|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.
|From Library of Congress Prints
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
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved
11 thoughts on “To Save Lucille”
Lucille was a beautiful woman. What a sad story. I really appreciate the research you did on what tuberculosis was like and what life in a sanitarium was like. Like you, I have found "consumption" listed as the cause of death for quite a few of my ancestors.
What a precious remembrance of Lucille in that photo–and what a tragedy to think she hadn't yet made it to twenty one when she died.
I'm surprised to think there were so many succumbing to consumption in the South. It wasn't so much a surprise to see those in my family lines living in cities like Chicago encountering the disease–crowded living conditions in poverty-prone locations. But Texas?
And yes, TB is still out there. My mother-in-law, while working as an assistant manager at an apartment complex near my home, contracted the disease in the 1980s. The requirement at so many workplaces to have their employees (and students) screened for TB is not an antiquated regulation.
It does seem a little surprising Jacqi that Texas would have such high numbers. I would suspect it certainly spread faster in those densely populated states for sure though.
Texas still has high numbers. A quick check of the TB stats for the US in 2014 shows that every single state had TB cases and the south is still well represented with Texas coming in at #2, second to California and they were followed by New York, then Florida and Georgia.The two lowest states were Wyoming and Vermont.
I was totally shocked to learn there are still so many TB cases. I hope that you mother-in-law was able to get treatment and recovered from the disease.
There are several old diaries online kept by TB patients and they were absolutely heartbreaking. It was a brutal awful disease and I hope that Lucille was spared most of those things, although it didn't seem to spare anyone once the disease really progressed. Since I wrote this post about Lucille I have seen 2 current news stories about someone with TB. Apparently there is still more to be learned about the disease.
This is a tender, sad story about a beautiful young woman! Thank you for sharing your research and writing talents with the rest of us. You are an inspiration in so many ways!
It is such a sad story. I was so grateful when a descendant shared Lucille's picture as it made her all the more "real." She was so beautiful. Thank you so much Myrna.
A terribly sad story. The poor little girl grew up without her mother.
What a wonderfully well-written story, albeit quite sad. Thank you for sharing it. I wanted to let you know that I have included it in my NoteWorthy Reads post: http://jahcmft.blogspot.com/2016/01/noteworthy-reads-25.html.
Thank you very much!
I agree…so sad.
Thank you so much Myrna!