And a Brief History of the Miles Family

(by Kerry Patrick)

Submitted by Kerry Patrick

"Stephen W. Miles Home south of Fountain.  This Home was built in 1856.  the Miles vault on the nearby bluff was erected in 1858."
Article about the Miles home being torn down.
Eagle Cliffs - An old burying ground, the Miles cemetery



Stephen W. Miles was born November 30, 1795, at Cazenovia, Madison County, New York. Stephen was the son of Thomas and Sally (Fisk) Miles. Thomas Mighells or Mighell (prounced Miles) was probably born in or near Brimfield, Massachusetts, but his family moved from that area several years after his birth. They settled at some point in present day Columbia County (then Albany County), New York, in the area of New Britain, a small village near the town of Canaan. "Thomas Mighells" was "of New Britton" when he married Sally Fisk "of South Brimfield" on July 9, 1789, in Massachusetts. Sally Fisk was born on July 26, 1774, the daughter of Capt. Asa and Elizabeth (Knight) Fisk. The town of South Brimfield, Massachusetts was formed in 1762 from a part of Brimfield. In 1828, the name of the town of South Brimfield was changed to Wales, Massachusetts, which may be the origin of the assertion that Thomas Miles was "of Wales".

Thomas Migles appears on the 1790 census at Canaan, Columbia County, New York. They must have moved to the area of Cazenovia, New York (then in Chenango County) sometime around 1793. By 1796, they were in neighboring Onondaga County, New York, when Thomas Mighells purchased land in the town of Fabius. By 1810, the family had settled in Hopewell, Ontario County, New York, and by that time they were consistently using the phonetic spelling of the last name "Miles". Sally Fisk Miles died on November 30, 1815, and Thomas died on September 16, 1842. Thomas, Sally and several of their children are buried at Hopewell Pioneer Cemetery. The children of Thomas and Sally, in probable order of birth were: a daughter whose first name is not known, but married Jonathan Root; Amanda Miles Wheeler; Asa Miles; Stephen W. Miles; Parmelia Miles Clark Dudley; Truman Miles; Olive Miles Root; Fisk Miles; Adolphus Miles; Loyal Miles; and Amasa Miles.

Stephen W. Miles was a veteran of the War of 1812, for which he later received land in Monroe County, Illinois by "warrant". He moved to Illinois in about 1819, where he purchased other tracts of land through the federal land office at Kaskasia, nearly 600 acres at an average cost of about 75 cents per acre. Other land may have been acquired over time through conventional means and perhaps some through foreclosure proceedings. A number of records of that type, which Miles initiated, exist at the courthouse. He was also engaged in farming and some type of merchandising enterprise. He apparently kept in close contact with his New York relatives, as he leased farmland to his brother, Amasa, who remained in Hopewell. The exact extent of Stephen's holdings is unknown, but the 1902 obituary of his niece, Sarah Austin, described him as "a government surveyor, who had settled on a 5,000 acre tract of fertile land at Eagle Cliff, Ill.,"

Stephen W. Miles married Lucretia Shook, daughter of Solomon Shook, on March 22, 1827. They were the parents of three children: Stephen W. Miles, Jr.,; Amanda Catherine Miles Sennot; and Mary Lucretia Miles. Both daughters apparently died before 1855, as they are not mentioned in Stephen's will. Lucretia Miles died on June 6, 1835, and was buried at the cemetery atop the bluff overlooking the Miles home below. It may be due to Lucretia's untimely death that several of the New York relatives made their way to Monroe County. The obituary of Stephen's niece, Sarah Austin, says she came to Illinois in 1836, and went to live with her uncle. At about the same time, Stephen's brother, Truman, and his sister, Amanda Wheeler and husband, Jenks, arrived with their families. Four of the sons of Asa Miles also came to Illinois at various times thereafter. Both Stephen and Truman returned to New York in 1843 to assist in the settlement of their father's estate. Stephen married second, Esther Wheeler, and they had one son, Alonzo N. Miles, born April 9, 1845. They were divorced that same year, and Esther later married Samuel Shook. Stephen was afterward married to Mrs. Sally A. Turrill on September 3, 1847. On the 1850 census, Sally is listed as "Adaline". In 1851, Stephen assigned a mortgage to his niece, Sarah. He wrote over the face of the mortgage in beautiful penmanship and in a bold and confident hand:

"Rec'd of Misses Sarah Miles per her agent Stephen Miles ($284.79) two hundred and Eighty four Dollars and Seventy nine cents being the amount of principal without interest in full for all demands due me on this mortgage and I hereby assign all my right title and interest in and to the Same to the Said Sarah Miles for the above Sum of two hundred and Eighty four Dollars and Seventy nine cents which Sum She is entitled to collect on this mortgage together with ten percent interest from this date until paid and no more, I throwing off to her and her children by Alexander Miles Dec'd all the interest up to this date without any recourse on and hereafter.

S. W. Miles


Stephen Miles

Sally A. Miles"1

Stephen W. Miles, Sr. died on December 31, 1859. He wrote his last will and testament on November 14, 1855. In it he leaves bequests to his wife, Sally A. Miles; son, Alonzo Miles; daughter-in-law, Mary E. Miles; servant girl, Nancy (girl of color); son-in-law, James Sennot; and son, Stephen W. Miles. Sally A. Miles, must have died after the time the will was written in 1855, but before 1859, as she is not mentioned in the "Affidavit of Decease and Names of Heirs." The probate file of Stephen Miles has recorded that when he died his estate amounted to "about $80,000.00." There was a sizable list of people indebted to Miles at that time, and most of those debts were secured by a "deed of trust".

Stephen W. Miles, Sr. is probably known best for the mausoleum he had built at the cemetery atop the bluff in 1858, to be used for himself and his descendants. Many other Miles relatives, as well as local residents were buried in the cemetery outside the vault. Both the cemetery and mausoleum have suffered extensive vandalism in the past and a number of old tombstones are now lost or destroyed. The burial plot of Stephen's sister, Amanda Wheeler, may have fallen victim to the vandals. Amanda recorded in her Last Will and Testament her instructions regarding her final resting place:

"I desire that my Executor, as soon as practicable, procure and have set up over the grave of myself and deceased husband, a marble monument, similar in size and style of the monument erected over the grave of my brother Truemann Miles Dec'd. and that he also, have a good substantial board fence, to be of dressed pine plank, cedar posts and well painted, erected or build, so as to enclose the graves of myselfs and family, at Eagle Cliffs Burying Ground on the Bluff, the expense of both monument and fence to be paid out of my Estate."2

In spite of the damage to the cemetery and mausoleum, enough details remain to prove instrumental in tracing previous generations of the Miles family. Perhaps this is consistent with the original intent of Stephen W. Miles, who apparently wished to provide an enduring legacy for himself, his family and his descendants.

Recommended reading:

Arrowheads to Aerojets. Edited by Helen Ragland Klein, Valmeyer, Illinois, Myron Roever Associates, 1967.

Allen, John W. "Legends and Lore of Southern Illinois," A.E.R.P Publisher, Johnston City, IL, 1963.


1 Miles v. Miles, 1862, Chancery Court, St. Clair Co., IL, file 24.

2 Amanda Wheeler Last Will and Testament, 1862, Monroe Co., IL, Will Book I.