A Hoosier in New Guinea

When I look at names and dates on the many branches of my family tree, certain things catch my eye and I want to look further to maybe find a story there. One thing I notice is if the death dates for young men fall during the time of a war or conflict that the United States may have been involved in. Once such date led me to an interesting story. 

James Stafford, Jr. had a death date of 1944. The original birth date I had was 1916, but neither dates were confirmed by good sources. So I decided to look a little closer. 

First, James, Jr. is related through my Paternal ancestors. His father, James Stafford, Sr. (1857-1928) was the brother of my GG Grandmother, Priscilla Stafford McKinley (1859-1941). Per his Indiana Birth Certificate available on Ancestry.com, he was born January 1, 1917 in Indianapolis, IN to James Stafford & Catherine Loring at home, 2913 McPherson Avenue.

He shows up in the US Census records in Indianapolis through 1940. At that time he was listed as an Order Clerk for a Wholesale Drug company. 

His WWII Draft card, also available on Ancestry.com gives his residence as 3247 Schofield, Indianapolis, IN. He works for Kiefer Stewart Co. On the back of the card, he is described as 5ft 10 3/4in, 200 pounds, with brown eyes, brown hair and ruddy complexion. 

WWII Draft card James Stafford (from Ancestry.com) front

The Ancestry.com database of US World War II Army Enlistment records 1938-1946 indicates that he enlisted at Indianapolis, IN on January 16, 1943. He married Alberta Grass (1913-2011) the next day, January 17, 1943. James and Alberta were co-workers at the Kiefer-Stewart Company. 

According to his obituary in The Indianapolis News, he entered the service on January 27, 1943 and received his basic training at Camp Wheeler, GA. He went overseas after Basic and was stationed in Australia. From there he went to New Guinea.

Searching a little more, I found a link from Ancestry.com to Findagrave.com. This site indicated that James died on New Guinea. There was also part of a transcribed article recounting his last hours that had no source citation, only that it was from the “Chicago Tribune Press Service.” So on to another search, this time on Newspapers.com to see if I could find the original article & I got lucky. 

The full article was on the front page of the Friday, May 12, 1944 issue of the Chicago Tribune. The title was “YANK FIGHTS TO LAST HEARTBEAT. His Commander Writes Hoosier’s Epitaph.” It was written by Arthur Veysey and attributed to the Chicago Tribune Press Service out of Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, May 11:

The Hoosier infantryman staggered as he came out of the swamp into the tall Dutch Guinea grass. If only he could rest for a while. For three days he had been beating thru the jungle, sloshing in mud, wading in chest-high swamp water, plowing thru grass sometimes over his head. Twenty-four miles the infantryman and his buddies had gone.

Haven in Sight. But now, this April 25, the end was in sight. Just across a grass flat and over a ridge lay the Cyclops airdrome. Then there would be rest. So Pvt. James Stafford of Indianapolis, Ind., gritted his teeth harder, took a new grip on his Garand rifle and in the low crouch that becomes the natural stance in jungle fighting pressed on thru the grass. Three times he fell, but each time stood again. “Better fall out,” his sergeant said. Stafford shook his head. “Then take it easier.” Stafford nodded. Now they were going up a knoll. Twice more Stafford slumped into a heap, but both times got up. At the crest the company paused. Stafford stretched out. Wild shouts roused him. There was the crackle of gunfire. Thirty [Japanese soldiers] were charging up the slope. After a while the gunfire died out momentarily, but there was no rest.

Fire and Reload! Then a second [Japanese] attack came. Thirty more this time, with bayonets fixed. Fire and reload! Fire and reload! The [Japanese] danced before Stafford’s eyes.

At last the enemy was wiped out. First aid men went along the firing line. They found Stafford unwounded but in a coma. In two hours he was dead. When Col. O.P. Newman heard about Stafford he recommended that the distinguished service cross be sent to his parents. Said the commander: “He gave his energy to the last drop.”

Private Stafford was one of many US Army soldiers who landed on New Guinea in April 1944. Only 3 days into the battle he most likely succumbed to heat stroke. Interestingly, his death date on his headstone is April 24, 1944. 

His death was reported in The Indianapolis News, Saturday, May 13, 1944, p1. The report indicated that his wife received word of his death May 6. The short article included this photograph:

Pvt. James Stafford, Jr.

A search on the American Battle Monuments Commission website <abmc.gov> gives the following regarding Private James Stafford: His service # 35581675, Unit 186th Infantry Regiment, 41st Infantry Division, buried in the Manila American Cemetery, McKinley Road, Fort Bonifacio, Philippines in Plot A Row 12 Grave 68. He is listed as receiving the Purple Heart and Silver Star. 

One final note about James Stafford, Jr. The findagrave.com site had another clipping of an unsourced news article that quoted his wife, Alberta. She states, “Jim’s death was not in vain. What we already have accomplished proves that. We must not stop. We must go on. I know inside what Jim died for.”

May we always remember what they all died for & the sacrifice they gave for the freedoms we have. 

© MJM 2023

Benjamin Stafford’s Bible

Benjamin Stafford, Morgan County, Indiana pioneer was my GGG Grandfather. As stated in a previous post, Benjamin was mentioned in two history books about Morgan County—The Counties of Morgan, Monroe & Brown, Indiana and The Pioneers of Morgan County, Memoirs of Noah J. Major.

Both books indicate that Mr. Stafford was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church. He reported that he had read his Bible through “nearly 50 times” from age 61 to 73. However, he did not learn to read until he was 40 years old.

I have a New Testament that is well worn with very little of the binding left. His name is in the front cover.

Perhaps this is the Bible that he read so many times. It obviously didn’t just sit on a shelf. The date under his name “February 2, 1872” could have been the date he received the Bible. He would have been 61 years old.

Two more pages from the Bible list the birth dates for Benjamin, his wife, Susan and their children.

Regardless of whether this is the Bible mentioned in the history books, it obviously belonged to Benjamin. To me it is another connection to this ancestor—to think that he held this book over 145 years ago. Pretty cool!

© MJM 2017

Benjamin Stafford, A Morgan County Pioneer

This funeral card was part of my Grandfather’s collection.


The other day I found the corresponding obituary on Newspapers.com. It is from the Indiana State Sentinel, Indianapolis, IN Wednesday, April 1, 1891.


So who was Benjamin Stafford? He is mentioned in a couple of books about the history of Morgan County, Indiana. (both books are available on the internet)

One book, The Counties of Morgan, Monroe & Brown, Indiana (Charles Blanchard ed., Chicago, F.A. Battey & Co. 1884) gives a biographical sketch of Benjamin on pg 269. His parents were Robert & Sarah (Bullick) Stafford from North Carolina. He was the 3rd of 7 children. He was born in Ohio May 28, 1810. He moved to Indiana in 1818, then to Morgan County in 1820. At that time, the county was still a wilderness.

The other book, The Pioneers of Morgan County, Memoirs of Noah J. Major, (Indianapolis, 1915), recounts the memories of Noah Major, a prominent citizen of Morgan county. Benjamin Stafford shows up on page 272. He is listed as “one of the younger men” who settled in the “Matthews and Drury neighborhood” & “who came with their parents or alone, to this settlement, and who loved, wooed and wedded the girls of their choice—unless the other fellows got them, as sometimes happened, whereupon they turned to a second choice which often proved as good or better than the first one. They were not to be cheated out of matrimonial bliss because of a choice between a Rose and Lily.”

According to these books, Benjamin married Ruth Gifford in 1830 and had a daughter, Sarah. Ruth died soon after.

Benjamin married the second time to Margaret Price in 1835. They had 8 children: Nancy J., John, Marion, William, Benjamin, Barnard and Grant. Then Margaret died in 1852.

One account states that Benjamin married again to Miss Sloan. They had no children.

Benjamin married Susan Fry, a widow with 5 sons. They had 7 children: Mary, James, Priscilla, Martha, Emaline and Oliver P.

So Benjamin had a total of 16 children and 5 step-children. All of them lived to adulthood. One of them, Priscilla (who married Jeremiah McKinley) was my great-great grandmother.

Mr. Major indicates the “Matthews and Drury neighborhood” was located “along the north bank of White River, from the mouth of White Lick to Sycamore Creek.” He said that Benjamin Stafford “lived low down in the pocket when the tide of ’47 came sweeping along, leaving him little else than a house, barn and bare ground. He sold his bottom farm and bought one on Sycamore, where he lived to the close of his life.” This farm was located south west of Centerton.

Benjamin shows up in the US Census records for Clay Township, Morgan County, IN in 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. In 1850, the names of some of the children are different than what is mentioned in the history books.


The first time I went to the Morgan County Library to do research several years ago, I found some unique information about Benjamin. They had a ledger listing the livestock markings for local farmers. (Morgan County Indiana Marks & Brands, April 18, 1822 to March 8, 1878, Recorder’s Office, Morgan County Courthouse, Martinsville, IN)


Benjamin Stafford marks with a crop off of the left and split in the right ear. Clay Township December 9th, 1847.”

Benjamin died in 1891, although the exact date is not clear. The news clipping indicates March 29; the funeral card, March 26 and his headstone, March 25. Regardless, he was 80 years old when he died. He is buried in Williams Cemetery in Morgan County, IN next to his second wife, Margaret. His wife, Susan, and other family members are buried in the same cemetery.

© MJM 2017