Connections: Martin Luther and Morgan County, Tennessee

A few weeks ago, Morgan County, Tennessee celebrated a milestone, the 200th anniversary of its founding.  Even after 200 years of existence, the entire county has a population of only about 21,700.  The county sits in the amazingly beautiful Cumberland Plateau.  What most people out of state would call mountains, the people there refer to as the Tennessee hills.  From the time of its founding, most people relied upon farming, coal mining, lumber milling, various retail and wholesale businesses to support families.  With the building of the state penitentiary at Brushy Mountain, more jobs were brought about.  The advent of the railroad added more jobs, and brought tourism.    Thanks to the Federal government developing the atomic bomb in World War II, Oak Ridge provided jobs during that era.  And, even later, the Tennessee Valley Authority employed many more for the production of electricity.  The original county seat was Montgomery, but in 1870, the county seat was moved to Wartburg.  The city of Wartburg was settled by German and Swiss immigrants who had purchased land hoping to build a new life in the United States while fleeing an overcrowded Europe.  The city was given its name from the Wartburg Castle in Thuringia, Germany.

Morgan County Courthouse, Wartburg, Tennessee. 200th Anniversary.

American Legion Honor Guard displaying the Stars and Stripes during 200th Anniversary Celebration

But we have to go back even further to make the connection referred to in the title.  On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, who had been a Roman Catholic monk and now was in charge of the University of Wittenburg, Germany made public his 95 theses.  In the next few years, Luther made many enemies in the Catholic Church with his beliefs.  In his theses, he proclaimed that righteousness was attainable only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  He further believed that justification is not through works, but through faith in God.  He was completely opposed to the idea of selling indulgences for the eradication of sins.  As a result of Luther’s offenses, Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther on January 3, 1521.  To escape persecution, he sought refuge in Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany.  While there he translated the Bible into the language of his people.  These combined events brought about what is now referred to as The Protestant Reformation.  The Lutheran Church was an outgrowth of the movement.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Our great country was founded on the principles of Christianity and owes a significant amount to the pioneering of Martin Luther and others like him who felt that the Holy Bible is the Word of God and should be available to all people.

So as you celebrate Halloween, just be aware that this day is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Be looking for another ramble from Uncle Thereisno on Veterans Day.  Until then, I’ll see you on down the road.

Uncle Thereisno Justice



From Farmer to War Fatality: The Story of Benjamin Burl Duncan

Benjamin Burl Duncan was born on October 28, 1921 and descended from John Justice ( son of Abraham) and Nancy Butler ( daughter of Elias).  Their daughter, Nancy Emily Justice, married George Washington Allen.  A daughter of theirs, Mary Jane Allen, married William Ernest Duncan and their union produced Benjamin.  Prior to joining the US Army to fight in World War II, Benjamin worked as a farmer in the hills of Morgan County, Tennessee.

TSGT Benjamin Burl Duncan

Benjamin Burl Duncan before he shipped overseas

Benjamin enlisted in the US Army at Camp Forrest, Tennessee on June 11, 1942, and was assigned to the Infantry.  From there he was sent by train to Camp Pickett, Virginia and went through extensive basic training and two other forms of training to prepare for war.  By late August of 1942, his unit was shipped to Camp Blanding, Florida for more in depth training in intelligence, radio operation, life saving, and intensive war games.  In March of 1943, his unit, Company L, 313th Infantry, was transported to Camp Forrest for spring maneuvers.  Here they undertook large scale war games in actual battle conditions.  Then, on July 24, 1943, orders came down for desert training at Camp Laguna, Yuma, Arizona, which was nothing more than a tent city with absolutely no amenities.  Here again they were involved in intense war games where actual battle conditions were adhered to.  After completing training at Camp Laguna, the regiment was assigned to Camp Phillips, Kansas for extremely intense training and war games until March of 1944.  At that time they were loaded onto trains and sent to a secret destination, which became Camp Myles Standish in Massachusetts, nothing more than a staging area for deployment overseas.  From there, the regiment traveled to Boston, their port of embarkation at Commonwealth Pier.  There they boarded the Strathmore, a British steamer, manned by a British crew.  By this time Benjamin had been promoted to Technical Sergeant, and with this rank was also a Platoon Sergeant, in charge of about 30 enlisted men.  By June of 1944, the regiment had traveled from Boston to Scotland, through England and was now on its way across the English Channel.  On June 14, 1944, eight days after D Day, they landed at Utah Beach amid the sound of bombs exploding and sporadic shelling by the Germans.

Company L and the rest of the 313th Infantry fought their way inland taking out whatever German forces they encountered.  As a machine gunner, TSGT Benjamin Burl Duncan was at the forefront of the fighting.  On June 22, 1944, his unit began a ground attack, supported by an air attack by the Army Air Corps, on Cherbourg, France.  In the fighting TSGT Duncan stepped on a land mine planted by the retreating German army.  He lost both legs as a result, but clung to life in a mobile Army hospital unit until October 16, 1944.  A WWII Honor List of Dead and Missing Army Personnel listed him as DOW (died of wounds).

TSGT Duncan’s remains were transported back home, and he was laid to rest in Union Cemetery in Morgan County, Tennessee.

This story was shared in another format on Memorial Day, but I felt I would be remiss if I did not repeat it here.  With the utmost reverence and honor, I salute Tech Sergeant Benjamin Burl Duncan who gave up his life in service to and defense of this great country we are fortunate enough to call home.  I also offer up a hearty salute to our flag.

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

Uncle Thereisno Justice