Friday, May 9, 2008

Doctor Henry Chiles - 1st to be Hanged in the Great Hanging

Doctor Henry Chiles
 First to be hanged in the Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas,
October 1862

Doctor Henry Chiles was born about 1819 in Virginia.
He died on 4 Oct 1862 in Gainesville, Cooke, Texas.

According to Diamond’s account of the hanging, Henry Chiles was "about forty two or three years of age, stout of build though not corpulent; shoulders slightly stooped, brown hair, and blue eyes, he seemed the embodiment of good health…… He came from Missouri to Texas but a few years anterior to the War between the States and was regarded by his neighbors as a man of upright deportment, and possessing a degree of intelligence above the mediocrity."
Doctor Henry Chiles was the first man to be tried and hanged by the Citizens Court. Chiles denied the court had jurisdiction to try him and pled not guilty to all charges. He was found guilty of conspiracy and insurrection against the confederacy and sentenced to be hanged. Diamond described Henry Chiles execution as follows, "The carriage was then driven from beneath the limb, and in a moment more the body of Henry Childs dangled in the air, while the branches of the obstinate and unyielding elm trembled like an aspen under the weight and shuddering motion of the dying man."
Diamond then states that the family and friends of Henry Chiles, took his body and gave it a decent burial. The actual burial site is unknown.

Henry's brother, Ephraim Chiles, was the second person to be hanged.
Henry and his brother, Ephraim Chiles, are descendants of Walter Chiles Family of Jamestown.

Henry Chiles married Dicy A. Kennedy daughter of William Kennedy and Elizabeth Purcell on 20 Sep 1845 in , Hancock, Indiana. Dicy was born on 2 Nov 1825 in Washington County, Tennessee. She died on 12 May 1905 in Maryville, Nodaway, Missouri and was buried in Conway Cemetery, Taylor, Iowa.

An obituary for Dicy Chiles, with references to her husband and the Gainesville hanging, can be found in another post on this blog.

Dicy (sometimes spelled Dicey) had a newborn baby when her husband, Doctor Henry Chiles, was arrested for his pro-union sentiments in confederate Texas and hanged. Dicy was left widowed with a three week old baby daughter, in addition to six other children to care for as well. According to her obituary, Dicy took her young family to Lamar County, Texas soon after the hangings.  She probably felt safer in Lamar County than in Cooke County.  As soon as the war was over in 1865, Dicy moved her family to Mercer County, Illinois and lived there until sometime in the 1882. Dicy then moved to Taylor County, Iowa with several of her married children. She is buried in the Conway Cemetery in Taylor County, Iowa.

Henry and Dicy had eight children, four daughters and four sons:

1. Elizabeth Jane Chiles was born on 3 Nov 1846 in Des Moines, Polk, Iowa. She died on 25 Oct 1928 in Taylor County, Iowa. She was buried in Conway Cemetery, Taylor, Iowa.
After the death of her father, a lot of the burden to help care for the family, most likely fell upon the shoulders of 15 year old, Elizabeth. Her mother, Dicy had been left a widow with a three week old baby. Sometime before 1870, Elizabeth moved with her mother & siblings to Mercer County, Illinois. In 1870, Elizabeth is found living with the Mathew McGolsey home as a domestic servant. How different Elizabeth's life would have been had her father not been killed in the Hangings!
Elizabeth married Robert Powell on 20 Feb 1873 in Mercer, Illinois. Robert was born on 2 Jun 1836 in , Hampshire, Virginia. He died on 6 Nov 1909 in Taylor, Iowa. He was buried in Conway Cemetery, Taylor, Iowa.
Elizabeth J. Chiles Powell Obituary:
From Newspaper Abstracts, Excerpts and Death/ Obituary Indexes of Taylor County, Iowa (Taylor County, Iowa GenWeb), submitted by: Julia Johnson -,
Times-Republican, Thursday November 1, 1928 [p. 1]
Elizabeth Jane Chiles was born in Des Moines, Iowa, November 3, 1846 and departed this life on October 25th, 1928. If she had lived until November 3rd she would have reached the age of 82 years. She was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Henry Chiles, with whom she moved to east Tennessee in the year 1858, and from there to Texas in 1860. Six years later they moved to Illinois where she lived until her marriage to Robert M. Powell, which occurred on February 20, 1873.
To this union four children were born, Bert E. Powell of Conway, Mrs. P. A. Blake of Bedford, Clinton H. Powell of Conway, and Clifton D. Powell of St. Petersburg, Florida. There are four grandchildren, Earl Powell of Corning, Mrs. Bessie Ford of Canada, Frank Powell of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Lucille Blake of Bedford. There are also eight great grandchildren. Her husband, Robert M. Powell, preceded her in death 19 years ago and sleeps in the Conway cemetery, by whose side Mrs. Powell will be buried.
Mrs. Powell leaves two brothers and two sisters to mourn her going, George W. and James F. Chiles, Mrs. Sarah Longley and Mrs. J. E. Powell, all of San Diego, California. The sisters are here today but it was not possible for the brothers to be in attendance for her funeral.
She was converted and joined with the Methodist Episcopal Church when just a girl and had been a member of the church in Bedford for the past 25 years.
All of her children and her sisters were at her bedside at the time of her death

2. William P. Chiles was born about 1848 in Iowa.  He is listed with the family in the 1850 census but does not show up on the 1860 census, so he may have died as a child.
3. George W. Chiles was born about 1850 in Polk, Iowa. George married Anna Beachler  on 12 Dec 1878 in Mercer County, Illinois.

4. Sarah A. Chiles was born in Jul 1852 in Polk, Iowa. Sarah married James Longly on 27 Feb 1879 in Mercer County, Illinois. James was born in Dec 1851 in Iowa. Sarah was living in San Diego, CA in 1928.

5. Margaret E. Chiles was born about 1853 in Iowa.

6. John W. Chiles was born about 1855 in Tennessee.

7. James F. Chiles was born in May 1860 in , Lamar, Texas. He died in San Diego, California. James married Rosanna Rachel Goldsberry on 15 Feb 1884 in Clarinda, Page, Iowa. Rosanna was born on 4 Mar 1862 in Iowa. She died on 28 Apr 1959 in San Diego, California.

8. Mary Henryetta Chiles was born on 14 Sep 1862 in Gainesville, Cooke, Texas. She died on 26 Dec 1931 in San Diego, San Diego, California.
Mary was named after her father, who died in the Great Hanging at Gainesville when she was only several weeks old. 
Mary married James Edward Powell on 27 Sep 1883 in Bedford, Taylor, Iowa. James was born on 13 Dec 1855 in Moline, Illinois. He died on 24 Feb 1931 in San Diego, California. He was buried in San Diego, California.

**Sources for this family, along with all sources, may be found on


Christopher K. White said...

Doctor Henry Chiles was my 3 great grandfather. I have been researching the Chiles family from some time now and have a few documents concerning this and his wife Dicey A Kennedy-Chiles if you would like copies of the let me know.


Anonymous said...

Ephraim Chiles is my Great, Great Grandfather. I am trying to tie Dr Henry and Ephraim together. I would like some documents on Dr Henry and his father. Shirley

Anonymous said...

Just thought you should know that there is a picture of Dicy Chiles and her obit on Check it out.