Fayette Co., AL: Rev. Wiley Miles, Who's Your Daddy?
Fayette County, Alabama

~ Rev. Wiley Miles, Who's Your Daddy? ~

Generously contributed by
Marguerite Miles Harrington
(Great-great-granddaughter of Wiley M. Miles)
March 2016

(Photo posted at Find A Grave)
Rev. Wiley M. Miles
Rev. Wiley M. Miles

Rev. Wiley M. MILES arrived in Fayette County, Alabama, sometime in 1846 with his large extended family consisting of BOBOs, RAINWATERs, FOSTERs, YARBROUGHs and EDWARDSes, as well as other families from Spartanburg and Union Districts, South Carolina.  Some histories and genealogies cite 1844 as the arrival date.  It is unknown if all these people truly traveled together as one large group or if they came in “waves.”  The date of Rev. Wiley MILES and his first wife Rebecca Savannah BOBO’s migration to Fayette County can be calculated by the births of their sons, Landon MILES (b. Oct 1845) who was the last child born in South Carolina and their next child, son Francis Asbury MILES (b. Feb 1847), who was born in Fayette County.

Fayette County’s Mount Vernon United Methodist Church — originally called “Horn Church” — was organized by Wiley MILES in approximately 1850 as a Methodist Episcopal church.  It’s located about four miles northwest of Fayette and a little more than two miles east of the present Fayette-Lamar county line.  Rev. MILES donated the land for the cemetery and the church, which was also used as a school.  An undated history of Mount Vernon United Methodist Church published by church volunteers many years ago describes the first church building as being “made of logs with no way of heating.  The congregation stood around a fire built outside until the services began.”  The present building was erected in 1948.  The Mt. Vernon cemetery, where Wiley and his descendants are buried, is directly across the road from the church.  Millard FILLMORE was President when “Wily [sic] MILES” obtained his first land grant from the General Land Office in Tuscaloosa on 01 Jan 1852.  President James BUCHANAN was in office when he received two more land grants in June 1858 and December 1859.  Rev. Wiley MILES performed many marriage ceremonies in Fayette County during his lifetime.  Several marriage documents list the officiant as Wiley M. MILES and others only refer to Wiley MILES.  His middle initial was unquestionably “M.,” although what it stood for is not known.

Wiley’s death announcement was published in The Christian Advocate on 26 Jun 1880: 
“The Rev. WILEY MILES born May 1, 1811; married (1) Rebecca S. Bobo (died April 1859), December 24, 1833; (2) Mrs. M.E. Yancy [sic], November 20, 1860; joined Methodist Church in 1836; licensed to preach in Methodist Church April 1866; preached until his health failed.”
Rev. Wiley M. MILES died in Fayette County, Alabama, on 06 Dec 1879 and is buried between his two wives: Rebecca Savanna BOBO (1813-1859) and Mary E. (FLOYD) YANCEY (1825-1891).  Many of Wiley’s, Rebecca’s and Mary’s children and grandchildren are also buried at the Mt. Vernon cemetery.  Today, numerous descendants of Rev. Wiley M. MILES still live in and around Fayette, Lamar and Marion counties. 

For the better part of the last century, the MILES family believed Wiley M. MILES was, without a doubt, the son of Landon MILES (1782-1858) and Sarah MARTIN (1781-1848) of Cross Anchor, Spartanburg District, South Carolina.  Authors Herbert Newell and Jeannie Patterson Newell in their two books, History of Fayette County, Alabama, published in 1960, on page 331, and also in Bobo Cousins by the Dozens, published in 1968, on page 123, explicitly state that Wiley M. MILES is a son of Landon MILES and Sarah MARTIN.  My own application for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) was accepted with my third-great-grandparents being Landon MILES and Sarah MARTIN.  I also have a letter written in 1924 replying to Wiley’s son Landon, who is convinced Landon MILES and Sarah MARTIN are his grandparents.

I’ve discovered a great deal about the elder Landon MILES of Cross Anchor and his family.  He is mentioned in 10 Spartanburg District deed records from 1785 to 1839.  Landon’s letter to historian Dr. J.H. LOGAN, written 11 Aug 1858 (two months before Landon’s death), was intended for a book containing first-hand accounts of the Revolutionary War; however, the book was never published.  Luckily, historian Lyman C. DRAPER copied Dr. LOGAN’s notes and letters, including Landon’s 1858 letter.  It is now preserved as part of the Draper Manuscripts: Thomas Sumter Papers collection (16VV, pp. 210-212).  In his Bible, Landon carefully noted the births and deaths of his immediate family.  The husband of his maternal aunt Jane FARROW (1768-1828), i.e., Rev. Spencer BOBO (1767-1816), established New Hope Baptist Church in Cross Anchor on 05 Feb 1804.  Charter members of this church included Landon MILES, his immediate family, his unmarried sister Mary MILES (1790-1855) and brother William H. MILES (1791-1876).  Rev. BOBO, in his will dated 19 Feb 1816, appoints Landon MILES as manager of New Hope Baptist Church.  Landon served as church deacon until his death in October 1858.  The earliest surviving records of New Hope Baptist Church (faithfully written by Landon himself) include the minutes of church meetings, squabbles between parishioners, the names of members “breaking the rules,” membership rolls, plus a few baptisms and deaths.  Most notable was the death of Landon’s father:

         “9th Oct, 1837 Thos Miles departed this life in the 97th or 98th year of his age.”
It is beyond dispute that Thomas MILES (1739-1837) and Sarah FARROW (1750-1823) were Wiley’s grandparents.  Thomas MILES served under Captain John FORD in the 1st Spartan Regiment in the Revolutionary War and fought with the militia at the Battle of Cowpens on 17 Jan 1781, serving in Col. Benjamin ROEBUCK’s regiment under his brother in-law, Thomas FARROW (1752-1841).  Thomas MILES is our MILES family DAR/SAR patriot.  Sarah FARROW was the first child of John FARROW (1727-1776) and Rosanna WATERS (1734-1782).  Together, Thomas and Sarah had 12 children and spent their married lives in Spartanburg District, South Carolina.  No headstones have been found, but it is believed Thomas and Sarah are buried in the Landon Miles family cemetery near Cross Anchor. 

I initially thought finding primary source evidence confirming Wiley’s parents would be an easy task when I began searching in the spring of 2006.  First, the South Carolina State Archives has Landon’s estate/probate file.  My Wiley is not mentioned in the probate file, but Wiley gave three of his five sons the same names that Landon and Sarah gave their own sons: James Daniel (1837-1863), Landon (1845-1930) and Francis Asbury MILES (1847-1917).  This fact alone seemed to confirm that the family legend was correct; that Landon MUST be Wiley’s father!  Second, a transcription of Landon’s Bible record is on file with DAR.  Wiley isn’t in the Bible records either, but DAR/SAR both chart Landon MILES and Sarah MARTIN as Wiley’s parents!   It must be true!  On the other hand, none of the named children in Landon’s Bible mention Wiley in any of their records.  Something wasn’t right.  Despite these glaring omissions, I told myself they could not have made a mistake 90 years ago!  Landon and Sarah ARE my Wiley’s parents.  Still, I was determined to find one primary source record to confirm my conclusion.  I kept searching for the Wiley-Landon “Ah-Ha” document.  I’ve been able to follow Landon and Sarah and all of their children (those named in Landon’s Bible) down several generations.  In all the records pertaining to Landon MILES and his immediate family, Wiley is not mentioned once.

I couldn’t ignore the mounting evidence any longer.  Maybe there was a reason no documentation connecting Wiley and Landon had surfaced in the last 10 years.  Maybe Wiley was not Landon’s son after all.  Just maybe he was a nephew.
Armed with this new supposition, I discovered the best and perhaps the only hard evidence of Wiley’s parentage — the will and estate file of his aunt Mary MILES (see below).  Mary left an inheritance to her nephew, the son of her brother Isaac, whom she identifies in her will as “Wm Miles.”  But in a separate list of potential heirs also found in her estate records, this same “William” is referenced as “Wiley.” 

Thanks to Miss Mary MILES, we now know that Rev. Wiley M. MILES is the son of Isaac MILES (1776-bef 1855) and Mary TINSLEY (1775-?).  (Exact death dates for Isaac and Mary have not been confirmed.)  Isaac and Mary had three known sons: Hosea MILES (1802-1877), William/Wiley MILES and Isaac Preston MILES (1814-1880).  Closer examination of Spartanburg and Union District census records reveals a potential daughter as well.  Her exact identity is unknown.

Other circumstantial evidence for Wiley’s parentage is outlined below.  Those of you who agree with the evidence presented here are encouraged to correct your personal records and especially any public trees posted on Ancestry, FamilyTree DNA, Wiki-Tree, Geni.com, familysearch.org, Find A Grave, and any others as soon as possible. 

The true parents of Rev. Wiley MILES:

First, let’s examine the evidence against Wiley being a child of Landon MILES and Sarah MARTIN:

The transcript of Landon MILES’ Bible record never mentions Wiley (DAR SC GRC 1951 S1-V61).  Landon names all the other children, but not a Wiley (or William).  Landon was very meticulous about record keeping.  It is not likely that he would forget to note the birth and/or death date of one of his own sons.
All the children named in Landon MILES’ Bible transcript were born two years apart with the exception of the last two children, Eliza M. MILES (1819-1888) and Francis Asbury MILES, who was born much later in 1826.  Wiley isn’t listed, but his date of birth, May 1811 (which is confirmed by several sources), would just fit in the birth order between Rosannah F. MILES (Apr 1810-1882) and Jane MILES (Mar 1812-1882).  But it seems unlikely Sarah was nursing these three infants right in a row.
The 1820 federal census shows only tick marks for children and adults in gender and age groups (females under 10 years, males over 50 years, etc.).  Landon MILES’ family was enumerated 07 Aug 1820 in Spartanburg District, South Carolina, with a total of 10 household members.  According to Landon’s Bible, he and Sarah would have had a total of 11 family members by August of 1820, with only one son, Silas O. MILES (1816-1886), eligible for the “males under 10” category.  The census does account for only one male in this category.  Wiley would have been 9 years old in 1820, so two males under 10 should have been tallied if Wiley were in Landon’s household at that time.  Note: It must be acknowledged that one of Landon’s three daughters under the age of 10 appears to be missing from this same 1820 census.  It could be Charlotte MILES (1814-?), Jane MILES (1812-1853), or the aforementioned infant Eliza (b. May 1819); however, the vague “females under 10” classification makes it hard to determine which child was overlooked.
Landon MILES’ estate/probate records include a Bill of Complaint dated March 1861, which was brought by Landon’s son Francis Asbury MILES (1826-1903) against all possible heirs to Landon’s estate (Spartanburg District Equity Bills, Box 49, File #13).  Here again, the name Wiley (or William) MILES does not appear.  Landon's known son James Aquilla MILES (1802-1880) and my Wiley MILES were both in Alabama by 1861.  While Landon’s probate record cites James Aquilla and the other children living out of state as possible heirs-at-large, no mention is made of Wiley nor any of his children.
Wiley MILES is not listed in any of the surviving records of New Hope Baptist Church in Cross Anchor, South Carolina.

Now let’s look at the evidence supporting Wiley MILES as the son of Isaac MILES and Mary TINSLEY:

1817 — Isaac MILES, Golden [Golding] TINSLEY and Benjamin WOFFORD are listed, among others, as trustees to erect a house of worship for a “Methodist Episcopal Church” on 1½ acres sold to the trustees for $5 by Benjamin WOFFORD (Spartanburg District Deed Book T, pp. 121-122, 07 May 1817*).  This deed is witnessed by Isaac TINSLEY.
1820 federal census for Spartanburg & Union Districts, South Carolina — Oddly, Isaac MILES and family are not found in either district in 1820.  They weren’t with Landon or his father Thomas MILES.  Where is Isaac MILES in 1820?  Were they with the TINSLEYs?
1824 — Isaac MILES witnesses a deed in which Benjamin WOFFORD sells land for a “Parsonage for Enoree Circuit” (Spartanburg District Deed Book T, pp. 120-121, 01 May 1824*).  Unlike Landon, who was a deacon in the Baptist church, it seems Isaac MILES and the TINSLEYs were leaning toward the Methodist church.  This fits well with Wiley MILES’ decision to become a Methodist minister.

*The two deeds dated May 1817 and May 1824 were delivered to and recorded at the courthouse on the same day, 04 Oct 1825.
1830 — Isaac’s son Hosea MILES (or “Hosey”) moves to Franklin County, Tennessee.
1830/1840 — Isaac MILES does turn up in the 1830 Spartanburg District census and in the 1840 Union District census.  In 1830, Isaac has two boys living in the household who are the right ages to be William/Wiley MILES and Isaac Preston MILES (a/k/a Preston MILES).  Both censuses show a young female in addition to an older female whom I presume to be Isaac’s wife.  Who is the younger female?   Is there a daughter we don’t know about?
1840 federal census for Union District, South Carolina — Preston MILES and Wiley MILES are both listed near Tillman BOBO (1766-1844).  Tillman is Wiley’s father-in-law and grandfather to Preston’s wife Martha BOBO (1821-1880).  Martha is believed to be the daughter of Tillman’s son Lewis BOBO (1804-1892).
1842 — An old journal “with a full list of the members” of the Methodist Quarterly Conference held on 21 Oct 1842 at Bogan’s Camp Ground in Union District, South Carolina, names, among others, ----- MILES, W. FARROW, Lewis BOBO, and Wiley MILES as class leaders [Chreitzberg, Abel McKee, Early Methodism in the Carolinas, published 1897, pp. 119-120].  The unnamed MILES could be Wiley or his brother Preston.
1856 — The will and probate papers of Mary MILES dated July 1856 (Spartanburg District Estate Papers, File #2476).  Executors of her estate are her brother William H. MILES and his son Thomas P. MILES (1819-Aug 1856).  Cleaver girl, Mary MILES.  She gave us clues:  In Item 7 of her will, Mary speaks of Isaac’s son William (spelling errors and all):  “I give to my Brother Isac Miles two hundred and fiftey dollars / if he Isac should not be living at my death it is my wish that his Sun Wm Miles have the legise that I have wild to his Farther.”  By the way, Miss Mary had a very large estate, thanks in part to the inheritance she received from her father Thomas MILES.

“Wm MILES” did receive an inheritance, which suggests that Isaac died sometime after Mary wrote her will and before she died in July 1855.  (Note: Only Mary’s death month of July was noted in the extant records of New Hope Baptist Church.  Her exact date of death is NOT recorded in her estate file!) 

The next key document in Mary MILES’ probate file is titled “Heirs that reside outside the limits of this state.”  (See the “Evidence and citation to prove the will of Mary Miles” dated July 1856, p. 3, below.)  Here, three names listed together appear to be Isaac’s sons:  “Wiley & Preston Miles / Hosey Miles.”  (Click on images below for all names.)  This document is the only known primary source reference to a “Wiley MILES” in relationship to all the other known MILES family members.

                    Miles - Evidence to prove will - p. 1     Mary
                    Miles - Evidence to prove will - p. 2     Mary
                    Miles - Evidence to prove will - p. 3
                Page 1                                                     Page 2                                        Page 3
1846 — Preston MILES and his wife Martha BOBO go with Wiley MILES and a large family group of BOBOs, RAINWATERs, EDWARDSes, FOSTERs, and others from Union and Spartanburg districts, South Carolina, to Fayette County, Alabama.  It makes sense Preston would travel with his brother (not necessarily a cousin) and his wife’s BOBO family to Alabama.
1850 federal census for Fayette County, Alabama — Preston, Martha and their eight children and Wiley, Rebecca and their seven children are listed here, although not as close neighbors.  Preston MILES and family eventually end up in Arkansas.
1924 — Local genealogist, Mrs. A.J. LAMB, of Enoree, South Carolina, replies on 12 Nov 1924 to a letter written by Wiley’s son Landon asking for information about who he believes are his grandparents, Landon MILES and SARAH MARTIN of Cross Anchor.  Mrs. LAMB says she “found out” about four sons — [James] Aquilla, Silas, Daniel (1806-1886) and Franklin [Francis Asbury] — but seems surprised by the younger Landon’s claim of another son named Wiley.  “Then you say your father was a son of Landon Miles so there might have been others too.”  I believe Mrs. LAMB was correct in her initial assessment: Landon MILES and Sarah MARTIN had only four sons.  Next, she asks about the WALDROPs, “who from what you say left here and went to Alabama when your father went.”  In the next sentence she writes, William it is said, was a Methodist preacher.”  Unfortunately, she does not elaborate on William the Methodist preacher or give any details about his possible parents.
William Leander MILES (1836-1900) was Wiley and Rebecca’s first son born in South Carolina.  This child could have been named in honor of any number of Williams in the MILES family or simply after his father, William (a/k/a Wiley) M. MILES.  My direct ancestor, Wilbur Fisk MILES (1841-1912), was the next-to-last child of Wiley and Rebecca’s to have been born in South Carolina.  It seems Wiley named his other sons — James Daniel, Landon and Francis Asbury — in honor of his uncle and cousins instead of his father and brothers.  Perhaps Landon MILES was his favorite uncle or stepped up as the father figure after Isaac dies.  Although it is curious Wiley has no sons named Isaac or Preston, he did have one grandson named “I. Preston MILES” who died in 1898 at the age of 17.
What if “William” MILES, son of Isaac MILES and Mary TINSLEY, ultimately becomes “Wiley” MILES because of a nickname or intentionally to distinguish himself from all the other men named William MILES in and around Spartanburg District, South Carolina?
Were funds inherited from his father-in-law Tillman BOBO and aunt Mary MILES the reason Wiley could afford to donate the land for Mount Vernon Methodist Church in Fayette County, Alabama?
DNA Testing: My brother’s Y-DNA tests have been submitted to FamilyTree DNA and Ancestry.com.  To my untrained eye, both show connections to Wiley but nothing beyond him.  Certainly nothing conclusive to prove or disprove the Landon/Isaac question.  Perhaps a reason could be that only Wiley’s descendants have submitted tests so far.  Are there any gentlemen with the MILES surname willing to submit a Y-DNA test?
(Photo courtesy of the Missy Miles Collection.)
Wiley Road in Fayette Co., AL
“Wiley Road” is just down the street from Mount Vernon United Methodist Church.
It's unpaved and gives access to property once owned by the MILES clan.

Please send additions/corrections to

Marguerite Miles Harrington

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10 Apr 2016  |  11 Apr 2016