Miller, James Weston (1815–1888)

By: Carole E. Christian

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 23, 2020

James Weston Miller, education supporter and Presbyterian clergyman, eldest of the nine children of Methodists Jeremiah and Elizabeth (Weston) Miller, was born in Erie County, Pennsylvania, on November 15, 1815. Upon graduating with first honors from Waterford Academy in 1835, he received a two-year tuition scholarship to Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. He served as principal of Waterford Academy in 1837–38 and, on September 14, 1840, graduated as valedictorian of Jefferson College. He served there as assistant to President Matthew Brown before taking a position as principal of Grove Academy in Ohio in 1841. In 1843 Miller graduated from Presbyterian Western Theological Seminary in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. He was licensed by the Presbytery of Washington in April 1843 as an Old School Presbyterian clergyman and was ordained by the Presbytery of Steubenville in October 1844. After appointment by the Board of Foreign Missions as a missionary to Texas, Miller arrived in Houston on December 22, 1844. An eight-month fund-raising trip in the United States, which began in July 1845, brought him enough money to build the First Presbyterian Church in Houston. He was installed as pastor there on March 21, 1847. Frequent illness motivated Miller's move in 1850 to Gay Hill in Washington County, where he served as pastor of Mount Prospect Church for thirty-eight years. He was also minister at Washington-on-the-Brazos (1851–76) and Galatia (1877–80), as well as intermittently at Round Top, Brenham, and Chapel Hill. He developed an interest in women's education through his friend Charles Clinton Beatty, president of Steubenville Female Academy in Ohio, and in February 1853 he founded Live Oak Female Seminary. He directed the institution as superintendent until 1888; his sister-in-law, Rebecca Stuart Red, served as principal until 1875. During the Civil War Miller was chaplain of Gen. Thomas N. Waul's Legion, and he taught at Post Oak Academy for two years after the conflict. He had preached to Gay Hill area slaves before emancipation; afterwards he continued his ministry to Blacks and helped to found several Black Baptist and Methodist churches, cemeteries, and schools.

As a member of the Texas Literary Institute (1846–47), Miller made speeches promoting education and encouraging its public support. In 1849 he served on a Presbytery committee which chose Huntsville as the site for Presbyterian Texas College. The same year he chaired a committee that obtained a charter for Austin College from the state legislature. He served as a trustee of Austin College for twenty-five years and, as a member of the original board, helped to formulate the college's charter; he twice refused the presidency of the college because of his dedication to Live Oak Seminary. Austin College granted Miller an honorary doctor of divinity degree in 1873. In 1881 he was a trustee of Stuart Academy, a college founded by his sister-in-law. Miller was a frequent delegate to the Presbyterian General Assembly, which he first attended as a representative of Brazos Presbytery in 1847. He helped organize the Synod of Texas at Austin in 1851 and was selected its first stated clerk. He was elected moderator at synod meetings in Huntsville in 1858 and Dallas in 1876 and was chosen to deliver the twenty-fifth anniversary sermon of the Texas Synod. He married Elizabeth McKennan of West Middletown, Pennsylvania, in 1847; they had two sons. After her death in 1850 he wed Elizabeth Scott Stuart of Bethany College, West Virginia, on October 13, 1852; she managed the boarding department at Live Oak Seminary. With Elizabeth, Miller had two sons and three daughters, who assisted in running the seminary. Miller died at Gay Hill on April 29, 1888. On October 27, 1933, a library-museum was dedicated at his home, Oak Lodge.

Richard F. Hughes, "Old School Presbyterians: Eastern Invaders of Texas, 1830–1865," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 74 (January 1971). Robert F. Miller, "Early Presbyterianism in Texas as Seen by Rev. James Weston Miller, D.D," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 19 (October 1915). Mabelle Purcell, Two Texas Female Seminaries (Wichita Falls, Texas: University Press, 1951). William Stuart Red, A History of the Presbyterian Church in Texas (Austin: Steck, 1936).


  • Education
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Advocates
  • Religion
  • Presbyterian

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Carole E. Christian, “Miller, James Weston,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 23, 2020