About Rev. John Myles
John Myles, also known as John Miles, (c. 1621–1683) was the founder of Swansea, Massachusetts and founder of the earliest recorded Baptist churches in Wales (U.K.) and Massachusetts (U.S.A.).
"While there is a significant record of John Myles’ public ministry, remarkably little is known of his family and personal life. He married Anne Humphrey, the daughter of John Humphrey of Chaldron, Dorset, England and Elizabeth Pelham. Anne was born 17 Dec 1625 in Fordingham, Dorset, England and died on 17 Dec 1693. Their daughter Hannah Myles was born 5 Jan 1669 at Rehoboth, Massachusetts and died 25 Jan 1741 at Swansea. She married Isaac Mason, born 15 Jul 1667 at Rehoboth and died 25 Jan 1742 at Swansea, Massachusetts."
From Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families:
Anne Humphrey married (2nd) [Rev.] John Miles, of Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales. They immigrated to New England about 1662, where he served as pastor of the Baptist church of Swansea, Massachusetts.
They had two sons, John and [Rev.] Samuel. [Rev.]
- *This is in error. According to Torrey's New England Marriages before 1700, John Jr. was married by 1665, making his birth date in the mid 1640s. Samuel Myles was born in 1664; Susannah Palme was born about 1665.
John Miles died at Swansea, Massachusetts 3 Feb. 1682/3. His widow, Anne, died at swansea, Massachusetts 17 Dec. 1693.
John Myles was born in Wales [SIC: in the Welsh-speaking part of Herefordshire, England] around 1621 and was educated at Brasenose College at Oxford University. He then went to London where he joined the Glasshouse church, an early Particular Baptist (Reformed Baptist) congregation. Myles then returned to Ilston in Wales, where he served as a minister from 1649 to 1662 and he served as a "tryer" for ministers under Oliver Cromwell's government. After the restoration of the monarchy and requirement that all ministers adhere to the Book of Common Prayer, Myles left England for the Plymouth Colony in the 1660s. Myles took the historic Ilston Book to North America with him, and it is now located at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. In America Myles worked with the Congregationalist state church in Rehoboth, before his group was told to leave the town for their Baptist views, and Myles and his congregation (largely from Ilston, Wales) then founded the town of Swansea and First Baptist Church in Swansea. "Swansea" was named after a town in their homeland in Wales. Myles served as pastor for twenty years. During King Philip's War, Myles pastored the First Baptist Church in Boston while fleeing from the Indians.
The Founding of Swansea
FORMING A TOWN
We must look to the Tower of London, that French castle which still rises above the British capital city, to understand the beginnings of Swansea, Mass.
In the Tower's big court yard, Sir Harry Vane was executed by having his head chopped off on the morning of June 14, 1662. This good friend of New England, who had been governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at Boston while still a youth, gave up his life soon after King Charles II was restored to the English throne. For Sir Harry Vane not only had been a leading Puritan in the 10-year republic set up in England under Oliver Cromwell, but he was the much-admired leader of the radical Puritans on both sides of the Atlantic. He had encouraged both Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, who were driven out of the Bay colony for their liberal religious and political views-- before they founded Rhode Island.
The restored English king, whatever his earlier promises, in 1662 took revenge on those earnest folk who sought to worship as they pleased. Soon after the bloody death of Harry Vane, an Act of Uniformity drove 2,000 independent clergymen out of their small churches in the British Isles.
To Rehoboth, most western town in Plymouth Colony, fled John Myles, a 40-year-old Baptist minister from Swansea, Wales. With him came several members of his flock, and in Rehoboth they were welcomed by a few families who belonged to a Baptist congregation which had been stamped out there a few years earlier.
In the middle of the 17th Century, for reasons which today seem odd, Baptists were regarded even by Puritans as dangerous fanatics-- almost as wild as the Quakers, who proclaimed that God spoke to them directly.
Plymouth took advice from Boston, and Myles had to lead his followers out of Rehoboth. So they built a meeting house amid salt meadowlands on the west bank of the Palmer River in what later became known as Barneyville. Today North Swansea girls and boys fish from a span that is called "Myles bridge"-- an historic site. It is still just south of the Rehoboth line.
This was rather close to the Wampanoag Indians' stronghold and camp grounds in the center and southern end of nine-mile-long Mount Hope Neck. Yet a few English families (Brown, Butterworth, Cole, Willett) (already lived, in peace, close to this heartland of Massasoit's people. In general, these English preferred the Baptist newcomers' beliefs to the established Congregational way at Rehoboth. In any event, old settlers and new joined hardy Thomas Willett and pioneering John Brown, who lived on vast estates sold to them by Massasoit.
Willett, who spoke Dutch, was made the first mayor of New York City when Britain seized Manhattan Island from the Hollanders in 1665. John Brown's energetic son, James, we have met before, as the husband of Elizabeth Tilley's daughter, Lydia Howland. The graves of these particular pioneers are in Little Neck Cemetary at the head of Bullock's Cove, Riverside, RI. A chimney of the ancient Brown home still stands as part of a newer residence on Willett Avenue at Kingsford Ave.
Bound by love of the land and their religion, these settlers petitioned Plymouth to let them form a new town. It's name, they suggested, would be Swansea. This happily honored the Welsh home town of the church, and catered to the Puritan custom of sprinkling New England with town names from Old England.
When their petition was approved by the Plymouth court on October 30, 1667, the permit covered everything south of Rehoboth and Taunton but warned against pressing too closely on the choice lands sacred to the Indians. In effect, the new town was allowed a broad frontier between Taunton and Providence Rivers so long as it did not take anything claimed by anybody else.
But in allowing the grant, Plymouth employed the following language: "The Court doe also approve that the Township....shall henceforth be called and known by the name of Swanzey."
This mis-spelling led to some confusion for about 300 years.
Swansea is memorable as ...
... the place where the first English blood was shed in ' King Philip's War. ' On Sunday, June 20, 1675, King Philip permitted his men to march into Swansea and annoy the Enghsh by kilUng their cattle, in hopes to provoke them to commence the attack, for it is said that a superstition prevailed among them that the side who shed the first blood should finally be conquered. The Indians were so insolent that an Englishman finally fired upon one of them, and wounded him. The Indians upon this commenced open war. As soon as the intelligence of this massacre reached Boston, a company of foot under Capt. Henchman, and a troop under Capt. Prentice, immediately marched for Mount Hope, and being joined by another company of one hundred and ten volunteers under Capt. Mosely, they all arrived at Swansea June 28th, where they joined the Plymouth forces, under Capt. Cudworth. Mr. Miles' house, being garrisoned, was made their headquarters. About a dozen of the troop went immediately over the bridge, where they were fired upon out of the bushes, and one killed and one wounded. The English forces then pursued the enemy a mile or two, when the Indians took to the swamp, after having lost about a half- dozen of their number. The troop commenced their pursuit of the Indians next morning. They passed over Miles' Bridge and proceeded down the river till they came to the narrow of the neck, at a place called Keekamuit, or Kickamuit. Here they found the heads of eight Englishmen, that the Indians had murdered, stuck on poles; these they buried. On their arrival at Mount Hope, they found that place deserted."
- Memorial tablet in Wales: Trinity Well Memorial Tablet, placed 1928
- Gravestone marker in Swansea: John Myles’ stone at Tyler’s Point, Warren, Rhode Island (formerly part of Swansea, Massachusetts)
- Meeting House of the First Baptist Church of Swansea (from “History of the First Baptist Church of Swansea, Massachusetts” By Rev. Arial Fisher, Pastor. The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Record, 1845).
- Alumni Oxonienses: The Members of the University of Oxford, 1715 ..., Volume 3 By University of Oxford, Joseph Foster. Page 1013. " Miles, John (Myles), s. Walter, of Newton, co. Hereford, pleb. Brasenose Coll., matric. 18 March, 1635-6, aged 15. "
- Dictionary of Welsh Biography - MILES , JOHN ( 1621 - 1683 ), Particular Baptist leader "His son JOHN MILES was the first town-clerk of Swansey ; his son SAMUEL MILES turned Anglican , graduated at Harvard in 1684 , at Oxford (by diploma) in 1693 , and was for nearly forty years rector of the King's Chapel (Episcopalian) at Boston ."
- "John Myles and His Times" 1888, Baptist Quarterly Review. "The history of John Myles and his times forms a very interesting chapter in the history of Baptists - especially of Welsh Baptists. Welsh Baptists are under obligations to him for his zeal and courage in spreading their principles in Wales and in America against much opposition. ... Myles was a son of Walter Myles, of Newton, of Herefordshire, and was born in 1621 (day and month unknown). He was thus a few years younger than his famous contemporary, Vavasor Powell. There are three places named Newton in Herefordshire, and common tradition points to Newton Clodock as the birthplace of John Myles, but tradition points also to that community near the place where the rivers Olchon and Escle unite, as his birthplace. If tradition is reliable respecting the birthplace of John Myles, we are led to the sacred ground and classic place of Dissent. In the parish of Clodock, and not far from this spot, is the valley of Olchon, an old refuge of the Baptists for ages. Welsh were the inhabitants of those parts at that time, and they preached in Welsh, at least until 1760 or later. ..."
- New England Marriages Prior to 1700 By Clarence Almon Torrey, Elizabeth Petty Bentley. Page 507
- *MYLES, John ( - 1683) & Anne/Anna [Humphrey] [Palmes / [Palmer?] ( - 1693); w William; see below; in Wales? b 1646; Salem / Swansea
- MYLES, John & 2/wf Anne [Humphrey] [Palmer] ( - 1695) (see above); b 15 Jan 1680; Swansea
- 'First Baptist Church in Swansea - our identifying particularities"
- "First Baptist Church in Swansea - our Founder" Rev. Dr. Charles K. Hartman "John Myles: Church Planter"
- The Baptist quarterly review: Volume 10 - Page 30 (1888)
- Henry Clay Vedder, A short history of the Baptists (1907) Page 269
- Rev. John Myles and the founding of the first Baptist church in Massachusetts an historical address delivered at the dedication of a monument in Barrington, Rhode Island (formerly Swansea, Mass.) June 17, 1905
- Hylborn Family Ancestry Project "John Myles was born in about 1621 at Newton-Clifford in the western and Welsh-speaking part of Herefordshire, not far from Hay-on-Wye. ..."
- Ilston Book The Ilston Book is the earliest record of a Baptist church in Wales. It is named after the location of a Baptist meeting place near the ruins of the old Trinity well, the site of a pre-Reformation chapel, at Ilston Beck in Gower near Swansea. This "Cromwellian" church was founded in 1649 during the English Civil War under the Calvinistic leadership of John Myles (aka John Miles) (1621–1683). Thus this earliest Welsh Baptist church stood in the Particular Baptist tradition. In 1663 Myles took the Ilston Book with him when he and the whole congregation emigrated to North America, where they settled in a town they named Swansea, Massachusetts, and they founded the First Baptist Church in Swansea. The Ilston Book is held in the Library of Brown University at Providence, Rhode Island, but is not open to public view. The full list of 261 members up to 1660 is recorded, and shows that they travelled from a wide geographic area in South Wales.
- "History of the town on Swansea, Massachusetts" 1667-1917; by Wright, Otis Olney, ed. Page 198.
- *From 1675 to 1680 Myles was at Boston establishing a Baptist Church; but after the rebuilt Swansea had for three years called to him. he returned to it, and there in 1683 died. His wife Anne outlived him; his son John (a Harvard scholar) was Swansea's first town-clerk; and curious to relate, Samuel, the preacher's son or grandson, became the second Episcopal rector of King's Chapel, Boston. The descendants of this stock (who often spelled the name Miles) are to be found in many honorable positions."
- (Note. It has come to light (1914), that Anne Myles, the second wife of John Myles, was the daughter of John Humphrey, the early Massachusetts Magistrate, and that her (SIC: step) mother, Mrs. John Humphrey, was Lady Susan Clinton, daughter of Thomas Clinton, third Earl of Lincoln, and a sister of Theophiius Clinton, fourth Earl of Lincoln. This I have from the Commissioner of Public Records of Massachusetts, Henry E. Woods. Ed.)
- "History of the town on Swansea, Massachusetts" 1667-1917; by Wright, Otis Olney, ed. Page 76. "... Thus he deserves remembrance not only as the first pastor, but as the early schoolmaster and teacher of youth, who laid the foundation of the public schools of Swansea."
- New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealths and the Founding of a Nation, Volume 2 (Google eBook) William Richard Cutter. Lewis historical publishing Company, 1913 - New England. Page 638. "Miles." "Rev. John Miles or Myles was MILES born in Wales in 1621, died at Swansea, February 3, 1682-83. He was educated at Oxford University. He became pastor of a Baptist church in Wales, but after the passage of the Act of Uniformity in England under Charles II. he was obliged to abandon his living, and about 1663 he sought religious freedom in this country. He lived for a time at Weymouth, Massachusetts, but was not allowed to preach there. Finally he settled in Swansea, adjoining the Providence plantations, and there he gathered a small church and ministered to it during the remainder of his life. "The principles of this church were of the most liberal sort and its declaration of faith as broad as that of Roger Williams himself." His widow Anne died at Swansea, December 17, 1693. He had sons: 1. Rev. Samuel, for forty years rector of King's Chapel, Boston, under Episcopal rule. 2. John, mentioned below."
- [https://books.google.com/books?id=BY0EAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA178&ots=yr5F3ckFI8&dq=Daniel%20Curtis%20miles&pg=PA180#v=onepage&q&f=true Representative Women of New England] (Google eBook) Julia Ward Howe, Mary Hannah Graves
New England Historical Publishing Company, 1904 - New England - 499 pages. Pages 178-181. "Anna Maria Miles Sprague."