James was born to Arthur O'Neal and Hannah Benton. Arthur was an Indian trader and had moved to AL. Hannah, being pregnant, was taken to Strother's Meeting Place near the Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson, who was their friend. James grew up in SC; although his father still traded with the Indians of MS and AL. By 1817, the family had moved to their final homestead, called "Tara", on Black Creek near the border of present day Perry and Green Counties. About 1821, James married Thaney. 1830, James and Thaney live next to her father and one of her brothers. 1850, James lives on Flint Creek next to his brother William, his son Dekalb, and Thomas Bond. Their home was on the boundary line between Harrison and Jackson counties. 1860, James and Thaney are listed in the household of their son James. 1861, Thaney died. 1863, James served as a [very old] Confederate in the Civil War.