and, generally speaking, the colored people are doing well: thank God, uncommon well, considering the way they came. Men who at home know nothing but to come and go just as they are bid, here go into business, and do well, very well. They are temperate men, considering the way they are brought up.

We that begin here illiterate men, have to go against wind and tide. We have a learned, enterprising people to contend with; we have a colder climate than we have been used to, to contend with; we have our own ignorance and poverty to contend with. It takes a smart man to do all that: but many do it, all make a living, and some do lay up money. I asked one of our old white ‘squires, if he ever saw a colored man that was well, in this township, begging. He said, No.