June 2, 2015

Thomas Chilton

   Thomas Chilton, United states congressman and author, was born near Lancaster, Kentucky, a son of Rev. Thomas John Chilton and Margaret Bledsoe. One week before his seventeenth birthday he married and commenced study for ordination as a Baptist minister while simultaneously studying for the bar. After setting up a law practice in Owingsville he was elected to the State House of Representatives at age 21. He became enamored of the political persona of Andrew Jackson and carried Jackson's banner to the Twenty-first Congress from Elizabeth, Kentucky. Chilton was first seated in the U.S. House of Representatives on January 11, 1828.

   In Washington, DC, Chilton took residence at the boarding house of Mary Ball and was lodged in the same room as David Crockett, a representative from Tennessee. The two men rapidly became friends and would spend the better part of the next six years acting in political concert. The most significant event they shared was disillusion with Andrew Jackson, and abandonment of his political party in March 1830. Chilton failed in his bid for reelection to the Twenty-second Congress but was elected as an Anti-Jacksonian to the Twenty-third Congress. By the end of that term both Chilton and Crockett were tired of dealing with the Jackson machine and associated dirty tricks. The two men were glad to turn their backs on Washington, so in 1835 Chilton chose to resume the Baptist ministry in addition to law practice.

   In 1834 a Philadelphia publisher released a book titled Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee. Many readers suspected that this autobiography was crafted by someone other than Crockett himself. It had indeed been crafted by Chilton, from Crockett's written material and in response to questioning, but the agreement between these friends was absolute public silence on the matter. After a century of historical suspicion the details were unearthed during research by Crockett biographer, James Atkins Shackford, when he discovered two letters in Crockett's hand which revealed the circumstances.

   Chilton remained in Kentucky for the next four years. In 1839 he removed his family to Talladega, Alabama, where he accepted the pulpit of the Hope Baptist Church. In August 1851, he was invited to pastor the First Baptist Church in Houston, and so, with his second wife, Louisa and their six children in tow, left Alabama for Texas. He began his ministry there on December 6, 1851, but resigned on October 28, 1853 to pastor a church in Montgomery, Texas. While delivering a sermon on August 15, 1854 he suddenly clutched his chest, collapsed, and died of a heart attack before the congregation. The town of Chilton, Texas was named for his son, Lysias. A grandson, Horace Chilton, became the first native born Texan to serve in Congress.

30° 23.338, -095° 41.868

Old Methodist Cemetery

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