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 Oscar’s 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.

To stop excessive bleeding following childbirth give the expectant mother a teaspoon of “writing paper tea” every hour until the bleeding diminishes. The tea is made from bits of writing paper, preferably linen, placed in a pot on the back of the stove and pour warm water over them and let them steep.

To ensure an easy delivery the midwife should place the expectant mother’s “old man’s hat in her bed.” If that doesn’t work then put “bluing” under her arms and if all else fails give her plenty of “Mason’s Nest Tea,” made from steeping a dirt daubers nest in warm water.

Another way was to assist the fatigued mother or “tuckered out with the misery” as they used to call it, by giving her as much quinine as you could “set on a knife blade.” If that didn’t work then you could give the patient some “gun powder tea” although some swore by the use of black powder and some by the white but all swore it was powerful strong medicine.

Some women that were trapped back in the woods of northern Escambia County still felt that the best position to deliver their baby was in “their old man’s lap,” which is ironic because that may have been the position that got them in the motherly way to begin with.

For excessive nausea the midwife may secure a black chicken without a single light colored feather and steep the carcass on the back of the stove, undrawn and unplucked.

If the young mother decides she doesn’t want any more children after going through her original ordeal then the midwife had one particular remedy she might wish to try. The midwife would take the first three drops of blood after cutting the umbilical cord and mix it with a “pinch” of sugar and give it to the mother in a teaspoon. Then she would dress the umbilical cord after it was cut with a mixture of axle grease, soot, and cobwebs.

To cure the mother’s “after pains” the midwife would put a plowshare blade, a knife, or a pair of scissors under the woman’s bed in order to “cut the pain.”

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 infant’s eyes were sore the midwife would put several drops of milk form the mother’s breast in their eyes to ease the pain.

To cure a baby’s thrash a mother could rub the baby’s gums with a rag that had previously been rubbed in a dog’s mouth.

When the baby started teething the midwife or young mother could coat their gums with the brains of a rabbit killed in the “dark of the moon” to ease their pain and distress.

If the child appeared to have “bow legs” then the young parents would “pick out two twin saplings,” have one man on each one pulling in the opposite direction while the mother passed the child backward and forward through the gap three times.

A baby’s rash could be cured easily, or so they thought, by taking a piece of rotten wood and pulverizing it and then sprinkling it over their baby’s bottoms.

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.

For spells of fever the patient could be given “shirt tea” at regular intervals. To make this particular type of tea you needed the shirt that has been “well sweated" in from being worn by a man who had done hard labor such as plowing, chopping wood, etc. With a pair of scissors you cut out a large arm portion and steeped it in hot water and served to the patient.

Another strange remedy was used for earaches by frying a slightly bruised roach and then collecting several drops of the resulting warm fluid or grease into the ear. Then insert a small piece of cloth into the ear to keep the fluid in.

For goiters many former patients swore that theirs was removed by an old wives tale used in the back woods. First of all you had to know someone that was going to die soon and needed to know them really well. As soon as they died and were still limber you took their right hand and drew it over the goiter three times as you called out the person’s first name three times. You then went home and got three toads and took the first one and blew in its mouth three times. The second and third toads received the same treatment. In the morning the goiter would be gone.

To keep a child from contracting a communicable disease was an easier matter. For that you tied a mole’s foot in a white rag with a pill of asoefetids and suspended it around the child’s neck.

If impetigo was the problem then a mother would let her children lay down in the hog’s pen, which would then heal them of any of the sores.

One midwife put cobwebs on any fresh wounds of her patients in order to control the bleeding and forced them to eat raw Irish potatoes to eradicate stomach worms. Many felt that this old wives tale had some merit because the Irish potato was suppose to be related to the deadly nightshade plant and was poisonous to eat raw.

The backwoods people believed that the hair from colored people had some magical properties and they would place a piece into their children’s ear to cure an earache. Some of the old colored folks themselves believed that sticking straw in their children’s hair would cure them of hiccups.

Another remedy was to tie a frog to their newborn baby’s toes to make hives go away.

To prevent a puncture wound from becoming infected you placed a copper penny over the wound and then bound it with a piece of white bacon to draw the poison out.

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, Carrie’s 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 Oscar’s arms. But within 30 or 40 minutes the baby turned blue and died in his arms. Both of the infant’s 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 baby’s throats to remove mucous and other normal debris from the birthing process. They also lacked oxygen that would have all but guaranteed Georgia Ruth’s 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 Father’s Passing

Just a few weeks after the death of her child, Carrie would have to endure another shock in her life. Shortly after the funeral for Georgia Ruth, her father Alfred Washington Majors had a stroke while working on his farm northwest of Atmore. A second one followed several days later. Her mother was unable to care for him properly by herself so they moved him to his daughter Ola’s house in Brent on the outskirts of Pensacola. There he suffered several more strokes with each one bringing him closer to death. The weather was unseasonably hot and the inside of the house became unbearable for they dying man. So Ola and her husband erected a tent in the yard behind the house and moved his bed into it in an attempt to give him some relief from the heat. There on May 9, 1920 Alfred “Bud” Majors had the final stroke that killed him one month and one day since he had wept helplessly over the small lifeless body of his granddaughter Georgia Ruth Ward. He was buried at Ray’s Chapel in Bogia.

On to Walnut Hill

Since James Oscar Ward was still hauling fat lighter stumps to Molino for a living, he and his wife Carrie decided to move closer to his work. He was still doing some timbering on the side for one of the companies out of Walnut Hill and the company offered them a camp car just east of the crossroads. The domicile was located right next door to where Oscar’s second cousin Horace Ward was living at #7480 Highway 97 and is still there today. They borrowed his father’s wagon and loaded up their stuff and headed back for Walnut Hill.

One of Carrie’s 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 wouldn’t 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 Woodrow’s 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 company’s 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 oxen’s 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 couldn’t bear the thought of an animal suffering like that and lost his appetite.

The Birth of Eula Merline Ward

Carrie became pregnant with her third child either just before or just after they moved to Walnut Hill. When the time came for the baby to be born her mother was unable to assist her. With her father’s death in 1920 her mother at the age of 63-years old had moved in with her daughter Ola in Pensacola and there was certainly no room for her in the cramped camp car. Given the circumstances Carrie went over to her sister’s and stayed with her until after the baby was born. Carrie’s sister Eula and her husband Joseph Rhodes were living in a railroad company house in Walnut Hill just south on Highway 99-A near the railroad tracks of the present day Burlington Northern Railroad. The approximate location today is on the northwest corner of Arthur Brown and Juniper Road just south of Walnut Hill on Highway 99A. They had a small wooden clapboard house around the curve from the home of Ida Ward and her husband Wiley Grady Milstead, who was Carrie’s sister-in-law. Aunt Ida lived right next to the tracks on the east side and Aunt Eula lived just a short distance on the west side about a of a mile. Grady ran a store from the first floor while he and Ida and their children lived on the second.

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 father’s 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 Oscar’s 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 young Ward family decided to take them up on their offer so Oscar took his father’s horses and wagon and loaded it up with the furniture for the trip to the south. They decided to make two trips, one with the wagon loaded with all of their furniture and bedding and the second with the heavy organ together with Carrie and the two children. Unfortunately for the family the recent rains had turned the old dirt roads into ribbons of slippery, slimy mud. They left the kids with their Aunt Eula, and Oscar and Carrie pulled out of Walnut Hill down what would later become Pine Barren Road. Shortly they came to a downhill section on the old road and the horses began to pull the wagon too fast going downhill. The wagon began to build up too much momentum and the friction hand brake was useless in the slick mud. Oscar eventually lost control of the whole rig as it slid from side to side and the more he applied the hand brake the worse it got. Finally as the wagon slid sideways it passed the horses and overturned spilling all of their furniture and mattresses onto the muddy road and pinning Oscar underneath. Luckily there were no serious injuries although the tongue of the wagon was broken and when the harness separated from the tongue the horses ran off into the woods. The tongue had to be rebuilt and the horses found and gathered up before they could load everything back up and resume their journey. Carrie had been able to jump off before it overturned, so escaped injury. After reloading they returned to the camp car for the organ and the children and made the second trip without mishap.

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 didn’t even have a back door so they put up a corn sack just to have a little privacy. It was located about where today’s 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 Oscar’s 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. Driver’s lapboard home built in 1857 is still standing today on the entrance road to Ray’s 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 Carson’s Pawnshop is located today.

On or about May 23, 1949 he walked over to a woman’s 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 Ray’s 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.