Wednesday, February 29, 2012


An obituary for Dicy Chiles, wife of Dr. Henry Chiles, gives reference to her husband and the Gainesville hanging.

This obituary was found in the Bedford Times Republican, Bedford, Taylor County, Iowa, and published on 2 Jun 1905.


A Bloody Tragedy of the Early Sixties – Men Die for Principles
Taylor County Residents Whose Father Died for the Union -- Hung by Guerrillas

Dicy A. Chiles died at the home of her daughter in Marysville, MO., May 12 and was buried at Conway, Sunday, May 14.

Mrs. Chiles husband was Dr. H. Chiles, who at the time of their marriage was a young physician and their home was in Eastern Tennessee. Eight children were born to them and their home was happy and blissful. They then moved to Texas. The war broke out and sectional feeling ran high. It was neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother and men lost all semblance of humanity and became blood thirsty brutes. Dr. Chiles was a Union man and for this crime was torn from wife and children and hung. Four of these little children are now well known residents of Taylor county and Mr. Taylor, a man who had a hair breath escape from the same gang of human blood hounds, now lives in Bedford. The incidents of this tragedy as given by the Marysville Republican will be of particular interest to all who know any of these people and some at least of them are known to nearly all our readers.

Dicy A. Kennedy was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Kennedy and was born in Washington county, East Tennessee, Nov 2, 1825. At the age of five years she moved with her parents to Hancock County, Indiana where she grew to womanhood. Here, in 1845, she was married to Dr. H. Chiles, a young physician of Warrington in the same county. He was a native of Virginia who had come to the west to start in life.

Dr. Chiles was of a roving disposition, and within a few years moved to Iowa, and then back to East Tennessee. Here he was joined by two brothers from Virginia, Ephraim and Almus Chiles, and the three brothers with their families moved to Texas in 1860, settling near Gainesville, in Cook County.

The rebellion coming on soon these Tennessee Virginians being strong Union men soon found themselves looked upon with suspicion. As there were a number of Union men in Cook county, they began to devise means for self protection. Among other things, they organized a Union League in which Dr. Chiles being somewhat of a leader was a master spirit. Traitors crept into this organization and in the fall of 1862 they betrayed the names of the Union men to the rebellious mob and they were hunted like criminals rather than human beings. Dr. Chiles and his brother, Ephraim, were among the first captured and they were hung on a tree in Gainesville on Oct. 4, 1862, for no other crime that being Union men. The reign of terror lasted about two weeks, during which 44 men died for their country, nearly all of them leaving destitute families. Almus Chiles was never heard of thereafter, being probably killed in the forest. Among those hung were Wm Scott, Wm Norris, an un-married man, and a Mr. Fields, Charles Taylor, still living in Bedford, Iowa, escaped the researches of the blood thirsty mob, and got away to the north.

Mrs. Dicy Chiles and her family of eight children, the youngest a babe of only a few weeks old, fled the scene of massacre as quickly as possible and settled near Paris, in Lamar county, Texas, where they stayed until 1865 when they moved to Yates City, Knox county, Illinois, where they remained until 1882, when they moved to Taylor County, Iowa. There Mrs. Chiles made her home until a few years ago, when she came to live with her daughter, Mrs. Longley, as who home she died as above stated.


Comments on the above obituary:
1. Henry's brother, Ephraim, is known to researchers, but the reference to another brother by the name of Almus Chiles is interesting.  Was he involved with the Union League?  What happened to him?
2.Who is the Charles Taylor, who escaped from Gainesville and lived in Bedford? 
3. After the hangings, Dicy quickly moved her young family to Lamar County, where she felt they would be safer than staying in Cooke County.  Just how dangerous was Cooke County for the widows of the men who were hanged?
4. Dicy felt her husband was involved in the Union League for SELF PROTECTION.  She felt her husband's only crime was that of being a Union man.
5.  The obituary states: "...their home was happy and blissful. They then moved to Texas."  Interesting thought.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Preacher...Not the kind that preached for the Money

"A Baptist Preacher, and not the kind that preached for the money in it."

Hiram was rounded up with all the rest of the men in the pre-dawn hours of October 1.  He was trying to get away when he was shot by one of the militia sent to arrest all of the men.  Wonder if they shot him in the back?

Hiram Kilborn seems like he was a good man.  Here is what is known of his story: 

Hiram was a native of Canada.  Not certain when he immigrated to the United States.  He was in Peoria, Illinois in 1841, when he married twenty-one year old, Adelia (known as Delia) Ann Knowles a native of Vermont, on 12 Dec 1841.  The couple was still in Peoria in 1850.  Hiram reported his occupation as a carpenter for the 1850 census.  Hiram and Delia have two sons, George, age 6, and John, age 3.

1850 US Federal Census, Peoria, Illinois, page 240A

Hiram moved his family to Texas sometime between 1852 and 1856.  In 1860, Hiram and his family can be found living in Cooke County, Texas.  Kilborn is living next to Eli Scott, one of the men who would later be hanged in the Gainesville Hanging.  Clark, also, refers to Hiram Kilborn as being a 'near neighbor.'  Kilborn reported his occupation as a farmer in 1860.  Hiram and Delia have two more children by 1860; a daughter, Frances, and a son, Wilson.

1860 US Federal Census, Cooke, Texas, pag 227

Hiram seems to have been very involved in the community.  McCaslin refers to Kilborn as a Baptist lay minister and states in the footnote on page 67 of his book, Tainted Breeze: "Kilborn became a school trustee and a road overseer for Cooke County in September, 1858, a supervisor for the polling station at Henry Cockrum's mill in the fall of 1860, and again for the polling station at John Ware's house in the fall of 1860 and in August, 1862."

James Lemuel Clark, in his Recollections, writes the following about Kilborn:
"The next neighbor I will name was Hiram kilborn.  He had a homestead of 320 acres of land patened to him by the state.  Tho tha did not hang him.  He was shot an killed by some of the Bourland men in trying to git a way.  His foalks never got his body and did not no what tha dun with it.  He Kilborn was a Babtist preacher, and not one of the kind that preached for the money that was in it.  He was the oanly Babtist preacher in this country when we came here.  I am informed by Frank Foremen that [he] helped to bury Kilborn."

Hiram's son, George, was away fighting for the Confederate Army, when Hiram was shot and killed by the Confederate group in Cooke County,   James L. Clark was serving in the same Confederate unit.  In one of Clark's letters home to his family, dated 20 Mar 1863, he writes: "Mother tell George Kilborns folks that he is still with us but it not verry well.  He has a verry bad cough and it is thought by some that he has Consumption.  But he is able to go about.  He has not been able to do any duty since he left home but has been able to stay with us."  George A. Kilborn appened the following note to James Lemuel Clark's letter: "Be sure and tell my Father and Mother to write to me as soon as you get this letter and tell them where I am.  I send my best respects to you and your family.  Geo. A. Kilborn."

It appears that while George Kilborn was away fighting for the Confederate Army, he did not know that his father had been killed by the Cooke County confederates.  No records for George have been found after this time, so he most likely died while serving in the Confederate Army.  That would mean that his mother lost both her husband and son during the Civil War.

After Hiram's death at the hands of the Confederate militia, his widow and family moved to Bourban County, Kansas.  Delia and her three younger children can be found in the 1870 census for Bourbon County.

1870 US Federal Census, Fort Scott, Bourbon County, Kansas, page 491B

Delia died in 1879 and was buried in the Mount Orum Cemetery, Bourbon County, Kansas. Son, John, married and had a family and continued to live in Bourbon County. Son, Wilson, moved around a bit, ending up in Colorado.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Often the question is asked, “Why do a Blog about a Civil War Hanging?”
Additional questions and comments include: "Who cares about that?, How depressing!, Your not like one of those guys who dress up like Civil War Soldiers, are you?, What does that have to do with anything today?"

The Blog Welcome, on the right side of the blog, explains the goal or mission statement of the blog:
     Our goal is to remember all the men who died in the 'Great Hanging'
     and find their families – spouse, children, parents, siblings.

But, the real question that should be asked, is not “Why the blog?” but, “What prompted you to start the blog in the first place?”

That's easy.  While reading the book by Thomas Barrett, “The Great Hanging,” the following passage on page eighteen seemed to jump out of the book demanding attention and action.

“There was an order passed that women should not be permitted to be present at the hanging. The women were not noisy, but the signs of deep despair was manifested by the heaving breast, the falling tears, the heavy groans as though the heart was breaking, and all the vitals of life were giving way. I believe all these men were heads of families. The sun set that night on fourteen widowed families, and thirteen families of orphans, for if I recollect right, all these men had children but one.
Language is totally incompetent to express the deep sorrow of that night. Wailing, moaning, weeping and lamentation existed in these families on that dark and fatal night. Tears fell like the rain drop, as tears fall from my eyes at even this distant day, while penning these lines. When the little ones who were just beginning to talk, would say: Ma where is pa? Pa come home, O, ma, go after him. How these words went like a dagger to the heart of that disconsolate wife. He was her husband, she loved him! Let the world say what they may.”

Who were these women?? -- these widows, mothers, and daughters of the Gainesville Hanging victims?

One thing was certain, these women needed their story told. They needed a voice! They needed to be found!  In many cases, who these women were, was not known to present day researchers. Many women are still not known, but many have been “found” since this blog was started and their sad but courageous story is finally being told.

For a list of known spouses of the men hanged at Gainesville, go the the "Weeping Wives" post.  It is updated as new information is found.

If you have information on any of the families of the Hanging victims, please share. There are many ways to share: write a book, start your own blog, post your family information on, leave a message on genealogy message boards, donate your stories to a historical society/library in Gainesville, post the information on this blog, and/or all of the above.

Thomas Barrett, "The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Cooke County, Texas, October, A.D. 1862," Gainesville, Texas: January, 1885; Old West Magazine, pages 49-66, Summer 1981, Note: Original pamphlet was written in 1885. Its author, Thomas Barrett, was on the Cooke County jury that found 42 men guilty of conspiracy against the Confederacy in the Fall of 1862. According to the Handbook on Texas, Barrent "deprecated the role of emotion in the jury's decisions and argued that his being on the jury had saved large numbers of lives." Note: Barrett did NOT mention names of the victims.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The John Wiley Question?

Was John Wiley Hanged in the Gainesville Hangings?

The following information was sent by a John Wiley descendant.  Some in the Wiley family feel that their ancestor, John Wiley, was one of the men hanged during the Gainesville Hangings in 1862.  Wiley is included in James L. Clark's list of men who were hanged.  In addition, Wiley is mention in the 1880 Galveston news article about the hanging.  But, he is NOT reported in Diamond's Account as having a trial, nor is he included in McCaslin's list, "Forty-Two Executed by the Citizens Court at Gainesville."

Information from a descendant:
"I have been seeking more information relating to John M Wiley [1812-1862]. I found one unverified source that indicated that his middle name was Malcolm. He was married to Elizabeth "Eliza" "Lizzie" Ann McCulloch [1820-1877] and there were six known children, five girls and one boy. Avaline [B1837], Mary Jane [B1840], Eliza [B1841], Isaac [B1843], Sarah Ann [B1845] and Maria Louisa [B1849] All the children were born in Missouri. The family was living in Jefferson County, Missouri in the 1850 census. They moved to Grayson County in 1854 and were in the Grayson County census in 1860."

Wiley is not on Diamond or McCaslin's hanged lists, but is mentioned by Clark and in the article by the Galveston News Weekly in 1880 as being hanged.

The following is from a descendant:
"The widow, Eliza was living in the 1870 Grayson County census with her son Isaac and an 8-year-old child named James M Wiley who may be the child of Isaac and the grandchild of Eliza. None of the girls are in the home. It appears that the family did not flee the area after the hanging but stayed in Grayson County. Isaac was born 1843 and died in 1924. He was married to Margaret Ellen Hutton and they had several children. They apparently lived near Collinsville in Grayson County and are both buried in the Collinsville Cemetery.

Eliza Wiley died in 1877 and was buried in Wiley Cemetery near Collinsville near her husband, J M Wiley. This cemetery is small with maybe 5 or 6 graves and located about 2 miles SE of Collinsville. None of the graves there appear to be on Find-A-Grave website. Not sure if they are marked or not. Clark calls him "old man Wiley-landowner" in his account.

The only reference I can find about John M Wiley in Diamond's account is that he was present at the Dye meeting on the night of 1 October 1862. This was mentioned in testimony in one of the first seven trials. There is no evidence that Wiley had a trial, but he was hanged on the 12th, so would likely have been one of the 14 men that was selected from a list by a representative of the citizens mob provided to them by the jury for lynching. It does appear however, that he was picked up by his family or friends and buried in a traditional manner by his family and not in the mass grave on the banks of Pecan Creek."

Diamond's Account - List of Trials


This list is the order of each man’s trial as presented in Diamond’s Account of the Citizens Court, with the date of hanging listed after each name.  (Most hanging dates came from McCaslin's book, Tainted Breeze.)

Dr. Henry Childs – Oct 2
Ephraim Childs – Oct 2
A.D. Scott - Oct 19
M.D. Harper – Oct 4
Henry Fields – Oct 4
I.W.P. Lock – Oct 7
W.W. Morris – Oct 8
Richard Anderson - Oct 19
Dr. Eli Thomas – Oct 19

Edward Hampton - Oct 10
John A. Morris – Oct 19

John M. Crisp – Oct 19
Samuel Carmichael – Oct 13

C.A. Jones, James Powers, Eli M. Scott, Thomas Baker, Geo W. Anderson, Abraham McNeese, Henry Cockrum, C.F. Anderson, Wm Wernell, B.F. Barnes, Wm Rodes, & N.M. Clark

Ramey Dye – Oct 13

D.M. Leffel – Oct 19

James A. Ward & W.B. Taylor

H.J. Esman – Oct 19

W.W. Johnson – Oct 19

Richard N. Martin – Oct 19

Barnabas Birch – Oct 19

Curd Goss, Wm Anderson, John Miller, Ar (Phax) Dawson, & M.W. Morris

Dr. James Foster – Oct 10

A.N. Johnson & John Cottrell (together, with Wm McCool)

Mr. Floyd
Note:  Three of the men (not sure which ones) with an execution date of Oct 13 were hanged on Oct 12.  Nineteen men were executed on Oct 19, and this list only shows 17 trials for men who supposedly were hanged on the 19th.  McCaslin lists John W. Morris and Gilbert Smith with the men who were hanged on Oct 19, but Diamond does not list a trial for them.  As always, corrections are welcomed.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Gilbert Smith

Was Gilbert Smith hanged in the Gaineville Hangings? 

Gilbert Smith is listed by McCaslin as one of the "Forty-Two Executed by the Citizens Court at Gainesville."

McCaslin (Tainted Breeze, page 203) suggests that Gilbert Smith, age twenty-three, is listed as being in a militia company from Fannin County mustered on July 7, 1861.  The twenty-three year old Gilbert Smith in Fannin County can be found in the 1860 Fannin County, Texas Census.  He was the son of Robert Smith.  He continued to live in Fannin County until his death in 1915.  So, the Gilbert Smith from Fannin County could not have died in the hangings of 1862.

There is another Gilbert Smith reported in the 1860 census as living in Texas.  He was a 60 year old family man living in Hopkins County.   The Hopkins County Gilbert Smith died in 1868, so he could not have died in the Gainesville Hangings in 1862.

The 1860 census of Texas reports one more Gilbert Smith.  He was a 29 year old native of Georgia living in Rusk County.  His 21 year old wife, Mary, was a native of Texas.  They were parents of an eleven month old son, named Ira.  It is not known what happened to this Rusk County Gilbert Smith, so he may be a possibility.

Known facts about Gilbert Smith:

1. Witness for the trial of Ramey Dye.
Diamond's Account (page 78) gives the following testimony by Gilbert Smith for the trial of Ramey Dye:
"I was at the meeting on Wednesday night.  Present: Ramey Dye, James Powers, Moses Powers, John Ware, John W. Morris, Dr. Foster, H.J. Esman, Harry Gilman, Arphax Dawson, O. B. Atkinson, and Wm boyles.  We were all ordered to bring our guns.  I loaded mine after I got there.  I suppose there were twenty-eight men in all.
Our object was to come here, (Gainesville) and rescue the prisoners.  Ramey Dye was chosen captain.  We concluded to get away when Essman came and reported the number of men in town.  We adjourned to meet again the next night and consult what to do.  I understood we had spies out.  Mr. Welch started up here to see how many men were in town.  He was sent by the company.  Some men were sent out two or three times to spy out and see if any body approached.  Old Man Cochran went over to Red River to see how many members of the order there were over in that section.  Snodgrass was there when I arrived.  I understood that the signs would protect us when the Northern army came."

2. Attended the Rama Dye meeting for the rescue of prisoners.
As stated in his above listed testimony, Gilbert Smith attended the nighttime meeting called by Rama Dye to discuss a rescue of prisoners in Gainesville.

3. Diamond does not list or include Gilbert Smith in any of the trials.  So, did he have a trial and Diamond not list it?  Was he found guilty and hanged?  There is no record of Gilbert Smith ever being tried or hanged.  Was he just a witness? Or, was he a prisoner and then released? 
Gilbert Smith is not on Clark's list of men hanged, nor is he in the 1880 Galveston news article.  But, neither one of these sources contains a complete list of men hanged.  Not even sure if Diamond's account contains a complete list of men hanged.

Conclusion:  Not sure that Gilbert Smith should be included in the list of men who were hanged -- unless there is a more complete list found.
Thoughts and comments about the Gilbert Smith dilemma would be appreciated.

Note:  McCaslin's book, Tainted Breeze, is the definitive source for information concerning the Great Hanging at Gainesville.  When McCaslin published the book in 1994, there were not online census indices available.  Nor was there as much information available that today can be easily found in online databases or offline repositories about the individual men who died in the Hanging.  Many thanks to McCaslin for his book about the Hanging, and for laying the groundwork for further research by descendants into their ancestor who died in the hangings.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Star-Telegram News Article

The following was posted on the Bud Kennedy Column, Fort Worth Star-Telegram 
Mobs don't lynch people - 'tensions of the times' lynch people

Mobs don't lynch people - 'tensions of the times' lynch people

Posted Thursday, Feb. 02, 2012
By Bud Kennedy

"It remains the worst mob violence in American history: 14 men lynched, all here in North Texas.
Now, 150 years later, a Rebel-flag-waving movie will tell the mob's "side of the story."
Even by Civil War standards, the Great Hanging is an atrocity.

After a Confederate military tribunal convicted seven men of treason, a vigilante mob set out on the streets of Gainesville and Cooke County, rounding up and hanging 14 more men without regard for trials or the young Confederate nation's constitution.

"The whole town went crazy," said Gary D. Bray, 60, of Forney, a Sons of Confederate Veterans commander lining up extras for the SCV promotional movie Black October.
Bray said the Confederate ancestry group will "tell both sides."
"Everything you read on the Internet says the Confederates were just crazy people lynching folks in a big mob," Bray said.

Well, yes.

But Bray said the movie will blame the lynchings on the "tensions of the time."
By the time the bloodshed ended, 42 men had been lynched, shot or hanged by a tribunal, including five in Wise County and one in Denton.
Bray said the movie's director, David Moore of Parker County-based Southern Legacy Films, has talked with descendants.
"By no means would we want to portray the victims as horrible people," Bray said.

How kind.

The screenplay is based on records compiled by a Confederate soldier who was also an East Texas newspaper editor, Bray said. Scenes have been shot near Tyler, at the Frontier Village park in Denison and at Dexter in Cooke County.
Movie scenes posted online include re-enactments of hangings.
The Sons plan to show the movie in Gainesville to mark the October anniversary, he said.

Some graves there remain unmarked to this day.
One in a Cooke County cemetery is inscribed "Murdered by a Mob."

University of North Texas history professor Richard McCaslin told the story fairly in his 1997 book, Tainted Breeze.
"There's only one book that tries to tell the true story, and I wrote it," McCaslin wrote by e-mail.
"They have made no effort to include me, and the pictures online reflect their lack of knowledge about what really happened."

This movie will be more story than history."

Bud Kennedy's column appears in the Star-Telegram Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.