Submitted by:

Kay Cunningham








Chapter 1


Family History


            My Ancestors came from the town of Torbert, on the left bank of the Shannon River in Ireland, and settled down in Maryland. From there they spread to Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and finally, to Texas and Oklahoma. Our name is not common, but there are a few in most of the larger cities in the United States who spell their name as we do ours.


I had a patient recently - a Mrs. Simpson from San Antonio -- who said when I told her my ancestors came from Ireland, "And well do I know it, for I once lived near the town of Torbert in Ireland." Her rich Irish brogue was something to remember. "I knew many of the Torberts and fine folks they were, to be sure. You have nothing to be ashamed of there. You should change the spelling of your name back to Torbert."


An old man came to our house when I was a child and said he knew some of the Torbetts in Tennessee. He wanted to impress upon us one fact: that there were no criminals or jailbirds in our family, and that although none of those he knew had accomplished any marvelous things, all of them were honorable citizens.


My father's grandmother was named Howard, and from that side of the family comes the recurring Howard given- name in the Torbett pedigree. Being English, they found colonial Virginia a congenial abode, and the Howards were well known in that state. Recently, a moving picture gave an interpretation of the really American achievements of the Howard branch of our clan.


My mother's people were named McCauley. Like Torbett, that name had suffered a sea-change when transplanted to America from England, where it was known as Macaulay. There are traits in my own nature that it pleases me to believe are derived from the branch of the family which, according to tradition, produced the great essayist Thomas Babington Macaulay, knighted by Queen Victoria in 1857 in recognition of his literary achievements. Baron Macaulay, besides being a master of expression, possessed a most phenomenal memory, and was deeply interested in philanthropic undertakings. I, too, possessed at one time an unusually excellent memory, and like Baron Macaulay have always had a deep sympathy and compassion for orphaned children.


The love of poetry which has enriched my life, and my facility with rhyme and meter, are heritages from my mother, whose niece, Olive Barrett of Detroit, now deceased, was well known as a writer of verse. It was my mother, too, who fostered in me a love for flowers, and as a child I always helped her with her flower garden. It was not easy in those days, without running water, to have flowers at any season, but she managed it. I often think of her flower pit. She had about seventy potted plants that she kept in this pit, which was equipped with a glass top. The cover had to be raised for sushine when we had bright days in the winter time. She watered her flower garden and tended it with loving care. Hence this little poem:




I love the little flowers

My mother used to grow-

The phlox, so bright and cheerful,

All standing in a row,

So simple and so dainty

With all their brilliant hues,

Just like a group of children

A-listening to the news!

They looked so clean and happy

A-nodding in the breeze,

A-throwing kisses at me,

So anxious they might please;

And when the day is ended

I sit and dream and think,

And get a thrill a-watching them-

Some purple, red and pink.

They take me back to childhood

And joys I used to know,

A-wearing little phlox bouquets

My Mother used to grow.


            The children of my parents, John Cornelius and Mary Elizabeth Torbett, were: Ellen, James, John Walter (myself), Oscar, Frank, Ada, and Bert.


My stature, or general make-up, is from my father, and I have the gift of gab that he possessed. He, too, would have been a doctor if the Civil War had not intervened. He was a soldier in that war and was twice wounded, once in the shoulder and again in the ankle, at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he was captured, he used to explain, because he "couldn't run fast enough to get out of the way of the Yankees !" For years Father led the music at camp-meetings and other public gatherings over much of Coryell and Bell Counties. He passed away in 1919.


I thank God for the precepts and examples of my Father and Mother, who were devoutly religious. They taught us children to love and serve God and our fellowmen; to be honest, dependable, truthful, kind, prompt; to avoid gossip, hate and selfishness. It was an heritage to be prized more highly than wealth.


"Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."




I treasure here my Family

Whose souls from earth are gone,

Held fast in sacred memory

As we still follow on.



1840 - 1919

A loyal Christian Soldier.



1846 -1929

She lives in the minds and hearts of those she loved.



1868 -1940

He sang his way to Heaven.



1875 - 1935

Kind, courteous and dependable.



1883 - 1916

He loved and served his fellowman.



1936 - 1945

Our Angel Boy.


* * * *




            My brother, James Samuel Torbett, was born March 15, 1868. When he was ten years of age he began borrowing and reading every book he could find, frequently sitting up until eleven or twelve o'clock at night. He had a splendid memory.


His education was through the ordinary public schools, but he had a spirit of adventure and went out to see the world for himself. Through the influence of our neighbor, Mrs. Gillespie, who was a music teacher, he studied music and at the age of twenty began teaching music in the country schools and churches. Our father led church and camp meeting music for thirty years, and was an example and a help to him.


The life of James was a distinctive service to humanity - teaching people who had not had an opportunity to study music. He taught them how to sing, going from one place to another, organizing schools of from fifteen to twenty-five students, at a nominal charge per student. He ended the school with a picnic and dinner on the ground, the entire neighborhood participating.


My brother did this kind of work for twenty years, carrying around with him a little folding organ. He wrote many songs and books of songs, and made connections with other musicians, especially the Stamps-Baxter Quartet, who use his music frequently over the radio. He was active in instituting the State Organization of Music in country schools. Soon after his death, May 16, 1940, 4,200 of the members from all parts of the State met in Waco. I attended the meeting, where many of his songs were sung. Sam Sellers of Waco, well known as a member of the Texas Legislature, was president of that organization and presided at the meeting, and I read a little poem I had written for his funeral.

In 1914 my brother James entered the mercantile business in Gatesville, Texas, but music was his principal interest and he frequently spent his time giving singing lessons, and composing. Some of the outstanding songs that he wrote were "Cling to Jesus," "Guiding Star," "Will My Soul Be Ready'!" and "The Glory Land Way," which was one of his most popular songs. It has been sung throughout the United States, over the radio, and on records. It was the last song he sang as he sat on the bedside before he passed on to "Glory Land." He literally sang his way into Heaven.


This is the poem I wrote for him:


His name is known both far and wide

By those who love to sing,

Whose voices he was glad to guide,

God's music to them bring.


He put his soul into his songs,

As food for hungry hearts;

A means to help us right life's wrongs

And better do our parts.

The latest song he sang on earth,

Before he went away,

Was "Glory Land," thro' Christ's new birth

That brings a bright new day.

He did life's work in his own way,

With songs of love and praise,

And waits with us the Judgment Day,

When Christ His own shall raise.


            James S. Torbett married Miss Eugenia Wicker, a devoted, loyal wife for many years. They had four children: Gene, a friendly popular fellow, who as a trombonist led a fine band during World War No.1 (Gene has a beautiful wife, and a daughter who is a splendid violinist) ; Edwin, deceased, and twin daughters, Anice and Annez.


* * *




             My brother Dr. Oscar Torbett was born January 17,1876, in the old log house which was built a short time before we moved to the new farm which my father had bought. When he grew up, Dr. Oscar was rather small, weighing about 145 pounds, and resembled our mother's people. He was very quiet and modest, never pushing himself forward.


Oscar was always dependable, honest and friendly, and made good grades in school, but he was a home boy. He liked to sit around and watch the chickens and the barn- yard animals. He enjoyed hunting, and with an old shotgun which was longer than he was himself, he would kill rabbits and other small game. Sometimes he would have Mother worried because he came in late. He needed always to be appreciated and encouraged, and he seemed somewhat late in reaching maturity.


In September, 1891, he entered Centenary College, and later received his certificate and taught school at several places. After I came to Marlin and established the Bethesda Bath House and Infirmary, Oscar also came to Marlin, arriving here in 1902, and for a time was employed in the Martin Drug Store. He bought an interest in it later on; then went to Atlanta, Georgia, where he spent two years studying pharmacy. After graduating in pharmacy, he came back to Marlin and ran the drugstore, but his ambition was to become a doctor. So he went back to Atlanta and completed his course in medicine, graduating with honors in 1908. During his last year he taught college pharmacy.


Dr. Oscar Torbett returned to Marlin. He became a member of our staff. Later he trained as an Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist, doing many operations. He was especially successful in testing eyes for wearing glasses. He was always careful and painstaking in his work, kind to his patients, and very strict in his habits. Finally he took post graduate work in New York and in New Orleans.


Many patients returning here for treatments still speak with appreciation of the services he gave them years ago when they came to Marlin. His heart was always in his work, and he was absolutely dependable. He was a part of the institution, and of my own life, for the twenty-seven years that he served on our staff as a physician.


Oscar always liked to go back to the old home, and he did so one hot Sunday afternoon, September 3, 1935. He had a slight irritation in the form of Athlete's Foot, and when he returned home the irritation spread and became an active infection. He developed a fever the next night and went to his home. I went out there to see him, and found he already had touched up the place with nitrate of silver and thought he would be all right.


Next morning, he still had fever, and I sent Miss Sontag, our laboratory technician, to get a blood count. When she returned, she found with horror that his blood had only 900 leucocytes and no granulocytes whatever. Otherwise the blood was perfectly normal. The technician recognized the seriousness of his case, and we brought him to the hospital. Just before he came, however, he had a chill, and his temperature ran up to nearly 105.


For several months my brother had been taking Amidopyrine tablets for a dull aching in his muscles-probably a dozen tablets a week. He never thought, of course, of the danger involved. He lived until September 13th, and then passed away in spite of all treatments, transfusions, and other emergency measures.


Dr. Roy R. Kracke of Atlanta, Georgia, where we both graduated, said that he had known of cases where the use of Amidopyrine had caused Agranulocytosis. In the old country-I think it was in Sweden-because of the frequent cases of Agranulocytosis caused by Amidopyrine, a law was passed against the sale of this dangerous drug without a physician's prescription.


My brother Oscar was married to Miss Emma Schneider of Giddings, a very practical and sensible young lady who was a great help and inspiration to him. They had two children: Oscar Lee, an aviator in the service, who is now married and has a fine boy, and Joy Audine, a lovely daughter who is married and has a beautiful girl baby.



* * *




            My youngest brother was born on the 31st of August, 1883. He grew up to be the largest one in the family, and with the spirit of adventure in his soul. As soon as he could, he joined the Navy and traveled around the world for four years, visiting many foreign countries-a great education for him. Finally, in 1905, he returned home, married Miss Allie Griffin at Rogers, Texas, and came to Marlin to be with me in the Spring of 1906.


I trained him as a technician and helper in the treatment of Chronic cases with the various types of electricity and physical therapy. Bert was very efficient in his work, and popular with the patients. He remained with llle until 1912, when he decided to become a doctor. He went to Medical College, taking a four-year course, and graduated with honors from Vanderbilt in June, 1916. He was president of the Duncan Eye Surgical class, and president of the Masonic Club. Maintaining a general average of 92 in his classes, he was always on the honor roll.


            With such a fine background, he had secured an intern- ship in the City Hospital of St. Louis. The day that he was graduated, he had a temperature of 101, which was diagnosed as typhoid fever. He went to the hospital in Nashville, where he remained for five weeks and finally passed away July 13, 1916.


My brother Bert had been vaccinated against typhoid fever twenty months before, and the doctors thought he was immune, for at least two years, so he had not been advised to be vaccinated again, though his wife and little girl underwent vaccination and as a result successfully resisted the disease. His case proved that vaccination immunity may not last as long as twenty months. If he had been re-vaccinated, he might not have died! A small thing meant so much!


Osler's "Modern Medicine" recounts a terrible epidemic of typhoid in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, in 1885, with 1,200 cases, many of them fatal. These resulted from lack of sanitation and a polluted water supply. Typhoid comes in the wake of criminal carelessness, but in these modern times may almost certainly be prevented by vaccination.


In his untimely death, Bert paid the penalty that proved the necessity of re-vaccination always when there is any typhoid in the community.


My brother's only daughter, beautiful Bertie Mae, is now Mrs. Dennis Sullivan of Denver, Colorado. His loyal widow, Mrs. Allie Torbett, still calls Marlin her home.





       "Pause for meditation"; "Pause for associated memories"; "Pause for reflection," and as the late Professor Frederic Tilney said, "Only five per cent of the people really think and another five per cent think they think, and the remainder follow any sort of propaganda." If this book fails to make you think, it has missed its greatest mission, for the world needs straight thinking today.