Newspapers can help bridge the gap in records and can give us a glimpse into our ancestor’s lives. In the case of Sanford Rainwater, several newspaper articles helped me to learn things I otherwise might never have known about his life, including that he went by the name of Sam. Finding trivial quotes and details about his life was fun. Finding his daughter Jessie was wonderful, but I found even more.

While I am always grateful when my ancestors actually make it into the census and are in plain site, and not hiding behind a woefully miss-spelled, miss-transcribed name, I nevertheless always ache to fill in the gaps between the census enumerator’s visits. The last two newspaper articles for Sanford help to do just that.

In the Aransas Pass Progress, dated February 1, 1940 I found the following:

Sam Rainwater Has a Stroke Wednesday 

Sam Rainwater, one of the earlier residents of Aransas Pass and familiar figure here was rushed to a Mathis hospital Wednesday after in a Cage ambulance following a stroke of paralysis. 

The old settler suffered a slight stroke Tuesday and a more severe one on Wednesday. His condition was thought to be critical according to late reports.  

This article provided what his death certificate did not. He had had a minor stroke followed by a more serious stroke and he was recognized as a long time citizen of Aransas Pass.

 And then a week later, this followed:

Aransas Pass Progress
Feb. 8, 1940

Funeral services were held Tuesday afternoon for Sam Rainwater, 74, long-time resident of this coast section and familiar to most people in Aransas Pass for many years, who died in a Mathis hospital Friday afternoon, following a stroke. 

Services were held in the Cage Funeral Home chapel. Burial followed in Prairie View Cemetery. 

He is survived by his wife and two daughters, none of whom could be reached, the funeral home officials said. Rainwater formerly worked for the Terminal Railway as a pile driver, but ill health in recent years forced his retirement. 

Aransas Pass, Sanford Rainwater, Sam Rainwater, Texas, genealogy, ancestry, Jessie Rainwater, obituary
Pile driver at work
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain 

So although Sam had tried his hand at farming, I now knew that he had also worked as a pile driver for the railway, which was an interesting occupation and not one I had seen among my ancestors before. But the words, “He is survived by his wife and two daughters, none of whom could be reached,” hit me hard. Although he had gone to Aransas Pass a single, divorced man, the townspeople were aware that he had been married, and that he had two daughters. Whether or not he saw his daughters often, he had at the very least talked about them enough that people were aware of them, but they could not be reached, and so he had been alone at the end.

Although the newspaper articles shared in my last few posts suggest that Sam had a place in the community, that his daughter Jessie had at least visited him once and stayed for an entire month, it was a newspaper article that once again put him in that very lonely spot at the end of his life. His family could not be reached, they were not there to provide information for his death certificate and they were not at his funeral to say their final goodbyes.

I was grateful to know that there was a funeral, however small or simple. To me, that suggests that there were those who did care and gives me hope that possibly the friends and neighbors whom he had lived amongst for over 40 years had in a way become his family and that perhaps as his family, they came to say farewell to their ole friend Sam.

For further reading about Sanford Rainwater, see previous posts;  Alone, but not Forgotten ,  But Wait! There’s More, and Where The Common Feel Famous

 Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

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18 thoughts on “Bridging the Gap

  1. I don't know whether to be happy or sad after reading this. I can't imagine being alone at the end so I'm glad to know he had the respect of the community enough to arrange a funeral. I wonder if there is more info available from the railroad.

  2. Seeing if there is more info for the railroad is a good idea Wendy. Each bit of info made me happy right up until then end and then when I realized how alone he was, I really felt sad. We are lucky to live in a time when there are so many ways to track people down!

  3. I agree about newspapers often bridging those gaps. I've found out about businesses owned, court appearances, appointment to various town positions, visits from and to family members and so much more. I'm glad there were towns people that were there for Sam.

  4. There is a learning curve to searching newspapers, but they are worth every effort in my opinion. I was glad to know that townspeople were there for him too, but so sad to know family was not. Poor Sam.

  5. It certainly does not sound like he was alone at the end, Michelle, he would not have received so much attention by the newspaper if no one cared.

  6. I love newspapers. It is great to be able to fill in these details even if they don't paint the happiest picture. But I agree with Dara, he must have at least had friends in the community.

  7. You are so amazing at finding neat articles about your ancestors. Next time we get together I want you to teach me how to find newspaper articles etc. I am like you and want to know their story, not just their name or that they existed.

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