Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Pastoral Scene

My grandmother's maiden name was Miles, a family with deep roots around Alexander and Leicester townships in western North Carolina. Grandma once told me about playing with her grandfather, Andrew Jackson Miles, when she was very little and he was very old, and her grandmother Malinda chiding him for being in his second childhood. This must have been one of her very earliest memories, since she was born about 1909 and he died sometime about 1911.

The Miles family has a long association with French Broad Baptist Church in Alexander, N.C. In fact, the earliest Miles ancestor I've found was an elder in that church 181 years ago. This item appeared in The American Baptist Magazine in 1835:

On the evening of the 28th of August, in Buncombe county [sic], (N.C.) during the session of the French Broad Association, brother William Roberts and brother Isaac Miles were ordained to the work of the Gospel ministry. The presbytery consisted of ten ministers, viz. Holland, from South Carolina, Meeks, from Georgia, Center, from Tennessee, Taylor, from Missouri, and Posey, Byers, Morgan, Ring, Dewees, and Freeman, of North Carolina. The ordination sermon was preached by Elder Holland; the Bible was presented, and charge given by Elder Posey. The season was solemn and deeply impressive. [1]
Isaac's grandson John Miles is listed in the 1860 census as a Baptist preacher, and John's son Andrew Jackson Miles was also ordained after the War Between the States. For obvious reasons, I considered titling this post “Miles of Pastors”. Quite a heritage, even at this distance.

UPDATE 2/14/07: Although this sequence of elders skips a generation in my direct ancestry -- Levi Miles, the son of Isaac Miles and father of John Miles -- I since discovered that my uncle in that generation, known only to me by his initials, was likewise an elder. Isaac's wife Sarah Doe survived him by a number of years and died in Union County, Georgia, in 1851. Her obituary appeared in the minutes of the Hiwassee United Baptist Association for that year, 1851, on page 563:

Sarah Miles, the widow of Elder Isaac Miles. She was a Baptist for 50 years, and died at age 75. She was the mother of Elder A. N. Miles. [1A]
A matter of historical interest, too

Another fact caught my eye in the orgination article. Although it is a Baptist gathering, it speaks of elders and a presbytery as if it were a modern Presbyterian meeting (though both Baptist and Presbyterian would agree that the terms are biblical, not denominational, distinctives). This is evidence of what church historian Tom Nettles describes in By His Grace and For His Glory -- that the early Baptist churches in America were largely Calvinistic in their doctrine and Reformed in practice, as were the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention.

However, it's clear that there were conflicts over these doctrines even then.
The French Broad Association was formed in old Buncombe County, N.C., in 1807, starting with six churches which had been part of the Holston Association in Tennessee and the Broad River Association in South Carolina. As time went on and the French Broad Association grew, several other associations formed, including this one:

[The Big Ivey Assocation] is an immediate offspring of the one last named [the French Broad]; it was organized in 1829, and appears to have been the first colony which went off from this mother body, and not in the most agreeable manner. This has been called a Free Will Baptist institution; how it came to be so denominated, is explained by one of my correspondents for this region.

“About the year 1828, an unhappy split took place in the French Broad Association, on principles; the one party inclining to the Calvinistic, and the other to the Arminian side of the controversy. The Arminian party
went off and formed themselves into a Free Will or Liberty Association; since that time, it has changed its name to the one it now bears.” [Letter of James Blythe to the author, 1846]

[1] The American Baptist Magazine (N.P.: Baptist General Convention Board of Managers, Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Society, 1835), p. 347. One of John Miles' brothers was named after pastor Humprey Posey, a man who must have been well loved, given the number of Humpreys and Poseys that appear in the census and the Civil War records of that time. Posey was commissioned as a missionary to the Cherokee as well as his charge in Alexander, and he finished his race in North Georgia at the head of a school for the Indians. The Georgia Baptists claim him with pride in their publications. Cousin Humphrey, as it happens, enlisted in Co. C, 29th N.C. Infantry, in 1862 with several of our kinfolk (including Andrew Jackson Miles); was captured outside Atlanta in the Battle of Peachtree Creek in July 1864; and subsequently died in a federal POW camp, Camp Chase, in Ohio early the following year.

[1A] Footnoted on "Ancestors of Annie D. Roberts" by Judy Fisher (, 11/25/2002), s.v. Sarah Doe.

[2] Benedict, David, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America and Other Parts of the World (New York: Lewis Colby and Company, 1848), p. 698.

No comments: