Randle’s Civil War Veteran Founder Reburied in Town He Established, 102 Years After Death


When James Randles died in 1920, the Union Civil War veteran was buried 50 miles from the town that bears his name — or most of it.

On Saturday, he was finally welcomed home. His descendants celebrated as Randles’ remains were exhumed from Centralia and moved to the Silver Creek Cemetery in Randle alongside the rest of his family. 

Born in Sevier County, Tennessee, on Dec. 5, 1843, Randles enlisted in the Union Army at the age of 18. Following the war, he stayed in Tennessee working for the county and became a Freemason before heading out west and settling in the foothills  of the Cascades where the town of Randle now stands. 

“He moved out west, deciding that the area surrounding Randle (in East Lewis County) resembled the Appalachians, where he grew up,” said Centralia Freemason lodge master Bill Scarborough. 

Randles was the third settler in the area and paid a local Native American to transport mail to and from Centralia. To get the area’s own post office, he drew up a petition, Scarborough said.

“He drew up the petition and had other settlers in the area sign it. There was no city name on the petition, so the territory at that time used the first name they saw on the petition,” Scarborough said. “And thus, the City of Randle, minus the ‘s’ from his surname, was named in 1889.” 

Whitney McMahan, Randles’ great, great granddaughter, headed up efforts early this year to move the veteran’s remains. She said the family had talked about moving him for years. McMahan believes Randles might have ended up buried in Centralia due to the weather. 

“All we can figure out is he died Dec. 3 in 1920. In 1920, in the winter time with the roads, (Centralia) is just where he got buried. All the other Randles and McMahans are here, so it was time to bring him home,” McMahan said. 

Randles’ exact cause of death is unknown, but he was sick with a heart condition prior to his death, two days before his 78th birthday. 

McMahan worked with Sticklin Funeral Chapel and Lewis County officials to set up Saturday’s ceremony, which was attended by more than 100 people. After the previous owner defaulted on taxes for several years in a row, the county repossessed the Mountain View Cemetery in Centralia — where Randles was originally buried — last January, according to previous reporting by The Chronicle. This allowed McMahan to team with county officials for the process. 

“The family is really excited about this. I have really positive feedback. Some people say, ‘what took you so long?’” said McMahan. “It was a process, a long process, and I want to thank Doctor Lindsey Pollock, because this was a new thing for the county.” 

Aside from Sticklin and Lewis County, Randles’ burial ceremony was presided over by the Centralia Freemason Lodge No. 63, Patriot Guard riders, members from various American Legion posts, Washington Civil War Association (WCWA) reenactors, retired and active duty U.S. Army personnel along with many Randle residents. 

Scarborough delivered Randles’ eulogy at the ceremony and shared the story of his life. Following the Civil War, Randles was honorably discharged and worked for both Sevier and London counties in Tennessee as coroner, register of deeds and deputy county court clerk before he ventured west. 

Randles received a full Masonic burial ceremony followed by Taps, performed on a bugle by WCWA reenactor Ethan Lane and Amazing Grace, performed on the bagpipes by retired U.S. Army Colonel and Randle resident Mary Prophit. 

Randles originally had six descendants, who had many more themselves, and many of Randles’ descendants still live in the town named after him today. 

For more information, visit https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/centralia-wa/james-randles-11238471.