Walter Hester

Walter was born at Robert Fulton Hester's farm in Dawson_County, Texas. As a young man he raises his own herd of cattle on the family ranch and sells them to pay his entrance to Simmons college, a Baptist school in Abilene, Texas. He earned an A.B. degree and began work as a claims adjuster at the headquarters of the Santa Fe Railroad in Topeka Kansas. Walter had been a cowboy on open range and found office work too confining.

Santa Fe locomotive approaching El Paso 19351935:Santa Fe locomotive entering El Paso
Santa Fe locomotive at El Paso yard 1919
1919: Santa Fe locomotive at El Paso yards taking water
These locomotives were on some days likely conducted by Walter.

Although it is a decision he said he later very much regretted, he decided to instead to work as brakeman with the company, advancing quickly to conductor. Although the general public understand this position to be little more than a ticket taker at a movie theater, the conductor is actually manager of the train, including all company personnel from the engineer crew on the train to the stewards. He is held responsible for any mishaps (eg derailments) and must execute all company business (signing and organize all paperwork accepting/ discharging freight). This was the occupation Walter held with the Santa Fe railroad until retirement. His run was from El Paso to Belen, New Mexico, a "hub city" for the Santa Fe Railroad. Often his train had 50 cars, a mixture of copper ore and passenger cars carrying miners. Copper was mined in New Mexico and transported to the ASARCO smelter in El Paso. He was usually gone 2-3 days, and would sleep at the hotel in Belen then run a train the next day back to El Paso and have a few days off. There was one accident during his career- a derailment at the west end of the Belen yard on October 20th, 1928 due to running the Pecos main line switch. The engineer was Sullivan, Engine 1097, train 31.

In 1927, Walter traveled to Europe with an American Legion group. The convention slip says it goes from September 19-23, 1927. He travels on Cunard Line Scythia, 8 September, 1927 New York to Havre, with immigration stamp for Dover 23 September. He has a ticket for Berlin in his records. His impressions were written up in the local paper:
Hester said that the girls went wild over the American boys, not only the old sweethearts of the boys, but the other girls as well.

A fellow can get a bride in France just by saying "Let's get married", Hester said. There are so many more women than there are men and girls are so anxious to marry that courtship is of secondary consideration. Then too, the girls picture every American boy as being wealthy, and that's another inducement.

Hester said that no trace of the war remains in France, nor Germany, but than in Belgium still stands shattered buildings, and one can see a terrible war was fought. He says that when one is in France, he knows he is in a foreign country, but that in Germany he thinks he is in the States. Germans are as near like the American people in their ways and business as one could expect," Hester said. The Germans' slant on life is even like that of an American."

The boys were taken on trips through the nightlife of Paris at $8 each, which included drinks. Most of the places were just like the French basement dance halls you see in the movies," Hester said. "They are artificial things, however, and are kept rough for the benefit of the American tourists."

After many years as a bachelor, Walter began courting Essie Mae Sewell. Essie Mae had been living in El Paso with her mother (Mary Lou (Dean) Sewell and sister, Georgina Sewell. She had attended El Paso High School. His first Sunday with her at A&M university in New Mexico on July 19, 1931. Some events during their courtship: a stay at the McCoy hotel in El Paso, an afternoon at Memorial Park, and a trip to Cement lake with Essie Mae's friend Laura Goodman. The two were married on February 7, 1932 at the First Baptist church in Las Cruces, New Mexico in a small wedding with Laura Goodman as bridesmaid and Olen F. Featherstone as best man. The service was officiated by Reverend J. E. Hoyle. Their honeymoon was in Havana, Cuba

. On their return, they lived at Palms Court.
Walter Hester (1893) and Essie Sewell (1912) Residence El Paso- Mississippi street 1932

Newlyweds at their new home

They first lived in a rental house at 1403 Randolf Street and later moved to a house that Walter built at 705 Mississippi Street, a house that still exists.

On March 26, 1934, they have their first child, Hidden Hester (1934) born with a weight of 7 pounds 3 ounces at 11 P.M. A letter was sent to Walter in Albuquerque notifying him of the birth. He is informed of the birth by Essie Mae's mother, Mary Dean (1876), whom the children will call "Gangoo".


Offspring of Walter Hester and Essie Sewell (1912)  ¢
Name Birth Death Joined with
Hidden Hester (1934)
Hidden Hester (1944)

Another child arrives in the coming years, but Walter's long absences due to his work presents problems for the family. While Walter was away, Essie Mae socializes widely due to her connections from her elder sister Georgina Sewell. According to Patsy Lee, "Aunt Georgia" (wife of J.E. Anderson, mayor of El Paso) became infuriated at Essie Mae for openly flirting with Mr. R. E. Ragsdale, a married man whose wife was also a member of the order of Red Star (Masonic lodge). Everyone knew what was going on and it was scandalous for a wife of a mayor to be associated in any way with such behavior. Ragsdale was a heavy drinker, and his wife had terminal cancer.

On November 22, 1940 Essie Mae was awarded a divorce from Walter. Shortly thereafter on January 18, 1941 she married R. E. Ragsdale.

On June 2, 1953, Walter and Lora Ben Bowen in Dawson County get a license to marry. On 16 June, they are married at First Baptist church, El Paso by W. Herschel Ford. Olen Featherstone is again Walter's best man.

Education/ Professional

Hester-Walter Order of Conductors

Walter was a long time Conductor for Santa Fe Railways.

  • 1915 June 2 Graduates with an A.B. Degree from Simmons College, Abilene Texas.[1] He specialized in mathematics and Science courses. The Dean of the Department of Physics and Chemistry wrote a recommendation based on his trustworthiness and that he had found him to be a Christian gentleman that he is confident will make good if given the chance.
  • 1915 works as a Claims adjuster from 09-1915 to 09-1916.
  • 1916 he starts work as a Brakeman at the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railroad. Is promoted to conductor in 1920. In 1942, he is still working as a conductor- working the El Paso to Albuquerque run for the same Santa Fe Railway.
Hamilton992 1

Walter looked at this watch face thousands of times in his career


  • 1910 Justice Precinct 2, Dawson County, Texas
  • 1917 Rincon, New Mexico 1917 Simmons Alumni list
  • 1920 Dallas TX- For Census, lists his occupation as accountant "Expert auditor"
  • 1923 (december 13) El Paso: 514 Corto Street. Letter from Army Regarding reserve application.
  • 1927 reported in the newspaper as living at 419 Upson.[2]
  • 1930 El Paso TX- at Lodging house of Kate Farnham. Occupation Conductor.
  • 1933 El Paso, living at 705 Mississippi Street. (But envelope was redirected to "Rincon, New Mexico" in November 1933).
  • 1960 2008 Erie Street


  • Height 71 inches, Chest at inhalation 37.5 inches. at 25YO: weight 165lbs, 20/20 eyesight.
  • Eye color: grey

Military Service

Hester-Walter L 1891 WWI in uniform
US Army Quartermaster Corps seal

Walter Hester's served in the Quartermaster Corps during World War I and thereafter in the reserves. His final rank was 2nd Lieutenant.

World War I: Walter enlists Dec 17, 1917 in the regular army and serves at Camp Cody, New Mexico outfitting the "Sandstorm" 34th Infantry Division. The camp was constructed in the summer of 1917 but it did not have facilities for the 30,000 troops that it would soon have to support. The Quartermaster corps was at the time responsible for outfitting, construction, transportation and logistics and so must have faced significant challenges. According to a letter from Captain Lamb recommending Walter for Lieutenant, he stated that Walter was in charge of Property Account (for explanation of these duties, see 1916 army description). He rose from private to corporal on 3-30-1918, to Sergeant on 5-13-1918, and Sergeant first class on 8-15-1918. He was a supply sergeant reporting to the camp Quartermaster of Camp Cody, Denning Armory, New Mexico, Capt. Henry Chard and Lt. E.F. Ewing who both supported his application for an officer's commission. Walter was honorably discharged on January 19, 1919 and saw no action. He was issued a bronze victory button. His character was noted as excellent.

Post War: * Applied to become an officer in 1918- applying to the Officer's training school, field artillery. He secured a commission as 2nd Lieutenant and post war was in the reserve officer corps- continuing on with the Quartermaster, Camp Cody. His reserve status expired in 1929.

World War II: In December 1942, the War department ran an advertisement in El Paso newspaper requesting reserve officers. Although he was 49 with two children, Walter applied for return to service.



  1. ^ Simmons Alumni list, 1927
  2. ^ 419 Upson address also reported here
  • Unless indicated otherwise, data is from Federal Censuses and may be verified by performing searches on them.

Footnotes (including sources)

† Baptism
  • Grandview Baptist Church, 3130 Idalia Avenue. Address given for Walter was: Hotel Campbell.
₪ Wedding
  • Marriage certificate; Certificate of Marriage
¢ Children
  • Foo bar