Giles family papers   1780-1899
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Biography

Aquila Giles was born into minor Maryland gentry in 1758, the son of Jacob and Joanna Paca Giles, grandson of Maryland governor William Paca. The Giles family of Devonshire, England, had come to America in 1634, and are on record as having obtained a land grant from Charles II in 1684.

Nothing is known about Giles' education or early years. At the outbreak of the American Revolution he joined the Continental Army as a volunteer cadet and by May 1777 had been promoted to major and was serving on the Pennsylvania line as aide-de-camp of Gen. Arthur St. Clair. At some point Major Giles was taken prisoner and evidently wound up on parole in New York City, during which time he courted English-born Elizabeth Shipton, marrying her in October 1780, just before his release. After the war they settled in Maryland, where Giles inherited an estate on the Susquehanna River in 1784 and bought a Baltimore town house in 1796. During this period he served as a U.S. Marshall and the couple had 10 children, 8 of whom survived infancy.

Sometime after 1800 Aquila and Eliza Giles relocated to New York City, and in the early 1800's he became involved in a controversy over lands which led to protracted litigation with the United States government. Financial hardship forced the family to split up, and wife Eliza returned to her native England around 1812, taking daughter Helen and youngest son George Washington Giles, born around 1802, with her. The separation lasted over four years, during which time sons William, Charles and St. Clair Giles became seamen, Henry Giles was admitted to West Point, and eldest daughters Elizabeth and Mary Ann married.

George Washington Giles attended the Hemel Hemsted school during his stay in England and was sent to boarding school and college after the return to America. There he attended Princeton University and Union College, become a lawyer, and married Elizabeth Ogden of New York City around 1823 or 1824. Details of their lives are very sketchy, but it is known that George Giles' health was poor, and he and Elizabeth lived in Madeira for a time in hopes of its restoration. Their son William Ogden Giles, probably born around 1825, established strong connections to Europe and the West Indies as a businessman.

Aquila and Eliza's daughter Elizabeth prospered as the wife of wealthy New Yorker Daniel Thorne, while Henry Giles enjoyed a minor military career, and Helen Giles remained in England and caused a mild family scandal by marrying "beneath her." The other children did not survive their parents. Although Aquila Giles won his law suit and the family was reunited, it is clear that his fortunes were never restored. By 1817 he was employed as a U.S. Army store keeper, but seemed always to be in debt and waiting for his luck to change. Aquila and Eliza Giles both died in 1822.