Thomas Miles Life Sketch

(1762 - 1850)

Thomas Miles was born March 22, 1762 in Worcester, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Thomas married Mary Underwood on July 13, 1785 in Reading, Massachusetts. Thomas Miles died April 27, 1850 in Blackford County, Indiana.


Thomas Miles' origins are a bit of a mystery. His own testimony from a pension application states he was born in 1762 in Worcester County, Massachusetts. A story passed along by descendants says he was born in England and came over with 2 brothers, while another descendant’s story says he arrived from England with his stepmother when young. Since there appears to be no reason to lie about when and where one was born, his own testimony seems the most credible.

Thomas Miles was born in 1762 in Worcester County, Massachusetts to unknown parents. In 1777 when Thomas was 15 years of age, he resided in Skenesborough, Vermont, today known as Whitehall, New York, located on the southern end of Lake Champlain. The Revolutionary War had begun and the British under the command of General Burgoyne, were forcing their way south from Canada down Lake Champlain. Many men fled southward prior to the advance and enlisted at Bennington, Vermont and it appears that Thomas may have been one of them.

According to Thomas’ pension application he enlisted in Bennington and participated in the Battle of Bennington in August of 1777 and the Battle of Saratoga which began in September of 1777. The Battle of Saratoga ended when General Burgoyne surrendered his army in October. Thomas stated that he was not in service for the next six months when he was called upon to guard the prisoners of Burgoyne’s Army who had been marched to Rutland, Massachusetts in Worcester County. Following 6 months of guard duty, Thomas was drafted in Princetown, Massachusetts, the town next to Rutland, for a period of 6 weeks to serve at an Armory in Rhode Island. Thomas then served at West Point for 6 months under Colonel Michael Jackson and another 3 months at Fishkill, New York, near West Point. Thomas next enlisted in the militia in 1781 in Holden, Massachusetts in Worcester County. He was discharged in 1783 at West Point by Colonel Jackson. A few months after his discharge according to his

testimony, his discharge papers were burned in a fire at the boarding house where he was staying.

In 1784, Thomas resided in Reading, Massachusetts where, in 1785, he married Mary Underwood, eldest daughter of Joseph Underwood and Mary Pool. Mary’s father was a cordwainer. Most likely, Thomas either learned the trade of cordwainer from Joseph or was working in Joseph’s shoe shop where he met Mary.

Thomas and Mary had the following known children:

  1. Joseph Miles
  2. Polly Miles
  3. Rebecca Miles
  4. William Miles
  5. Lorenzo Miles
  6. Frances Miles

Joseph’s birth was recorded shortly after the marriage in Lynnfield adjacent to the town of Reading. The US 1790 Census placed the family in Reading. In 1794, the baptisms of three of the children, Joseph, Polly and Rebecca, were recorded in Wakefield, Massachusetts, a town adjacent to both Lynnfield and Reading on the south side.

Sometime between 1794 and 1800, the Miles family moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Mary’s parents moved to Fitchberg in 1793 and Mary’s sister Rebecca already lived there. In 1795, Mary’s father died leaving an insolvent estate. One third of the estate was portioned off for the widow, Mary’s mother, and the remaining two thirds of the estate was sold. The US 1800 census recorded the Miles family in Fitchburg with 2 sons and 2 daughters, which would have been Joseph, William, Polly and Rebecca.

On October 26, 1803 Thomas Miles “of Fitchburg Cordwainer” with Mary his wife, sold their right and title to the estate of Joseph Underwood, Mary’s father, which would have been their right to the widow’s third. Shortly afterward the family moved 16 miles southward to Bolton, Massachusetts and Thomas built a house and shoe shop which is mentioned in a deed written in 1804: “Thomas Osborne, gentleman, sold to Beriah Oak, wheelwright, a tract of land bounded on the south by the Great Road, on the west by Oliver Barrett’s and on the east by Thomas Miles’ shoeshop and house.”

The town of Bolton has a picture of the property and text: “The Miles/Caswell Shop at 443 Main Street, Bolton MA, built about 1805 by Thomas Miles as a shoemaker’s shop that produced “sale shoes” for the local, newly urbanizing markets. Caswell later made combs there. The structure, called a “ten footer” was attached to a Cape Cod cottage for over 100 years.”

In December of 1804, Thomas’ daughter Polly married Daniel Fletcher in Bolton.

In September of 1805, Thomas purchased 36 rods (about 600 feet) of additional land from Beriah Oak. The following November, Thomas transferred the deed to who is presumed to be his son, Joseph Miles “of Stow in Middlesex County, shoemaker”. Joseph would have just turned 21 years of age.

Unfortunately by March of 1807, Thomas had financial difficulty and was sued in court. He lost the case and could not pay. He owed Abner Fisher, Tanner, $101.17 damages plus $17.25 cost of the suit. He owed Jesse Goodnow, Gentleman, $28.23 damages plus $14.12 cost of the suit. He owned Nathan Brice, Trader, $32.33 damages plus $7.39 cost of the suit. He owed Elijah Sawyer, Blacksmith, $15.18 damages plus $7.39 cost of the suit. He owned Thomas Woodbury, Yeoman, $50.97 damages plus $7.39. The five men petitioned the Sheriff to “take the body of Thomas Miles and him commit unto our Gaol of Worcester until he pay the full sum.” Thomas most certainly spent several weeks in jail. The case was settled in late April when Thomas’ property was surveyed and pieces of it were deeded to each of the five men. Abner Fisher received a piece of land. Jesse Goodnow received the side of the dwelling house east of the front door as high as the chamber floor as well as the land in front of it. Nathan Brice received the east chamber or garret over the frame and stairway in the dwelling house. Elijah Sawyer received the west chamber or garret over the frame and stairway in the dwelling house. Lastly, Thomas Woodbury received the westwardly lower room in the dwelling house as high as the chamber over the room, the stairway and chamber excepted, and land in back of the dwelling house.

Apparently having pieces of a house and land did not satisfy Thomas’ plaintiffs because In November of 1807, Thomas Miles and Mary, his wife, along with Joseph Miles and the five men who owned part of the property sold it to John Read for $295. Thomas and Mary’s daughter Rebecca witnessed the transaction. After the sale, it is uncertain where the family lived however in 1812, Thomas witnessed a transaction in Bolton, Massachusetts between Thomas’ daughter Polly, her husband Daniel, and Thomas Holder.

By Thomas’ own testimony in his pension application the Miles family then moved to New Jersey in 1813. Why New Jersey? The answer to the question is currently a mystery. The family appears to have located in Sussex County in Northern New Jersey where son William married Keturah Casterline. The Miles families and Casterline families must have become close since 12 years later the Miles family, along with almost all the members of the Casterline family, moved together to Steuben County, New York. At the time, land was extremely cheap in Steuben county and agents were pursuing settlers to come to the area. The Steuben county historian also notes that Thomas Miles and Loammi Casterline, patriarch of the Casterline family, may have been given land for their Revolutionary War service.

Thomas likely opened shoemaker shops, initially in the town of Pulteney in 1825 and then in the smaller town of Wheeler in 1830.

In 1836 the Miles and Casterline families, along with John Saxon’s family and several other families with whom their children had intermarried, moved further west to Indiana. The journey took six weeks by oxen and wagons. The families first settled in Fayette county then a few years later in 1838, moved further north to Blackford County. Thomas, 76 years of age, purchased 80 acres of land and at the time of his death owned 160 acres of land. Thomas continued his trade of shoe making and bartered his services for the clearing of his land. It is reported that people from miles around came to his house to have their boots and shoes made and repaired and to hear him tell various stories of the Revolutionary War.

In 1843 the Commissioner’s of Blackford County exempted Revolutionary War soldiers from paying taxes, Thomas being one of the soldiers residing in the County. Years before in 1832, Congress passed an act allowing Revolutionary War soldiers to receive a pension, however Thomas did not apply for his pension until 1845. His claim was rejected as he failed to show proof of six months of military service as required by the act.

In 1846, Thomas’ wife Mary died. She was buried in the family cemetery on their farm.

Thomas continued to pursue his pension. He hired an attorney but to no avail. While the US government did not recognize Thomas’ service, the county of Blackford certainly did where he was celebrated each 4th of July as a Revolutionary War hero.

In April of 1850, Thomas Miles died at the age of 88. He was buried next to his wife in the family cemetery.

Thomas’ children Lorenzo and Frances “Fanny” continued to pursue Thomas’ pension. They were never successful at proving Thomas’ service met the requirements.

The Daughters of the American Revolution of Blackford County erected a Revolutionary War Hero Marker in 1933 in Hartford City, Indiana on the lawn of the County Courthouse. Thomas Miles' name is 1 of 5 names on the marker.

Genealogical Research and Life Sketch completed:


Sources:

"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, FamilySearch, Thomas Miles and Mary Underwood, 13 Jul 1785; citing Marriage, Reading, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 007009686.

"United States Census, 1790," database with images, FamilySearch, Thos Miles, Reading, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States; citing p. 499, NARA microfilm publication , (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll ; FHL microfilm .

"United States Census, 1800," database with images, FamilySearch, Thomas Miles, Fitchburg, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States; citing p. 427, NARA microfilm publication M32, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 16; FHL microfilm 205,617.

Thomas Miles household, State Census, Steuben County, New York, 1825, Image 127; microfilm 007900957, FHL, Salt Lake City, Utah.

"United States Census, 1830," database with images, FamilySearch, Thomas Miles, Wheeler, Steuben, New York, United States; citing 388, NARA microfilm publication M19, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 107; FHL microfilm 17,167.

"United States Census, 1840," database with images, FamilySearch, Thomas Miles, Washington, District of Columbia, United States; citing p. 62, NARA microfilm publication , (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll ; FHL microfilm .

"United States Census (Mortality Schedule), 1850," database with images, FamilySearch, Thomas Miles, Blackford county, Blackford, Indiana, United States; citing line 7, NARA microfilm publication T655 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 2,259,481.

“Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, ca. 1800 - ca. 1912”, Record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773 - 2007, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application File R. 7169, for Thomas Miles, Massachusetts, NARA, Washington DC.

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Thomas Miles in entry for Joseph Miles, 1785.

Thomas W. Baldwin. “Vital Records of Wakefield, Massachusetts to the Year 1850”, Wright & Potter, Boston, MA, 1912. FHL.

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Polly Miles, 1794.

"Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", database, FamilySearch, Rebecca Miles, 1794.

The Old Records of the Town of Fitchburg, Massachusetts: Vital statistics (from ms. v. 2, 4, and 5, bringing record down to 1843) and miscellaneous records. 1900. N.p.: Sentinel printing Company, 1900.

“Probate Records, 1648 - 1924,” Worcester County Massachusetts, Probate Court. Probate estate files 60481-60545. Family Search, FHL microfilm 101448211.

“Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986," images, FamilySearch, Worcester Co., Deeds 1803-1804 vol 154-155, image 422 of 686; county courthouses and offices, Massachusetts.

"Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," database with images, FamilySearch, Daniel Fletcher and Polly Miles, 29 Dec 1804; citing Marriage, Bolton, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 007009655.

“Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986," images, FamilySearch, Worcester Co., Deeds 1803-1804 vol 154-155, image 422 of 686; county courthouses and offices, Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986," images, FamilySearch, Worcester Co., Deeds 1803-1804 vol 160, Folio 82; county courthouses and offices, Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986," images, FamilySearch, Worcester Co., Deeds 1803-1804 vol 165, Folio 103, 104; county courthouses and offices, Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986," images, FamilySearch, Worcester Co., Deeds 1803-1804 vol 168, Folio 9, 132, 175, 178, 180; county courthouses and offices, Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts Land Records, 1620-1986," images, FamilySearch, Worcester Co., Deeds 1803-1804 vol 171, Folio 487; county courthouses and offices, Massachusetts.

“History of Bolton, 1738-1938”, 1938, Bolton, Massachusetts.

Town of Bolton Massachusetts (n.d.) “The Historic Landscapes Preservation Strategy”.

John A. Bonham, “Revolutionary War Heroes Buried in Blackford County, Indiana”, Hartford City Times Gazette, Hartford, Indiana, June 17, 1933.

“Blackford and Grant Counties, Indiana, A Chronicle of their People Past and Present with Family Lineage and Personal Memoirs, Vols 1 & 2”, The Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago, IL, 1914.

Thomas Miles genealogy research