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Chicago: Biographical Publishing Company

Page 730

CAPT. JAMES S. CHILES. Macoupin County was well represented in the Union Army during the late war, and Capt. James S. Chiles, a well known farmer and stock dealer of South Palmyra Township, is one of her loyal and intrepid citizens that she sent to the front to defend the old flag. And on many a hotly contested Southern battlefield he won a noble record for valor and efficiency that raised him from the ranks to be one of the leading officers of his regiment.

Capt. Chiles was born in Smith County, Tenn., August 16, 1822, a son of John G. chiles, who was a native of Orange County, Va. He in turn was a son of James Chiles. The father of our subject learned the trade of a wagon maker in his native State. After marriage he went to Tennessee, and two years later removed thence to Todd County, Ky., where he manufactured wagons, and also engaged in farming. In 1833, with his wife and seven children, he migrated to Illinois, making the journey with a wagon, to which were attached a yoke of oxen and a pair of horses in the lead. After three weeks of travel he arrived in Madison County, and after staying there a few weeks, he came to this county the last of November. He entered Government land, and in the busy years that followed developed a fine farm. His death in the home that he thus made for himself and family removed a most worthy pioneer who had contributed his quota to the upbuilding of this section of the State. In early manhood he had married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth (Smithson) Wills, a native of Fluvanna County, Va. They had eight children.

Our subject remembers well the incidents of pioneer life after he came to this county with his father and mother when he was a lad of eleven years. At that time there were but few settlers in all this region, which was still in its primeval condition, except where the pioneers had begun to climinate farms and build up homes in the wilderness. The greater part of the land was in the hands of the Government and for sale at $1.25 an acre. There were no railways here for years, and our subject had to take grain to Alton for his father with a team, that being the nearest market. It took six days to make the round trip with oxen, and he used to take his food with him and camp on the way at noon and nightfall. The schools that he attended were of the old fashioned pioneer type, taught in a log house, furnished with rude seats made by splitting logs and hewing one side smooth, wooden pins serving as supports. A long was cut out the entire length of the building to admit the light, and the room was heated by a fire in an open fireplace.

Capt. Chiles resided with his parents until he was twenty-three years old. At that age he went to Selman's Island and started a woodyard to supply steamers with fuel. He managed it successfully two years, and then high water swept everything away. Returning to Macoupin County after that disastrous ending to his enterprise, he engaged in breaking the prairie until after his marriage, when he turned his attention to farming and stock dealing, making St. Louis his market. He was actively engaged in that business when the war broke out, and in 1862 he abandoned it to take up arms in defense of the Union, enlisting in Company F, One Hundred and Twenty-second Illinois Infantry. He was at once commissioned First Lieutenant of his company, and later his coolness and daring in battle and his acknowledged efficiency as an officer received further recognition by his promotion to the rank of Captain. He served with his regiment in all its marches, campaigns and battles until at last the dreadful conflict was brought to an end, and his gallant conduct during those long and trying years reflected credit on the military of his State. He was honorably discharged from the army in July, 1865, and returning home, quietly resumed his business as a farmer and dealer in stock, and has ever since carried it on profitably. He is honored and esteemed throughout the community for those fine traits of character that have made him loyal in his citizenship, manly and straightforward in his conduct, and true to his friends and associates. He is a member in high standing of Chiles Post, No. 278, G.A.R.

Capt. Chiles has been twice married, his first marriage taking place November 2, 1845, on which date he was wedded to Miss Amelia J. McMullen, a native of Shelby County, Ky., and a daughter of Angus and Jane (Richardson) McMullen, natives of Kentucky. For more than thirty years our subject and the companion of his early manhood passed life together and then were separated by her death April 17, 1877. There are eight children of that marriage living, Georgia, John, Thomas, Lincoln, William, Florence, Cady M. and Samuel. December 2, 1879, the Captain was united in marriage with Mrs. Nancy (Ridgeway) Searcy, who has made him a devoted wife. Mrs. Chiles is a native of Boone County, Mo., and a daughter of John D. and Sophia Ridgeway. See sketch of J. B. Searcy for further information.

1891 Index

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