Each day we read or hear of people dying from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. We worry about being killed by terrorists, serial killers, and drunk drivers. Then the news comes that someone died from eating tainted food at a community Thanksgiving dinner and we realize that in the end there is no rhyme or reason to our mode of death. No matter how much we wonder or worry, only God knows when and how we will depart.
So this morning I compiled a list of just a few of the obituaries in my collection. In my estimation, although I didn’t use any of them here, an overwhelming majority of the deaths I’ve recorded were from pneumonia. Even a slight cold, untreated, could be the last one a person had. Our ancestors were also victims of the three major diseases: typhoid, meningitis, and influenza. And of course they killed each other with knives, axes, guns, sticks, rocks, and ropes. Once they invented the automobile there was another way to die!
The saddest deaths are always those of children and those that were sudden and unexpected. So many infants routinely died during some decades that they weren’t even named until they were at least a week old. Our own family lost triplets who were less than a year old and died of the flu within a month of each other. Infants were also abandoned on the side of the road, thrown from the Katy train, or died in bizarre accidents that we just can’t understand now. Times were different and hard-working parents often had too many children and too many responsibilities to warrant minute-by-minute surveillance of little ones. Wandering off and drowning in a well or pond was a too common death for toddlers. But by far, most succumbed to disease.
This isn’t meant to be a sad post, but an encouragement to quit worrying about terrorists and random accidents and just live each day to the fullest as long as you can. Most of the obituaries I read speak of helpful, happy, productive people “loved by all who knew them”. Let’s get busy making that our legacy.
- Bulah Crabtree, also known as “Madame La Belle” died in 1917 after falling from a hot air balloon while performing in Paul’s Valley. She was a resident of Wapanucka and had performed in Bryan County.
- In 1931 Private Olaf Nelson, stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, swallowed his false teeth at breakfast and they lodged in his throat. Despite an operation he died three days later.
- In 1911 L. R. Tuebner, a cashier at the Bank of Tushka, robbed the safe, was missing for ten days and then committed suicide with a pocket knife, somewhere in Georgia, on a passenger train bound for Florida.
- In 1902 George Johnson, while digging the new well for Caddo’s Methodist Church, went into the well too soon after a dynamite charge and was overcome by the fumes. An attempt was made to pull him up, but he let go of the rope and fell to his death.
- Margaretta Semple Allen died in 1915 of blood poisoning after picking a pimple on her face with a needle. Her husband,Dr. John R. Allen, was unable to save her.
- In 1913 Walter Badgett was sitting in a bedroom at his home with his family and some friends when a bolt of lightning came down the chimney, struck the trunk he was sitting on, and killed him instantly.
- R. T. Lynch was sitting in his barber shop in Caddo in August of 1903, playing with his dog, when an unknown assailant entered the shop from the alley and shot him with a shotgun. The killer was never found.
- Bessie Lamb, just two years old, died in the flu epidemic of 1918. Caddo lost many citizens, young and old to the disease. Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, of Pleasant Hill, and their twelve-year-old daughter Hattie, died of the flu in 1919 shortly after moving to Blackwell.
- Matt Folsom, “well known in Caddo” was hung in 1876 for horse stealing.
- In 1914 Herman Pierson, seventeen, died after attempting to jump onto the freight train north of Caddo to go play baseball at Coleman. He was severely injured, carried to Dodd’s Drug for first aid and died at home a few hours later.
- George Ahrens, Caddo shoemaker, aged 76, died in the fire of 1900 that burned the entire first block of the town.
- Five members of the Cline family died of meningitis in March of 1912. Only the mother and one child survived.
- John Gravitt was killed in 1929 when he was run over by his own car. It was being towed by another car after some mechanical problems. The other car stopped, John got out to see what was going on, and just as he got to the front of his own car the other driver proceeded forward, running over him.
- In 1938 eighteen-month-old Melvin Armour drowned in a ten-gallon water jar while his parents were picking cotton and Melvin was in the house with his older siblings.
- LeRoy Farrington died in 1901 of appendicitis. He left a wife and seven children to mourn his loss.
- It was believed that drinking either wood alcohol or chloroform killed Will Rushing in 1919. He died behind the prescription counter at the Corner Drug store. He lived about forty minutes after being discovered by a customer.
- R. F. Choate was killed by a drunk driver while crossing Buffalo Street with his brother, John in 1937.
- 1914 Pauline Amsel was killed in her bedroom in Durant. Her throat was slit and she lived only a short time afterwards. Although her father wrestled with the escaping murderer, he was never identified or apprehended.
- Dosia Council got too close to the fire pit when her brothers were branding calves in 1894. Her clothes caught fire and she was badly burned, but the family thought she would recover. She died a few hours later.
- Mr. and Mrs. Monroe Jackson of Voca were killed by a tornado in 1926.