MILES, ELIJAH, merchant, farmer, army and militia officer, politician, and magistrate; b. 16 Jan. 1753 in New Milford, Conn., son of Justus Miles and Hannah Olmstead; m. first 1779 Frances Cornwell of Hempstead, N.Y., and they had eight children; m. secondly 3 Aug. 1800 Elizabeth Harding of Maugerville, N.B., and they had two sons; d. 26 May 1831 in Maugerville.
Elijah Miles was educated at the public school in New Milford and at the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War was engaged in farming there. It is not known when he became a soldier but in 1776 he was serving as a captain in the 3rd battalion of De Lancey’s Brigade, a loyalist unit; with the reorganization of the brigade in 1781 his battalion was renumbered the 2nd. Miles’s elder brother Samuel avoided service with the rebels first by keeping out of the way and then by hiring a substitute before fleeing to Long Island in 1776. When the war ended, the two brothers went in 1783 with other provincial troops and loyalist refugees to the future colony of New Brunswick.
Samuel Miles was to settle in Saint John, where he set up as a merchant and later served as an alderman; Elijah established himself inland, becoming a storekeeper and farmer. As a member of the 2nd De Lancey’s, Elijah drew land opposite Woodstock, so far up the Saint John River that, like most of the officers and men in the unit, he did not take advantage of the grant. Instead he obtained land by grant and purchase in the township of Maugerville, near Fredericton, an old settlement whose founders, Congregationalists from Massachusetts, had taken the American side during the war and now resented the loyalist intrusion [see Israel Perley*]. He became a vestryman when a Church of England congregation was organized in September 1784 and was one of those who, in their zeal to defend and promote what they regarded as the rights of an established church, contributed to political and social tensions in the community. Feelings ran particularly high during a dispute that arose in 1793 between Anglicans and dissenters over ownership of the meeting-house in nearby Sheffield, the dissenting minister there having joined the Church of England but kept possession of the parsonage that formed part of the meeting-house [see David Burpe*]. There were enough non-Anglicans in Sunbury County to ensure that one of the county’s two representatives in the House of Assembly was drawn from their ranks and in 1789, when the voters elected the radical Scottish immigrant James Glenie*, a Presbyterian, a pattern was established of dividing the representation, the other member at that time being a loyalist Anglican, William Hubbard. In 1795 the electors chose Glenie and Samuel Denny Street, an Anglican but an ardent critic of the government.
From 1793 to 1802 Miles served as a captain in the King’s New Brunswick Regiment, a unit recruited for local defence when the regular British troops were withdrawn on the outbreak of war with France. In 1802 he and William Hubbard came forward as government candidates in the most bitterly fought of all the early general elections in the colony. Glenie, in his address to the electors at the opening of the poll, compared Lieutenant Governor Thomas Carleton*’s despotism in New Brunswick to that of Henry VIII in England. During the poll Glenie and Street received the most votes but Sheriff Gabriel De Veber, after finding a number of voters to be ineligible as a result of a scrutiny, declared Glenie and Miles elected. Street’s supporters appealed to the new House of Assembly, where a partisan majority favouring the government found no irregularity in the sheriff’s conduct. Following the election a rancorous feud broke out between the rival groups, with charges and countercharges in the courts, including one from Miles “that Samuel D. Street on the 8th of October in 1802 in the Court House at Burton did assault and strike him with a large stick or distaff – at the same time made use of very aprobious language.”
At the next election, in 1809, the successful candidates were Street and James Taylor, but by 1816 Miles had consolidated his position in the county and came at the top of the poll, with the support of 115 of the 207 voters. He was re-elected in 1819 and 1820, when there were no other Anglican candidates. Some of the old denominational animosities were softening. In 1816 the voters returned as their second representative William Wilmot, a Baptist lay preacher from an American loyalist family, their choice reflecting the success that communion was having in making converts in all sections of the population. About half of Wilmot’s supporters also voted for Miles, but there is no evidence that Miles had any particular sympathy for the denomination in which his two youngest sons, Frederick William* and George, were later to become prominent members. He voted against an 1821 bill, favoured by the Baptists, “to authorize all Ministers of the Gospel licenced to preach, to solemnize Marriage,” and in 1824 he supported the exclusion of Wilmot from the assembly on the grounds that, as a lay preacher, he was disqualified under the law prohibiting the election of religious teachers and ministers. He also voted against a motion to search the records for precedents on behalf of Wilmot; it was defeated by a majority of one.
In the assembly Miles consistently supported the government, so much so that in 1819 he was one of only four members who voted for a resolution upholding Lieutenant Governor George Stracey Smyth’s contention that the house should not question a duty of one shilling per ton on pine timber taken from crown lands. In Sunbury County he was one of the most active magistrates, performing a variety of administrative tasks, acting as a grammar-school trustee, and carrying out judicial duties as a justice of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. For many years he also commanded the Sunbury battalion of the provincial militia, in which he held the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
In addition to being a storekeeper, Miles was a successful farmer and landowner. It is probable that he depended in part on slave labour. According to an early account, the first sexton of the Church of England in Maugerville was Miles’s black slave, and George Harding, his father-in-law, bequeathed his slaves and hired servants to Elizabeth, Miles’s second wife. In 1798 Miles prosecuted a black, John Windson, for burglary, then a capital offence. The jury acquitted the accused man but, of the money in Windson’s possession, the court ordered Miles to take £2 15s., being satisfied that this sum belonged to him, and itself took the remaining pound to pay part of the fees of prosecution.
Miles appears to have borne a reputation for honour and integrity. He exemplifies the qualities that later admirers of American loyalists saw as typical of the younger men who ranked below the bureaucratic élite but were firm upholders of the principles of church establishment and strong executive authority. He was one of the practical “gentlemen of the American loyalists” who, as Patrick Campbell, an early traveller, noted, “are all men brought up either to the law, or to some mercantile or mechanic business, or farming, to which they severally applied on their entering into this country, and make out in general very well.”
ACC, Diocese of Fredericton Arch., Maugerville Parish Church (Maugerville, N.B.), vestry books (mfm. at PANB). N.B. Museum, Harding papers, folder 2; folder 3, item 2. PANB, MC 1, Miles file, genealogical chart; E. C. Wright, “Miles: pioneer families of New Brunswick” (newspaper clipping, no source or date); MC 211, MS4/5/13; MC 1156; RG 18, RS157, J2/1. P. Campbell, Travels in North America (Langton and Ganong). N.B., House of Assembly, Journal, 1803–27. Royal Gazette (Fredericton), 1 June 1831. G.B., WO, Army list, 1783. I. L. Hill, Some loyalists and others (Fredericton, 1976). PANB, “A new calendar of the papers of the House of Assembly of New Brunswick,” comp. R. P. Nason et al. (3v., typescript, Fredericton, 1975–77). Beckwith Maxwell, Hist. of central N.B. I. E. Bill, Fifty years with the Baptist ministers and churches of the Maritime provinces of Canada (Saint John, N.B., 1880). Hannay, Hist. of N.B. Lawrence, Judges of N.B. (Stockton and Raymond). MacNutt, New Brunswick. Maugerville, 1763–1963, comp. I. L. Hill (Fredericton, 1963). W. D. Moore, “Sunbury County, 1760–1830”
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Cite This Article
D. M. Young, “MILES, ELIJAH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 1, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/miles_elijah_6E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||D. M. Young|
|Title of Article:||MILES, ELIJAH|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1987|
|Year of revision:||1987|
|Access Date:||April 1, 2023|