When Did Michael Miller Really Die? The Answer May Lay in the Land – 52 Ancestors #312

It’s been widely reported, including by me, that Johann Michael Miller died in 1771. That’s where the evidence all pointed – until perhaps now.

Do we have it wrong?

There’s conflicting evidence that I can’t resolve, so I’m hoping that perhaps someone else has some insight, or records that I don’t. Plus, this is a great story! So kick back and enjoy while Johann Michael Miller tortures me once again😊

Credit Where Credit is Due!

First, I’d like to thank two other researchers, both of whom reached out to me after I published the primary Michael Miller article. This article dovetails with the earlier one.

Johann Michael Miller (Mueller) the Second (1692-1771), Brethren Immigrant, 52 Ancestors #104

One of the things I love about these articles is that they engage other people. Initially, a year ago, Wayne Diehl contacted me with new information.

Recently, Robert Atteberry wrote to me about what he believes to be a different death year for Michael Miller.

I should have known when I read the first sentence of Robert’s document that he attached!

“You may need to buckle your seat belt, as this will be a rather long and bumpy ride.”

And truly, that was an understatement.

Yep – Buckle Up

It’s ironic that my Johann Michael Mueller, shortened to Michael Miller in the US, isn’t a direct interest of Robert. At least not yet.

Robert needs to resolve the multiple Michael Miller connections to discover more about another Michael Miller, along with Henry Miller, who married the daughters of Jacob French II. Oh, the things genealogists do in the process of tracking down those pesky ancestors.

I’m noting Robert Atteberry’s Miller interest early in this article in the hope that someone may possess some information to help him along his journey. Robert writes:

In my research of my Henry Miller line, I have come across a Michael and Henry Miller living in Berkeley County WV in the latter part of the 18th Century, who appear to have married daughters of Jacob French II. When I encounter other persons of the same surname living contemporaneous and in near geographic proximity to my target ancestor, I am obliged to investigate the ancestry of those allied parties, so that they can either be excluded or included as part of my ancestor’s family. When I discovered that Jacob French, and his brother, George French owned property in Forbush Branch in close proximity to Michael Miller, of course I felt compelled to study Michael Miller. That imperative heightened even more when I found that Jacob Good had actually purchased Huckleberry Hall from Jacob French II.

Note that Martinsburg, West Virginia near Forbush Branch is only about 20 miles south of Ash Swamp, owned by my Michael Miller, the immigrant, in Frederick County.

Jacob Good is believed (but not proven) to have been the step-son-in-law of Michael Miller through his second wife, Elizabeth Garber, widow of Nicholas Garber, along with John Riffe. One thing is for sure, Jacob Good was involved in several land transactions with some Michael Miller in Frederick County, MD whose land was very close to the proven land of our Johann Michael Miller.

There are lots of moving parts, and either we have multiple coincidences, which is possible, or we’re making headway, little by little.

Robert is currently looking for a male Miller descendant from his line of interest to Y DNA test. That would answer the question – well – at least one question.

From Robert:

My interest really lies in a totally separate, and probably unrelated Miller line: Henry Miller and his wife, Magdalena of Martinsburg WV.

Even though I do not at present have any direct evidence that the Michael and Henry Miller, who married daughters of Jacob French II, were kinsman of the Brethren Michael Miller, I cannot as yet rule out that possibility. More to my specific purpose, I cannot even state with any certainty that any of these Washington County Miller’s have any connection to my ancestor, Henry Miller of Opequon Creek.

Please click here for Robert’s story and use your browser search for “Jacob French.”

But before I share Robert’s potentially apple-cart-upsetting discovery, it’s important to flesh out more of the story of Michael Miller’s land. Because the devil is in the details, and the answer may lay in the land.

Johann Michael Miller’s relevant land ownership begins in Pennsylvania with Batchelor’s Choice in what was then Lancaster County, PA, soon to become York and then Adam County.

Batchelor’s Choice

In 1744, the same year our Michael Miller is mentioned in Brethren letters, Batchelor’s Choice was purchased by Michael Miller, Nicholas Garber, Samuel Bechtol and Hans Jacob and Elizabeth Bechtol who lived in Chester Co. PA. These families had migrated from Chester County where they were found on the 1737 tax list.

Batchelor’s Choice was subdivided with 150 acres each to Michael Miller and Samuel Bechtol, Michael’s wife’s brother who is buried in the adjacent cemetery, and 100 acres to Nicholas Garber.

Wayne Diehl plotted the location of Batchelor’s Choice outside of Hanover, PA.

Here’s the land (Batchelors Choice) purchased in 1744 by Michael Miller (plat 3, 150 acres), Samuel Bechtol (plat 2, 150 acres) and Nicholas Gerber (plat 1, 100 acres.)  It’s just outside Hanover, PA, and I visited the site last year and took some pics.

A big thank you to Wayne for allowing me to include his photos.

From York/ Hanover Road, Wayne looked across the fields that Michael owned to see the farm in the distance.

Of course, Michael would have had a barn, probably multiple barns, but no silos back then. Otherwise, this land, once cleared, which would have been a massive undertaking, has probably changed little.

This photo shows Michael’s land that lay south of present-day Gitts Run Road.

Michael’s portion of the land had an old road, now Gitts Run, that runs directly through the middle of the property today. That’s exactly how old farm paths became eventual roads.

Wayne visited in October of 2018 and took this photo driving through Michael’s land, with his fields on both sides. The bridge across Oil Creek is just about where that vehicle is in the photo.

Oil Creek runs alongside, and like all early homesteads, the house was found nearby. Settlers would have walked a few feet to the creek to fill buckets. The closer the creek, the better.

The curve hugs the barn closely, a road design that would never be approved today. The house sits back from the road.

This beautiful, historic home is just stunning. I can’t help but wonder if that tree dates to when Michael lived on this property.

Rounding the curve, we see the back of original farmhouse in the distance, along with a beautiful partly-bricked barn. They don’t build barns like that anymore.

Driving past the silos and barn, I see what might be a farm stand to the right, under the roof. In the Amish/Mennonite area where I grew up, farm stands dotted the landscape with jars or boxes and neighbors paid on the honor system.

There are electrical wires to the home today, so the home is wired for electricity.

The photos above are from Google street view, but Wayne was able to take a lovely photo of the home, below, which I strongly suspect was either Michael Millers’ or built shortly after he sold the property.

Of course we don’t know if this was the original home, but the dual fireplaces with the two small windows at either end of the house tell us that this structure is quite old, very likely pre-1800.

Of course, the homestead is surrounded by farmland all around.

Looking in all directions. The aerial below shows all of Michael’s portion of the land.

The deep black loam of these fields looks incredibly fertile, even yet today.

This view encompasses all of Michael’s land including the Bechtel and Garber tracts, plus some of the neighboring area, including Bairs Mennonite Church. I can’t help but wonder who owned that adjacent tract.

It’s interesting that the Bairs Mennonite Church along with the very large York Road Cemetery, also known as Bair’s Meeting House Cemetery, is located right beside what was once Michael’s land. The Bechtel’s who bought that land from Michael Miller were Mennonite and there are lots of Bechtels buried in the cemetery, including Samuel Bechtel, Michael’s brother-in-law, who died in 1758. This church was established early, along with the cemetery, and is very likely the location where Michael Miller’s wife, Suzanna Bechtel along with Nicholas Garber were buried.

It’s possible that Michael is buried here as well. Given that he married Nicholas Garber’s widow, he could have moved back, and potentially died here.

This meeting house certainly hadn’t been built yet at that time, but an earlier structure could have stood here. There had to be something here by 1758 when Samuel Bechtel was buried, and likely before.

Meetings may have been held exclusively in the homes of members, or clergy, and this cemetery might well have simply been the Garber, Miller, Bechtel extended family cemetery, at least initially. Or, perhaps by that time there was a log cabin meeting house.

The oldest graves would have been located closest to the church, radiating outward with each ensuing generation. Michael’s home was just “over yonder” a bit, within view and just across the field. You could look out the window and see your family members’ resting places as you went about your daily chores. They were always nearby, watching over you.

This aerial shows all of Batchelor’s Run, the land where Michael lived along with his brother-in-law, Samuel Bechtol and Nicholas Garber.

The original portion of this home on Gitts Run with its beautiful barn on the Garber tract may have been the home where Nicholas Garber lived – and perhaps the home where Michael Miller lived after he married the widow of Nicholas Garber.

Whether Michael ever lived here or not, the Garber and Bechtel homes were assuredly like second homes to these families who migrated and established homesteads together. They all would have helped each other build homes and barns, probably all living together in one home until they managed to build the rest. We still had barn-raisings and house-raisings where I grew up in an Amish/Mennonite community, 200+ years later. Everyone depended on their neighbors who often were family.

The Garber property, in particular, becomes important later on in Michael’s story.

Michael may not have actually lived on this property long – or perhaps he actually settled on this land before he purchased in 1744. In any event, a year later, Michael purchased land several miles away, on what was even further out on the edge of the frontier.

Ash Swamp

In 1745, the year after he purchased Batchelor’s Choice, Michael Miller bought land in what was then Prince George County, MD, the part that would become Frederick County in 1748. The deed states that Prince George was where Michael lived at that time, however, this entire region was under dispute. Michael may have thought he lived in Maryland and actually lived in Pennsylvania. As strange as that sounds, it wasn’t. I discussed the border war in the original Michael Miller article.

Regardless of where Michael believed his old or new land to be located at that time, his new land was located unquestionably in the portion of Prince George County that would become Frederick County three years later.

Batchelor’s Choice and Ash Swamp are only about 45 miles apart.

Three years later, on February 24, 1748, Nicholas Garber/Gerber wrote his will which was proved on June 6, 1748, naming his eldest son, Samuel who was to receive his plantation if he lived to be of age, otherwise to the younger son, his eldest daughter, Elizabeth who was to get an additional cow above the others. Other names were not given. Witnesses were Christian Kehr and Samuel Bechtol. Nicholas’s estate wasn’t settled for at least 6 years, because in 1754, Michael Miller was administering his estate.

If further estate papers exist, including land transactions, this could shed a lot of light on when Michael Miller was living, where he lived at the time, and the identity of Nicholas and Elizabeth Garber’s children. It’s believed that in addition to Samuel Garber they had a son Martin Garber, both found in Frederick County, MD in 1776 on the list non-Associators, Elizabeth Garber who married Jacob Good, Anna Garber who married John Riffe, both also listed as non-Associators, and John Garber who married Barbara Miller, rumored daughter of Johann Michael Miller, and joined Jacob Riffe and Lodowick Miller in Rockingham Co., VA.

In 1749, York County, PA, was formed from Lancaster. Batchelor’s Choice is located in York County. There were two Michael Millers in York County at that time.

By October 1751, Michael’s son, Philip Jacob Miller had taken over the Ash Swamp land warrant in Frederick County, MD, and enlarged it to 290 acres. It was resurveyed for Philip Jacob on April 25, 1752 with the patent issued on November 17, 1753.

On March 7, 1752, Michael Miller sold his 150-acre portion of Batchelor’s Choice in York County to Samuel Bechtol. This would have signaled his move to Maryland, or at least that’s what logic would tell us, especially given that’s when the majority of the Brethren community departed York County in Pennsylvania for Frederick County in Maryland due to the continuing and escalating border wars.

But, maybe Michael never moved. Maybe he sold his land for another reason.

Also, in 1752, Ash Swamp was resurveyed for Michael’s son, Philip Jacob Miller. There is no deed conveying this land from Michael to Philip Jacob.

In 1783, Philip Jacob and his brothers Lodowick and John conveyed it to each other, with the outcome being that John owned the portion to the north, Philip Jacob to the south and Lodowich bought an adjoining farm to the south, “Tom’s Chance,” in 1751. The brothers were all living adjacent.

By 1754, one Michael Miller had married Elizabeth Garber, the widow of Nicholas Garber, which would have given him possession of Nicholas Garber’s 100 acres. I have not seen the actual will or administration/court records.

Is this why Michael sold his own land in 1752? Was that when he married Elizabeth Garber? Is that why he in essence “gave” his survey in Frederick County to his son(s)? Did he use the money from the sale of his land in Pennsylvania to purchase more land in Maryland?

An orphans’ court record on December 10, 1754 states that Elizabeth Garber, the widow of Nicholas, is now the wife of Michael Miller and that he is administrating the accounts for the will which suggests that some of the children were yet underage.

Perhaps Michael and Elizabeth had both moved to Frederick County, Maryland by this time.

More Land in Maryland

Some Michael Miller acquired significantly more land in Maryland, subsequently giving most of it to those believed to be his Garber step-children in 1765, with wife Elizabeth relinquishing her dower rights.

By 1762 and 1763, we find three Michael Millers mentioned in Frederick County in the form of Michael Miller Sr. in 1762 and 1763, Michael Miller Jr. in the same years through 1772 and Hans Michael Miller in 1772.

To separate the three Michael Millers, Michael Miller Sr., Michael Miller Jr. and Hans Michael Miller, we use the information that is recorded in the Land Tax records at Annapolis MD in the archives. This is what was found:

Michael Miller Sr. 1762 and 1763
Skipton on Craven – 100 ac – sold in 1765 to Jacob Good and John Riffe
Miller’s Fancy – 36 ac – sold in 1765 to John Riffe but Michael continued to pay taxes on 36 acres
Skipton on Craven – 180 ac – sold in 1765 to John Riffe and Jacob Good, where they now live
Resurvey of Well Taught – 409 ac – sold in 1765 to Jacob Good and John Riffe but Michael continued to pay taxes on 8 acres

Michael Miller Jr. 1762 and 1763
Miller’s Chance – 50 ac – 1762 – the same land seems to be called Blindman’s Choice
Blindman’s Choice – 50 ac – 1763 to 1772
(Most years Miller’s Choice was called Blindman’s Choice)

Hans Michael Miller – 1772
In addition to land in Antrim Twp, Franklin Co, Pa and New Creek, now Mineral Co, WV as given in his will, he paid taxes in 1772 in Frederick Co., MD on the following:
Resurvey of Nicholas Mistake – 1025 ac
Garden’s delight – 146 ac – also called Teagarden’s Delight – combined into Pleasant Garden Resurvey
Add Garden’s delight – 28 ac – became part of Pleasant Garden
Plunket’s Doubt – 133 ac – became part of Pleasant Garden
Maiden’s Walk – 35 ac – became part of Pleasant Gardens
Tonas Lott – 16 ac
Small Hope – 20 ac
Small Hope – 43 ac
Rocky Creek – 150 ac

It’s believed that Hans Michael Miller is the son of Johann Michael Miller, the immigrant because Hans Michael Miller was given 1000 pounds in 1771 by Michael Miller Sr. to purchase Pleasant Gardens according to Gene Edwin Miller in “A History and Genealogy of David Y. Miller 1809-1898.” He noted that activity under 1771, but I wish he had given a specific reference.

I don’t know if the deed states a relationship, but it has been presumed to be a father-son transaction, but it would also be a grandfather-grandson transaction. Looking at the signature on the deed might tell us a great deal, because the Michael who sold property in 1765 signed with an “M” mark, while the one who bought land in 1769 signed with a signature.

We don’t discover more about Pleasant Gardens itself, but on the 1772 tax list, there are two entries called “Garden’s Delight” and “Add Garden’s Delight.” Robert, when plotting deeds, shows 5 different properties condensed into Pleasant Gardens, including those two.

This same Michael Miller owned land in Antrim Twp., Franklin Co., PA which is located just across the Pennsylvania line from Frederick County, and in New Creek, now Mineral Co., WV, “as was given in his will.” I don’t have that will.

New Creek is about 90 miles west of Maugansville.

Information about another Michael Miller’s death about 1792 was found in a deed recorded in 1792 in Frederick County, Maryland Land Record Book WR-11, Pages 365, 366, and 367:

“This Indenture made the twenty-ninth day of October anno Domini seventeen hundred and ninety-two between Tobias Hainley and Elizabeth his wife formerly Elizabeth Miller, Christian Miller, John Bower and Margaret, his wife formerly Margaret Miller, Michael Miller, and Henry Miller heirs at law to Michael Miller late of the County of Frederick and State of Maryland of the one part and Adam Miller of the said County of Frederick of the other part.”

We don’t know the relations between any of these Michael Miller’s other than by inference and the breadcrumbs of their transactions. Garden’s Delight and Add Garden Delight is the land that Michael Miller sold to Jacob Good, believed to be the son-in-law of Elizabeth Garber.

Somehow, these people are connected, but how?

Michael Miller’s death has been reported as 1771 based on a letter written by his old friend and Dunker minister, Nicholas Martin, where he mentions Michael’s death in a letter dated May 24, 1772.

 “You will perhaps know that the dear Brother Michael Miller died a year ago. Brother Jacob Stutzman is again quite improved; he was very feeble this past winter.”

Jacob Stutzman was Michael Miller’s half-brother, a few years younger, which would make sense that they were referenced together. I wrote their story, here.

This means, of course, that the two Michael Millers who paid taxes in 1772 could not have been the Michael Miller who died – limiting the Michael who died in 1771 to only Michael Miller Sr. who had paid taxes on Skipton of Crave, Miller’s Fancy, and Resurvey of Well Taught in 1762 and 1763.

After Michael’s death in 1771, Michael Miller Jr. and Hans Michael Miller were both paying taxes in 1772. The area was vacated due to Indian incursions, and taxes were not paid again until 1768. The lengthy tax debt list from 1769-1772 notes that taxes were paid by “the heirs” of Michael Miller.

In 1768-1769, the delinquent tax list notes that several people are “under the circumstances as renders it out of the power of…to collect the rents.” This is also the same time that Iroquois raids were occurring in Frederick County. On that list we find the following Miller men:

  • Conrad Miller
  • Isaac Miller
  • Jacob Miller Jr.
  • John Miller
  • Lodwick Miller
  • Michael Miller heirs
  • Oliver Miller, Balt. Co
  • Thomas Miller

The entry for “Michael Miller heirs” is very interesting. It’s worth noting that John Riffe paid the taxes on the 481 acres of Resurvey on Wel Taught through 1774. In the years 1768 and 1769, there were two entries in the tax debt book, one for the Heirs of Michael Miller and one for John Riffe which look to be the same. Given that Michael Miller continued to pay taxes on a portion of both Miller’s Fancy and Resurvey on Well Taught after he conveyed the land itself, this makes sense.

John Riffe and Jacob Good have long been attributed as the sons-in-law of Elizabeth Garber, widow of Nicholas Garber and Michael Miller’s second wife. Reading what I can find online, I don’t know why.

The fact that this tax list says “heirs of Michael Miller” combined with the fact that the Riffe land appears to be the same as the Michael Miller land suggests that indeed John Riffe is the heir of Michael Miller and therefore will pay the taxes. Loosely, this could mean “family” but it does confirm that in some sense, John Riffe is considered to be an heir of Michael Miller.

The most logical “heir” would be Michael’s son-in-law, not his second wife’s son-in-law, so Michael’s step-son-in-law, who technically is not an heir of Michael Miller. Michael’s only heirs at law would be his wife at the time of his death and his children since Michael did not leave a will. His second wife’s children would not be Michael’s heirs unless he left a will naming them.

I’m left wondering if we have discovered two of Michael Miller’s daughters and not his step-children. Nicholas Garber’s estate papers have just become even more critical to unraveling Michael Miller’s family.

This information supports that Michael Miller died in 1771. He may well have been behind on his taxes, based on age, infirmity and the fact that warfare had been occurring in the region and families had repeatedly vacated and returned some years later.

In 1783, three Miller men, son of Johann Michael Miller, conveyed the land of Ash Swamp back and forth. On Dec. 9, 1783 we find a deed for 220 acres from Lodowich Miller to Philip Jacob Miller for 5 shillings (Washington Co., Land records, Book C, pages 563-47). On December 26, 1783, Philip Jacob Miller conveys 144 acres to John Peter Miller for 5 shillings “and brotherly affection.” Book C, pages 260-262.

It appears that these men are handling the distribution of their father’s land between themselves. If Michael Miller died on 1771, why wait 11 years to divide his land? If he died before 1752, why wait 31 years? It would appear that this is when Lodowick was preparing to leave the area, so perhaps that’s what precipitated the deed filings.

How Lodowick came to own 220 acres of the 290 acres surveyed to Philip Jacob, without a deed, though, is a complete mystery. Another missing puzzle piece.

Ash Swamp and Ashton Hall

In 1745, Michael Miller purchased land which was subsequently resurveyed in 1752 under the name of his son, Philip Jacob Miller. That land was known as Ash Swamp and was eventually divided between three of Michael’s sons as noted above.

Fortunately, we have the 1752 resurvey, and Wayne overlayed it using Plat Plotter software to discover the actual property lines, outside Hagerstown, Maryland.

For reference, Grace Academy is the location where I sat and photographed the landscape during my visit a few years ago. While I was actually ON the southwest corner of Michael Miller’s land where the left red arrow below is pointing, it appears that perhaps I should have been sitting in the parking lot to the right of the building, looking northward at the subdivision. Most of his land was behind me.

The manor, Ashton Hall, built in 1801, after the land was sold out of the Miller family is located at the red arrow to the right. We believe that Ashton Hall was built where the Miller home had been, or very close. Regardless of whether this was the exact location of Michael’s homestead, given that Ashton Hall still exists, it acts as an anchor for Michael’s land.

Original settlers would have built within a few feet of a water source, both for them and their animals. Generally, you wanted to locate at the head of a spring because you didn’t want anyone or anything contaminating your water upstream.

It’s worth noting that both the Maugan’s homestead and another early local homestead actually built directly OVER a spring, probably due to the danger of Indian attacks. If Michael Miller did the same thing, then his original home, probably initially a log cabin, would have been over the head of this spring which appears to be almost exactly where Ashton Hall is located today.

In fact, Ashton Hall fits that bill, exactly. The tree line shown with red arrows that begins at Ashton Hall is a stream that intersects with Rush Run. In fact, Wayne mentions this as well:

I wrestled with several alternate, close-by locations, as well. Ultimately, I settled on this one because Deed Book BB1, p. 362 Prince Geo. Co., says, “beginning a bounded Spanish Oak Tree standing near the head of an Ashton Swamp…” (modern day Rush Run). Accordingly, I felt that the plat had to be “anchored” on Rush Run with the first survey segment, which this placement satisfies.

Wayne’s email in the fall of 2019 shared the exciting survey information. I’ll let Wayne tell you in his own words:

I have discovered some additional information that I thought might be of interest to you regarding this subject.

First, I secured an actual survey of the 290 acre Ashton Swamp tract from 1752. Using the meets and bounds from the survey and the PlatPlotter program by Jason Rushton I was able to approximate where the plat “fits” on a modern satellite view. The 1752 survey was helpful in anchoring the tract on what is now Rush Creek, stating, “beginning at a Spanish Oak standing near the head of an Ashton Swamp, it being the original beginning tree of the old Land called Ash Swamp.”

The beauty of PlatPlotter is that after constructing an outline of the plat, one is able to move it around a satellite view of the earth in order to find modern day property lines that have survived and coincide with the plat, itself. When there has been a lot of development, this can be especially problematic, as is the case at Maugansville.

Another helpful aid is aerial photographs taken at various times since the 1940’s, often before the development of the past 50 years. These photos are easily accessible at the United States Geological Survey web site.

Lastly, an article regarding the Ashton Hall house, built in 1801 by John Schnebly, led to locating the house which still stands in the middle of a sub-division.

The photo, below, is from Google Streetview. The location is the southwest corner of Chads Terrace and Jennifer Lane.

This home was built by John Snavely in 1804. Note the same double chimney with double small windows on each side of the chimney on the third floor – same style as the Batchelor’s Choice home.

The next photo is the PlatPlotter view of the 290-acre Ash Swamp tract along with the 150-acre Toms Chance tract which was owned by Lodowich Miller. The starting point for both surveys was a Spanish Oak on the northeast corner of the Toms Chance plot and the southeast corner of the Ash Swamp plot. I felt comfortable with the placement of the survey on the map because several modern boundaries coincide. And, now knowing that Ashton Hall, itself, is in the sub-division further confirms this placement.

On May 14, 1745, Johann George Arnold sold Ash Swamp (200 acres at that time), to Michael Miller. The deed stated that Arnold’s house was about 500 yards from the starting point of the survey. The current Ashton Hall is 600 yards from the starting point of the survey, but it could well have been the location of an earlier dwelling. All of this interests me because I am descended from Arnold as well as Lodowich and Johann Michael Miller.

Below: Aerial view of Ash Swamp about 1965

click to enlarge

Robert Atteberry had simultaneously been plotting Ash Swamp, Ashton Hall and other Michael Miller and associated properties, although we hadn’t met yet. That wouldn’t happen until late summer 2020 – and then almost not at all thanks to technical gremlins.

I introduced the three of us, plus Doug, another friend, who weighed in some on the surveys.

Robert writes to our little research group:

Thank you for sharing your plot of Ash Swamp overlaid on the 1960 aerial. It was very useful in our efforts to more precisely identify the location of the Ash Swamp property on the ground.  Attached you will find a .pdf file containing three images.

The first image is of my Ash Swamp layout, which was overlaid on a Google Map base. I have taken Wayne’s aerial map and overlaid it on top of my layout.

click to enlarge

I used the Interstate 81 alignment, and specifically the Maugans Avenue Interchange on the north and the Maugansville Road Exit Ramp on the south to correlate and fit Wayne’s aerial to my Google Map base. As you can see in this image, there is a fairly precise fit. I rendered Wayne’s image with a transparency filter so that the Google Map features are visible in the background.

The second image is an enlarged rendition of my Ash Swamp plat map reconstruction, sans the Google Map base. I have traced a fairly precise copy of Wayne’s layout of the Ash Swamp property, which I have overlaid atop my Ash Swamp plat reconstruction, and positioned it essentially the same as it appeared in the first image. As you can see, Wayne’s layout fits fairly well with my layout, except that it is positioned about 200 feet northerly on my southern boundary. The western boundaries are an almost perfect fit for alignment and placement. There are several variances between Wayne’s rendition and mine along the northern and eastern borders, which I do not believe are important or relevant to our purpose, but which could probably be reconciled if need be.

The third image is a copy of Wayne’s aerial map to which I have applied what I consider to be a more precise location of Ashton Hall. This location was obtained from the first figure, in which I have marked the present-day location of Ashton Hall at the intersection of Jennifer Lane and Chad Terrace.  As you can see, the actual location of Ashton Hall is several 100 feet to the west of the location suggested by Wayne.

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You may do with this information as you will, I simply provide it for your further consideration.

Now, as for the location of the Ash Swamp property on the ground, I do not believe that we can state with any certainty its exact location without knowing its placement within the 196 acres acquired by John Schnebley from Philip Jacob Miller. I believe the only thing we can state with any certainty is that Ashton Hall probably fell somewhere within the boundaries of that property. I have assumed that Ashton Hall fell somewhere near the center of that property, but in fact, it could have been virtually anywhere within the bounds of the Ashton Swamp tract. By placing it near the center of that tract, I have minimized the amount of variance from its true location.

That being said, I think it worthwhile to share with you one other piece of information regarding my plat map reconstructions. In my enlarged plat map layout, which includes Resurvey on Plunks Doubt, I have included a much larger area extending all the way across the state line into Pennsylvania. By having developed a conjoined layout connecting the Ash Swamp area to the Plunks Doubt resurvey map, I was able to incorporate another piece of historical property, which I was able to utilize as another target for establishing geographic proximity. That property is the historic Kammerer House, which was located within the CitiCorp Industrial Park to the northeast of the Hagerstown Regional Airpark. The Kammerer House still existed until it was demolished about 10 years ago. Its location was somewhere within a 107.44 acre tract sold by Allen and Elizabeth Clopper to the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation (CHIEF) on 19Jul1985.

Unlike the Ash Swamp plats, the old Kammerer House property deed contained several fairly precise geographic references, i.e. a point on the south side of State Line Road, and a point on the west side of Route 11. From these geographic references I was able to fairly accurately place the Kammerer House property on my plat map reconstruction. In fact, it was that tract location siting that allowed me to locate and overlay my Resurvey on Plunks Doubt plat map reconstruction on the Google Map base to a fairly high level of precision. Having done that, I then added the Ash Swamp plats to that same Google Map base.

Interestingly enough, it was the Pleasant Garden tract containing 358 acres acquired by Michael Miller from William Teagarden on 30Jun1769, which allowed me to interconnect the Ash Swamp plats with the Resurvey on Plunks Doubt. Now, I recognize that plat map reconstructions and placements on contemporary base maps is fraught with ambiguities, so I cannot say that my work is any better than the next guys. But, what I can say is that by having developed my plat map reconstructions with the methods just described, in the end, the Ash Swamp property location as shown in my plat map reconstructions is what appears in the exhibits I have put forward. Having started from a fairly precise known fixed point (the Kammerer House Property), the Ash Swamp Plats, when combined with the Resurvey on Plunks Doubt, fit almost dead center on the Ashton Hall site.  Make of it what you will.

Using Corel Draw, Robert painstakingly drew not only the Ash Swamp property, but also incorporated other nearby Miller-associated properties. A picture really is worth 1000 words.

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The Hans Michael Miller who was alive in 1772, owned Pleasant Garden and was deceased by 1792. He owned land very close to the Ash Swamp land owned by the immigrant Johann Michael Miller – less than a mile apart as the crow flies, noted above.

Philip Jacob Miller had acquired Prickly Ash Bottom in 1774, which immediately abutted Pleasant Garden.

Furthermore, Miller’s Desire and Plunket’s Doubt abut the Pleasant Garden land to the northwest.

These three properties may well have been within view of Ash Swamp, making it very likely that this entire region was owned by Miller men, probably sons of Johann Michael Miller, with Hans Michael Miller possibly having been a grandson.

Robert then overlaid that image on the Google Map aerial view.

click to enlarge

The dotted black horizontal line on the map above is the state line between Maryland and Pennsylvania. The lower joining portion of this map is shown below.

click to enlarge

The Great News

The great news is that we’ve established, unquestionably where Michael Miller’s Ash Swamp land was located. Two independent researchers came within a few feet of each other’s work.

Robert gave us an incredible gift and plotted the remainder of Michael Miller’s land purchases in this area over the years which shows us how close they actually were.

All of those pieces of land were originally believed to have been owned by Michael Miller, the immigrant, prior to his death in 1771 as reported by Nicholas Martin.

Now, however, we have a fly in the ointment.

The Problem

The problem is introduced by the language in the 1783 deed between Lodowick Miller and Philip Jacob Miller, his brother, as pointed out by Robert in his transcription, below, red and bolding, mine:

At the request of Philip Jacob Miller was the following deed recorded 26Dec1783, to wit: This indenture made this 9th day of December, 1783 between Lodowick Miller of Frederick County in the state of Maryland, farmer, of the one part, son and heir at law to a certain Michael Miller, deceased, formerly (of) Frederick County, but now of Washington County in this state of Maryland, and a certain Philip Jacob Miller, his brother, of Washington County in the state of Maryland, farmer, of the other part, witnesseth that he, the said Lodowick Miller, for and in consideration of the sum of five shillings of current and lawful money of the state of Maryland and as well as formerly received full satisfaction for my part of my father, Michael Miller’s, estate in the after mentioned land and premises received by me, Lodowick Miller, the above sum of five shillings current money as aforesaid well and truly paid in hand before the signing, sealing and delivery of these presents the receipt whereof, I the said Lodowick Miller, doth hereby acknowledge and himself therewith fully satisfied, contented and paid and from same and every part and parcel thereof doth acquit, exonerate and discharge him, the said Philip Jacob Miller, his brother, his heirs and assigns forever, hath given, granted, bargained, sold, aliened, transferred and made over and by virtue of these presents doth give, grant, bargain, sell, alien, transfer and make over and absolutely confirm unto him, the said Philip Jacob Miller, my brother, his heirs and assigns forever, all my right, estate, title, claims and demand whatsoever of me, the said Lodowick Miller and all my heirs of a certain tract of land situate, lying and being in Washington County in the state of Maryland called Ash Swamp, originally granted by patent to a certain John George Arnold, bearing date the 16th day of January 1739, and by him, the said John George Arnold conveyed by deed of conveyance bearing date on the 14th day of May 1745 unto a certain Michael Miller, deceased, being my father, said deed being recorded amongst the land records of Prince Georges County in said state of Maryland aforesaid, that being this the county wherein said land was laid out in the said state by recourse thereunto had, will more fully appear and afterwards said original tract being resurveyed by and with my consent and free will as son and heir at law to my father, Michael Miller, deceased, and leaving no will, I ordered and agreed that my brother, Philip Jacob Miller, should resurvey the said original tract called Ash Swamp as aforesaid, which was resurveyed on on the 25th day of April 1752, and afterwards patented unto him, my said brother, Philip Jacob Miller, his heirs and assigns for 290 acres, with the vacancy added therein included with the original tract and the whole called the Resurvey on Ash Swamp, which lands and rights, privileges, as above mentioned, both of the original tract called Ash Swamp and the resurvey thereon, I convey all my right, title, estate and property thereof, and the whole as above mentioned unto my brother, Philip Jacob Miller, his heirs and assigns forever…

And yes, Robert sent the original deed along too, and it reads exactly the same.

Let’s take this piece by piece.

  • “John George Arnold conveyed by deed of conveyance bearing date on the 14th day of May 1745 unto a certain Michael Miller, deceased, being my father, said deed being recorded amongst the land records of Prince Georges County in said state of Maryland aforesaid, that being this the county wherein said land was laid out…”

This portion is confirmed by deed, and we know that by 1783, based on the Nicholas Martin letter in 1772, Michael was assuredly deceased by that time.

  • “…original tract being resurveyed by and with my consent and free will as son and heir at law to my father, Michael Miller, deceased, and leaving no will…”

We have never been able to locate a will for Johann Michael Miller. It has always been presumed to be because he had already conveyed his land by 1765, signing only with an M at that time, and possibly had nothing left to give in 1771. Or, of course, the documents could be lost. Records aren’t always complete and things are often misfiled. Not to mention the Indian issues that caused residents to vacate more than once. This confirmed that Michael Miller had no will which probably means he died unexpectedly.

  • “…I ordered and agreed that my brother, Philip Jacob Miller, should resurvey the said original tract called Ash Swamp as aforesaid, which was resurveyed on the 25th day of April 1752, and afterwards patented unto him, my said brother, Philip Jacob Miller, his heirs and assigns for 290 acres…”

This is the really problematic section. It clearly says that Lodowick agreed that his brother should resurvey the tract, which Philip Jacob, under the name Jacob, did, and is confirmed by the grant in 1753.

What this does NOT say is that Johann Michael Miller was deceased when the resurvey occurred, in 1752.

Here’s the resurvey document.

This resurvey, dated April 25, 1752, says that it was originally laid out for 150 acres on October 26, 1751. It says nothing about how an additional 140 acres was added.

I have tried to navigate the Maryland Archives website to find the earlier 1751 survey. I believe that site is the very least intuitive, least helpful website I’ve ever attempted to use. I hoped to discover in the 1751 survey that Michael had signed the land over to Philip Jacob, or both sons perhaps.

This statement about Michael Miller’s death is one of those situations that raises far, far more questions than it answers.

Questions, I Have So Many Questions

  • Does Lodowick say that Michael had no will because Michael died AFTER the resurvey and patent, and Lodowick was saying that the original land grant was agreed upon and conveyed orally, and the resurvey was agreed upon orally too?
  • Was Lodowick saying that everything was agreed upon BEFORE his father’s death and since his father died with no will that he is not disputing the land ownership with his brother? This means his father could have died anytime between 1752 and 1783.
  • Was Lodowick saying that everything was agreed upon AFTER his father’s death and since his father died with no will, and apparently no estate administration either (or it’s lost), that he is not disputing the land ownership? This also does not mean that Michael died before 1752, only that the two men agreed in 1752, perhaps anticipating that they would one day both inherit this land that they had been promised. If Michael died without a will, the land was never actually left to both men, and since it was in Philip Jacob’s name, was Lodowick simply signing off to make the title “clean” because he had already received something else? Lodowich did purchase land in 1751.

The Brethren were known to prefer NOT filing anything with any government body, which is why we have no marriage records. But Michael Miller did file other deeds, even with other family members like Samuel Bechtol. Why not the Ash Swamp land, or was the fact that Philip Jacob applied for the resurvey and received the grant considered “good enough”?

If Michael Miller had died WITH some estate of value, such as this land grant, why was there no administrator appointed? Typically that’s a legal requirement and the judge orders commissioners to report to the court whether the deceased has any property. I found nothing in the Maryland records, checking both Frederick County which was formed from Prince George in 1748, and Prince George County. Perhaps I should check both Lancaster and York Counties in Pennsylvania too.

Let’s look at the timeframe.

Michael Miller sold land that was unquestionably his to Samuel Bechtol in Hanover, PA on March 7, 1752. The Philip Jacob Miller survey took place in October of 1751, and the resurvey took place in April of 1752. If Michael Miller died, it would have had to have been after March 7th of 1752 when he sold his land, and before April 25 when the resurvey took place, based on Lodowich’s 1783 deed language. That’s only a window of about 6 weeks.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why in October of 1751, the survey of the same land was in the name of Philip Jacob Miller if that occurred after Michael’s death.

If the October 1751 survey occurred after Michael’s death, then the land sale to Samuel Bechtel could not have occurred because Michael would have already been deceased.

In 1754, Michael is mentioned as the husband of Elizabeth Garber, administering her husband’s estate. If Michael Miller is dead, he can’t be administering that estate. It’s been suggested that Michael’s son, Michael Jr. married the widow – but based on the ages of the people involved, Michael’s son would be the age of Elizabeth Garber’s children – so that marriage is extremely unlikely.

There are notes from three different authors, but no primary sources, that state that there was a 1752 deed conveying the Ash Swamp land to Michael Miller’s sons. I don’t have that deed and Robert, who does have originals of most deeds, says it doesn’t exist. Robert’s original “page by page” research at the Maryland archives far outstrips my distanced research. Those authors may have meant that the re-survey serves as a deed – except that it isn’t a deed unless the 1751 October original survey includes a conveyance. Again, a missing puzzle piece.

After the Michael Miller 1765 land sales of most of Miller’s Fancy and Resurvey on Well Taught (although he continued to pay taxes on 44 acres) to the (believed) children of Elizabeth Garber, which are detailed in this article, some Michael Miller purchased a large parcel in Frederick County, including parts of 5 different tracts, totaling over 1000 acres in 1769. That Michael signed with a signature, not an M.

Robert provides this:

30Jun1769 – Frederick County Deed Book M, pp 362-4:  Michael Miller purchased from William Teagarden, both of Frederick County, for sum of £1000, parts of five different parts of tracts all contiguous and joining to one another: (1) part of Teagardens Delight containing 146 acres, (2) part of Addition to Teagardens Delight containing 28 acres, (3) part of Resurvey on Plunks Doubt containing 133 acres, (4) part of Maidens Walk containing 35 acres, and (5) part of Joneses Lot containing 16 acres; all combined into a new tract called Pleasant Garden containing 358 acres

It sure would be nice to know what happened to this land, and if it ties in with any other known family members.

Was this Michael, referred to as Jr. on the tax lists, the son of Michael Sr. who either died before the 1752 resurvey or in 1771? Of course, Jr. can simply mean the younger of two men by the same name – it does not necessarily indicate a relationship between those two men.

If so, and if Michael Miller Sr. did NOT convey the Ash Swamp land to his sons Philip Jacob, Lodowick and possibly John before the resurvey in 1752, then why was son Michael Miller (or his descendants) NOT included in the 1783 land swaps involving Ash Swamp after Michael Sr.’s death? At least to sign off, if nothing else.

We know Michael Sr. was alive in 1745 when Ash Swamp was purchased by him, and that he was dead before 1783, certainly deceased in or by 1771, and possibly before 1752.

This region was in an uproar during part of this time and the residents had to flee. A record exists that states the taxes from 1769-1772 were paid by the heirs of Michael Miller. Some records indicate that this tax was owed for many years, so perhaps his heirs paid the taxes for all of those years after his death. But again, this begs the question of what happened to the land he was paying tax on during this period and why no estate administrator was appointed. Perhaps that was the 44 acres that he had already conveyed but was paying taxes on – suggesting that he was living on at least part of that land.

Some Brethren Michael Miller clearly died in 1771. In 1772 and thereafter, Michael Miller Jr. and Hans Michael Miller were still paying taxes on some land, detailed in this article, so it wasn’t one of them that died in 1771.

If things weren’t already complicated enough, we find this deed from another blog reader, Landis, who thinks they may indeed be descended from the original Michael Miller, the immigrant through…you guessed it…Michael Miller Jr.

I believe I am a descendant of Michael Miller Jr., who is supposed to be a son of Michael Miller and Susanna Berchtol. Frederick County, Maryland Land Record, Book WR-11, Pages 365, 366, and 367 shows a deed, “This Indenture made the twenty-ninth day of October anno Domini seventeen hundred and ninety-two Between Tobias Hainley and Elizabeth his wife formerly Elizabeth Miller, Christian Miller, John Bower and Margaret, his wife formerly Margaret Miller, Michael Miller, and Henry Miller heirs at law to Michael Miller late of the County of Frederick and State of Maryland of the one part and Adam Miller of the said County of Frederick of the other part.” – It seems that Adam Miller, who I believe to be my 5th Great Grandfather, 1768-1833 (died Napier, Bedford, PA), had to pay his siblings for land belonging to their father, Michael Miller which he had not paid for in full. Subsequent deeds show Adam Miller and his wife Eve sold the land to a John Bower and moved to Bedford County in 1818.

It’s worth noting that Bedford County was a stepping stone for many Brethren families as they migrated westward to central Ohio (Montgomery, Preble and Darke Counties) and eventually, Elkhart County in northern Indiana.

In this deed, we find a reference to both Henry and Michael, the names Robert is seeking. What we don’t know is where this land was located. Was it part of the Michael Miller real estate empire, and if so, which part?

Perhaps the answer to Robert Atteberry’s Henry and Michael Miller found in New Creek as well as more information about my Johann Michael Miller and his descendants will be revealed in:

  • The Michael Miller and his descendants from Martinsburg, WV, although those locations aren’t exactly close.
  • A clue in the estate of Nicholas Garber and the identification of Nicholas and Elizabeth Garber’s children who would have been the step-children of whichever Michael Miller married their widowed mother.
  • The relationship to other players to John Schnebley, son of Dr. Henry Schnebley, that purchased all of Ash Swamp and additional lands from Philip Jacob Miller, son of Johann Michael Miller, the immigrant, in 1795.
  • Information about Jacob Good, Elizabeth Garber’s presumed son-in-law who seems to be connected to the original Michael Miller who conveyed more than half of Skipton-on-Craven to him in 1765, the land where Jacob Good was living at that time. John Riffe/Rife whose wife is reported to be Jacob Good’s wife’s sister, daughters of Nicholas and Elizabeth Garber, sold out in 1775 and went to Rockingham County, VA along with Lodowick Miller and others of the Brethren faith during the Revolutionary War timeframe when they were being fined and their property confiscated.
  • The same Jacob Good who was deeded land from Michael Miller in 1765 on Little Antietam Creek, also known as Forbush’s Branch. Robert places this land northeast of Hagerstown, near Leitersburg, which is very close proximity to Huckleberry Hall.
  • The same Jacob Good who purchased Huckleberry Hall from John Schnebley in 1787 who bought it from Jacob French, his brother in law.
  • The Michael Miller in New Creek who lived near Jacob French whose 2 daughters married men named Michael and Henry Miller.

Little Antietam Creek is less than 500 feet from Huckleberry Hall.

In fact, today, at the bridge of Poplar Grove Road over Little Antietam Creek, we find an abandoned stone home. Did Jacob Good own this land too? Is this part of Skipton-on Craven, which we know that Jacob Good owned and was living in 1765. Robert couldn’t place that land, exactly, although the tract was situated someplace on Little Antietam Creek. Hmmmm…

How are these people connected, because surely at least some of them are – one way or another.

A long and bumpy ride, indeed, Robert.

Can DNA Help?

Landis joined the Miller-Brethren project at Family Tree DNA to see if he matched other Miller descendants. I hope Robert will too.

I encourage everyone whose Miller family was either Brethren, Amish or Mennonite to join and upload a tree. Members can compare specifically to other members (through the advanced search) who have joined the project which makes common lines much easier to identify. Of course, not everyone joins projects, so reviewing all Miller connections is critical. I would suggest using Genetic Affairs autotree feature to see if each of these men match other people who have Miller lines in their trees.

The Miller-Brethren project welcomes Y DNA Miller testers and people related to Brethren, Amish or Mennonite Miller families though other (non-Y DNA) lines. If you haven’t yet tested, Miller men can order a Y DNA test, and everyone can order the autosomal Family Finder test, here.

If you have tested elsewhere, you can transfer your autosomal DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA for free. Instructions are here.

We may unravel this puzzle yet!!!

No Answers

I realize that there are no answers here, at least not yet. Why couldn’t Michael Miller have just written a will? Is that really too much to ask?

We do have more places to search for additional information, though. Still stones waiting to be turned.

Perhaps a Garber, Good or Riffe researcher will find this article and be able to offer useful information.

Perhaps DNA will provide clues. Perhaps Robert will find a Miller male to test.

Perhaps an old Bible will pop up on e-Bay. Ok, I know, I’m dreaming, but there are many possibilities.

Sometimes asking more questions IS a sign that you’re making progress, albeit slow, halting, and bumpy. Very, very bumpy!.

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7 thoughts on “When Did Michael Miller Really Die? The Answer May Lay in the Land – 52 Ancestors #312

  1. Re “This resurvey, dated April 25, 1752, says that it was originally laid out for 150 acres on October 26, 1751. It says nothing about how an additional 140 acres was added.” The additional 140 acres was a “vacancy” which means it hadn’t been patented by anyone else so it was essentially there for the taking when a resurvey was done.

  2. More questions than answers but very interesting. As a descendant of “Barbara Miller, rumored daughter of Johann Michael Miller”, each puzzle piece adds to what someday will prove us each wrong or right.

  3. As a conveyancer whose job it was to plot land from metes & bounds descriptions (without the help of a computer program) I found the work you and your colleagues not only fascinating, but remarkable. Congratulations to all on that. There are a couple of things I’d like to mention. First, when plotting land one has to take into account the terrain. Most of yours appears to be flat but I once ran into a puzzle where I could not make the measurements fit until I realized I was working on the side of a mountain. The other is with respect to the 1783 conveyance which today would be called a Quit Claim Deed. It is given to clear title and does not denote that the grantee actually held title to the lands being granted. He may have had an interest since his father died intestate, but he probably did not. I believe you said the other brother Quit Claim to him so the same would apply there. The only thing I believe is concrete in this document is that Michael Miller was deceased at the time of this deed. To answer your other question. Even today when a person is the sole heir of someone and is actually in possession of the property, a deed does not actually need to be registered. However, in a subsequent conveyance it is customary to attach a copy of the Will or a Notarized document showing that the grantee has the right to grant. If any of this isn’t clear eMail me.

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