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Miles, John Horne, 1854-1925



  • Existence: 1854 - 1925


John Horne Miles (1854-1925) was a British convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who immigrated to Utah and was involved in a lengthy polygamy case that went to the Supreme Court.

John Horne Miles was born the second of six children to John Henry William Miles and Eliza Horne Miles on May 21, 1854, in London, England. The Miles family owned a pub called the Red Lion, which provided income sufficient for a house in an upscale neighborhood, domestic help, and education for their children. As a child, John, the eldest son, learned how to speak French and German from the domestic servants before he was sent away to a boarding school. After boarding school, John attended Hughes Seminary, Seymour College, and finished his secondary education at the College of Preceptors, where he graduated at the head of his class at age sixteen.

John's mother and father did not have a harmonious relationship. They fought constantly, and John's mother left before he turned sixteen. Earlier in his youth, at the age of thirteen, he met a young neighbor girl by the name of Caroline Maile Owen. After a few years, John and Caroline fell in love. Caroline's family opposed the match, believing their social status to be greater than that of the Miles family. Despite her families objections, Caroline and John became unofficially engaged. They did not marry right away however, because John desired to join the Navy after his graduation from the College of Preceptors. He had developed this desire from summers spent at his grandparent's home in Brighton where John would gaze at the sea, longing to be sailing across it. But he did not join the Navy; rather he became apprenticed to George Henry Harrington as an indentured servant for three years, and despite his father's protest, John left onboard the SS England at the end of 1870. It didn't take him long though to figure out that a sailor's life was not the privileged life he was used to. He was sick of the sea by the first year. When his ship docked at London for a few days, he went to his father and asked if he would buy out his indenture. His father refused, so John returned to his service.

In his third year as a seaman, the SS England docked in Sydney, Australia. John went ashore one evening and met missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holding a street meeting. He bought a copy of the Book of Mormon, read it, and believed it to be God's word. He was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on March 6, 1873. His childhood friend, Ebenezer De Frieze was baptized a few weeks later. From Sydney, the SS England sailed to Japan and then on to the sawmill at Utsaladay, Washington. When in Washington and by mutual agreement, Captain Harrington terminated the enlistments of John, Ebenezer, and Charles DeFrieze (Ebenezer's brother who was later baptized in Utah) a few months early and the boys struck out for Utah. A few days after their arrival in Salt Lake City, Brigham Young learned of the sailors, invited them to his office, and told them their skills in canvas were needed to roof the temple in St. George. When in St. George, the men obtained lodging at the home of Emily Bush Spencer, a widow with two teenaged daughters: Emily and Julia.

John worked on the temple roof with other seamen from England day after day in the hot sun, but the crowning achievement of these seamen would require their skills with ropes and pulleys, not canvas. One day the nine-ton baptismal font arrived from Salt Lake City and the local Church leaders thought they needed help from church headquarters to lift the font into place, which would cause a thirty-day delay. The Englishmen analyzed the task, devised a way to do it, and days later and with some conviction, volunteered to move the font into place. Under the direction of George Jarvis, John, Charles, Ebenezer, and Thomas Crane fashioned a system of ropes and pulleys that maneuvered the nine-ton font into the temple and toward the base. The font slipped onto the base in perfect alignment. Cheers erupted and the seamen became heroes for a day.

During this transitory time, John wrote to Caroline Owen asking her to marry him. He didn't receive an answer, however, and assumed she had given up on him and married someone else. Time passed and friendships with Emily and Julia progressed to affection. By the time John was called to serve a mission in 1876 to England, he was engaged to both of them. He left St. George on May 17 and arrived in Liverpool, England, on July 1, 1876. While in England, he ran into Caroline Owen. He discovered that she was not married, and had received his proposal of marriage. She had written to him accepting it, but had never received a reply back. When she learned of the wreck of his ship, she assumed that he had drowned. The proposal was renewed and Caroline was soon baptized. John told Caroline of his engagement to the Spencer sisters and said he would break it off with them if that was Caroline's desire. He tried to break it off, but the sisters would not break it off with him. Emily Spencer declared that she would wait ten years for him. Not wanting to break the promises he had made to the Spencer sisters, John decided to marry all three women. According to John's sister Thirza, John and Caroline had planned for Caroline to be the first wife and for the Spencer sisters to take care of the household duties.

While in England, John learned that his father was near death. John spent a lot of time with his father near the end of his life in December 1878, comforting him and rebuilding their tense relationship. Trust grew and toward the end, his father revealed to John his mistress and her four children. He asked John to care for them after his death. After the funeral, John found the family in a ghetto in Dickens' London and baptized Jane Mary Wyatt, her three sons, Henry, George, and Arthur and her daughter Edith. When John completed his mission, Jane Mary Wyatt and her family returned to Utah with him, financed from John's inheritance of about $12,000 [according to 1878 standards].

Caroline also returned to Utah with John. Upon arriving in Salt Lake City, John learned from President John Taylor that Church policy regarding plural marriage was to marry the eldest of the brides first. John's oldest fiancée was Emily. Julia, the youngest of the brides, decided not to marry at this time, narrowing the prospective brides to Caroline and Emily. Caroline pled her case personally to President Taylor, informing him how much longer she had been engaged to John, but she did not prevail. Disowned by her family, far away from her homeland, and in love with John, Caroline gave up her position as first wife. She did this reluctantly and on one condition: that John allow her to have her own wedding reception. On October 24, 1878, John married Emily Spencer, and then Caroline Owen. Later that night and unbeknownst to Caroline, John invited Emily to the reception.

Broken promises and a broken heart pushed Caroline over the edge. The day after the wedding, Caroline had John arrested for bigamy. Emily and her family learned of the arrest and Emily was stowed away to St. George in a load of hay or grain. A trial ensued and the verdict was guilty. John's defense team appealed the verdict in the territorial court of Utah, but lost again. They then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned the lower courts' rulings due to the fact that the prosecutor had failed to prove John was married to Emily. To do so, the prosecutor needed Emily's testimony, but she was nowhere to be found.

After the trial ended in May 1879, John's inheritance had been exhausted to very little. He put his life back together but was still not able to live with his wife, who was still in hiding in St. George and Pine Valley, Utah. Despite the distance and time apart, Emily bore John a child on June 15, 1880. In the fall of 1881, John, Emily, and the baby left St. George headed for Mexico to avoid the deputies. They stopped to visit Emily's half sister in Glendale. While there, John was encouraged to stay and take over an abandoned farm for the winter. Within weeks of arriving, Emily delivered a daughter. When the spring of 1882 arrived, John and Emily decided to remain on the farm. The next year, they had another child.

In the summer of 1883, John was having a wagon repaired in Panguitch when he learned of a teaching job at a rowdy school in the town. John applied for the position and began teaching in the fall. He made many changes to the school and turned it into a very fine one. News spread of his success and he was offered more money and better facilities at a school in Escalante, sixty miles east of Panguitch. In the fall of 1884, John, or "Paddy" as he was called, loaded his family of four children onto a covered wagon and set out for their new home.

During the four or five years John and his family lived in Escalante, John spent his summers studying and teaching at Brigham Young Academy under Dr. James E. Talmage and Karl G. Maeser. In the summer of 1889, Karl Maeser offered John the opportunity to become the third principal of the Church's Bear Lake Stake Academy in Paris, Idaho. The family left Escalante and arrived in Paris in time for John to take over as principal in the fall of 1889. Four years after arriving in Paris, John left the academy and moved his family to a homestead in Sharon, Idaho, twelve miles from Paris, to start a family sheep business. He taught. all over the Snake River Valley in Idaho, southern Wyoming, and northern Utah, while leaving Emily behind for months at a time to manage the farm.

In July 1895, Emily Miles delivered her last baby, making a total of eleven children in all. John wasn't around much while Emily was laboring on the farm and taking care of the young children. The older children helped out with the ranch duties while John was away. It was said of John that he didn't like to be around hard work. He was always somewhere else teaching. His sons proved to be better farmers than he was and eventually had farms of their own.

In 1909, John and three sons mortgaged their farms for a down payment on what the family called the Novene Ranch, a 630-acre tract of land along the Bear River. The debt for this expansion proved too much for the family. After three years of operating the Novene Ranch, they were forced into bankruptcy. After the ranch experiment, John served as principal of the school in Goshen, Idaho, between 1915-1916. Before the end of World War I, John worked as a draftsman for the Union Pacific Railroad in Pocatello, Idaho. From there he moved on to become a translator in the historical department of the LDS Church in Salt Lake City, possibly in French or German. On August 10, 1925 John Horne Miles died.

UPB files,

Found in 8 Collections and/or Records:

John Horne Miles biographical materials, 1858-1995

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2310 Series 1
Scope and Contents Contains chronologies of John Horne Miles and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, calling cards, wallpaper maps, copy of the 1880 census, Church data, Post Office London Commercial directories, and courthouse records from England and Idaho; photocopies of Miles' Brigham Young Academy records, histories of the Miles family, Wilma Madsen research and writings, photographs of the Miles family, Miles' correspondence, copies and typescripts of Miles' patriarchal blessings (5), and...
Dates: Other: 1858-1995

John Horne Miles interviews, 1962-1993

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2310 Series 2
Scope and Contents

Interview typescripts and resulting essays by Henry Landon Miles: works on J. H. Miles, George E. Miles, Ezra Weekes, LaRue Miles Elison, Maurice Jarvis Miles, and Richard Miles. Dated 1962-1993.

Dates: Other: 1962-1993

John Horne Miles miscellany, 1862-2001

 Series — Box 3: Series 5; Series 6; Series 7 [Barcode: 31197232484136], Folder: 7, 10-16
Identifier: MSS 2310 Series 7
Scope and Contents

Copies of various biographical writings on John Horne Miles, written by his great-grandson, Henry Landon Miles, as well as an index to the collection created by the same; a copy of Robert Joseph Dwyer's dissertation, "The Gentile Comes to Utah: A Study in Religious and Social Conflict (1862-1890)"; and a bound family history temple records book. Dated 1862-2001.

Dates: 1862-2001

John Horne Miles missionary-related materials, 1876-1878, approximately 2000

 Series — Box 2: Series 1; Series 2; Series 3; Series 4; Series 5 [Barcode: 31197232484128], Folder: 10-15
Identifier: MSS 2310 Series 4
Scope and Contents

Photocopies of mission records, excerpts from the Millennial Star and Deseret News, typescript photocopy of J.H. Miles' missionary journal, journal annotations and research report, and other general research by Henry Landon Miles. Dated 1876 to 1878, and approximately 2000.

Dates: 1876-1878; approximately 2000

John Horne Miles papers on Merchant Marines, 1869-1925

 Series — Box 2: Series 1; Series 2; Series 3; Series 4; Series 5 [Barcode: 31197232484128], Folder: 3-8
Identifier: MSS 2310 Series 3
Scope and Contents

Photocopies of register of indentures, Merhcant Marine crew agreement and log books, official log book, photocopies of Lloyd's List, and obituaries. Dated 1869-1925.

Dates: Other: 1869-1925

John Horne Miles polygamy trial materials, 1877-1968

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2310 Series 5
Scope and Contents Documents related to John Horne Miles' polygamy trial, including legal documents, photocopies of The Deseret Evening News Report and Commentary (and of the Salt Lake Daily Herald Report and Commentary) on the trial of John Horne Miles, typescripts of articles from the Salt Lake Daily Herald and Daily Tribune, photocopies from the Documentary History of the Church (trial proceedings as recorded by the Church), genealogy reports, and typescripts of Henry Landon Miles's research on J.H. Miles....
Dates: Other: 1877-1968

John Horne Miles research correspondence, 1992-1998

 Series — Box 3: Series 5; Series 6; Series 7 [Barcode: 31197232484136], Folder: 6, 8-9
Identifier: MSS 2310 Series 6
Scope and Contents

Research correspondence pertaining to John Horne Miles. The information in the following folders relates to Henry Landon Miles' research on John Horne Miles through correspondence. Dated 1992-1998, and email correspondence, 1997-1998.

Dates: 1992-1998

Henry Landon Miles collection on John Horne Miles

Identifier: MSS 2310
Scope and Contents

Contains research material, mostly photocopies, gathered by Henry Landon Miles regarding the life of his great-grandfather, John Horne Miles. Subjects include the merchant marines, John’s missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the polygamy trial in which John was involved in Utah. The materials are dated 1858 to 2001.

Dates: 1858-2001

Additional filters:

Archival Object 7
Collection 1
Merchant mariners -- England 7
Latter Day Saint missionaries -- England -- History 6
Latter Day Saints -- England -- Biography 6
Photocopies 4
Family histories 3