Wards of Northern Escambia County
This is continuing the life of James Oscar Elijah Ward and Carrie Otis Majors Ward who lived at the northern end of Escambia County. His father was William Samuel Ward and hers was Alfred Washington Bud Majors. Contributed by Daniel Ward.
The Birth of Georgia Ruth Ward
James Oscar Elijah Ward and Carrie O. Majors Ward were expecting their second child while living in Wardville in northern Escambia County. Life was getting a little more complicated for the young couple as Carrie fought the fatigue and sickness of pregnancy, worked the farm, cared for Oscar with his occasional malaria attacks, and chased one-year old James Woodrow around the house. But most women of the day knew no other way of life and did their duty suffering side by side with their husbands. By the time of her delivery Oscar had recovered from malaria to the point that he was able to take up some of the slack making it a little easier on her. It was at this time that Oscars brother, Joseph Daniel Ward or Uncle Dan as the kids all called him, died on January 9, 1920. He had been a logger along with William but he began suffering from varicose veins, a family malady among their siblings. They eventually became infected to the point that he was crippled and unable to continue in the timber business. He became a door-to-door peddler selling soap, buttons, pins, cloth, and medicines until his death.
One day just before the birth of her child, Carrie was standing at the kitchen window over the sink as she washed the family dishes. Her mother, Georgiann Majors was standing beside her drying the dishes and talking as Carrie handed them to her. Carrie looked out over the field where the sweet potato seedlings were just starting to sprout when she saw a dust devil approaching caused by the whirling wind. Inside of that dust devil she swore she saw an image of a small casket. She was convinced it was a premonition of the future and told her mother that her baby was going to be born dead. Her mother and her Aunt Betty Ward told her to hush such talk, that the baby was going to be just fine. Both of them were just trying to bolster her spirits since most country folk believed in such signs and premonitions. Aunt Betty was at the house because it was common for mid-wives to live with the expecting family in case the baby came early. With little hard money available many of the midwives were paid in chickens, hogs, eggs, or whatever the family could afford.
The art of midwifery was handed down from mother to daughter with the eldest usually being the most likely choice for the honor. Their education occurred when the midwives gathered occasionally and discussed their various problems and possible solutions. In these meetings more than just medical knowledge was passed along and that is where many of the old superstitions concerning childbirth were gathered and exacerbated. For instance the following were some of the home remedies at the time of the coming birth of Georgia Ruth:
For the swelling of feet and ankles during pregnancy the expectant mother should rub a poultice made out of mullein leaves on her legs.
Midwives were useful in areas other than the delivery of children during childbirth. They could also be called upon to help treat their neighbors and their families if there were no doctors available. The self-taught pediatricians used and passed on many of the wives tales such as:
If the newborn infants eyes were sore the midwife would put several drops of milk form the mothers breast in their eyes to ease the pain.
And last but not least they were called upon to assist in the normal cures and treatment for the everyday complaints that effected the country folk on a daily basis. In the absence of formal training they had little to fall back on but the remedies that had been passed down through generations of mothers to their daughters. Some had merit and many were total foolishness but that was all they had. For instance such treatments as:
When any of the country folk was prone to the fits and convulsions then there was only one solution to be had. The would be patient needed to swallow a wood louse that resembled a flying ant, and it had to be swallowed head first and alive in order for the medicine to work.
In any event, whether Aunt Betty believed in these are not is irrelevant at this point in history. There is no oral or written record that any of the home remedies were ever used on Carrie as she approached her birthing date with her new daughter.
On April 8, 1920, a few days after the dust devil sighting, Carries water broke and Aunt Betty went to work. After delivering a little baby girl and cutting the umbilical cord, Betty cleaned her up and placed her in Oscars arms. But within 30 or 40 minutes the baby turned blue and died in his arms. Both of the infants grandfathers, William Samuel Ward and Alfred Washington Bud Majors stood there helplessly and cried. Georgia Ruth Ward most likely died from strangulation because no one in those days had the knowledge and means to aspirate the babys throats to remove mucous and other normal debris from the birthing process. They also lacked oxygen that would have all but guaranteed Georgia Ruths survival but on that particular day the family could only stand there helpless and hopeless and watch her die. Aunt Betty went into the bedroom and told Carrie the bad news and watched as Carrie sobbed for her little girl. In an effort to comfort her Betty sat down on the side of the bed. She was a very large and heavy woman and when she sat down her immense weight pushed the mattress down between the wooden slats causing her to fall through to the floor. It took several strong men to pull her out of the hole. It would have been a hilarious sight if it had not been for the solemnity of the occasion. Georgia Ruth was buried at the Pine Barren Cemetery near her Aunt Viola Ward and surrounded by many others from her family that had passed on before her. Her tiny tombstone stands today as a silent testimony to the toll taken by the hard life of the times. Even today there are small toys and tiny figurines left on her grave in silent memory.
A Fathers Passing
On to Walnut Hill
One of Carries prized possessions was an organ that her mother had given her when she was married. Carrie played the organ beautifully and enjoyed sitting around sometimes after supper and relaxing by playing and singing from the sheet music of the day. Up went the organ into the wagon with the rest of the pitiful furniture and off they went.
Although certainly not roomy by a long shot the camp car was all theirs and wouldnt have to be shared with another couple. Their bed went into one room and the organ, chairs, wood stove, and dining room table into the other. Oscar usually shaved outside on the porch with a pan of water, his straight razor, and his mug and brush. Most mornings his young 17-month old son would come outside to see what his daddy was up to. Every time he saw Oscar shaving he would have to pretend to shave too. Oscar would bend down and pick him up and put him on the porch railing. He would then put shaving cream from his mug on James Woodrows face and give him a dull butter knife to use as a razor. J.W., as he was called, would then scrape the lather off just like his father was doing. Little James idolized his father and in return Oscar was always a great role model for his children. When it was time to go to bed they would tell J.W. to run get into bed and they would be in there in a minute. He was so small and the bed so high that he had to call their big yellow dog to lie next to his bed. He would then use the dog as a stepping stool to get up into the bed before his parents got there. J.W. also had a habit of poking a hole in an egg and sucking the yoke out through it for breakfast. Since Oscar always kept chickens around there were always plenty of eggs for J.W. to suck. Through most of his young life he would go through about three a day in this manner.
One day while Oscar was making a haul to Molino, word went around the crossroads that an ox had been hit by a timber engine late the previous evening. The company had a turnaround located there where they could turn the engine around and go back the other way. That evening one of the timber companys oxen had wandered onto the tracks in the fading light and the engineer had failed to see him in time to stop. Although the collision was not hard enough to kill him outright, it was enough to mortally injure him. The poor creature lay there all night suffering and moaning until the early morning hours. Before everyone was up and about one of the engineers took his rifle and shot him between the eyes to put him out of his misery. Not wanting to waste the meat, word was spread around the camp to come and get some of the meat. Carrie grabbed a pan and walked down to the general store where they had him hanging from a huge oak limb out back. She got a huge piece of meat and carried it back home thinking she would have a fine steak dinner waiting for Oscar when he came home that night. After he rode up in the yard and came in and washed up she surprised him with a supper of oxen steak, sweet potatoes, and biscuits. As they sat down at the table she happened to tell him the story of the poor oxens mishap with the train and how he had suffered. When she was through Oscar got up and threw his steak into the garbage. As a tenderhearted man, he just couldnt bear the thought of an animal suffering like that and lost his appetite.
The Birth of Eula Merline Ward
The birthing went well this time with Carrie attended to by her sister Eula and Dr. Nettles. They all were on hand to deliver a fat and happy little girl on July 12, 1922. Oscar and Carrie named their new bundle of joy, Eula Merline Ward in honor of her sister.
While Eula Merline was coming into the world in 1922, the great American inventor Alexander Graham Bell was leaving it at 75-years old. That same year the great baseball player, Babe Ruth was purchased from the Boston Red Sox by the New York Yankees while the Jazz Age was born when Louie Armstrong popularized the horn solo.
But now they were stuck in a small camp car with two children rather than one. Oscar was still renting his fathers wagon and hauling stumps to Molino for the timber company so the pay was still good but the living arrangements were not. About this time Oscars brother Walter and his wife Jenny moved out of their house north of the Molino settlement and told Oscar he could have it if he wanted it.
The Molino Settlement
The new house was large in comparison to the camp cars but certainly no prize. It was located way back up in the woods with no neighbors anywhere in the immediate vicinity, which made Carrie scared to stay there alone with just the kids. The house didnt even have a back door so they put up a corn sack just to have a little privacy. It was located about where todays Highway 29 and 97 intersect at the Atmore crossroad, south of the sawmill at Pine Barren near an artesian spring they called Shinny Springs. The springs got its name because the water tasted sour like the moonshine of the day. The old springs were completely covered by the newly constructed Highway 29 in later years. But still the home was closer to Oscars work and meant he could be home sooner each night. They moved the organ in along with the other furniture and set up housekeeping the best they could.
Oscar traveled up and down the Pensacola Road, known today as Highway 29. The timber business was moving the felled trees to the east into the saw mill camps such as McDavid, Bogia, Pine Barren, and Bluff Springs. From there they were cut up and floated down the river to Pensacola where they were processed and prepared for shipping to all points of the country and the world.
The town of Bogia was small compared to some of its nearby neighbors but there was still enough industry in the area for its inhabitants. There was a veneer mill and a few stores available to supply the needs of the local citizens. Most of the families were either involved in the timber industry or farming. There was one small single room school provided for the children. A major asset to Bogia was the bridge to Santa Rosa County. The communities of McDavid, Bogia, and Chumuckla appeared to be just one big community because of the bridge. Dr. Charles C. Driver, who lived in Bogia, was not a real doctor but had taken some correspondence courses through the mail to become a chiropractor. But to the people in the country he was all they had and was called upon to treat most ailments that his patients were suffering from. One of his methods was to take the electrodes of his electric machine and rub them all over the area of complaint. Depending on what he had his dial set on it would cause a tingling of the skin. It seemed to work but whether the positive effect was physical or psychological will never be know. Dr. Drivers lapboard home built in 1857 is still standing today on the entrance road to Rays Chapel off Highway 29 on the south side of the road.
His great grandson Cary Ellis of Bogia, states that Dr. Driver was living in Pensacola at the time trying to sell some property located at Highway 90 at the Escambia River. He planned on putting a store there to make it more attractive to any prospective buyers. After the store was erected he found that he had to work in it until he could sell it so he was in Pensacola a good bit of time during the week while his wife was still in Bogia. He would make the trip back to Bogia each weekend and then return to the store during the week. But at the time of his death she had joined him and they were living on Pottery Plant Road, later renamed Fairfield Drive, across from where Carsons Pawnshop is located today.
On or about May 23, 1949 he walked over to a womans house to heat up some dinner and as he was coming back across the street, a man stepped out onto his porch with a shotgun in his hand. The man was identified as 50-year old Robert Denham but there never was any motive determined for his violent actions. But for whatever reason Denham aimed and fired his weapon from about forty feet away striking Dr. Driver full in the shoulder and stomach. The mortally wounded Driver fell instantly to the ground and was rushed to the Pensacola Hospital where he lingered for three weeks. Finally on June 12, 1949 Dr. Driver died from his injuries. His body was driven by hearse back to McDavid and buried in Rays Chapel Cemetery. His wife, Martha C., would join him in death two years later on May 5, 1951. Robert Denham was ordered to the State Hospital to receive a complete psychological evaluation. It is doubtful if he ever stood trial for the murder.