Saturday, March 2, 2019

Dafts and beginnings

According to his obituary in the Plaindealer Nick Chiles was born in 1867 at Cross Roads (in other sources this is sometimes referred to as Chiles Cross Roads) in South Carolina to Winnie and Moses Chiles in an area filled with family.  He moved to Abbeville, then Greenville, then onto Chicago for a short while before settling in Topeka in 1886 where he would live until his death in 1929. This seems consistent with what I have found, and Chiles had been ill for several months before he died, therefore I have every reason to believe that he wrote his own obituary or was involved in the writing. Chiles understood the power of the press and of words, marketing and branding. He would have wanted control of the final image of himself.
Thelma Chiles, his daughter, in a tribute to him (Plaindealer, Feb. 7, 1936 pg 3) wrote that he “was educated in public and private schools of South Carolina….where he studied under Rev. White and later studied law under a prominent southern judge.”  A June 11th, 1926 article in the Greenwood Index Journal (pg 8) states that Chiles. Nick Chiles was born near Bradley SC and with his mother went to Abbeville where the boy worked in the hotel operated by JA Wier shining shoes and doing odd jobs.  When Mr. Wier moved to Greenville where he ran a board house Nick and his mother went along too. In Greenville Nick added selling of newspapers to his sideline and was said to save every penny. Chiles then left South Carolina in 1878 when he was 12.   Mr. Wier recalls that Nick had very few educational advantages but was not surprised that he succeeded as a businessman because he was "a sharp boy and very industrious." 
 Ms. Chiles says that he felt limited by his native state and moved to “Free Kansas”.  Chiles does not show up in the city directory or in the census information for Topeka until the 1910 census. 
Chiles’ involvement and activism in Topeka started early in his tenure.  The first entry I find of Chiles is in the Topeka State Journal on February 10th of 1887, with a published a copy of a letter that Chiles wrote to President Cleveland regarding freedmen settling in Oklahoma. Chiles wrote that freed slaves were under the impression that they would be receiving special privileges in Oklahoma Territory but through correspondence with the commissioner of Indian affairs, Chiles has determined that they will not, that the treaty is only referring to slaves that were freed and formerly owned by Indians, not to any freed slave. At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 the tribes in Oklahoma owned approximately 10,000 slaves.  I believe that this letter was written in reference to the Dawes (General Allotment Act) Act which was passed on February 8th of 1887, the Dawes Act authorized the President to survey Native American tribal lands and to divide it into allotments for individual Native Americans and talk of it had been in the newspapers for months preceding Chiles’ letter. ( This is also in response to the Exoduster movement (1879) in which many blacks moved from the south thinking that through the Freedman’s Bureau they would be given 40 acres of land, horses and a start and often found that there was nothing.
In April of 1888, is the first recording of Chiles’ property dealings when he 3 lots on Lake Street in the Grand Place subdivision of Topeka.  This early purchase of property leads me to believe that he brought money with him when he came to Topeka, and lends credulity to his daughters’ statement that he owned property in the south.
 By this time he has become active in 5th ward(Mudtown) politics.   Chiles was on a committee to nominate delegates to Wichita and Emporia Republican conventions, a committee that petitioned the city for street paving in the district, was a delegate to the Republican Senatorial Convention and by the end of the year he has been elected Secretary of the Republican party of the 5th ward at Brown’s Chapel by Colored Men.
Evidence of Chiles climb in the city’s political circles continues in 1889, when he becomes the chairman of the 5th ward, is given a notarial commission and is appointed one of three appraisers for the city on damage done to property owners by the opening of 14th street. 
 1889 is marked by Chiles’ real estate speculation.  He buys 7 lots on Golden, and on Lake Streets he sells lots in the Brady Subdivision (which I cannot find when he bought these, an aside, I long time Topeka resident told me that when the courthouse on Jackson was torn down boxes and boxes of records were thrown out because they were not in good condition.) At this time he and Winnie are operating a lunch counter at 314 Kansas in Smoky Row.
In 1890, Chiles runs for constable, the Topeka Daily Capital (March 22) says that he is “an active young Republican…a worthy young man” and the Topeka Daily Press (29 March 1890) says that he is “making a great race. He is a very popular with all classes”.  He does not end up winning but comes in 6th in a field of ten. Chiles is the representative for the 5th ward for the county’s Republican convention.  He became delinquent on taxes on properties on the Sac and Fox road (by Wakarusa, I can find no record of him buying this) In October, Topeka Daily Press reported that Chiles became involved in a dispute with a restaurant man yesterday which became so loud that the peace of the neighborhood was disturbed, a fine of $10 was assessed against him. This is the first in arrest for Chiles.  Chiles opens the grocery at 10th and Washington.
                1891 is a hard year for Chiles.  He has property foreclosed on by FA Sampson(yet another property transaction that I cannot find); there are delinquent taxes due on the property on Sac and Fox Road (I know that Sac and Fox Road, also called Ottawa Road ran near Berryton and Wakarusa but I wonder if it did not also go by Tecumseh and if this is not the property that will become Chiles’ farm and if it is not near his Uncle John Chiles’ property, working on this.  If Chiles’ owned property and a farm this far out this early he definitely brought a fair amount of cash from SC and he was prominent from the get go.)  A fire on October 19th, at Chiles’ property at 1218 Washington, destroys a barn , 2 horses, some hay (Topeka Daily Press) but luckily he is insured by the Groll and McKitrick Agency and is compensated before the end of the year. In November, Chiles’ brother John was driving a delivery wagon for the grocery, when a bolt came loose and caused the horses to run and the wagon crashed to the ground, there was property damage but not loss.  This year Chiles is arrested along with four others for rioting when BF McCain, a black man who was accused of murdering his nine month old step-son, was arrested and held in the city jail. The first night of which a white mob descended on the jail and courthouse, searching both, when they found nothing they left only to return a second night, Chief Gardiner brought in the military to disperse them, on this night Chiles and four others were arrested for rioting and charges were later dismissed for all, as for the white mob, officials filed charges against eight mob members, accusing them of inciting a riot and attempted murder.   (TSJ 11/27/1891 and “EVER SINCE THE HANGING OF OLIPHANT”  LYNCHING AND THE SUPPRESSION OF   MOB VIOLENCE IN TOPEKA, KANSAS by Brent Champney, note I have not found the sentencing of the white mob).
                In 1892, Chiles expands his business interests to include operating a skating rink at 621 S Jackson (this would have been the white business district) and presiding over a tin shop on 2nd street. His involvement in the Republican party continues and he is a alternative Republican delegate at Emporia Republican Convention.  

  “Nick Chiles wears a knowing smile on his usually serene face.  Lookout for Nick!  He says that he will raise the dickens if allowed.”  (State Ledger, 10/7/1892 p. 1)
                1893 opens with charges against Chiles for selling intoxicating liquor and running gambling tables on 7th street  (TDP 3 May 1893), which are continued and then he fined $150, which he appeals. This is the first charges of this that I have found and this will be an ongoing theme.  Chiles’ choice to appeal and to represent himself in the appeal indicates an understanding of the legal system but not the politics of prohibition, in which police and local governments were often funded by these fines.  Chiles has property on Sac and Fox Road and in the Beale Addition sold at sheriff’s sale. 
City Jail Contract
                In 1894, Chiles opens (Sept. 9, 1894, Leavenworth Herald, pg. 2) a first class drug store and proposes making pills and powders according to their directions.  This is the first colored druggist in Kansas.  He lost more property to sheriff sale and he had a missing mare.
                In 1895, Chiles is awarded the contract for providing meals for the city jail (January 7th, TSJ).  This quickly goes awry and by June, Matron Thorpe is complaining that the food is indigestible and cold and she is sending it back and Frank Long becomes the provider for prisoners’ food.  The Topeka Mail and Breeze (Capper’s paper) calls Chiles the colored Cy Leland, and says that he is at war with the Sherriff but that Chiles is the only one who regards this war as important.   (Cy Leland was a dominant force in Dopihan county politics, sometimes called a political boss and was involved in the default of railroad bonds)  Chiles is selected as the alternate for the Republican convention from the 2nd district.   
In (check on whether is 1896/5) Chiles does not take losing the prisoner’s meals contract lightly and takes a group of men (black) with him to see the Governor  Morrill to have his former job restored. 

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