Monday, January 4, 2016

To Save Lucille

Lucille Medlin Rainwater
Shared by Sue Conklin
As they helped prepare her for the trip to the sanatorium outside San Angelo, did Lucille's mother and husband fully realize just how sick Lucille really was? Did Lucille exhibit the typical tuberculosis symptoms?

Although often in the beginning stages the illness was difficult to detect, with time it progressed from what had initially been minor fatigue and an occasional cough to fits of coughing, low grade fevers, chills, loss of appetite, weight loss and coughing up mucus streaked with blood. It spread mercilessly through families and communities and was greatly feared.

Lucille Rainwater George, daughter of Alexander Forrest Rainwater and Ella Jones was born 31 July 1905 in Hamilton County, Texas. She was the eighth of their nine children and their fifth daughter.

Lucille's father, Forrest, passed away in 1912 when she was just six years old, leaving her mother, Ella, with eight children at home. Not only did Ella outlive her husband by forty-two years, but she outlived six of their children.

On the 30th of September, 1922 beautiful seventeen year old Lucille Medlin Rainwater married Thomas Jefferson George in Fort Worth, Texas. Their marriage was announced in the Society column of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on October 8th, 1922. T.J. and Lucille made their home in Fort Worth and it was there, at the age of eighteen, she gave birth to their daughter, Gloria Lucille. But joy was short lived because in the months that followed, Lucille contracted the dreaded tuberculosis.

tuberculosis, consumption, Lucille Medline Rainwater, Alexander Forrest Rainwater, Ella Jones Rainwater, San Angelo, Texas, ancestry, ancestors, family history, genealogy
From Library of Congress Prints
 and Photographs


At the time there was little known or understood about the cause of TB and they were still years away from knowing how to effectively treat it, but the one thing the medical community agreed on was that tuberculosis was very contagious, as evidenced by its rapid spread.Young mothers who contracted the disease were encouraged to let others take and care for their children to protect their children from also becoming ill.

So, as recommended, mother and daughter were separated.
Lucille moved in with her mother, Ella Rainwater in Witchita Falls, Texas and little Gloria went to live with her paternal grandparents William and Mahalia George, who were living a little over 100 miles away in Rhome, Texas.(1) The fact that Lucille was not only separated from her daughter, but needed help with her care suggests that the disease was progressing and likely no longer in its early stages. Sick and unable to be with her precious daughter, I can imagine how Lucille's heart must have ached for her baby and her husband. But rather than improving, Lucille continued to grow worse and eventually needed more help than her mother could give her.

It was a typical warm humid June day in San Angelo when Lucille Rainwater George arrived at the sanatorium that had been built to house and care for tuberculosis patients. With fresh air and sunshine being the prescribed treatment at the time, Texas was a perfect place for such sanatoriums and several were built in the state. For those fortunate enough to outlive the wait for an available bed and who could afford it, the sanatoriums provided rest, fresh dry air and simple meals. There the doctors evaluated the patient's condition and determined the level of rest needed. For some it meant complete bed rest, spending their days and nights lying flat on their backs while others were allowed a little more activity, including some time outdoors. The isolation from family and friends added yet one more difficult trial to those suffering from the awful disease.

I can't help but wonder what the doctor told Lucille when he saw her on June 10th, 1926? Did he give her hope that she might recover? Did he realize just how far the disease had already progressed? Did Lucille think she would soon return to her husband and daughter or did she sense that her time was short?

A mere nine days later and miles from home, Lucille took her last breath. She died the 19th of June 1926 at 6:30 p.m., just a month shy of her 21st birthday. Her mother Ella Rainwater served as the informant for her death certificate. Her daughter, Gloria, had celebrated her 2nd birthday just a few months prior and would never know the love of her natural mother. Lucille was among the many who fought and lost their battle to tuberculosis that year. In Texas alone, 1,367 died in 1926 from tuberculosis. (1)

Although Lucille was buried in the Aurora Cemetery in Rhome, Texas, which was some distance from where her mother, siblings and husband were living, she was buried in the cemetery along with other Georges and near where her daughter continued to live with her grandparents for a time.

I have been surprised to learn how many in my family tree died of tuberculosis and equally shocked to learn that according to the CDC, it continues to be the biggest infectious killer in the world, with over 9,000 people infected in 2014 in the US, and an estimated 9.6 million worldwide. In all, 1.5 million TB related deaths occurred worldwide in 2014. While the numbers are diminishing, they remain staggering.(2)



While much of the information for Lucille's story was obtained through standard research, this story could not have been written without the help of Sue Conklin who generously shared information about her family members, Lucille, T.J. and Gloria. Thank you Sue!

(1)  http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsushistorical/mortstatsh_1926.pdf  page 84

(2)  http://www.cdc.gov/tb/statistics/default.htm

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

Monday, December 21, 2015

Maybe This Year I Will Win

Christmas traditions, Christmas Gift, family history, genealogy, Ancestors, biscuits and gravy, sliced oranges, traditions
Me beneath our Christmas tree
It happens every year and most years I lose. Maybe this year will be different, but somehow I doubt it.

Each year seems to be about the same. We pull up to my parent's home, quickly jump out of the car and make our way up the walk. My heart is pounding and I am ready. Has my mother been watching out the window? Is she perched at the door, her hand on the knob, ready to jerk it open and beat me at the game? If it is anything like past years, she is waiting, but I always think maybe this year will be different and I will be able to yell it out first.

And then it happens, with one swift motion, my mother yanks open the door while yelling "Christmas Gift." Once again, she's won. That too seems to be tradition.

I had to smile when I did a Google search to see if I could find anything about the origins of this tradition. The point is to yell Christmas gift first and the idea is you then get a gift from the other person. My family has done it as long as I can remember and my mother told me hers did it when she was growing up. But Googling it, I discovered our family isn't alone, in fact I found a discussion about that exact tradition here:  Christmas Eve Gift  and an article about it here:  Dealing With a Peculiar Family Tradition (see article #8).  I learned we certainly aren't the only ones that have that tradition and I discovered that by far the majority had southern roots which made perfect sense since both of my parents have a set of southern grandparents. It makes me wonder about some of our other traditions.

Many traditions morph and evolve over the years as families join and times change, but thankfully many traditions are preserved and passed down, generation after generation.  Sometimes the reason for the tradition may change or is lost, but even still, those traditions can provide continuity and stability to the many generations who share it. So while my mom may seem to win "Christmas Gift" most every year, in reality, continuing and participating in that family tradition makes us all winners.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What's Under Your Christmas Tree?

It's that time of year and as I wander the toy aisles looking for that perfect gift for grandkids, I find myself feeling overwhelmed, not only by the sheer variety of toys, but also by the noise and flash of today's toys. Dolls call out to me as I pass by, furry stuffed animals bark and meow and toy trucks honk and flash their lights. Times have certainly changed, but I wonder, have kids?

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Karl Witkowski-Game of Marbles
Wikimedia Commons 
While I am not sure if kids have changed, I can't help but notice that when the grandkids come over, they choose the old board games from our shelves to play even though we actually do own a few video games. Is it possible that maybe they too see the value in some of the slower, simpler games?

When I was young we played board games such as Checkers and Life, in addition to games such as marbles, jacks, pick-up-sticks and hopscotch. Evenings with cousins often consisted of games of kick-the-can and red rover. The games we played required very little expense and could be played whether or not there was electricity or an internet connection.

The generation previous to mine also played very simple games. Among my most prized possessions are my dad's marbles from his childhood. I can almost imagine Dad and his buddies bent over a circle drawn in the smooth dirt, shooting to win.

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Dad's marble collection
I too played marbles when I was little. I remember having favorite marbles and that often there was a fair amount of marble trading that went on. While boys liked marbles that were good shooters, for me it was all about the color.

We live in a fast paced, noisy world so maybe it makes sense that the toys have become the same. Maybe simpler games were best suited for simpler times, but I can't help but notice that there were certain advantages to playing the games from the "olden days."

I don't ever remember anyone having to go to counseling to deal with a marble or hopscotch addiction. There were no concerns that playing our simple games would result in antisocial tendencies, anxiety or an inability to function in day-to-day life. Families weren't broken up because of anyone's obsession with non-stop rounds of pick-up-sticks and no one feared that we would play endless hours of hide and seek. High tech they were not, but in many ways, I wonder if some of the simple games of yesterday were better. But then again, isn't it typical of the older generation to think that the old ways were best?

While I seriously doubt Santa will get many requests for marbles or pick-up-sticks this year,  I am glad they were part of my childhood and equally glad they were part of my dad's. I keep the treasured jar of my dad's marbles sitting on a shelf in my office. There alongside some of my other genealogy treasures, they warm my heart and serve as a quiet reminder that in many ways, simple is good.


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved