By Janice Dunnahoo
Special to the Daily
Today, we continue last week’s story, which was written in part by Earnestine Chesser Williams and published in the “Old Timer’s Review” in the fall of 1986. It highlights Capt. Jason W. James, just one of the greats, who helped to found our fair town. What an amazing man, with much insight for our future, much of which, we can still apply today.
The Historical Society of Southeastern New Mexico Archives collection contains a wealth of information concerning pioneers who migrated to the territory of New Mexico for the purpose of establishing homes.
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“On 27 June, 1865, Captain James surrendered to Col. William H. Dickie. Many years later, Captain James remarked, ‘It came over me that the war was at an end; that I had my parole in my pocket; and that I had done my duty to the best of my ability.’
“During reconstruction days following the war, Captain James remained in Bastrop, Louisiana. In January 1866, he married Miss Mary Molly Henderson of Carrol Parish, Louisiana, with Capt. J.C. Lea as his best man.
“Political unrest prevailed for about 11 years. Captain James’ first business venture was a hardware store which failed. He then planted a cotton crop but the bollworms destroyed it. Then he took a job as a marshal, but soon gave it up.
“Domination by Northern politicians was very oppressive to the defeated Southerners. In writing of this time in later years, Captain James said, ‘I realized that the good people of Morehouse Parish and surrounding country must be protected, and it was up to me, and as many of my men as I could hold together to do it.’ There was no pay, but the men and horses were fed by the planters.
“With the unsettled conditions of reconstruction, Captain James tried many different occupations from tax collecting to timber cutting in the cypress breaks.
“In 1883, he bought a herd of cattle and drove them to Texas near Del Rio where they learned to eat prickly pear and stool like Mexican cattle. Panthers and Lobo wolves were devastating to his herds, so he sold out.
“It was here that he joined the Texas Rangers where he suffered a gunshot wound in the shoulder, which caused him excruciating pain periodically for the remainder of his life.
“In 1885, Captain James bought grading equipment and got a contract to build railroads. He returned to Mississippi to work for a contractor to get out railroad crossties, staves and other timber.
“Many months in the cypress swamps followed by much severe weather conditions, and personal suffering on the cattle trail, caused Captain James to suffer a break in health from which he never recovered.
“Captain James was a member of the Masonic Lodge, which was a source of pleasure to him during many years of his life. When Rio Hondo Commendery No. 6, Knights Templar was organized, Captain James became a charter member. He was a much sought after speaker, infrequently addressing the group on special occasions.
“In his book ‘Memories and Viewpoints,’ Captain James wrote, ‘In reviewing my Mason life, I am carried back nearly 50 years to a little country lodge in northern Arkansas, where I was made a Blue Lodge Mason. It was in the dark days of the War Between the States and I have always felt grateful to the two comrades who signed my petition for me.’
“In addressing Roswell Lodge No. 18, Captain James remarked, ‘Masonry has always been deemed a patriotic institution. — Brethren, let us now be more united than ever before, and ever keep in mind the admonition you have heard so often. ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.’
“In his ‘Reflections,’ Captain James remarked, ‘Fortune does not make a man and a gentleman, nor does poverty prevent him from being one.’”
Roswell Daily Record
January 25, 1907
Would Have The Boys Shoot Straight
“Capt. Jason W. James, a veteran of the Civil War, has presented the Military Institute of New Mexico in this city 20 rifles of 22 caliber: also with the equipment for target practice, and his superintended the direction of a target at the grounds of the Institute. He wants the cadets to get practice in shooting as well as going through the manual of arms. This practice will be taken up beginning Monday, and will be made a part of the regular exercise. When the cadets become better marksman, they will be allowed to shoot with the Krag-Jorgensen guns supplied by the government.
“Captain James delivered an address to the cadets of the New Mexico Military Institute in May, 1909. The occasion was the presentation of the Jason W. James Rifle Medals, which took place just before the regular Sunday afternoon dress parade. He said, in part, I affirm today that the wealth, the power, and the advancement of the existing nations are measured by the extent of their educational systems. — ‘Progress in the world commenced with the education of the masses of people.’
“He continued with remarks relative to a military school. ‘We should be prepared at all times to refill force with force. — Self-defense is the first law of nature and the first essential to self-respect.’
“In an address delivered to the cadets of New Mexico Military Institute in May 1917, Captain James remarked, ‘In our relations with foreign countries, the protection of American citizens and the extension and protection of our commerce, we should be one people. An injury to one should be an insult to all.’
“Even though in this address Captain James spoke of ‘in the evening of my life’ he enjoyed many more productive years.
“Capt. Jason W. James died at his ranch near Uvalde, Texas, Sept. 14, 1933 at the age of 90.
“On March 24, 1938, the remains of Capt. Jason W. James, who was interred at Camp Wood, Texas, were returned to Roswell. His body was placed beside that of his wife of over 60 years who died Jan. 9, 1926 and was buried at South Park Cemetery.”
Janice Dunnahoo is chief archivist at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.