Open main menu


MYLES or MILES, JOHN (1621–1684), founder of Welsh baptist churches, son of Walter Myles of Newton-Welsh, Herefordshire, was born in 1621. On 11 March 1636 he matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford; nothing further is known of his university career. He seems to have begun to preach in Wales in 1644 or 1645, probably as an independent. In the spring of 1649 he went to London with Thomas Proud; they joined a baptist church at the Glasshouse, Broad Street, under William Consett and Edward Draper. Returning to Wales, Myles and Proud formed on 1 Oct. 1649 the first baptist church in Wales, at Ilston, Glamorganshire. The rector of Ilston, William Houghton, was sequestered, and Myles obtained the rectory. His name appears in the act (22 Feb. 1650) ‘for the better propagation and preaching of the Gospel in Wales’ among the twenty-five ministers on whose recommendation and approval the seventy-one lay commissioners were to act [see Powell, Vavasor]. He soon found himself at the head of sixteen baptist preachers, by whose efforts five churches were formed by 1652. These churches did not all make adult baptism a term of communion, though Myles's own church did. They differed also about imposition of hands at baptism, and the use of conjoint singing in public worship. These differences did not hinder their union in a common association. Myles in 1651 was this association's delegate to a meeting of baptists in London.

At the Restoration Houghton recovered the rectory of Ilston, and Myles soon afterwards emigrated to New England. In 1663 he formed a baptist church at Rehoboth, Massachusetts. But on 2 July 1667 Thomas Prince, governor of Massachusetts, fined Myles and James Brown, his coadjutor, 5l. apiece for ‘breach of order in setting up a public meeting without the knowledge and approbation of the court.’ It was decided that ‘their continuance at Rehoboth’ could not be allowed, as ‘being very prejudicial to the peace of that church and that town;’ but on their desisting from their meeting within a month, and removing elsewhere, they were to be tolerated. Myles removed to Barrington, Rhode Island, where he built a house; to this day a bridge there, over the river, is known as Myles's Bridge. On 30 Oct. 1667 the court of Massachusetts granted a tract of land, on which a town named Swansea was built. Among the incorporators was Captain Willetts, the first mayor of New York city. Myles was the town's minister. In 1673 a school was built, of which Myles was master. His church at Swansea was scattered during the Indian war, and he removed to Boston, Massachusetts, where he preached to a baptist church, and lived in good accord with the congregational divines, and modified his opinion of the necessity of adult baptism for communion. He returned to Swansea, Massachusetts, in 1678, and preached there till his death on 3 Feb. 1683–4. His son returned to England. His grandson, Samuel Myles (1664–1728), graduated B.A. at Harvard in 1684, and was incorporated M.A. at Oxford on 15 July 1693; he was the first rector (from 29 June 1689) of King's Chapel, Boston, Massachusetts.

[Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, 1702, iii. 7, iv. 138; Calamy's Account, 1713, p. 731; Calamy's Continuation, 1727, ii. 847; Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, 1714, ii. 278; Hutchinson's Hist. of the Colony of Massachuset's Bay, 1765, p. 228; Backus's Hist. of New England, 1777, pp. 350 seq., as cited in Rees's Hist. Prot. Nonconformity in Wales, 1883, pp. 90 seq., 114 seq.; Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1888, iv. 474; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714, iii. 1012.]

A. G.