James Lawson Randles, a Union Civil War Veteran who passed away nearly 123 years ago, took his final ride from his original burial site at the Mountain View Cemetery in Centralia to his forever resting place at the Silvercreek Cemetery in Randle. To correct a wrong created in 1923, his recent journey began at the Sticklin Funeral Chapel in Centralia, where his remains were transferred to a 1920s-style wooden coffin handmade by a funeral home employee.

James Randles’ handmade casket bears the roses placed by family members. Photo credit: Diane Markham

From there, he was transported to Randle via a modern-day hearse with a Patriot Guard Riders Motorcycle Escort to the Abundant Life Fellowship Church, located a short walk from the cemetery. There, the flag-covered casket was transferred to a horse-drawn carriage and escorted by Civil War-era attired women and Civil War reenactors from the Washington Civil War Association adorned in Union uniforms, including one on horseback leading a saddled, riderless horse with boots placed backward in the stirrups signifying a fallen soldier.

James’ remains now lie in his intended grave plot next to his wife, Dicy, children and other family members in the Silvercreek Cemetery.

James Lawson Randles
James Lawson Randles. Photo credit: Diane Markham

The Life of James Lawson Randles

James Lawson Randles was born December 5, 1843, in Sevier County, Tennessee. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War from 1861 to 1863, when he was honorably discharged due to injury. He married Dicy Erwin in 1865 in Tennessee. The family, which eventually numbered eight with six children, moved to the Washington Territory in 1886. He chose the area to be ultimately dubbed the “Big Bottom Valley” to settle because of the surrounding mountains that reminded him of the Appalachians where he grew up.

The Tennessee-born Randles is said to be the third white settler in what is now the Randle area. The story goes that he initially paid a Native person to transport the mail from Centralia. However, wanting the federal government to pay the expense, he petitioned and sought signatures from area settlers to create a township. When the government officials approved the request, they took the first name on the petition, dropped the “S” from the “Randles” surname, and the town of Randle was born in 1902.

James Lawson Randles
A Civil War Reenactor salutes the passing of Randles’ casket with the outward-palm hand placement of that era. Photo credit: Diane Markham

James Lawson Randles Returns to Randle

“My sister, Whitney, is the family historian and the major driving force,” Wes McMahan of Randle says of the re-burial endeavor. Their great-grandmother Mae Randle, who married Jim McMahan, passed on memorabilia from her father and even talked Wes’ mother into giving him the middle name “Randle,” which he passed on to his children, and they passed on to theirs.

In a KING-5 News broadcast, Whitney and Wes were shown walking through the cemetery in Randle among James’ family members’ headstones. They tell the story that they didn’t know where their great-great-grandfather had been buried for a long time. He died in a Centralia hospital on December 3, 1920, but the family could not transport his body to Randle for burial then. Thus, he was buried in Centralia. “When I finally found (the grave), I thought then, ‘He needs to be home,’” Whitney says in the televised broadcast.

James Lawson Randles
Those following on foot and horseback are representative of the time of the Civil War-era practice. Photo credit: Diane Markham

And now he is. He was laid to rest with full military honors on Saturday, July 8, 2023, at noon in the Silvercreek Cemetery. The ceremony included a Masonic Presentation Ceremony, the Presentation of Colors from the Active Duty US Army Honor Guard, a Grand Civil War Wreath Presentation and committal prayer, a rifle volley from the Civil War representatives, the laying of roses by the family and “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes by retired US Army Colonel Mary Prophit of Glenoma.

The Randle Post Office service desk has long displayed James Randles’ photograph. And now, finally, the cemetery bears his remains and his original tombstone.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email