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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.


  • 1858-2001


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the Henry Landon Miles collection on John Horne Miles must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the Special Collections Coordinating Committee.

Biographical History

John Horne Miles (1854-1925) was a merchant marine and 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 as a merchant marine 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 Mormon missionaries 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.

Biographical History

Henry Landon Miles (born 1935) worked as a Foreign Service Officer and consultant. After retirement he and his wife volunteered at LDS temples, the Provo Crisis Center, and at the BYU Family History Library.

Henry Landon Miles, the first of four sons of Henry Miles and Amelia Iva Landon, was born on March 2, 1935 in Blackfoot, Idaho. He served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Western Canada from 1955 to 1957. After he returned from his mission, he received an associates degree from Ricks College in 1959. In 1960, he married Carol Polatis, a legal secretary and student. A year later, Henry received his bachelors degree in business at Idaho State University, while Carol continued work as a legal secretary.

After graduation, Henry and Carol moved to Virginia where he attended the engineer officers' course at Fort Belvoir. Afterwards, Henry worked for the Navy Department and attended graduate school at George Washington University. Carol worked for the Pan American Sulfur Company and continued to work on her degree at the University of Virginia. In 1965, they and their two children moved to Bolivia, and a year later, Henry was transferred to Vietnam. Carol went to Blackfoot with the two children, where she gave birth to their third child. In 1967, they returned to Virginia, where Henry continued to work and study.

In the spring of 1968, Henry received his MA in economics at American University. In the fall, Carol gave birth to their fourth child. In 1969, Henry again joined the Foreign Service and served with the Agency for International Development overseas in Ecuador until 1973, and then Paraguay until about 1979. During this time Henry served in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in various positions, including counselor to three mission presidents. When he returned to Washington, D.C. in 1979, he worked as an evaluation officer for the African Bureau and finished his career as Officer in Charge of Indonesia and South Pacific Affairs. In 1987, he retired and then served as a consultant in El Salvador for a year, while his wife remained in Virginia where she worked for a real estate management firm.

Carol remained very busy through the years. She worked for an international consulting firm, served in the Relief Society (as president various times) and on various mission boards, and received her associates degree in philosophy. In Paraguay, she served as president of Las Amigas, the organization for North American women.

In 1988, Henry and Carol moved to Orem. Henry entered Brigham Young University to complete a masters degree in English that he had begun at George Mason University in Virginia, and Carol entered BYU to complete her bachelor's degree in Anthropology. Both completed their degrees in 1994. Henry's long time interest in John Horne Miles culminated in a master's thesis devoted to him and his family.

Carol and Henry enjoy five children and seventeen grandchildren. Currently, Carol is a secretary in the Cherry Hill Stake Relief Society in Utah and manages the Sears office of H&R Block during the tax season and Henry works for her as a tax preparer. Their volunteer work has included the women's crisis center in Provo, the Provo and Timpanogos temples and the BYU Family History Library. Carol and Henry's current family history venture is recording the lives of two lines of relatives of the generation ahead of them before they are all gone.


3 boxes (1.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



Arranged in seven series: 1. John Horne Miles biographical materials, 1858-1995. 2. John Horne Miles interviews, 1962-1993. 3. John Horne Miles papers on Merchant Marines records, 1869-1925. 4. John Horne Miles missionary-related materials, 1876-1878, approximately 2000. 5. John Horne Miles polygamy trial materials, 1877-1968. 6. John Horne Miles research correspondence, 1992-1998. 7. John Horne Miles miscellany, 1862-2001.

Other Finding Aids

A more detailed finding aid is available in print in the repository.

Other Finding Aids

Item-level inventory available online.

Custodial History

Collection was donated in September 2001, to the L. Tom Perry Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University by Henry Landon Miles, the great-grandson of John Horne Miles. These papers were in his possession until he donated them to BYU.

New aquisition of family history book was donated by Henry Landon Miles in January 2017.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Henry Landon Miles; September 2001.

Donated; Henry Landon Miles; January 2017.


LDS cultural, social and religious history (20th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts collection development policy 5.v.i, 2013.)

Processing Information

Processed; David J. Whittaker Curator, 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts, and Judi Crisp and Erin Chapman Student Assistants in collaboration with Henry Landon Miles; March 2002.

Processed; Carol Allred, student manuscripts processor; 2017.

Processed; Grace Bithell, student manuscript processor; 2019.

Register of Henry Landon Miles collection on John Horne Miles
David J. Whittaker, curator, and Judi Crisp and Erin Chapman, student assistants, in collaboration with Henry Landon Miles
2002 March
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States