MILLIDGE (Millage, Milledge), THOMAS, surveyor, office holder, politician, judge, and militia officer; b. c. 1735 in Hanover, N.J., son of John Milfidge; d. 8 Sept. 1816 in Granville, N.S.
Unfortunately, little is known about Thomas Millidge’s early years, and the first documentation available is the record of his marriage to Mercy Better (Barker) on 3 Dec. 1758 in the Hanover Presbyterian Church; he was baptized only a half-way member of the church on 15 Jan. 1764. The couple were to have six children, and the church records also contain the baptismal dates of four born between 1769 and 1776, including John* and Thomas*. Having begun his working career as a surveyor, on 23 March 1767 Millidge was appointed by the East Jersey Proprietors to the lucrative position of deputy surveyor of the counties of Morris, Sussex, Bergen, and Essex. He was also appointed a justice of the peace for Morris County on 27 April 1775.
Information on Millidge’s stance during the American revolution is scarce. By his own testimony, he initially tried to prevent “violent measures,” and advocated legal channels for the presentation of grievances, but by November 1776 he had committed himself to the loyalist cause and had joined the British army. It is probable that, as a moderate, Millidge earned the enmity of those more vigorously opposed to the status quo, and was thus forced into a defensive position which became a loyalist one. He was commissioned major of the 5th battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers on 11 Dec. 1776 and served in the regiment with that rank throughout the war. In August 1778 the New Jersey authorities initiated legal proceedings against him, and in December his estate was advertised for public auction. Millidge was later awarded £1,131 of his claim for £2,777 6s. by the loyalist claims commissioners, plus a £50 yearly pension for the loss of his official income.
Thomas Millidge was one of the more fortunate of those forced to emigrate at the close of the revolution. Receiving grants in the fertile Annapolis valley of Nova Scotia, he settled first in Digby, and then in Granville, and became a substantial landowner, amassing 900 acres in Wilmot and Digby townships. He also became a deputy surveyor for the provincial government, and in this capacity laid out lands for black loyalists in Annapolis County in 1785 [see Thomas Peters*]. Millidge was held in high regard by Surveyor General Charles Morris, who often praised him. In 1785 Millidge began a long and active public life with his election to the House of Assembly as the first representative for Digby Township, a seat he held until 1793. He then served for Annapolis County from 1793 to 1806. In the latter year he was a candidate for Granville Township, but was defeated by Isaiah Shaw in a closely contested battle. Millidge was appointed to several other public offices, including those of justice of the peace on 9 Feb. 1784, judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas on 26 April 1793, colonel in the militia on 5 June 1793, and custos rotulorum on 3 Oct. 1803. One of the more active and articulate members of the assembly, he was noted for his oratorical powers and was frequently nominated to committees or asked to chair committees of the whole. Millidge concerned himself with most of the issues within the charge of government at that time, and initiated a considerable proportion of the assembly’s legislation dealing with the judicial system. In this context, he agitated for an investigation into the conduct of the Supreme Court judges in 1787 [see James Brenton; Isaac Deschamps], and he was also interested in education, social problems, finances, and the freedom of the assembly. By 18th-century standards, he took a progressive stand on these issues.
Thomas Millidge returned to his native country but once, in 1800. An extract from a letter to one of his remaining American friends illustrates his unhappy reception: “I consider the ill treatment I received when at your place to have proceeded from [ill?] motives. However I forgive these wretches any [?] they intended me and I hope God will forgive them also. . . . I am no enemy to any person in this world and should like to go again into your country.” This statement reveals a remarkable equanimity and reasonableness, and in doing so reflects the general tenor of Thomas Millidge’s entire life.
Annapolis County Registry of Deeds (Bridgetown, N.S.), vols.7–8, 11. PANS, RG 1, 171–72; 213, 10 Oct. 1783–24 Dec. 1798. Private arch., Mr and Mrs Donald Kitchell (Whippany, N.J.), Kitchell papers, letters from Thomas Millidge to Uzal Kitchel. Documents relating to the colonial, revolutionary and post-revolutionary history of the state of New Jersey, ed. W. A. Whitehead et al. (42v. and index, Newark, N.J., 1880–1949), 18: 25. Documents relating to the revolutionary history of the state of New Jersey, ed. W. S. Stryker et al. (5v., Trenton, N.J., 1901–17), 2: 387, 593. N.S., House of Assembly, Journal and proc., 1786–1806. “United Empire Loyalists: enquiry into losses and services,” AO Report, 1904: 67–70. Nova Scotia Royal Gazette, 18 Sept. 1806. Church members, marriages and baptisms, at Hanover, Morris Co., N.J. . . . 1746–1796 ([Morristown, N.J., 1893]; repr. 1968). Directory of N.S. MLAs. E. A. Jones, The loyalists of New Jersey: their memorials, petitions, claims, etc., from English records (Newark, 1927; repr. Boston, 1972). Loyalists and land settlement in Nova Scotia, comp. Marion Gilroy (Halifax, 1937). Calnek, Hist. of Annapolis (Savary).