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Justin M. Sanders

RAINS, JAMES SPENCER (1817–1880). James Spencer Rains, politician and soldier, was born in Tennessee on October 2, 1817. One of his brothers was Emory Rains, for whom Rains County, Texas, is named. Rains settled in Newton County, Missouri, before 1840. He was a justice of the county court in Newton County in 1841 and was elected as a Democrat to the state House of Representatives in 1844. By 1845 he had acquired the honorific nickname of "General," presumably from his service in the state militia. He was one of the delegates from Missouri to the 1848 Democratic national convention. In 1845 Rains was appointed the Indian agent for the Neosho Subagency, located in the Seneca Reserve in the Indian Territory. He served in that agency until 1848, when he transferred to the Osage River Agency, near the site of present Paola, Kansas. He remained at the Osage River Agency until the spring of 1849, when he was replaced following charges of misconduct at the Neosho Subagency. Rains traveled to California in 1850 and assisted Governor John Bigler in organizing the state militia and in providing relief supplies for wagontrains of needy emigrants. He returned to Missouri by 1855 and was elected to the state Senate in August of that year. In December 1855 he broke with the Democratic party and joined the American (or Know-Nothing) party. Rains was reelected as a Know-Nothing to his Senate seat in 1858. In 1860 he ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Constitutional Union candidate. Despite his earlier Unionism, after Lincoln's election in 1860 Rains urged Missouri to resist the new administration. In 1861 he was elected to the United States Congress, but because of his ties to the Confederacy he refused the seat. He was appointed a brigadier general in the Missouri State Guard by secessionist Governor C. F. Jackson in May 1861. Commanding a division of State Guard troops, Rains took an active role in the battles of Carthage, Wilson's Creek, Lexington, and Pea Ridge. Although he held no Confederate commission, he was placed in command of mixed guard and Confederate troops in northwestern Arkansas in the fall of 1862, but he was relieved of command by Gen. T. C. Hindman in October 1862 for retreating without sufficient cause.

Rains then moved to Texas and lived near his brother Emory in Wood (now Rains) County. When Gen. Sterling Price made his Missouri raid in 1864, Rains followed him and recruited a unit of men in Missouri that he guided back to Arkansas and transferred to the Confederate authorities. After the war he moved to Kaufman County, Texas, and became active again in the Democratic party. He became a recruiter for the Grange in the mid-1870s and eventually joined the Greenback party. He was nominated as the Greenback candidate for lieutenant governor of Texas in 1878 but was defeated by the Democratic nominee, Joseph D. Sayers. Rains was beginning a speaking tour in support of the Greenback party for the 1880 presidential campaign when he died of apoplexy at his home in Kaufman County on May 19, 1880. He is buried at Lee Cemetery in Seagoville. He married Margaret J. Cravens of Jasper County, Missouri, and had one daughter and two sons.


Galveston Daily News, August 8, 1878. New York Times, May 25, 1880. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Justin M. Sanders, "RAINS, JAMES SPENCER," accessed July 08, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/frame.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on May 6, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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