Jack and Joe Musteen: Korean War

Jack and Joe Musteen

Joe_L & Jack_R_in Korea

This photo was pasted into a treasured binder before we had better adhesives! Dad and his identical twin brother, Jack, were part of the 936th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, Battery C, in Korea. (Click link above for photos.)* Their mother’s handwriting scrawls across the snapshot. She wrote “Jack and Joe”…though Joe is on the left. Grandma was 43 when the twins were born, and she was a 64-year-old widow as they began their tour of duty in Korea…the last of her four surviving sons to serve in and return from war.

Joe Musteen (L) & Jack Musteen (R)

Joe Musteen (L) & Jack Musteen (R)

The young men from Rogers, AR, National Guard gathered to pose for a group photo in front of the National Guard Armory before leaving to become Battery C. Their high school football rivals, “Bentonville boys,” were Battery A…between them, these young men served as two of the three large-gun firing batteries. They left on a special troop train from Frisco Station in Rogers, with 444 total young men from five local towns for boot camp in Fort Carson, CO,  on August 21,1950…three weeks before Jack and Joe were 21 on September 15.

Dad rushed back on a short leave and married Mother in a small family ceremony on Veteran’s Day, 1950. Mother made all of her clothing, including the dress she wore for her wedding. Their marriage photo was taken by Dad’s older brother, Hubert, who had been a photographer in WWII and was a successful studio owner in downtown Rogers.

Jack had married earlier, and my Aunt Pat waited for his return with her tow-headed toddler, Debbie.

Joe Musteen
Joe and Anita Kooker Musteen married on November 11, 1950 in Rogers, AR.

Dad never really talked about his time in Korea, and I don’t think Jack said much either. Evidently, Uncle Jack was in charge of the largest gun for Battery C and once lost a truckload of much needed shells to Battery A in a long-night poker game. I’m not sure that Jack would be excited for anyone to know about his temporary losing streak, but Battery A was forward of Battery C and much in need of C’s backpiled ammunition.

My brother recently found Jim Rakes’ excellent book, My Benton County Hero, which is a first-hand account of their Korean experiences. From Jim’s book I learned that Dad was technically AWOL when he traveled back to Rogers to marry Mother…though it was not an uncommon practice under some commanding officers, it was more than the 250 miles standard allowance for an off-base pass.

Mother returned to Fort Carson with Dad after their wedding. Several other wives were there, and they came back to Rogers when their husbands shipped out. She kept colorful postcards of the Garden of the Gods and other attractions. Until I read Jim Rake’s account, I had never realized how much mystery and lack of information there was about where the young men were going. As Mother and the other wives traveled back with memories and small treasures to hold, they had no real idea what lay in store for their husbands.

There weren’t a lot of places for entertainment in our small town. Several of the wives were expecting babies. They might walk in twos or small groups to visit, sometimes meandering around town in their maternity smocks on warm evenings in the spring and summer of 1951. Mother mentioned walking with Dot Watkins and others. I was born on September 12.

Anita Kooker Musteen and Rebecca Gail Musteen

Mother with me, on Grandma Musteen’s sofa

While I’m sure everyone made the best of circumstances, many situations were far from ideal. Mother was 18 and expecting her first child while her new husband was sent to war. She lived with a friend, because her father had not approved of her decision and disowned her when she married. She prepared for my arrival, attended Cosmetology College to become a Beautician (her life-long career) and waited for news.

 

Rebecca Gail Musteen

“Becky’s baby clothes…to show her daddy in Korea.”

I recently found a photo that Mother had taken of my baby clothes, pinned on a line to dry. She noted on the back “First wash of Becky’s baby clothes to show her daddy in Korea.”

One of my favorite stories tells about the first mail bag to arrive in Rogers. C Battery had been gone for weeks, and not a single letter had been received from the men.

Finally, six weeks after they left Fort Collins, a mail bag arrived at the Rogers Post Office. It was evening shift. Here’s how I heard the story:

The postal employee recognized the bag and realized these were the prayed-for letters. He said something like, “Those girls (wives, sweethearts and mothers) will not wait until tomorrow.” He knew that many would be viewing a movie at the downtown Victory Theater. He loaded the bag, drove over to the theater and handed out the mail to those who were present. I believe Mother was there that evening.

When Dad returned from Korea, they pulled a drawer from the polished, Cherry-wood desk that had been Grandma’s high-school graduation gift. Long before the days of padded infant seats, this was my bassinette as they drove to Fort Smith to secure Dad’s honorable discharge papers.

I highly recommend Jim’s book, My Benton County Hero, to anyone whose family member served in the Korean War. If you’re from NW Arkansas and can add to or correct anything in this post, please comment.

*Non-profit Korean War Project online: you may use the database or become a supporting member of the most complete records from the Korean war at this URL: http://www.koreanwar.org/html/membership.html

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Hooked on My Family History: Rebecca Musteen Johnson

I can tell you exactly when I became entranced with my family history.

One month before my 12th birthday, I was resting fretfully at St. John’s Hospital in Tulsa, OK after surgery to remove my right kidney (due to a birth defect, which had been undetected earlier). The actual procedure was far more fearful to Mother than me…I was greatly relieved to be done with weeks of irritating and painful tests.

My main problem was entertainment. I’d read ALL the classic Nancy Drew mysteries on the top shelf of our Candy Striper’s gray rolling trolley, and Mother had gone back to Northwest Arkansas to tend my three younger siblings.

Grandma Musteen Came and Shared My Family History

Dad’s 76-year-old Mama* arrived to sit with me and told me stories we had never enjoyed the solitude to share. While I dined on broth, weak tea and any flavor of Jell-O that my heart desired, she shared tales that were far more flavorful.

Jennie Brown Musteen

Jennie Brown Musteen with the 6th of her 12 grandchildren…me.

Her grandfather was a solid Ozark farmer with eight children. For his main livelihood, he tanned hides in an earthen pit, filled with tanning chemicals. Northwest Arkansas was just slightly south of the Mason-Dixon Line, so his pit was covered with branches and leaves to conceal it from armed bands of post-Civil War raiders from both sides.  

Food was precious. One story told of his youngest, Mary, crying for the warm bread her mother had just taken from the oven…after “Bushwhackers” rode into the yard and rudely stole it away.

Butterfield Overland Trail

Butterfield Overland Trail

To supplement his family income before the Civil War, John drove a Butterfield Stage from a point in MO to Fort Smith, AR on a regular route. Great-Great-Grandpa’s route went right through that upper corner of AR, which you can see in the official trail map. Grandma specifically mentioned that he stopped at the Elkhorn Tavern. I’ve searched the Butterfield records and found that it was an unofficial, but popular stop.  

Prior to the Civil War, the house was used for many purposes, although it was well-known locally as a stop for the Overland Stage. Although the Butterfield Stage passed by on the Telegraph Road, the Elkhorn Tavern was not an official stop on the Butterfield line. During this period, the Tavern was described as a place “of abundant good cheer”.

Wait! While Grandma was describing the tavern, I knew something about it. In my 5th-grade class, the silver-haired granddaughter of the tavern’s Civil War-era managers came to share her mother’s unforgettable, youthful memories from The Battle of Pea Ridge. The tavern was occupied as the field hospital by Army surgeons, who worked tirelessly to remove shattered limbs and save as many lives as possible.

Now, my region’s history, my country’s history, was also my family history! (Dad’s mamma was born in 1887 and would have been close in age to the kind woman who shared her mother’s Civil War memories with our class.)

It was Cox, who later renamed it Elkhorn Tavern. Under Cox’ management, the structure served as a trading post, an unofficial Butterfield Overland Mail stop, post office, voting place, eating establishment, church of the Benton County Baptist Society and inn. As the war moved near, Jesse Cox left the tavern to the care of his son and daughter-in-law Joseph and Lucinda Pratt Cox and went to Kansas.


The last time I visited Pea Ridge National Military Park, a stretch of bare-earth ruts from Telegraph Road were still visible near the tavern. I stood and thought of my great-great-grandfather driving his coach and team over those ruts.

By a quirk of fate, my only granddaughter now attends Butterfield Trail Elementary School in Fayetteville, AR. Even stranger, the first successful Butterfield stage run was finished on her birth date of September 19—148 years and six family generations before she was born.

The first Butterfield stage entered Forth Smith on Sunday, September 19, 1858, at 2:00 a.m. Its route took it over Fort Smith’s old Washington Street, which today is 2nd Street. Even at that hour, its arrival was greeted with music, cheering, and cannon fire, which continued until the coach left for California.

While it thrills me to know something of my family history, I wish I knew so much more! The last Musteen in my dad’s direct siblings is gone now. My cousins and I never sat down with her and captured her rich trove of memories. We intended to do it “next visit,” “when we get the chance.”

Time didn’t wait for us. If you’re interested in your family history, please grab any opportunity NOW to capture family stories…those treasured memories can live forever.

I’m very fortunate to have history for several generations on three of my grandparents. The main focus of this blog is my dad’s Mustain lineage. I begin with this history because our ancestor, Thomas Mustain, built a home that has stood for more than 250 years. I love that tangible reminder of my heritage. I have no idea why Thomas received a royal land grant, so that’s a subject for future research.

Any blood descendent of Thomas is eligible to join Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Click here for details about Thomas donating a firearm, and you can also find more information on all requirements at www.dar.org.

Avery and Jesse were both enlisted in the Revolutionary War, so their service records can be used, too.

According to Delores M. Mustaine’s book, The descendents of Thomas Mustain of Pittsylvania County, Virginia; Thomas’ daughter Molley’s father-in-law, Littleberry Patterson, was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War. So far, I’ve found this reference. The online photo archive of Delores’ book has page numbers in the upper right corner…details about Molley and the Patterson family begin in the middle of page 5.

Dad’s grandfather, Nathaniel Baxter Mustain, fought in the Civil War, waited for wages that didn’t come and endured a Union prison camp…more about that in a later post.

Please comment and share this blog with your family members. The details of our family histories are too precious to lose!

*Jennie Lee Brown married Nathaniel Baxter Musteen when she was 23. Only the oldest of Nate’s four surviving children, Walter, raised his own family. More about this in a later post. Four of Jennie and Nate’s seven children gave Jennie 12 grandchildren. Nate died in 1946, so we grandchildren have photos and a few minutes of video made by my Uncle Hubert in the handful of years before Grandpa’s death.  

Hubert: Martha Jane and Sarah Lee Musteen
Mary: Lisle Gene, Bennie Joe and Gail Lou Stevenson
Jack: Debbie, David and Margie Musteen
Joe: Rebecca Gail, Jennie Lynn, Michael Wayne and Barry Twan Musteen

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