Friday, February 11, 2011

Tragedy In Early Oklahoma

Column sent to Frederick Leader and Frederick Press
May 4, 2010

Tragedy was Common in Early Oklahoma

Life in Oklahoma Territory prior to statehood was difficult and was often marked by tragedy. Every issue of early Frederick newspapers contained news of area deaths, and time after time the death notices were for children or persons in the prime of life, struck down by accidents or deadly disease.
This column has referred in the past to a fascinating compilation of early news briefs abstracted by Linda Norman Garrison from 1902-1911 Frederick newspapers and published by the Southwest Oklahoma Genealogical Society (see ordering information below).
The following tragic news briefs are just a sampling of the many instances of sad news from The Frederick Enterprise (later The Frederick Press), and show the stark heartbreaking impact of disease and tragedy in those early days.
Be forewarned. Even from the perspective of 2010, more than a century later, it is easy to feel the great sadness and loss from these accounts.
NOTE: Highland cemetery, often referenced in these accounts, was the original name for the Frederick Memorial Cemetery.

May 17, 1906: Just as the storm Monday evening was raging, George, the little two-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. M.E. Bryant, died. For two months he had been struggling with whooping cough and pneumonia and later with dysentery. The little body was embalmed and shipped to Bosworth, Carroll County, Mo., yesterday where it will be buried in the family burial ground. The remains were accompanied by H. Bryant, Mr. Bryant’s father who arrived Sunday.
May 17, 1906: The two-year-old son of Mrs. J.E. Courtney, residing west of town, died Saturday evening of meningitis and was buried the next day in Highland cemetery. Mrs. Courtney’s loss has been tripled during the past few weeks, as two weeks ago Monday she lost her husband, who was killed by lightning. A few days before this a stepson of hers was run over by a train.
July 19, 1906: The home of Rev. W.S. Peters was overshadowed by sorrow Wednesday of this week due to the arrival of a telegram announcing the death of their son, Charles F. He was twenty-two years of age, had graduated from the Monticello, Ind., high school in 1904, and at the time of his death was in the employ of the Great Northern railroad as assistant civil engineer in the construction of a new road from Kennewick, Washington to Portland, Oregon. He had a sudden attack of appendicitis and was taken to the hospital for an operation from which he never recovered. His parents and two brothers, who moved here last March from Indiana, knew nothing of his illness until they received the dispatch notifying them of his death and burial.
Aug. 16, 1906: After a lingering illness, M.T. Blackwood, aged 30, residing seven miles south, died of consumption on Monday, Aug. 6. The funeral was held the following day under the auspices of the M.W.A. lodge, of which he was a member. The remains were interred in the Davidson cemetery.
Aug. 23, 1906: Mrs. J.W. Lair, residing eleven miles southwest, died of consumption about midnight Sunday after an illness of about six months. She leaves a husband and two children, Myrtle, aged sixteen, and Edgar, aged twelve. Mr. Lair and the children accompanied the remains Tuesday morning to their home at Elk City, Kan., for interment.
Sept. 13, 1906: A young German farmer named Riley, living three miles west of Davidson, committed suicide Monday afternoon by hanging himself. No cause is known for the act save that he was feeling bad, vomiting a short while before, when he remarked that he had as soon be dead as alive. Being missed, his parents went in search of him, finding him at the barn hanging by the neck dead.
Sept. 20, 1906: Mrs. Jas. Turner, residing eleven miles southwest of town, died at 11:30 last Saturday night of Black Jaundice and was buried Sunday. She leaves a husband and several children.
Sept. 20, 1906: Mrs. Charlie Billingslea’s mother died last Saturday night of yellow jaundice.
Sept. 27, 1906: Miss Gertie Matthews, the nineteen-year-old daughter of Mrs. Annie Matthews, died at the home of her mother in Frederick on Sunday, September 23, after a siege of fever and stomach trouble. The funeral services were conducted at the residence Monday afternoon, after which the remains were interred in Highland Cemetery.
Oct. 4, 1906: Hurthel Lee Smith, the third child of Mr. and Mrs. W.K. Smith, took sick about 10 o’clock Friday morning with croup, and in spite of all the physicians could do, died about sundown Saturday, September 29th. The funeral occurred Sunday, after which the remains were interred in the Frederick cemetery.
Oct. 11, 1906: Two deaths visited the family of M.L. Emenhiser, residing southeast of here, the past few days. The three-year-old child died Thursday of last week and two days later the nineteen-year-old boy died. Throat trouble was the case of both deaths. The two children were buried in the Kidwell cemetery.
Nov. 1, 1906: Edward, the three year old son of Mr. and Mrs. P.S. Tyler, residing sixteen miles northeast, died yesterday of scarletina. The funeral occurs today, and burial will be at Schofield cemetery.
Nov. 8, 1906: Mrs. Julia N. May, wife of J.H. May and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Hargrove, died at the home of her parents Tuesday morning. The deceased was 25 years old and had been ill for some time of tuberculosis. Besides her husband, she leaves two sons. The funeral was held yesterday with interment in the Highland cemetery. NOTE: Mr. and Mrs. J.H. May had lost an infant child in early October.
Nov. 29, 1906: Wilbur, the twenty year old son of S.L. and J.M. Ripley, died at the family home in the south part of town at 2:10 p.m. Monday, Nov. 29, after a three weeks sickness with typhoid fever. The funeral was held the next day at the Frederick cemetery. His fourteen-year-old sister, Susie, who has also been ill with typhoid fever, is reported as improving.

NOTE: The book Tillman County Personals: Abstracts from Frederick, OK Newspapers May 1902-June 1911 can be ordered from the SWOGS, P.O. Box 148, Lawton, OK 73502. Cost is $25 plus $3 postage.
A copy of the book is also part of the Frederick Carnegie Library’s permanent on-site research collection.
The book contains many references to births and deaths in Tillman County during the years of 1902 to 1911, as well as brief items of school news, visitors, travels, etc. The book does include an index of names for easy reference.

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