Philip Jacob Miller was a Brethren man, also called Dunkers because their faith called for fully immersing, or dunking, those being baptized. Baptism took place as adults, not as infants, with the belief that one could only adhere to the tenets of the church if one was old enough to comprehend the teachings. Hence, converts were rebaptized, invalidating infant baptisms performed in other Protestant sects, causing the Brethren to sometimes be referred to by the derogatory term, “rebaptizers” by their Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed contemporaries. The Brethren were perceived as fanatical and sometimes seditious in their beliefs, but they found strength and comfort among their Brethren families and communities. This history explains the tight-knit sect that became both accustomed and immune to public outrage and pressure from outside of the Brethren church. Pressure to confirm from inside the Brethren church was another matter.
Philip Jacob’s father, Michael Muller/Miller, was Brethren as were his children, grandchildren and on down through a total of 5 generations until the first non-Brethren emerged in my line. John Whitney Ferverda, my grandfather, was raised Brethren, married a Lutheran woman and their compromise was the Methodist church. Philip Jacob was probably rolling over in his grave, wherever that is.
Brethren adhere to the “three negatives.” According to “A Centennial Statement,” published in 1981 by the Brethren Church:
Obedience to Christ is the center of Brethren life. This conviction has led the Brethren historically to practice non-conformity, non-resistance, and non-swearing.
- In non-conformity, Brethren have sought to follow the way of Christ in contrast to the way of the world.
- In non-resistance, Brethren have renounced the Christian’s use of violence in combating evil, striving, as far as possible, to be reconciled to all persons.
- In non-swearing, Brethren have sought to lead such trustworthy Christian lives that oath-taking becomes unnecessary.
Every Brethren believer must live in a way that exhibits to the world the truth and love of Christ.
Historically, this means that Brethren did not believe in any particpation in government, to the point that they would not obtain a marriage license and those who did were shunned.
For instance, on February 14, 1776, Alexander Mack Jr., the son of the founder of the Brethren faith writes in a letter that he is shunning his daughter, Sarah, because “she married outside of the brotherhood” and secondly “because the marriage was performed with a license and third because her husband had not quite completed his apprenticeship.”
Brethren seldom registered deeds and often did not file wills. Worse yet, at least for the genealogist, they didn’t keep church records of births, baptisms, marriages or deaths.
Tracking Brethren families is difficult because of these beliefs. Sometimes tax lists, land surveys and purchases from or sales to non-Brethren community members are the only documents that confirm where our Brethren families were living at a given time, at least before the census began. You might escape a death record, but not even Brethren could escape the tax man.
If a Brethren was called to court, or wanted to become naturalized, they would not take an oath, but asked to be allowed to “affirm” instead. Hence, the Brethren men from Maryland traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where they were allowed affirmations as opposed to “swearing an oath.” Several Brethren men, including the minister Nicholas Martin, Philip Jacob Miller, Michael Miller, Jacob Stutzman and Stephen Ulrich made that journey for naturalization in either 1762 or 1767, or both.
Some Brethren felt that they had betrayed their faith by becoming naturalized, even under those circumstances, as minister Nicholas Martin reported to Alexander Mack Jr. in a letter in 1772 about Stephen Ulrich’s remorse and feelings of estrangement within the Brethren community.
The Brethren were peaceloving pietists. In essence, they would not participate in violence. They would literally not defend their families in a time of danger or warfare because violence was fundamentally opposed within their religion.
This wasn’t just a conceptual belief, as there are many examples over the years of Indian raids and families who died, and allowed their children to die rather than to defend themselves. I can’t imagine a faith so strong that someone would let a family member, particularly a child, be injured, tortured and perish.
I have to marvel at the people who lived by these beliefs. I respect them for the strength of their convictions, but I would never last.
Therefore, understanding that Philip Jacob Miller was indeed a devout member of this church, in a strong Brethren community where his entire extended family was Brethren as well, it never occurred to me in my wildest dreams that Philip Jacob Miller was a Revolutionary War Patriot.
That’s about as “un-Brethren” as you can get, especially for a man who went all the way to Philadelphia to avoid taking an oath in Maryland, not once, but twice.
I published the story of Philip Jacob Miller and there are surely some hints that, as I read back over the article, now seem obvious. Cousin Marian, a former DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) chapter rep sent me an e-mail and told me that several people had joined the DAR based on Philip Jacob Miller’s service. Imagine my shock!
Marian discovered that Philip Jacob Miller’s service was based on the 1783 tax list. I had found that list previously, but I didn’t realize the significance, especially when combined with other information.
The Maryland State Archives indicate that the tax list was bound into a book with the title of “Copy of Assessors Certificates of Valuation of Property in Washington County in Pursuance of the Act of Assembly for Raising the Supplies for the year 1783.” (Underscore mine.) The important part, relative to Philip Jacob Miller’s Revolutionary War service are those underlined words. In other words, these taxes, at least in part, went to fund the Revolutionary War effort.
The tax list shows several Miller men on page 46 and 47, including Philip Jacob Miller, his brother John and his son, Daniel.
Please note that you can click to enlarge any image.
From the article about Philip Jacob Miller, I’ve excerpted the portions relevant to his Revolutionary War service, and added information, as follows:
The Revolutionary War
Philip Jacob Miller lived through the Revolutionary War in Washington County, Maryland, taken from Frederick County in 1776. This would have been Philip Jacob’s third war in 30 years, or fourth war in 40 years, depending on how you were counting.
Floyd Mason, in his book, “The Michael Miller and Susanna Bechtol Family Record,” tells us what he discovered about the Brethren in Frederick County during the Revolutionary War.
During the Revolution, the colonists held their national conventions and appointed certain committees of local leaders to carry out local responsibilities. In PA and MD, the main committee was the Committee of Observation who had the responsibility for raising funds to promote the war, select its leaders and furnish themselves with one committee member for each 100 families. This committee had full power to act as it saw fit, answered to no one and there was no appeal of their decisions.
The militia groups were called Associations, later called Militia Companies. The Committee of Observation made lists of those not participating, whether Loyalist or members of the “Peace churches,” and they were called non-enrollers or Non-Associators.
The war issues divided the people’s loyalty. About one third favored the revolution, one third were Loyalists or Tories who favored the English and one third were neutral or did not believe in this manner of settling the issues. This threw the Quakers, Mennonites and Dunkers (Brethren) in with the Tories or Loyalists and in opposition to the efforts of the Committee of Observation, at least as the committee saw it.
The churches were bringing discipline to bear on members who did not follow the historic peace teachings of the church. Annual Conferences were held each year and members were asked to remain true to the Church’s nonviolent principles, to refrain from participating in the war, to not voluntarily pay the War taxes and not to allow their sons to participate in the war. This caused a lot of problems for the church members who wanted to be loyal to the church, loyal to the Loyalists who had brought them to the new country and loyal to the new government which was emerging.
As the war wore on and it looked as if the patriot’s efforts might lose, emotions raged. Non-Associators found themselves having to pay double and triple taxes. Their barns were burned, livestock stolen or slaughtered and their crops destroyed. They were often beaten and “tarred and feathered.” Church members came to the aid of those who endured the losses.
Some members chose not to pay the war taxes or participate in the war activities and chose to wait until the authorities came and presented their papers to have taxes forced from them. This was in compliance with the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference Action. The Committee of Observation provided that non-Associators could take as much of their possessions with them as they could and then they would seize the property and remaining possessions and sell them to fill their war chests.
During this time, the Revolutionary War was taking place and the Brethren were known as non-Associators, those who would take an oath of loyalty, but would not belong to a militia unit nor fight. Many non-Brethren residents suspected them of secretly being allied with the Tories and resented their refusal to protect themselves and others. Laws of the time allowed for the confiscation of property of anyone thought to be disloyal. Records of this type of event have survived in the oral and written histories of some of the Brethren families, in particular some who migrated on down into the Shenandoah Valley. Perhaps others thought it wise to move on about this time as well.
Taken from several sources, these are some of the names of non-Associators and others who were processed by the Committee of Observance that are descendants of Johann Michael Mueller (Jr., Philip Jacob Miller’s father) who died in 1771.
- Samuel Garber who may have married one of Michael Miller’s daughters, and their sons Martin and Samuel Garber
- Jacob Good, Michael Miller’s step-daughter’s husband
- John Rife, Michael Miller’s step-daughter’s husband
- David Miller, the son of Philip Jacob Miller
- Michael Wine, married Susannah, the daughter of Lodowich Miller, son of Michael Miller
- Jacob Miller, son of Lodowich Miller
- Abraham Miller, relationship uncertain
- Another source lists Elder Daniel Miller, stated as Lodowick’s son, as being fined 4.5 pounds.
Susannah Miller Wine told her children and grandchildren that Michael Wine, Jacob Miller, Martin Garber and Samuel Garber had their property confiscated by the authorities for remaining true to the non-violent principles of their church.
Lodowich Miller’s family group removed to Rockingham County, VA about 1782 or 1783.
We know that in 1783, Philip Jacob Miller, John Miller and Lodowick Miller were signing deeds back and forth in Frederick County. These activities may well have been in preparation for Lodowick’s departure. He was not on the 1783 tax list, and at least part of his land was clearly in Washington County, so he was apparently gone by that time.
William Thomas, on the Brethren Rootsweb list in 2011 tells us:
I have a copy of the 1776 non-enrollers list for Washington County, MD, that lists “Dunkars & Menonist” fines. The list includes Abraham Miller, David Miller, and David Miller son of Philip. It goes on to list an appraisal of guns (whatever that means) in 1777 and includes a Henry Miller.
Point being there were several Miller’s in Washington County, some of who were Dunkers or Mennonites, a name common to both denominations.
If you move to the 1776 non-enroller list for Frederick County, MD, you have even more Millers. You have Jacob Miller, Jacob Miller s/o Adam, Abraham Miller, Peter Miller, Stephen Miller, Solomon Miller, Robert Miller, Henry Miller, Philip Miller, David Miller and Daniel Miller, all fined, and implying a Dunker/Mennonite/Quaker religious affiliation.
Washington County, Maryland was formed in September 1776 from the portion of Frederick County where Philip Jacob Miller lived. Note that while David Miller, son of Philip is listed, Philip Jacob is not listed but he could be listed as Philip, although we’ll see on the 1783 list that another Philip Miller is also residing in the area. So, Philip on the tax list could be another Philip, Jacob could be the Jacob Miller who left for Virginia, and Philip Jacob’s name could be legitimately absent from the “Dunkars and Menonist” list.
There is other evidence that Philip Jacob Miller did participate at some level. Men 16-60 were required to participate in the local militia. Philip Jacob was born between 1722 and 1727, so he would have been about 50 years old in 1776, clearly not 60 where he would be exempt until 1782 at the very earliest.
From the book, “Colonial Soldiers of the South, 1732-1774” by Murtie June Clark:
Capt. John White’s Company Maryland Militia, 6 days, undated:
- Michael Miller
- Jacob Miller
Note that there were multiple Michael and Jacob Millers in the area, and not all of them appear to be Brethren. This alone is not conclusive.
List of Militia 1732-1763 now before the Committee of Accounts lists John White’s militia as from Frederick County as well as that of Jonathan Hager.
Capt. Jonathan Hager’s Company, Maryland Militia 6 days service, undated:
- Jacob Miller
- Conrod Miller
- John Miller Jr.
- John Miller
- Jacob Miller Jr.
- Zachariah Miller
- Philip Jacob Miller
- Jacob Miller (son of Conrad)
Perhaps Philip Jacob Miller was trying, rather unsuccessfully it seems, to find a middle ground.
It’s difficult to understand how to interpret this information that seems to be conflicting. To try to resolve or better understand the situation, I turned to the 1790 census where I found 2 Philips in Washington County, 5 Jacobs, 7 Johns and an Abraham in both Washington and Frederick County. Unfortunately, the 1790 census did not add clarity.
One thing we do know is that Philip Jacob Miller always used both names. A second Jacob Miller, also Brethren, also found early in Frederick County, Maryland, moved to Virginia about this time and then later to the Brethren community in Montgomery County, Ohio where Philip Jacob Miller’s sons, Daniel and David settled. This Jacob Miller has been proven to be unrelated on the Michael Miller line via Y DNA testing through the Miller-Brethren DNA Project.
If you descend from any Brethren Miller line, and have either Miller paternal Y or autosomal DNA tests, please join this project at Family Tree DNA to help us identify the various Miller Brethren lines. If you haven’t yet tested, Miller men can order the Y DNA test here and everyone can take the autosomal Family Finder test.
We can tell based on Philip Jacob Miller’s land records that he did indeed pay his taxes. In the 1750s, he had a 290 acre tract and a 50 acre tract surveyed.
The 1783 tax list provides us with the following information:
Philip Jacob Miller owned “sundry tracts” meaning more than one, which included:
- Acres of wood – 98
- Acres of meadow – 14
- Acres of arable – 55
- Total #acres – 167
- Value – 250
- Value of improvements – 110
- Horses – 2
- Black Cattle – 4
- Value of livestock – 21
- Value other property – 3
- Total amount of property – 384
We don’t know what happened to the total of 340 acres that Philip Jacob had surveyed in the 1750s, but it’s entirely possible that he sold or gave portions to other Brethren, in particular, his children. We haven’t found deeds. It’s also possible that some of the land lay in Frederick County, the part that did not become Washington, although given the locations that we know, I don’t think that’s likely.
We also know that in 1796, when Philip Jacob sold his land to move to Kentucky, he sold 290 acres which is consistent with his survey.
While I can’t confirm exactly how and when Philip Jacob Miller obtained and disposed of land, one thing is clear. Philip Jacob Miller did not lose his land that he purchased from his father in 1751 and had surveyed in 1755. He sold the largest portion of that land in 1796. I don’t know why the 1783 tax list shows less land, unless he gave some of it to his children, who gave it back when they left, not long after this tax list was prepared. In fact, perhaps this 1783 forced payment of taxes to support the war was the last straw that convinced his sons, Daniel and David to move to Bedford County, Pennsylvania.
His son, “Daniel Miller of Philip” is shown on the 1783 list as well with no land, but a David Miller has 142 acres. Since there is only one David Miller, he isn’t listed by noting his father.
Hagerstown, Maryland fell into Washington County in 1776, so we know that the militia list that showed Philip Jacob Miller in Capt. Jonathan Hager’s Company with 6 days service in Frederick County was prior to the county split in 1776. While Philip Jacob may have served for 6 days, that unit was never called to duty, so he never had to make that decision.
The 1783 Washington County tax list is clearly to raise funds for supplies to support the war effort. Philip Jacob is listed and obviously paid the tax, because he did not lose his land. Not only that, he had paid previous taxes as well, because he owned land in 1783 and he sold his original land surveyed in 1755, 41 years later, in 1796.
Philip Jacob is never found listed on the non-Associator’s lists of those who protested silently by refusing to participate unless either the “Philip” or “Jacob,” listed separately, is actually Philip Jacob. We know from the 1783 tax list, combined with other information, that there is another Phillip Miller and another Jacob Miller in the county at that time.
While Philip Jacob Miller may have broken with the Brethren at least somewhat on the topic of war, taxes and resulting land confiscation, he traveled all the way to Philadelphia with his elderly father and other Brethren in 1767 to be naturalized – a location where they were allowed to affirm and did not have to swear an oath. He also traveled there in 1762 to witness Nicholas Martin’s naturalization. He obviously took his Brethren faith seriously.
It appears that Philip Jacob Miller may well have walked somewhat of a tightrope, trying to preserve what he had worked so hard to accumulate for the future, for his family, and for his descendants while not acting in opposition to his religion. He wanted to leave his children in the best circumstances possible. At the age of between 70 and 75 in 1796, he sold his 192 acres of land and underwent a treacherous journey cross country and down the Ohio river to settle on yet another frontier on the Ohio River bordering Kentucky and Ohio where he bought 2000 acres of land that he left to his heirs.
Honoring Philip Jacob Miller’s Service
Philip Jacob Miller might well be appalled by this article and my recognition of him as a Revolutionary War Patriot – but he’s dead and can’t protest now. I want his legacy, his truth, to live. Brethren did not call attention to themselves and led very humble lives. His great-grandson’s gravestone was ordered “without too much polish,” in an effort to respect the Brethren way of life.
Honoring Philip Jacob for anything would be embarrassing, and assuredly, to honor him for his military service, no matter how reluctantly he served, would be mortifying to the man – especially if he really didn’t intentionally serve and tried not to. I’m sure he had a great deal of remorse about however he served and it probably panged his Brethren conscience for the rest of his life. It was clearly a slippery slope to find just the right balance of “service” that would fulfill the requirement well enough to prevent the confiscation of his land and farm, yet not alienate the Brethren community entirely.
I wouldn’t be quite so sure that Philip “served” at all if the only evidence was the 1783 tax list, because many other Brethren men are listed there including Nicholas Martin, the minister. All men who owned land would have been on that list of taxes owed, which is not the same as taxes paid. The only question remaining would be if they paid the bill or allowed their land to be confiscated. Given the Brethren directive, I’d guess that we he waited until the very last minute possible before paying, literally staring confiscation in the eye. Perhaps that much resistance was enough to preserve his membership within the church.
However, the 1783 tax list and the fact that he paid those taxes, combined with the earlier list of Hager’s men who served in the militia for 6 days is quite convincing, even without Philip Jacob’s apparent absence on the list of non-enrollers.
I can’t exactly put this bronze marker on Philip Jacob Miller’s grave since his burial location is either on an island that washed away in the Ohio River, or an unmarked grave in the Twelve Mile Regular Baptist Church Island Cemetery, depending on which version of the story you like.
So, I’ll just say thank you Philip Jacob Miller, for your service despite the tough decisions you had to make in the turmoil and uncertainty of the time in which you lived, your practical nature and your love for your family. The rights you and others secured for your descendants continue to protect Americans today, almost 250 years later.