Monday, July 9, 2012

Our Miller's and the Reverend Traill - Part 2

Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, Somerset County, Maryland

The last post dealt with the Reverend William Traill of Northern Ireland. The reverend left Northern Ireland in 1682 or 1683, and immigrated to Somerset County, Maryland. There, he was made the first pastor of the Rehoboth1  Presbyterian Church2 in 1702. Why is learning about this man, who is no known relation, important to us as descendants of William Miller?

The answer to this question revolves around the practice of the Scotch Irish immigrating to America in groups, often following, or followed closely by, their pastor. Extensive research has tied our Millers and other allied lines to the Reverend Traill, and by so doing, we have been able to increase our knowledge of our ancestry by leaps and bounds! We have dealt with this subject in a couple of previous emails, but intend to give a more detailed account in this post.

To set the stage for a more complete understanding of our discoveries, it will be helpful here to first review what we know of William’s parentage, including where they lived and when. We are indebted to Chalmers Williams for his thorough research on these earlier Miller’s (for more details, see posts dated May 5, 2010; May 31, 2010; and June 9, 2010). From his research into the original land records and other documents of early Maryland and Delaware, here is a summary of the Miller line:


Ø      William Miller, born 1732 in New Castle CountyDelaware; (married Rebecca Bradford); moved to Cecil County, Maryland; they moved to Fayette, Co, Pennsylvania where he eventually died in 1814. William Miller was the son of:
Ø      Abraham Miller, born abt. 1710, probably in New Castle County, Delaware; (m. Rosannah Roddy); moved to Cecil County, Maryland and resided there for several years; d. 1770, probably in Cecil County, Maryland. Abraham Miller was the son of:
Ø      David Miller, born abt. 1665, prob. Ulster; if so, immigrated as a teenager with his family [below] to Somerset County, Maryland ; (married Jane Dunlap, daughter of Ninian Dunlap); later resided in New Castle County, Delaware; died betw. 1736 and 1740. David Miller was the son of:
Ø      John Miller, born abt. 1645, prob. in Ulster; (married Isabell); immigrated to Somerset CountyMaryland, probably in the early 1680’s; died 1711. John Miller was probably son of:
Ø      John Miller, born abt. 1625 in Ulster or Scotland; (married Elizabeth); immigrated to Somerset CountyMaryland, probably in the early 1680’s.


We are indeed lucky that there is much information about the Rev. Traill, one of a famous family of Covenanter activists in the Scotland and Ireland3,4, and William himself had a leading role in the establishment of the Presbyterian Church in colonial Maryland as already mentioned.

From historical sources we learn that in 1672, the Rev. Traill was ordained pastor in the town of Lifford, County Donegal, Ireland, and was assigned to the congregation in Ballindrait on the northwest outskirts of Lifford.

He ministered to this congregation for the next 10 years (1672 – 1682). As was common in that era, his job included schoolteacher duties for the children of Ballindrait.

If you examine closely the dates in “The Miller Generations” above, you will note that in 1672, David Miller would have been about 7 year old. Could he and his parents have actually residents of Ballindrait at that time, and could they have been acquainted with Rev. Traill? Research indicates a resounding “yes!”

According to Dr. John F. Polk, “We can be sure that William Trail’s decision to leave for Maryland had not been made in isolation but was shared and intensely discussed with his congregation from the environs of Ballindrait, and the possibility of their doing likewise directly considered. Some may have accompanied him when he left. In any case, as conditions worsened many made that momentous decision. It is certain that a number of the Ulster-Scot families of Donegal elected to cast their lot in the new world at this time. Among these were such families as Wallace, Knox, McKnitt, Alexander, Gray, Caldwell, Wilson, Polk, Owens, White, Galbraith, Miller, Johnson, Emmett, and many others. All of these family names are prominent in the 1665 Hearth Rolls for Donegal, particularly in Clonleigh (Lifford) and Ballindrait within the Barony of Raphoe.” 4[bold and italics added]

Miller is a common name. What would lead us to believe that this is our Millers? The answer to that lies in an actual historical document, but first we must move forward in time.

Life was difficult for the Scotch-Irish settlers in Northern Ireland at this time and especially for their church leaders, including for the Rev. Traill, as mentioned already. So the decision to immigrate was made. Many parishioners left for America and settled in Somerset County, Maryland. Rev. Traill came in 1683 to this area5 where he and his family made their home. He was eventually made first pastor of the Rehoboth Church, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, where no doubt many of these families attended. 

Some 10 years later, Traill returned to Ireland and in time, and eventually some of his families  moved north to New Castle County, Delaware. There they had only temporary pastors for several years which was a source of discontent. Finally, many of the faithful banded together and drafted a letter. This letter has survived time and is housed in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland. 

The original document, dated February 11, 1706, was written in America and sent to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. It is a plea from the Presbyterian parishioners of New Castle County, “Pennsylvania6 requesting that they be sent a permanent minister. The application notes that [emphasis added]: “…the greatest number of us [ were] born and educated in Irland [sic] under the ministry of one William Traill, a presbiterian [sic] minister formerly of Lifford, Co. Donegal…” The names of the signers of this document have been [blessedly !] preserved and include David Miller and his brother Andrew, as well as other family names that are known to be in-laws of the Millers!

So it seems clear that these families, many related to each other and including our Miller’s, had known each other years before in Ireland, had been fellow-parishioners in Ballindrait, came to America together, and were now sending this letter with fond hopes that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland would think well enough of them, the former “flock” of the well-respected Rev. William Traill, to send them a strong minister so they would no longer “live in fear daily to be cast out and to our great grief we and our posterity left as a prey to superstition and heresies…” (

So after many long years of searching and armed with this knowledge, we are confident that we have located the place where our Miller ancestors came from in Ireland—the Ballindrait/Lifford area of County Donegal, Northern Ireland.

Near Lifford, County Donegal, Ireland 



1.   “Rehobeth is an unincorporated community in Somerset County. It is located at the east end of Old Rehobeth Road, off Rehobeth Road, on the bank of the Pocomoke River.”,_Maryland

“Rehoboth Presbyterian Church in Rehobeth, Maryland, was established in 1683 and the Rev. Mr. William Traile was the first full-time pastor there in 1702.”

“The father of Robert Traill, who was minister of the Greyfriars’ Church, Edinburgh, was one of those bold witnesses for the Covenant, who lived during the stormy period of the Commonwealth, and the still more trying season of the Restoration, in which, at the age of sixty, he was banished from Scotland for life upon the charge of holding a conventicle, because he had read and expounded Scripture to a few friends who were assembled in his house. In consequence of this sentence he retired to Holland, the usual place of refuge for the exiled Presbyterians of Scotland, and there spent the rest of his life…… Robert Traill, whether truly or falsely, was said to have been in the ranks of the insurgents, in consequence of which charge, he was liable every hour to be apprehended and executed as a traitor. In this difficulty he fled to Holland in 1667, and joined his father, who had been settled there four years. Here he resumed his studies in theology, and assisted Nethenus, professor of divinity at Utrecht, in publishing "Rutherford’s Examination of Arminianism."

4. From Lifford to the Chesapeake: The Advent of the Scotch-Irish in America by John F. Polk, Ph.D., Havre de GraceMaryland:

“Most noteworthy in our present context were the tribulations  of Reverend William Trail (Traile) [usually Traill], one of the individuals mentioned in the Presbytery record just cited and, as it turns out, a central figure in the initial Ulster-Scot exodus to Maryland. Trail was a scion of a prominent Scottish family whose father, Robert Trail, was himself a Presbyterian minister, while his uncle, Lt Col James Trail, was a highly esteemed officer in Cromwell’s army with a landed estate in Killeleagh, County Down. These two were on opposite sides of the conflict when Cromwell invaded Scotland and Reverend Trail became Cromwell’s prisoner for a while, but this did not prevent William Trail from uniting in marriage some years later with Lt. Col Trail’s daughter, Eleanor. He studied for the ministry at Edinburgh until 1661 and was licensed but could not be ordained because of the oppressive conditions prevailing in Scotland at the time. In fact, his father, Reverend Robert Trail, was tried and banished from Scotland, for life, at exactly this time for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance. He departed his country for Holland in January, 1662, nearly sixty years of age.

William Trail moved to Ireland and was finally ordained in 1673 at Lifford. He served as minister in Ballindrait until his departure for America a decade later, with or just after Makemie.”

5.   “It is probable that upon his release from prison in 1682 Traill went directly to Maryland where he knew he would be among friends. The records of Somerset county, Maryland, show that he acquired 133 acres on the Pocomoke River near Rehoboth on May 8, 1686, and it is probable that he was the founder of the Presbyterian Church at Rehoboth.”

6.   At this point in history, this part of northern Delaware as well as northeastern Maryland was considered part of the “Pennsylvania Territory.”

1 comment:

  1. How interesting that it was common to immigrate in groups, with your religious leader! P.S. Just so you know, it says "Reverent Traill" instead of "Reverend Traill" in the title to the post. :)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.