James Chiles

Young Harry Truman

James Chiles was Harry Truman's great uncle. His son "Jim Crow" Chiles, Truman's uncle, was the black sheep of the family.
[Missouri Heritage]

James Chiles (1802-1883) chaired a Jackson County meeting in Independence on February 4, 1856, to raise money and send men to Kansas for the pro-slavery struggle. [Craik, Southern Interest, 382ff.] Chiles was born in Clark County, Kentucky and moved as a young man to the Union Point community four miles west of Sibley, as one of the first settlers in Fort Osage Township. His brother Frank lived on an adjacent farm. [Union Historical Company, Jackson County, 307]

Chiles enlisted in Doniphan's First Missouri Volunteers for the Mexican War and became a hero when he was one of ten men volunteering to draw enemy fire at El Brazito on the Salinas River near El Paso. [Edwards, Shelby's Expedition, 478] The battle ended with an American victory over a much larger Mexican force.

Chiles was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1838, and to the Missouri Senate in 1846 and again in 1848. His son James J. "Jim Crow" Chiles (1833-1873) a wagon master on the Santa Fe Trail, was less distinguished. In 1857, Jim Crow killed a stranger in a bar who remarked on his table manners. He was a man "subject to violent fits of anger, and when angry, a very dangerous man." He was tried for murder at the Independence Courthouse in 1859, but was not convicted, " the standing of the Chiles family weighing heavily in the jury's decision." [McCulloch, Truman, 29]

William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson (1837-1864)

He led 350 "bushwackers" in the Centralia, Missouri "Massacre" of September 1864, robbing two stores, a bank, many homes, and a stage coach before killing 23 unarmed federal soldiers while holding up the train they were riding. He then set a trap for the soldiers sent to find him, killing another 123 men.

Jim Crow rode with Quantrill and with Bloody Bill Anderson on their raids, "always exhibiting the traits of the most inhuman savage.". In 1864 he joined Shelby's Confederates and, after the war, operated a gambling house and saloon in Kansas City. He "conducted his own one-man reign of terror," using the gambling hall as a base of operations. He was said to have shot two black men just "to see them jump." He had killed nine men altogether and was under indictment for three murders when Deputy Marshal James Peacock stood up to him in a duel that ended with Jim Crow's death. [McCulloch, Truman, 33]

James Chiles was President Harry Truman's great uncle. He died in Grayson County, Texas but his body was returned to Independence for burial.

Charles Clark