A Tribute to Alvin J Justes

Alvin Junior Justes was born in Lee County, Virginia on March 8, 1941 and was the son of Benjamin H. Justes. He left his home in Laurel County, Kentucky at the age of 19 and traveled to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He served in the US Army during the Vietnam War, between March 20 1967, when he was inducted into the Army, and March 19, 1969. After this, he made Oklahoma City his home and lived a short distance from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. His last visit to Laurel County was when his father died on December 7, 1982. He was a frequent visitor to the coffee shop in the Federal Building and the Federal Employees Credit Union on the 3rd floor of the Federal Building. Alvin did not own a vehicle and traveled by city bus wherever he went. According to information attributed to his brother who lived in Kentucky, he was disabled as a result of breathing toxic fumes at a place he had worked in the past. He was described as a loner and a very gentle man. On April 19, 1995, he paid a visit to the coffee shop and then the Federal Employees Credit Union in the Alfred P. Murrah Building. No one, including Alvin, could have suspected that Timothy McVeigh, assisted by Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier and Michael’s wife Lori, had placed a Ryder rental truck loaded with explosives made from ammonium nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel in a parking space beside the Federal Building. When the bomb was detonated the morning of April 19, 1995, the resulting explosion crumbled all 9 stories of the north wall of the building. It was not until May 29, 1995 that the last 3 bodies were discovered. They were the bodies of Christy Rosas, Virginia Thompson, and Alvin Justes, as determined by the Oklahoma County Medical Examiner. Alvin’s sister, Violet Root, had been trying to reach her brother since she heard of the bombing on the 19th. She had eventually contacted the police, but had received no word until May 29. Altogether there were 168 people killed in the blast. Among those were 19 babies and young children who were in the America’s Kids Child Development Center (Day Care) on the second floor. An additional 680+ employees and visitors were injured by the bombing. Since the bombing, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum has taken the place of Murrah Building, which was completely demolished. On June 11, 2001, Timothy McVeigh was executed by lethal injection at the Federal Corrections Complex at Terre Haute, Indiana. Terry Nichols is serving 161 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. Michael Fortier served only a few years of a 12 year sentence , and his wife never served any time at all. They are now in a witness protection program. Every year on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing there is a marathon run in OKC and many of the runners run for one of the victims. The photos I have included are of Alvin, a Teddy Bear and Marathon Tag left on Alvin’s chair in the Field of Chairs in 2007, and Alvin’s chair in the Field of Chairs. The Memorial has a chair for each of the 168 people who lost their lives on April 19, 1995.


Hell Ship Shinyo Maru: A Tale of Imprisonment,Physical Abuse, Starvation, and Murder

This tale starts with an introduction to Roy Hobert McPeters, the son of Sampson D. McPeters and Nancy M. Laymance, born in Roane County, Tennessee in 1918 shortly before his father died.  Roy’s lineage goes back to Abraham Justice (1790-1860) who married Mahattie Stonecipher (1790-1867).  Abraham and Mahattie’s son John Justice (1820-1904) married Nancy Butler (1825-1892) and they had a daughter, Elisabeth Justice, who married Chesley Laymance (1856-1926) and their daughter Nancy M. was Roy’s mother.  As I mentioned above, Roy was only a few months old when his father passed away on July 24, 1918, leaving Nancy with several children still at home and under her care.  She did have brothers and sisters who lived in the vicinity to help out, and by 1930 she had married again to Joseph Brackett and the younger children had a step-father to provide for them.  By the time he was 20 years old, Roy was employed by a company in Rockwood, Tennessee that assembled radios and phonographs.  As with many young men of this era of the Great Depression, he decided to enlist in the US Army, and did so in his hometown of Rockwood on December 11, 1939.  By April 30, 1940, Private Roy H. McPeters was serving with the US Army in Rantoul, Illinois.

By mid 1940, PFC Roy H. McPeters was transferred to Fort Oglethorpe in Chickamauga, Georgia which is just a few miles across the state line from Chattanooga, Tennessee.  While Roy was assigned to Fort Oglethorpe, he met a young lady about his age who had a job as a stenographer with the War Department at the Army base.  Shortly after this he received a promotion to the rank of Sergeant in the US Army.  Roy and the young lady, Evelyn Tarvin, grew to be very close friends and then fell in love with each other.  They spent most of their free time together and had put plans in motion to marry once he was released from the Army.

Roy H McPeters

This photo of Roy and Evelyn was obtained through the graciousness of Evelyn’s daughter who contacted me with a great deal of the information I share here.

By April of 1941, SGT Roy Hobert McPeters was reassigned to Savannah, Georgia, and at this point he and Evelyn began corresponding with each other.  He was transferred from Savannah to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas for more training.  Then, he spent time at Barksdale Field in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, and it was there that he was assigned to the 27th Bomber Group (Light) in the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron.  The group was a part of the V Bomber Command.


B18-A’s and a B18 at Barksdale Field in Louisiana.

In July of 1941, the 27th was transferred to Savannah, Georgia for additional training.  While he was training at the base in Savannah, Roy and Evelyn continued to write letters back and forth.  After the troops had finished their training, the 27th Bomber Group departed from Savannah aboard the troop transport ship SS President Coolidge in October of 1941, bound for San Francisco, California.  The ship had begun life as a luxury cruise ship and spent several years in the service of a cruise line.  It was much larger than most transport ships and more fully equipped.  While on board the ship on the way to Fort McDowell on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay,  where SGT McPeters was to be stationed prior to his unit deploying to the Philippine Islands, he wrote a note to Evelyn.  The note read, “Dear Eve, This is a picture of the ship I am on.  It’s larger than I thought it was.  Mac”  The note was not mailed until he reached San Francisco.

President Coolidge

Troop Transport ship SS President Coolidge. This photo as well as the one above was obtained from Evelyn’s daughter.

By late October of 1941 the troops of the 27th Bomber Group, aboard the SS President Coolidge, had arrived at their temporary home of Fort McDowell on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.  During off duty hours, SGT McPeters and the other soldiers were allowed to go across to San Francisco.  One of the places that Roy frequented was a Chinese restaurant by the name of Chinese Village on Grant Avenue in the area known as China Town.  By November 1, 1941, the troop ship that was to transport the group to the Philippines had arrived.  SGT McPeters and the rest of the troops boarded the ship and departed Angel Island bound for the Philippine Islands.  The objective of the 27th once they were to arrive at their destination was to do all they could to prevent the Empire of Japan from taking over the Philippine Islands.  The 27th Bomber Group (Light)  made their appearance at the destination, Luzon Island, on November 20, 1941, however, they had a very serious problem.  The aircraft the unit was to fly, A-24’s, which were short range light bombers, had not been able to get a sufficient escort to the Philippines and the ship they were on was diverted to Australia.  The entire group was suddenly at a loss to understand what their role was to be now that they were a bomber group without planes.  But if the situation was not bad enough, it was about to become even worse.  On December 7, 1941, Japanese kamikaze fighter pilots caught the United States naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii completely off guard and destroyed several ships and killed 2403 Americans.  On the very next day the Empire of Japan invaded the Philippines because they were certain that the United States would not be able to recover from the losses inflicted at Pearl Harbor.  By the 24th of December the soldiers of the 27th, except the actual pilots, were assigned as infantry to fight the Empire of Japan on the Bataan Peninsula.

Altogether there were approximately 75,000 United States and Filipino soldiers who had retreated from Manila and other parts of Luzon Island to the Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor Island.  Many of the troops, such as the 27th Bomber Group, had no training in actual combat beyond the initial basic training, and yet were issued weapons and ammunition and put in battle immediately.  From January through March of 1942, the troops on Bataan and Corregidor fought bravely and well, even though they had no naval or air support whatsoever.  Many had succumbed to tropical diseases and diseases related to not eating the right types of food.  Others were just on the verge of starvation.  Unable to get food and supplies and ammunition, the situation was beyond critical for all the soldiers.  Faced with these gruesome facts, the Commander of what was left of the US and Filipino military forces in the Philippines, General Edward King Jr. surrendered everyone under his command to the Japanese on April 9, 1942 on the Bataan Peninsula.  The general’s thought was probably that the Japanese would treat their POW’s as Americans treated their POW’s, and nothing could be farther from the truth.  What we now know as the Bataan Death March began as soon as the Imperial Army had rounded up all of the thousands of American and Philippine troops.  The POW’s were in a forced march from the southern tip of Bataan to the northern part to a town called San Fernando, a trek of about 65 miles.  The prisoners were given no food, and little water.  At first if someone fell and could not walk on their own, two of the prisoners were required to wrap him in a blanket and carry that blanket on a bamboo pole suspended between them.  As the trek continued, the POW’s who fell were just bayoneted and dragged to the side of the road and left.  Anyone who tried to escape was shot and killed.

Bataan Death March

This picture was obtained from The WWII Sinking of the “Shinyo Maru” by Gary Dielman.

The entire march took about five days to complete, and several thousand of the prisoners died before they reached the end.  Sergeant Roy Hobert McPeters was one of those who made it all the way to San Fernando, Bataan Peninsula, Philippines.


This photograph from a local newspaper, originally from the Associated Press, was in the files of Evelyn Tarvin and was supplied by Evelyn’s daughter.

From San Fernando, the prisoners were herded onto boxcars and taken by the railway to Prisoner of War Camps across Luzon Island.  Many of the POW’s were near starvation, and many suffered from Malaria and other tropical diseases which the soldiers grouped as one, “Jungle Fever”.  Sergeant McPeters was confined to Philippine Military Prison Camp 2.  There are sources that declare that this was the POW camp at Camp O’Donnell while some contend that it was POW Camp Cabanatuan.  Although I am not sure of the location, I am confident that Roy was imprisoned at Japanese POW Camp 2.  The Japanese did not adhere to the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929 and their prisoners were fed very little and physically abused on a regular basis.  The only nutrition they received was rice cooked in a vegetable broth.  Occasionally this was supplemented with a minute portion of Water Buffalo meat.  By October of 1942, the POW camps were all closed, and the prisoners who had been confined within them were transferred to various locations to serve as slave labor for the Imperial Japanese Army.

POW Camp 2

This is a post card from Camp 2 that Roy was allowed to send to Evelyn sometime in 1942. It was censored by the Japanese and the US. Each prisoner was allowed to send out about two per year. (Obtained from Evelyn’s daughter)

By the time the Imperial Japanese Army had closed the prison camps, hundreds of the prisoners of war were dying per day from the diseases they had contracted, abusive treatment, and starvation.  The photograph below is not of any of the prisoners in Sergeant McPeters’ group, but is of some liberated at another camp prior to that.


This photo from The WWII Sinking of the “Shinyo Maru” by Gary Dielman illustrates how emaciated the POW’s were. Most only had a loin cloth to wear, and no shoes.

Sergeant Roy Hobert McPeters and many other of the prisoners of war were shipped to Davao, Mindanao, Philippines, and made to work constructing a new airfield for the Japanese air forces to use for their bombers and fighters.  At night when they were not being used as slave labor, the POW’s were confined in a portion of the Davao Penal facility which housed murderers and other violent criminals.  Roy McPeters had survived many battles against the Japanese, surrender, the Bataan Death March, a hideous prisoner of war camp, and yet his situation just seemed to continually get worse.

By March of 1944, the healthiest of the prisoners laboring at Davao were marched to a new POW camp near the village of Lasang.  These 650 men, including Sergeant Roy McPeters, began constructing another airfield at the new location.  By August of 1944 the slave laborers had made a great deal of progress toward completion of the Japanese airfield near Lasang.  It was to their surprise that on August 17, 1944 the United States Army Air Corps bombed that airfield, and gave them and their captors an indication that the Allied Forces might be gaining control in this war being fought to defeat the forces of the Emperor of Japan.  A couple of days later, the group of POW’s was marched barefoot and wearing only loin cloths to Tabuaco pier on the Gulf of Davao.  On August 20, 1944, Roy and his group of 650 prisoners, plus an additional 100 prisoners, were taken aboard the Shinyo Maru for transport to Tokyo, Japan.  The military forces of the Emperor of Japan, fearing an outright American invasion of the Philippines, were ready to transport their free labor to a more secure destination where they could keep them enslaved.

Shinyo Maru

The Shinyo Maru

The Shinyo Maru began life as the Clan MacKay on October 31, 1894.  The Clan MacKay was built as a cargo vessel by the Naval Construction and Armaments Company of Glasgow, Scotland.  For many years, the Clan MacKay carried cargo for the Clan Lines of Scotland.  Between 1914 and 1938, the ship served as a cargo ship in Australia, China, and Greece, and was renamed the Ceduna, the Tung-Tuck, and the Pananis.  In 1941 while it was being used as a cargo ship in Shanghai, China, the Imperial Japanese Navy seized the ship.  It became a ship used to transport prisoners of war captured by the Japanese in 1943.  By this time the Shinyo Maru had been in service under many different names for almost 50 years, a testament to the quality of ships built in Glasgow.  The above picture was taken from The WWII Sinking of the “Shinyo Maru” by Gary Dielman.  But, to explain further, ships like this one which were used to transport Japanese POW’s were referred to as Hell Ships, and for good reasons.  First of all, the prisoners were confined to the cargo holds with no water, food, or sanitary conditions.  They were packed in so tightly that they had to take turns sitting and standing.  Secondly, there were absolutely no markings to designate them as POW carriers, so they were often attacked by ships, submarines, or aircraft of their own military.  This is exactly where Sergeant Roy Hobert McPeters and his fellow prisoners of war found themselves late in August of 1944, aboard a Japanese Hell Ship.  There were two cargo holds on the Hell Ship Shinyo Maru, a central hold that was quite large in the very belly of the ship and a smaller cargo hold toward the rear of the ship.  500 of the prisoners were shoved into the forward hold which was below the water level.  The other 250 were prodded by bayonets into the smaller hold just below the top deck and at the rear of the ship.  The POW’s were confined very closely together in their on filth with many suffering from tropical diseases and diseases like Beri Beri and Scurvy.

The United States Navy had intercepted two different messages from the Japanese that a convoy was to escort what one message called cargo along the coast of Mindanao Island.  The other message referred to the cargo as troops, and was assumed to mean Japanese troops.  The USS Paddle (SS 263), a submarine, was assigned to patrol the waters off the coast of Mindanao.  On September 7, 1944, while patrolling off the northwest coast of Mindanao, the crew of the Paddle sighted the convoy and attacked.  Two torpedoes were fired at one of the tankers and two were fired at the Shinyo Maru.  The first torpedo that hit the Hell Ship struck in the forward hold, and those who were not killed by the actual explosion were drowned as water poured in.  Some few escaped as the water floated them to the deck.  Many of these were shot dead as they attempted to jump off the ship.  The second torpedo struck near the other cargo hold.  As the Japanese saw what was taking place, some of their soldiers dropped grenades down into the hold killing several of the POW’s, and many more were killed by the explosion of the torpedo.  Some of the prisoners jumped overboard through a hole ripped in the side of the ship by the torpedo.  Others of the prisoners climbed over mangled bodies to the upper deck and tried to jump overboard from there.  Many of these were shot to death by the crew members as they made their way off the Hell Ship, and one of these was Sergeant Roy Hobert McPeters.  He had endured so much at the hands of the Japanese soldiers, but as he leaped from the ship he was once again a free man.  The ultimate price was paid, but he was free.  At the time the torpedoes struck the ship, the Shinyo Maru was just off Sindangan Point, Mindanao.  As POW’s attempted to make their way to freedom, the Shinyo Maru began to make a horrendous creaking and metallic cracking noise that could be heard from the Paddle far below in the bay.  The Hell Ship buckled in the middle and sank to the bottom of Sindangan Bay.  Altogether 83 prisoners of war were able to swim or float ashore using in some cases planks floating in the water.  One of those who made it ashore died the next day.  The rest were rescued by friendly Philippine civilians who kept the freed prisoners hidden from the constant Japanese patrols.  Of the 750 POW’s on board the Shinyo Maru, only 82 survived, and this was indicative of what happened to prisoners on many of the Hell Ships.  According to my calculations, there were 12,422 POW’s who died as a result of either friendly fire or murdered by their oppressors while confined to the Hell Ships during the War of the Pacific.

USS Paddle

This photograph was obtained from The WWII Sinking of the “Shinyo Maru” by Gary Dielman.

The captain and the crew of the Paddle were never informed that they had mistakenly sunk a POW ship until after World War II was over.

Long before the sinking of the Shinyo Maru, Miss Evelyn Tarvin had begun to receive letters back in the mail that she had sent to Roy McPeters.  These letters had been mailed between December, 1941 and April, 1942, and were stamped “Return to sender Service Suspended to this Organization”.  At this point Evelyn launched herself on a campaign to try and locate the man she had planned to marry.  Using all the connections that she had through the War Department, she sent out inquiries concerning the sudden disappearance of Roy McPeters and his unit.  For almost a year and a half, she used every contrivance at her employ to determine what had happened.  She would not be deterred.  Finally, in March of 1945, Evelyn received the one letter that she had not wanted to ever see.  It was a devastating letter from the Adjutant General’s office explaining what had taken place.  Now any hope that she had held that Roy might still be alive was dashed.  This brave young lady whose quest had ended with the worst of news was suddenly left with an emptiness where love once lived.  I have enclosed a copy of the last letter that Evelyn received regarding Roy’s disappearance.

Adjutant General

This letter, obtained from Evelyn’s daughter, was kept by Evelyn until her death in 1965 from Breast Cancer.

In conclusion, there are a few final points I want to make.  First of all, I will take a passage from an article about the Bataan Death March on history.com.  It reads “After the war, an American tribunal tried Lieutenant General Homma Masaharu, commander of the Japanese invasion forces in the Philippines.  He was held responsible for the death march, a war crime, and was executed by firing squad on April 3, 1946.”

Secondly, I want to bring attention to some memorials.  There was one monument to honor those who lost their lives on the Shinyo Maru that was erected at Fort William McKinley, Manila, Philippine Islands.  On September 7, 1998, the 54th anniversary of the sinking of the ship, a plaque was dedicated to the survivors of the Shinyo Maru in San Antonio, Texas.  Then, on September 7, 2014, on the 70th anniversary, a marker to commemorate the rescue of the survivors of the Shinyo Maru was installed and dedicated in Sindangan, Mindanao, Philippines.  I have found no records to indicate that a memorial specifically for Sergeant Roy Hobert McPeters has ever been erected in the cemeteries where his family members are buried.

And finally, I want to make one last statement.  I know of no other place in history where such a collection of hubris-infected authoritarians seeking world dominance was ever assembled.  I am referring to Emperor Michinomiya Hirohito, Der Fuhrer Adolph Hitler, and Benito Mussolini.  Japan, Germany, and Italy formed the Axis Powers in World War II.  Hirohito and Hitler were ultimately the ones responsible for the murders of many POW’s, but neither was ever held accountable.  These three megalomaniacs came very close to conquering the entire world.

Until next time, I’ll see you on down the road and just around the bend.

Uncle Thereisno Justice


The WWII Sinking of the “Shinyo Maru”:  A Story of Loss and Survival of Two Baker POW’s by Gary Dielman

Travel Up A travel and adventure blog by Kara Santos


American Air Museum in Britain, 27th Fighter Group

National Archives  American POW’s on Japanese Ships Take a Voyage into Hell by Lee A. Baldwin

Wikipedia Shinyo Maru incident

Roster of Allied Prisoners of War believed aboard Shinyo Maru when torpedoed and sunk 7 September 1944

USS Paddle:  Sinking American POW’s by Eugene A. Mazza

Wikipedia List of Japanese hell ships

history.com (A&E Television Networks) November 9, 2009 Bataan Death March

Most importantly, the packet of letters and pictures provided to me by the daughter of Evelyn Tarvin without which the true context of the story would never have been learned.  I am most appreciative, but hesitate to use her name without permission.







Trinity River Massacre: The Execution Murder of Sheriff’s Deputy William Don Reese

Sarah Stonecipher and her husband, John Chastain Reese, and the youngest members of their family had traveled from Morgan County, Tennessee by covered wagon in about 1852 to make their new home in Kaufman County, Texas.  They built a home there in what was then called Turner’s Point and now is known as Poetry, Texas.  Sarah was the daughter of Joseph Marion and Salome Fairchild Stonecipher.  The direct lineage from Sarah and John is as follows:  Samuel Stonecipher Reese and Marsha Rena Muse >James Washington Reese and Amy Frances Pool >Henry Grady Reese and Grace E. Watson >William Don Reese.  Never could they have known that one day a 2nd great grandson of theirs would be a Deputy Sheriff for Dallas County and whats more give up his life in service of his community.  But such was the case.  William Don Reese, who was known as Donny by family and friends, was born in Dallas, Texas on October 15, 1939.

The day after Valentine’s Day 1971 began with Ellis County Sheriff’s Deputies responding to information obtained concerning a burglary in Ellis County.  A helpful neighbor had witnessed a burglary and had written down the license plate number of the car involved.  This led the Ellis County Sheriffs Department to Rene Guzman and Leonardo Lopez who were also suspects in other burglaries and used the burglaries to support their drug use.  They obtained an arrest warrant and Sheriff’s Deputies Wendell Dover and A. J. Robertson were dispatched to arrest Guzman and Lopez.  They were accompanied to where the burglars were holed up by Dallas County Sheriff’s Deputy Samuel Infante who spoke Spanish.  When the three arrived at the residence at 2810 Ingersoll St. in Dallas, they called for a search warrant.  Sometime between the call and the arrival of the search warrant the three deputies were overwhelmed by the criminals and their hands were tied.  Deputies William Reese and A. D. McCurley were tasked with the assumed routine assignment of delivering the search warrant to the residence of the criminals.  When the two knocked on the door a voice from inside said “come in”.  As the door was opened, Reese and McCurley saw that the other three deputies were tied up and that guns were trained on themselves.  They too soon found their hands bound.

All five deputies were prodded and herded to one of the squad cars.  Deputies Dover, McCurley, Reese, and Robertson were forced into the back seat while Deputy Infante’s hands were loosed and he was forced to drive the squad car.  As one of the criminals held his gun on the four in the back seat, the other had his gun shoved into the side of Infante as he drove where he was instructed.  As Deputy Infante was driving to the Westmoreland Bridge over the Trinity River as ordered, Deputy Donny Reese was freeing his hands from their bindings as he pleaded with the kidnappers not to kill anybody.  As the car got to the bridge, Infante was ordered to turn onto an unpaved road that ran along the Trinity.  This area which is north of Singleton in West Dallas is known as the Trinity River Bottoms and has long been associated with dumping trash, bodies, and old tires.  He was then ordered to stop the car, and at that point they all knew they were going to die.  All the deputies were forced out of the car, and Donny Reese saw his chance to make a move.  He swung at Guzman but as he did, Guzman fired several times at close range, killing him.  Deputy Infante was also shot and killed as was Deputy Robertson.  But in all the excitement Deputy McCurley was able to launch himself down an embankment toward the river.  McCurley was eventually able to untie his hands and run until he found a street and was picked up by a motorist and taken to a service station from which he called the police.  He borrowed a firearm from the service station attendant and made his way back to the murder scene with the Dallas Police officers.  There they found the badly wounded Deputy Wendell Dover stumbling through the underbrush.  He was transported to Dallas’ Parkland Hospital.  They also found the bodies of Deputy A. J. Robertson, Deputy Samuel Garcia Infante, and Deputy William Don Reese who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty for the people of Ellis and Dallas Counties.  It should have been a routine arrest but for a deranged two-bit criminal who saw himself as if he were Al Capone.  And at this point began one of the most involved manhunts in the history of Dallas County.


Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982 obtained from Ancestry.com


A picture from D Magazine article concerning the Trinity River Massacre in the issue from January 2016. Much of the information for this post was gleaned from the article.

The Dallas Police Department, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, and Texas state agencies initiated a manhunt that covered the entire state of Texas and delved into Mexico and states bordering Texas.  For several days the search was unfruitful and many feared the murderers would never be apprehended.  Yet, thanks to an informant, the two murderers were located.  The area surrounding the rooming house at 4627 San Jacinto, just off Ross Avenue, was cordoned off and law enforcement officers converged upon the room where the killers were holed up.  Guzman and Lopez were arrested and jailed awaiting prosecution.  After all the preliminaries it was determined that an unbiased jury in Dallas County was not possible, so there was a change of venue and the trial was set for Bell County.

The trial was held at the Bell County Courthouse in Belton.  An Assistant District Attorney for Dallas County was the actual prosecutor in the case, but when it came time for the closing argument career politician and Dallas County DA Henry Wade, who was up for re-election, decided to do the honors.  His argument was muddied with erroneous statements and embellishments of facts.  It took the jury little more than an hour to return a guilty verdict and to render a death sentence to Rene Adolfo Guzman and Leonardo Ramos Lopez on June 29, 1971.  The verdict was appealed and the Texas appellate court overturned the case because of the grandstanding of Henry Wade and a new trial was ordered.  Exactly one year after the end of the first trial, in the case of Furman v. Georgia, the United States Supreme Court struck down the death penalty.  When the second trial ended Guzman and Lopez were found guilty on two counts of murder and one count of murder with malice, but because the death penalty had been done away with they each got life sentences.

Neither Wendell Dover nor A. D. McCurley are alive today.  McCurley stayed with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and died in 2001.  Dover worked as a detective in the Ennis Police Department and died in 2005.

Rene Guzman is now 82 years old and is serving his life sentence in the Darrington unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice located near Sandy Point in Brazoria County.  Leonardo Lopez, who was paroled in 1991 but soon wound up back in prison, is now serving his life sentence in the Charles T. Terrell unit near Rosharon in Brazoria County.  This is little consolation for the families who lost their loved ones in the senseless act of these brutal murders.

When I discovered that no one I mentioned this to had ever heard of the Trinity River Massacre, I decided that the story needed to be retold.  I found the D Magazine story and that was my launch pad.  I hope you were somewhat gratified by this rendering of the narrative.  Incidentally there is the Sheriff’s Department Fallen Deputy Memorial Monument at 600 Elm St. in downtown Dallas in Founders Plaza.

I hope to see you on down the road

Uncle Thereisno Justice


D Magazine article of January 2016 “The Trinity River Massacre”

New York Times article of June 30, 1971

Wikipedia article on Henry Wade

The Texas Tribune TDCJ Criminal History, sentences of Guzman and Lopez


Dallas County Sheriff’s Department Fallen Heroes Memorials

William Whitehead West: Entrepreneur, Civic Figure, and Family Patriarch


St. George’s Chapel, in the Lower Ward of Windsor Castle, built by King Edward III in 1348. Henry VIII is buried here. Picture from June 7, 2019 by CWJ.

As a means of beginning this historical account, I submit the following information for your perusal.  Take a good close examination of the entire lineage.  If that sounds somewhat like Rod Serling, that was the intent, because I am not sure but what this information is straight from The Twilight Zone.

West Royalty 2 001 West Royalty 3 001

Although there is probably no way to actually prove that the West family descends from royalty, this offers an intriguing possibility.  If we follow the line from King Edward III to William Cary and assume that Catherine was his biological daughter, then there is a link to the throne of England.  Assuming that Catherine was the daughter of Mary Boleyn and King Henry VIII there again is a link to the English monarchy.  Generations 8 through 17 can be substantiated to a good degree.  Although this is a diversion from the actual story to be told, it gives a new perspective to this family called West.  And then, there is the story of a family relationship to Lady Godiva, reportedly a West, that has circulated within the family for generations.  But that is a story for another time.

King Henry VIII Tomb

June 7, 2019, standing on top of the vault holding King Henry VIII

But from here lets just wade right in and explore the life and times of William Whitehead West.  W. W. West was born on February 7, 1825 in Smith County, Tennessee to Benjamin Lawson West and Elizabeth Arminett West, the sixth of thirteen children born into the family.  Some time between 1836 and 1840 the family moved to the Republic of Texas to the area that in 1839 became Harrison County.  I have found no records that indicate the means by which they journeyed to Texas.  A trip by wagon or horseback would have been well over 700 miles, but the proximity of Smith County to Memphis would present the possibility that they took a boat down the Mississippi River and made a much shorter overland trek to Shreveport and on to Texas.

In 1841 the city of Marshall was founded and became the county seat of Harrison County.  Established schools in this era were all but nonexistent, so the mother was usually the one who taught her children.  Betsy West was apparently a great teacher for her children as evidenced by some pages of work done by John Parker West, the first child born in Harrison County, Texas.  She taught her children how to print and write in cursive and gave them a good foundation in math.  They knew how to compose paragraphs and to make a logical presentation of their ideas.

By late in 1845, Texas was no longer a nation unto itself but had become a state in the United States of America, and William Whitehead West was a young man of twenty years.  On May 6, 1847 he enlisted in the United States Army as a private in Clark’s Company of the 1st Texas Mounted Volunteers.  He served six months and fought during the Mexican War which lasted from 1846 through 1848.

By 1850 Marshall had become an important city in Texas and served as the gateway to Texas from the east.  There was a stage line that ran from Shreveport, Louisiana to Marshall and the stage coach had three arrivals and three departures per week, bringing goods in from New Orleans and beyond and shipping local products out to other parts of the country.  On February 14, 1854 the Texas and Red River Telegraph Company established a telegraph line from New Orleans to the newspaper office of the “Texas Republican” in Marshall, making Marshall the first city in Texas to receive telegraph service.  By December of 1855 W. W. West was a member in good standing of the I. M. Gibson Lodge # 13 of the International Order of Odd Fellows.  In light of all that was happening in Marshall, W. W. West partnered with Charles Slater and began a freight company “Slater and West” and brought in products from as far away as Memphis, Tennessee.  Their product line included groceries, hardware, liquor, tobacco products, household products, guns and ammunition, and other items ordered specifically for individuals or companies.  They provided short term credit accounts for local customers and appear to have been going strong in 1858.  Also, on January 15, 1858, William Whitehead West was elected as Assessor and Collector of Taxes for Harrison County.  At this time Marshall was becoming one of the very largest cities in Texas and Harrison County one of the wealthiest counties.  In 1860 Slater and West was still chugging right along and W. W. West, still unmarried, was now Constable for Harrison County.  Marshall had now become the fourth largest city in the state with a population of 2000.  Dallas, which was also founded in 1841, had a population of only 687.  Cotton had become a very important crop in Marshall and the surrounding area, and at this time there were more slaves here than in any other location in Texas.

Events were taking place across the country that would write a new chapter in the life of W. W. West, and indeed a horrendous and abrupt bifurcation separated the northern states and the southern states.  On March 2, 1861, after replacing Sam Houston as Governor of Texas with Edward Clark of Marshall, the state of Texas joined the Confederate States of America.  Sam Houston was completely opposed to secession and had refused to sign an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy.  On April 12 and 13 of 1861 the Battle of Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina was fought, thus beginning the American Civil War.  By July 3, 1861 W. W. West had traveled to Dallas and enlisted as a private in the Sceyene Reserve Company of Dallas County, 13th Brigade, TST, and was mustered in on September 23, 1861.  Within a year of this date Private William W. West was assigned to the 7th Texas Infantry Regiment and nominated as Regimental Commissary by Colonel John Gregg.  Along with this nomination came a promotion to the rank of Captain.  I need to point out that, in his business dealings with Charles Slater, W. W. West had done business repeatedly with G. G. Gregg and Company.  I think that Col John Gregg was of that Gregg family and knew of the abilities of Pvt West to obtain goods of all kinds from various sources, and that would make him the ideal candidate for Commissary of Subsistence for the Regiment.  Captain W. W. West immediately began executing the duties of his new position.  A bond form and bond was required to be delivered to Confederate Headquarters in the Capitol of Richmond, Virginia, so he arranged for Dr. T. A. Harris to have the bond carried to Richmond.  However, as of June 1863 the bond was stranded in Yazoo City, Mississippi because the Union Army controlled the Mississippi River and nothing could reach Richmond.  During this entire time Capt West was performing the duties of Commissary but only in a position of ACS (Acting Commissary of Subsistence) and not receiving the appropriate compensation for the job.  He was charged with appropriating, organizing, and distributing supplies, ammunition, and even mail to the troops on the line.

Confederate Officer's Uniform

The dress uniform worn by an officer in the Confederate Army

On December 9, 1863, while he was camped near Dalton, Georgia, Capt West wrote a letter to Col George W. Brent AAG asking for a leave of absence to go back to Marshall and retrieve his bond and get it delivered to Richmond.  The letter is well written and he lays out his request logically, respectfully, and yet emphatically.  Also, I must point out that his handwriting was much better than most people I know today.  However, his request was never granted and he served the rest of his time in the Confederate Army in the job as Captain, ACS.  The next correspondence I found was dated March 11, 1865 and was from the Office of Chief of Subsistence ordering him to assist Maj Ellenburg CS in collecting supplies for the Confederate Army in Tennessee.  However, as of May 30, 1865  W. W. West Captain ACS signed an oath of allegiance to the United States of America in Charlotte, North Carolina.  He was released from duty in the Confederate Army, able to return to his home “not to be disturbed by the United States authorities so long as he observes this obligation.”

W W West release from Confederate Army

Oath of Allegiance to United States

By the time veteran William W. West returned to his home in Marshall he was by my standards a young man.  At age 40, he had served in two different wars for two different countries, the Mexican War for the United States Army and the Civil War for the Army of the Confederate States.  And without ever relocating from his Harrison County home he had been a citizen of three different countries:  those countries are the Republic of Texas; the United States of America; and the Confederate States of America.  He also had been involved in local politics and had started his own business and had been a member of a prominent service organization, quite a list of accomplishments for someone of his age.  He probably decided it was time to settle down and start a family.

By all indications, toward the end of the year 1865 W. W. West was married.  There are specific dates for the marriage listed in other West family trees, but I have not verified either.  According to a list of births, marriages, and deaths found in a West family Bible he was married to Margaret Finetta.  On December 8, 1866 a daughter, Mary Annie Elizabeth West, was born to this union.  Apparently, by the end of that month, Margaret died from complications of childbirth.

By late 1866, and I have been unable to corroborate a specific date, he was married for a second time.  This time he was married to Louisa Josephine Glenn, about fifteen years his junior.

Louisa Josephine and William Whitehead West 001

Louisa Josephine Glenn (1840-1886) and William Whitehead West (1825-1909), from a thumb drive provided by a West family member. His hair looks like it could be red.

To this marriage six children were born:  Charles Wyne West August 17, 1868; Pinkney Francis West May 31, 1871; Florence Josephine West December 11, 1872; Mittie Lee West September 17, 1875; Ella Matilda West August 31, 1877; and the child most important to many who may read this, William Bird West July 15, 1880, born in Hawkins, Texas.  During the period of this marriage W. W. West provided for his family primarily by farming, although there is evidence that he occasionally bought and sold items for a profit.  One such instance was his purchase in June of 1876 of a variety of fruit trees to be delivered to Hawkins from the nursery in Memphis, Tennessee in October of 1876.  The idea here may have been to produce fruit for the family and sell the surplus, because he ordered a total of 48 fruit trees.  Throughout the entire length of their marriage they resided and farmed in Wood County.  Mittie Lee West died at the age of three on October 4, 1878.  Then, on October 9, 1882, Mary Annie Elizabeth West, the daughter by his first wife,  died.  In less than four years W. W. West’s wife Louisa Josephine passed away on July 31, 1886.  All three were buried in Kay Cemetery in Hawkins.  All the rest of his children went on to marry and have very productive lives, and the legacy of William Whitehead West lives on through his grand children, their children, and so on.

At the age of 63, W. W. West found a new wife.  He was married to Nancy E. Griffin, the name substantiated by a marriage record from Upshur County, Texas on May 31, 1888.  She was born on January 20, 1844, and apparently outlived him because she drew his pension from his service in the Confederate Army after his death.  I have been told that he lost his sight during the later years of his life.  On the Census form for 1900, dated June 8, he is listed as a farmer, and a black man, his wife and child were living with them probably to assist with the farming.  They were still living in Hawkins.

William Whitehead West, who lived through some of the most fascinating history of this or any era, passed away at the age of 84 in his beloved Hawkins, Wood County, Texas on November 13, 1909.  He was buried in Kay Cemetery along with his wife and children.  The more I read about the life and accomplishments of this man the more I respected and admired him, and felt like his story needed to be told.  No embellishment was necessary.  I hope you enjoyed reading about W. W. West as much as I enjoyed writing about him.

I’ll see you on down the road.

Uncle Thereisno Justice

If you have comments, questions, or other information, please contact me at justicecw8@gmail.com.


A great many of the documents referenced were obtained from a thumb drive supplied by a West family member who I will not name because I failed to get the proper authorization to use the name.

The oath of allegiance to the United States of America was discovered in a group of papers in a file folder from the office of Guy C. West after his passing.

A great deal of the information came from Ancestry.com in the form of Census documents, marriage records, birth records, Find-A-Grave records, death certificates, and military records.

Historical information concerning the Civil War was retrieved from Wikipedia.

Information concerning Marshall, Texas was obtained from the Texas State Historical Association as well as from the Texas Historical Commission at http://www.thc.texas.gov.





The Legacy of Absalom Stonecipher

Before I get into my narrative, I want to state that the spelling of the names involved was selected by me and may not be agreed upon by all.  The name Absalom has at least three spellings in the various documents I viewed.  I chose the Biblical spelling, although he was not the son of a king.  The spelling of Stonecipher is probably the most widely used version, and I do not have the time or inclination to list the multiple variations of that surname.  My third great Grandmother was a Stonecipher.  But, on to the story of Absalom.

Absalom was the son of Henricus and Catherine Cawl Stonecipher and was born in 1769 in what is now Greene County, Tennessee.  His father was born in Siegen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Deutschland/Germany.  As with most frontier families, they cultivated as much land as they could and produced mainly grain crops.  But they also had to rely on wild berries, grapes, and nuts.  Hunting and trapping animals for food was also a necessity.  The collision of two of these means of obtaining foods is the crux of the most popular story involving Absalom.  The year was 1793, and Absalom was about twenty five years of age, and Tennessee was not even a state.  He was out in a thicket some distance from home picking wild grapes which were ripe and plump in the fall.  Grapes were used for juice, jellies and jams, home made wine, and for medicinal purposes.  They also made a welcome addition to a diet of corn bread and sweet milk at every meal.  Unknown to Absalom, a neighbor, Joseph Hawkins, an uncle of David Crockett, was in the same woods hunting deer to supplement his family’s meal.  Hawkins, noticing movement in the thicket, thought he was seeing a deer going for the grapes and raised his long rifle and shot.  Instead of hearing a deer drop, he heard a human yell.  He rushed over and found Stonecipher shot in the abdominal area.  He got his horse and loaded Absalom across it and carried him back to the closest home, that of Samuel Humbard.  Once there, Absalom was carried inside and laid out close to the fireplace, and his wound was superficially cleaned.  Then, Joseph sent for his brother-in-law, John Crockett, who lived close by and knew how to deal with gun shot wounds.

It wasn’t long before John Crockett showed up at the Humbard cabin with his seven year old son David.  He examined the area of the wound and decided that the ball from the long rifle had passed entirely through the abdomen without causing damage to any internal organs.  John Crockett removed the ram rod from his rifle, wrapped it with a silk handkerchief, and pushed the rod all the way through the wound.  He then twisted the handkerchief round and round and pulled it through the wound, thus cleansing any debris from the gun shot.  Over the next few months Sarah Humbard, Samuel’s daughter, nursed young Absalom back to health.

david crockett's words

These are the words of David Crockett in “King of the Wild Frontier: An Autobiography of Davy Crockett”

I want to make it plain that I am not trying to sell a book, but I am a history junkie and have found a book by Michael Wallis that details this story of Absalom and the wild grapes extremely well.  The book is David Crockett the Lion of the West and is a well written history of David Crockett.

Apparently Sarah was a good nurse, and Absalom survived the shooting.  The two also developed feelings for each other and were married on March 10, 1796.  The couple had a total of six children, but Samuel Jacob, born in 1796, and Elizabeth, born in 1799, are the two who will be talked about here.

By the early 1820s, Absalom Stonecipher and his son Samuel were in business together manufacturing gunpowder at a location near Babbs Mill in Greene County.  By this time the Crockett family had moved away from the Greene County area.  John Crockett was operating a tavern on the stage road between Knoxville, Tennessee and Abingdon, Virginia.  The property they once owned was now in the possession of George Gillespie.  On January 25, 1824, Samuel Stonecipher purchased the land along the Nolichucky River, where David Crockett had been born, from Gillespie.  On September 30, 1825, Samuel married Jane Marsh, and they moved onto the old Crockett place.  Using logs from the cabin John Crockett had built, Samuel put together a cabin that would serve as an adequate home for his family for many years.  According to the Greene County Tax Books, between the years 1840 and 1867, Samuel had acquired a total of 217 acres.  Absalom Stonecipher passed away on November 6, 1861.  In the year 1867, Samuel Jacob Stonecipher also passed away.  The property he owned was passed on to his children.

stonecipher cabin

This photograph was taken by Paul A. Moore of the Tennessee Department of Conservation

The land once belonging to John Crockett was passed down through the Stonecipher family for several generations, when in 1955 a little more than three acres was sold to the Davy Crockett Birthplace Association.  Then in 1968 the remainder of the property was sold to the Unaka Company with the intent to build a state park.  In 1973, the park was deeded over to the state of Tennessee as Davy Crockett Birthplace State Historic Park.  It now has the name David Crockett Birthplace State Park, and would not exist except for the Stonecipher family.  In 1968 logs from Samuel’s cabin were used to build a replica of the Crockett cabin where David Crockett, well known in both Tennessee and Texas history, was born.

crockett replica cabin

A replica of David Crockett’s home when he was born, built from some of the original logs obtained from the Stonecipher cabin.

nolichucky river

The Nolichucky River that flows passed the David Crockett Birthplace State Park near Limestone, Tennessee

david crockett

David Crockett. More legend is known about him than fact. Immortalized by Walt Disney as Davy.

Now I will proceed on to the last short chapter to this narrative.  Absalom Stonecipher’s daughter Elizabeth married Joseph Bruner.  There is a record of a business venture that Joseph and Elizabeth’s brother Samuel entered into in 1844.  They were attempting to dig for salt, but the venture apparently failed.  One of the children of Joseph and Elizabeth was John Hamilton Brunner.  He was born to the couple on March 12, 1825 in Greene County, Tennessee.  He received his education in what was then referred to as “common schools”.  He then attended Tusculum College and graduated from there in September of 1847 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, a Master of Arts degree, and a Doctor of Divinity degree.  In his younger years, he taught school, preached, served as a postmaster, was Commissioner of Education.  He served as the President of Hiwassee College for thirty three years and was also the Minister of Education at the college.  He wrote at least two books “Sunday Evening Talks with Young Folks” and “Union of the Churches”.  Both books are considered to be of historical significance and have been reissued, digitally enhanced but in their original format, and are available online for purchase through a well known source.  Again, I am not trying to sell any books, just getting the information out there.  Dr. John Hamilton Brunner passed away in Madisonville, Monroe County, Tennessee on February 18, 1914 and was buried in Buckner Memorial Cemetery on the grounds of his beloved Hiwassee College.

If you take nothing else from this little narrative, just realize there is some longevity in this branch of the Stonecipher family.

I understand that subsequent generations of the family after Absalom began to spell the name Stonecypher, and I mean no disrespect by using the one spelling.  If you have more information or have comments, I would love to hear from you.  You can reach me concerning this post or any others at justicecw8@gmail.com.  Family history is the most important history.

Until next time, I’ll see you on down the road.

Uncle Thereisno Justice


Samuel Smith, Historical Backgrounds and Archaeological Testing of the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Historical Area

Wikipedia, David Crockett Birthplace State Park

Genealogy Trails History Group, Greene County, Tennessee, biographies

Wikimedia Commons, picture of David Crockett

Ancestry.com, picture of Samuel Stonecipher cabin and David Crockett quote

Michael Wallis, David Crockett The Lion of the West





A Veterans Day Tribute to John Goddard

Around twenty million people died during World War I, which ended on November 11, 1918, with an armistice or cessation of hostilities while the countries involved hammered out a peace treaty.  We now observe the day as Veterans Day in the USA, but it was originally called Armistice Day.  The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919 by the combatant countries.  Because of too few punitive measures against the invading countries, the “Great War” was followed in a short twenty years by another devastating World War.  However, neither of these wars is to be prime target for my parable-like rambling on this Veterans Day.  The war that I will concentrate my efforts on today will be the American Civil War.

Before I delve wholeheartedly into my narrative, I need to present some information pertaining to the main focus of this story, John Goddard.  John was the great grandson of Joseph Marion Stonecipher, and his parents were Joseph Goddard and Rachel Stonecipher.  He was born in Morgan County, Tennessee in 1842, and his father died at Beech Fork in Morgan County when John was only seven.  Life in the hills of Tennessee was by no means easy at the time when he and his siblings were growing up, and on top of that he had to work on the family farm at an early age.  By the time he was nineteen, the Civil War was in full swing, and John Goddard made his way to Kentucky to enlist in the Union Army.  He arrived in London, Laurel County, Kentucky and enlisted as a Private in Company B, 2nd Regiment of the East Tennessee Mounted Infantry on December 5, 1861.  A part of the duties his unit was tasked with was to keep the supply and communication lines open from East Tennessee back up into Kentucky.

By 1863, Private Goddard’s unit was stationed as a part of a detachment in an outpost east of Rogersville, Hawkins County, Tennessee.  The detachment was comprised of the 2nd Tennessee Mounted Infantry, four guns of Battery M, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery, and the 7th Ohio Cavalry.  This detachment served as a part  of a chain that was charged with the job of assuring that the supply and communication lines back to Kentucky were indeed maintained and kept open.  However, to call what transpired in late 1863 a comedy of errors would be a gross understatement.

Colonel Carter, the commander of the detachment, was given a leave of absence to return home and deal with family issues.  Detachment command was then in the hands of Colonel Garrard of the 7th Ohio Cavalry.  Lt Colonel Melton, the 2nd Tennessee commander also was home on a leave of absence.  His replacement was Captain Carpenter.  The commander of the light artillery unit was ordered elsewhere, and that command was left in the hands of an inexperienced lieutenant.  Added to all of this was the fact that the detachment had become the primary target for the seasoned forces of Confederate General Jones.

General Jones had split his Confederate forces into a northern and a southern column with the intent of encircling the Union detachment.  By the time that a plan of any kind was put into effect by the inadequate Colonel Garrard, the detachment was all but surrounded.  The plan that Colonel Garrard had concocted was to make a run for it.  He had loaded food and supplies on wagons, and had planned for his 7th Ohio troops to escape leaving the others to fight.  He ordered the 2nd Tennessee troops to dismount, tie up their horses, and hold their ground and defend their position to the death.  After that command, Colonel Garrard and about half his force made a mad dash to escape having to leave the food and supplies behind.  He also left behind the inexperienced Captain Carpenter and his Tennessee troops and the four artillery guns improperly manned.  The 2nd Tennessee made an effort to fight the oncoming Confederate troops but soon realized they were completely surrounded and surrendered to the more qualified army of General Jones.  In the battle, five of the troops were killed and 608 were captured.  The army of General Jones acquired food, supplies, weapons, ammunition, horses, and prisoners.  This display of ineptitude on the part of the improvised command of the Union detachment which occurred on November 6, 1863, is often referred to as the Battle of Rogersville, and occasionally the Battle of Big Creek.  The soldiers who were captured were marched to the infamous POW camp at Andersonville, Georgia.

As I have said before in another narrative, Andersonville prison was atrocious.  Prisoners were exposed to the elements, contagious diseases flourished, lice covered everything, fleas and other vermin were epidemic, there was no source of uncontaminated water, rations were very scarce, and violence was rampant.  Of the 608 soldiers who were captured at Rogersville, 418 perished in captivity at Andersonville.  On April 16, 1864, Private John Goddard, proud Tennessean and great grandson of Joseph Marion Stonecipher, perished in prison at Andersonville.  His cause of death was reported as severe diarrhea.  John Goddard from the beautiful hills of Morgan County, was buried in what is now Andersonville National Cemetery at the National Historic Site in Georgia.

Andersonville Burials

Burial Register of John Goddard from Ancestry.com

John Goddard Headstone

Headstone for John Goddard at Andersonville National Cemetery

Civil War Pension Application

March 15, 1869 pension application of Private Goddard’s mother

My sources for this little story were Civilwarwiki, The Rogersville Review of August 25, 2017, Wikipedia, FindAGrave, and Ancestry.com.

Thanks for taking the time to read this installment, and thanks to all those who have served their country.  I hope to see you on down the road.

Uncle Thereisno Justice


A Memorial Day Tribute to Ragan Brock Justice

He was born as Ragan Justes on February 10, 1921 to William Harvey Justes and Minnie Mead Brock in Tennessee.  By the time he was two, the family was living in London, Laurel County, Kentucky.  At the age of nine, he had moved with his family to Morgan County, Tennessee.  Then, as he turned 14, the family was residing in rural Lee County, Virginia.  When he enlisted in the USMCR on August 4, 1942, they were living in Pennington Gap, Lee County, Virginia.  Most of the information contained in this tribute was found in US Marine Corps Muster Rolls in which he is listed as William R. Justice.  As with many Justes, Jestes, Justus, family members who joined the Armed Forces, their names became Justice as a favor of the Federal Government.

Ragan Justice 001

This photo was obtained from a FindAGrave for Ragan Brock Justice supplied by RJA.

By October of 1942, PVT Ragan Justice was stationed in New River, North Carolina with Company M, 3rd Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Division and was being transferred to Company K.  By July of 1943 he had been promoted to PFC and was still with Company K but now was fighting in the Marshall Islands on Guam.  In January of 1944, PFC Ragan Justice was in the Rear Echelon as a patient in the Division Field Hospital from wounds incurred in action.

By July, 1944 he had been promoted to Corporal and was still confined to the hospital after being wounded in action.  Then on July 22, 1944 according to the last Muster Roll he was deceased from “wounds received in action”.  His FindAGrave shows a death date of July 23, 1944, but the Muster Roll reveals it was a day earlier.

WWI Virginia Deaths 001

This record of Virginia deaths in the WWII Casualties Books shows his information at the very bottom of the page, to include his mother’s name.

William Ragan Brock Justes/Justice gave his life in service to his country on a distant island defending his nation from an evil empire of the Japanese.  His body was returned to the United States and he was buried in Pleasant View Cemetery in London, Laurel County, Kentucky.  I salute you Corporal Ragan Brock Justice for your sacrifice for the people of this country.

I’ll see you on down the road.

Uncle Thereisno Justice



A Memorial Day Tribute to Reilly B. Stonecipher

Reilly B. Stonecipher was born on November 8, 1915 in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana.  His parents were George Clawson Stonecipher and Eva Caroline Bond.  He was a 5th great grandson of Joseph Marion Stonecipher from Morgan County, Tennessee.  He was the oldest of seven children.  In 1933 he graduated from Haynesville High School in Haynesville, Louisiana.  After graduation, he held various jobs until 1937 when he began his employment with the Maintenance Department of Louisiana State University.  He held the job at LSU until about April of 1942.

Reilly then enlisted in the US Army at Camp Livingston, Louisiana on May 16, 1942 like many other young men responding to the invasion of Pearl Harbor.  He was assigned to the Armored Force and sent to Armored Force School at Camp Beauregard located at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  In October of 1942 Private Reilly B. Stonecipher was certified as a Radio Operator/Maintainer at the school in Camp Beauregard.

Reilly B Stonecipher 001

PVT Stonecipher after his enlistment

Reilly was assigned to Company A, 81st Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 5th Armored Division, and his unit was transported to New York City.  On March 31, 1943 his battalion departed from New York bound for the European Theater of Operations.  It should be noted here that being in a reconnaissance battalion was in itself not a safe or secure place to be.  Throughout most of 1943, his unit was involved in the North African Campaign, stationed in Tunisia.  As late 1943 came around, they were reassigned to duty in the reclamation of Rome from the armies of Mussolini.  Company A of the 81st Recon Battalion landed on the Anzio Beachhead on February 1, 1944.  From there they made preparations and began a deliberate advance toward Rome.  On February 20, 1944, PVT Reilly Stonecipher’s armored vehicle was targeted by the enemy and hit by shellfire as it continued to advance toward Rome.  Private Reilly B. Stonecipher was Killed in Action when the armored vehicle was hit.

Reilly B Stonecipher 001

This was copied from the World War Two Veterans Facebook page. Note all of his brothers who also served.

Reilly’s body was buried in Shady Grove Cemetery, Haynesville, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana.

It is with deep respect and honor that I pay tribute to Private Reilly Buthay Stonecipher who gave his life defending the United States and its Allies from the Fascist/Socialist dictators of World War II.  Thank you for your sacrifices to all those who fought and died in World War II.

I’ll see you on down the road.

Uncle Thereisno Justice



A Memorial Day Tribute to Allen L. Brasel

Allen Brasel was born on February 29, 1924 in Whiteside County, Illinois to Paul Bently Brasel and Sylvia Fern Neal.  He was the great grandson of Mary Jane Justice, the daughter of Michael Justice, son of Abraham and Mahattie.  As a young boy he lived with his parents and siblings on the family farm in rural Whiteside County.  By the time he was 16, the family was living in the town of Meacham in Marion County, Illinois.

At age 19, on December 8, 1943, two years and a day after the Day of Infamy, Allen L. Brasel enlisted in the United States Army.  He was assigned to Company E, 120th Regiment, 30th Infantry Division.  His unit spent the next two months in combat training.  The entire regiment was then transported to Boston, Massachusetts from which they departed the United States on February 12, 1944, bound for Scotland.  His regiment and others arrived in Scotland on February 22, 1944.  The entire division, under the command of Major General Leland S. Hobbs, was involved in amphibious training in the UK until early June.

On June 15, 1944 his unit landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, the product of all the amphibious training they had received.  From the point of landing they were involved in fighting against the Germans.  From July of 1944 to September of 1944, the unit fought its way across the entirety of Belgium.  By September 10, they had fought to Brussels and Tournai, taking out many German companies along the way.  By this time Allen had been promoted to PFC.  Company E and all of the 120th Regiment took objectives near Horbach, Germany by mid September.  And still their progress was not halted, as they began an assault on the Siegfried Line on October 2, 1944.  The Siegfried Line was breached on October 3.  The assault continued and the unit fought valiantly.  On October 5, 1944, as his unit fought forward, PFC Allen L. Brasel gave up his life in defense of his county, his state, his country, and everyone who values the freedoms cherished in this great country.

Allen L Brasel Application 001

Application for a Military Headstone for PFC Allen L. Brasel

Allen L Brasel 001

Military Headstone for Allen Brasel in Alma Cemetery, Alma, Marion County, Illinois

To PFC Allen L. Brasel I give a much deserved salute for his sacrifice in reclaiming the world from the tyranny and brutality of Hitler’s regime.

I’ll see just down the road aways.

Uncle Thereisno Justice



A Memorial to James K. Estes: A Followup

It has been 153 years since the death of Corporal James K. Estes on April 27, 1865 while he was aboard the Steamboat Sultana.  The Sultana, a sidewheel riverboat hired by the Union Army to transport paroled prisoners of war to their homes and freedom, exploded about seven miles north of Memphis, Tennessee at 2:00 a.m. on April 27.  The resulting carnage makes this the worst maritime disaster ever, even eclipsing the deaths caused by the sinking of the Titanic.  Until May 6, 2018 there had been no grave or memorial to James K. Estes, except the memorial to all those from Tennessee who lost their lives on the Sultana that stands in Mount Olive Cemetery in Knoxville, Tennessee.  But due to a lot of hard work and superb planning, a memorial was erected at Estes Cemetery in Coalfield, Tennessee honoring the sacrifices of Corporal James K. Estes in his defense of the United States during the Civil War.  Several different groups worked together to make the memorial celebration a great success.


The memorial in Mount Olive Cemetery in Knoxville, Tennessee to all Tennesseans who lost their lives on the Sultana.

The following are a series of photographs of the Memorial Ceremony.DSC07331DSC07352DSC07349


The Memorial Headstone for James K. Estes is just beside those of his Mother and Father.

The Ceremony honoring CPL Estes featured a 21 gun salute, a cannon salute, an informative talk by Norman Shaw of the Sultana Descendants Association, a performance by Linda Moss Mines of the Tennessee Historical Commission, an invocation by Jill Jones-Lazuka the Tennessee DAR Chaplain, and presentation of the flag to the daughters of Maude Estes.

It has taken a century and a half to give the honor so richly deserved to James K. Estes.  He survived several battles, capture by the Confederates, confinement in Cahaba Prison, and lost his life on an overcrowded riverboat on the way home from the Civil War.  We owe a great deal to this young farmer from Morgan County, Tennessee.

I’ll see you on down the road.

Uncle Thereisno Justice


An Honorable Mention for Aunt Sallie Williams

Since this month is designated as Women’s History Month, I thought it would be appropriate to relate the story of Sallie Williams to my readers.  For a long time I had wanted to tell her story, but was trying to get more information about her.  Obtaining this information would require a trip to the archives of a college in East Tennessee and another related location.  Then I read an article by a genealogist I admire and respect.  Her advice was not to wait for everything to fall into place, just write what you have.  So, as incomplete as it may be, here goes.

Lenora Jane Wilson was born to Elihu C. Wilson and his wife Malinda Jane Duncan on February 18, 1848.  I will point out that this date is verified by the 1850 United States Federal Census, as well as that of 1860.  Elihu Wilson was my 3rd Great Uncle and Malinda Jane Duncan was my 3rd Great Aunt before they were married as I am related through both the Wilson and Duncan families.  Therefore, Lenora Jane Wilson was my 1st Cousin (3 x removed).  Lenora Jane’s birthplace was Petros, Morgan County, Tennessee.  At some point in time, Lenora Jane came to be called Sallie, and by the age of twelve her family lived in a rural area near Huntsville in Scott County, Tennessee.  It was her job to help her mother with the housework and help in the upbringing of the younger children.  Except for attending school, Sallie performed these duties for her mother until her youngest brother was about eight years old.

Sallie was probably considered somewhat of a spinster because at the age of 30 she was still not married, but on February 7, 1879, she was married to R. H. Williams in Morgan County, Tennessee.  Their first child, Samuel Wilson Williams was born on November 10, 1879.  A daughter, Malinda Jane Williams was born in Petros on May 1, 1881, and a second son, William Frank Williams, was born on May 8, 1883 in Petros.  Sometime in the years between 1883 and 1900, R. H. Williams deserted his wife and children leaving Sallie to be the sole support of her family.  I am sure that she relied a great deal on her parents and other close family to help with the children, but what might have taken a lesser person down just made her stronger.

In 1930, Sallie, who had reassumed the Wilson name, was living with her son Frank and his wife Nannie on Beech Fork Road, and their next neighbor was my Great Uncle Houston, his wife Millie and their son, Samuel Houston Jr.  And, Julia Ann Stonecipher Kelly and her children lived on the Kelly Farm just down from them.  At some point, Sallie took up playing the fiddle and became quite good at it.  She also took up something else, as she began to smoke a pipe.  Her fiddle is referred to by immediate family as a Stradivarius, but I have no real proof that it indeed was.

About this time in her life, Sallie got her Fifteen Minutes of Fame, as she was interviewed by the noted columnist Bert Vincent for his article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel.  For years, even after he tried to retire, Bert Vincent wrote his “Strollin” column.  He featured stories about not- so- famous but interesting people in East Tennessee.  His article about “Aunt Sallie Williams”, as she was referred to by the people in Morgan County who knew her, took up more than one page and included several pictures of her.  Among those pictures were those of her smoking a pipe and playing her “Stradivarius Fiddle”.

Sallie Williams

This clipping was found in some of my Mother’s papers and I think it came from the Morgan County News.

Although she was my cousin, I chose to utilize the name “Aunt Sallie” because it denotes a type of affection not bestowed on many people.  Aunt Sallie Williams lived a very long and successful life and was never a burden to anyone.  She raised three children who were married and lived productive, law-abiding lives.  On March 22, 1949, at the age of 101, Lenora Jane “Sallie” Wilson Williams died while living with her youngest son and his wife.  She was buried on March 24, 1949 in Union Baptist Church Cemetery in the Joyner Community of Morgan County, Tennessee.


Sallie’s Headstone in Union Cemetery. Her sons and daughter are buried nearby.

She died of old age and there was no illness noted on her Death Record.  Her Death Record, signed by County Physician A. M. Huling, gives her birth year as 1854, however Census Records prove she was born in 1848.  There is some longevity in this family as her son Sam lived to be 97 years old, her son Frank lived to be 94, and Malinda Jane lived to be 89.

Death Record for Sallie Williams

Thanks to Ancestry.com and the Tennessee State Library and Archives for this Death Record.

I would have loved to have made the acquaintance of Sallie, but I was not even three when she died.

With that in mind, I’ll see you on down the road.

Uncle Thereisno Justice