The not-so good ol’ days …

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Editor’s note: This is the second of two columns detailing tragedy during the settlement of Madison County.

Lurie Andrews Tucker (1921-2002) told that her mother, Ada McCaffety Andrews, “doctored” her family with what she had. If a child had a sore throat, she’d rub the child’s outer throat with kerosene from the lamp. For a cough, she would dose the patient with three drops of kerosene in a spoon of sugar.

Once when Lurie as young, she caught measles but her body did not break out with a rash like it should have. Mrs. Andrews gave her hot corn shuck tea, with no success. Next she gave her 3 tablespoons of straight whiskey, and Lurie went to sleep. When she awoke, she was quite sick at her stomach but she was broken out with the rash.

Over 75 years ago and more, families were big but often suffered much loss.

Alfred Dee Martin (1877-1970) and wife Beatrice Childress Martin (1880-1958) married in 1897 and had 12 children, but only seven lived to become adults. George Crow (1851-1924) and wife Henrietta (1867-1949) birthed 17 children but lost four very young. Joe David Mitchell (1865-1941) an Eliza House Mitchell (1877-1954) had 10 children but lost two sons, Joe Freeman Mitchell before he turned 10 and O.T. at only 11 days. Visit older parts of our cemeteries and you’ll see evidence of more of the same.

In the first Madison County history book, one paragraph tells about life here in the years preceding 1900.

“Before 1900, mail was delivered overland from Bryan only once a month. Transportation was by horseback, buggy, or wagon; and Kurten was nearly a day’s travel if the (Navasota) river was fordable. There were no bridges so, when the river as “up”, travelers had to camp on its banks until they could cross its usually shallow bed.”

Today we gripe about traffic on Highway 21.

Leaving the county to get an advanced education wasn’t easy long ago. My aunts Hope Cannon Rhodes and Audie Cannon Westmoreland attended Sam Houston State Teachers College at the same time in the early 1920s. They always told us that they could not travel straight to Huntsville easily. Their father took them by train from Madisonville first through Navasota and then to Houston, and then they turned back north to Huntsville. From what I remember of their stories, Bedias Creek flooded so often that their route was the simplest.

Obtaining an education was even harder for others. When Burnice Gooden (1905-1953) got old enough to attend high school, there were no high schools available here for Black students, so he attended a boarding school, Galilee Academy in Huntsville, along with his brother Jack, cousin Phinias Ashley, and schoolmate Marshall Brown. Those four men were the first Blacks to continue their education from Madisonville.

In 1926 they enrolled in Prairie View A&M College. Burnice and Jack both got bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Prairie View. Burnice became a teacher, first at Poole’s Chapel to which he traveled every day horseback. Later in his career, he taught, coached basketball, and was principal at Marian Anderson High School at the time of his death. His brother, Jack Gooden, taught for a few years before becoming County Agriculture Agent here. He served in that capacity for 26 years, retiring in 1970.

Life has sure changed. Thank God I’ve never known anyone to die of measles, malaria or diphtheria. Thanks to modern medicine, not near as many young people die. Most of us find building a house now difficult to deal with, even when we don’t have to haul the materials by wagon! I commuted easily to Sam Houston State University, and I’ve never had to camp on my way to Bryan.

I am working now and am seldom at the Museum, but if you want to share stories similar to the above, you can call the Museum and leave your name and number. The curator will share that with me.

Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison St., opens to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Museum curator Jane Day Reynolds and volunteers welcome your visits. Memorials or donations may be mailed to the Museum at P.O. Box 61, Madisonville, TX 77864. The telephone number is (936) 348-5230.

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