In honor of Sesquicentennial Plus One, I’m devoting the Speaking of Idaho blog to my family’s history during August.
The first Just brand, the one used by Nels and Emma Just, was a mystery to many in the family. It was a simple capital T, which stood for…? T is so close to a J, that one might be tempted to ask why Nels didn’t just bend that iron a bit.
The answer came to light when we uncovered a carbon of a letter from James Just, eldest son of Nels and Emma, written to Mary Louise Johnesse, state brand recorder. The letter was dated January 1, 1936 and was in answer to a request for the history of the T brand. James Just replied:
“First, the brand was given to him [Nels Just] by a blacksmith at the soldiers’ post in Lincoln Valley [the military Fort Hall] in Oneida county Idaho in 1871. The same branding iron, almost destroyed by fire and rust, is still on the premises here although we have used many irons since. Mr. Reid, who is the husband of Agnes Just Reid, the only daughter of N.A. Just, still uses the brand. As to how many cattle there were in the herd, possibly ten or twelve thousand head carried the T brand and about two hundred and fifty head of horses during that period of time. Mrs. Reid still lives on the original homestead of our father, N. A. Just, where a family of five boys and five girls were born [only one girl, Agnes, lived longer that a few weeks]. The cattle with the T brand still run on the same range and are being wintered on the same ranch that they have been for the passed (sic) 64 years. Our Post Office has been changed eight different times without changing our residence. We have lived through the period where we got out mail by chance once in thirty days up until now when we have a daily rural delivery.”
So, the brand was a T because that’s the shape of brand that someone gave to Nels. It’s about the simplest configuration possible.