Roughly 150 years ago on July 6, 1866, an American soldier was murdered in cold blood at this site. The victim was Lt. Simeon Butts, who had the terrible misfortune of crossing paths with a homicidal mass murderer named John West.
West is the most diabolical man this part of the country has ever seen. He led the Nightriders, also known as the West Kimbrel Clan, which operated as a gang of ruthless mercenaries in Grant Parish and Winn Parish in the years following the Civil War. They viciously robbed and murdered travelers, often times dumping their bodies in wells that were dispersed along the wagon road.
One summer day as Lt. Butts was traveling on horseback on a wagon road to the Vernon community In Jackson Parish, John West and the Nightriders methodically stalked him. When the soldier stopped by this spring to get a drink of water in the July heat, John West sneaked up behind him and robbed him of his life and his gold. Lt. Butts’ body was later found and buried in an unmarked grave in a community in Winn Parish named after him: Yankee Springs.
And finally, after 150 years of resting in obscurity beneath the pine straw, we had the opportunity to install a military headstone honoring this nearly forgotten American soldier. Pictured in the photo (front row, left to right): Paul French, USFS; Rachel Barnes, Gold Law Firm; Lora Peppers, Ouachita Parish Research Librarian; (back row, left to right) Craig Rice, USFS; Greg Cohrs, USFS; Gregg Davies, Historian; Trevor Fry, Gold Law Firm/Scoutmaster Troop 632; Dr. Terry Jones, Professor of History Emeritus, ULM; Adam Fry, Eagle Scout – Troop 632. Special thanks to Luke Letlow and William T. Butts.
Article courtesy of: History of Grant Parish