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Sunday, July 10, 2011

June 1899

Annette Houston

     Lizzie's mother, Annette Willson Houston, had not been herself for months. By now she was sixty nine years old and still lived at Mount Pleasant, the ancestral seat of the Willsons in Rockbridge. Annette lived with her younger son William ("Willie") G. Houston, his wife Fannie and their infant son Francis. In October 1898 Fannie had written to Lizzie about her mother: "...she is far from strong yet...I think when Ma gets stronger and becomes interested in things again she will be better. Her nerves are very much unstrung..." Just a week before her last day on earth, Annette herself wrote in her last letter to Lizzie: "I wanted to write you on Monday but have not been very well for several days...It was 15 months since I had been to church before and when the weather gets hot will not get there much this summer."

Finley Houston's letter to Lizzie 2 June 1899

Finley Houston's letter to Lizzie 2 June 1899

     At three o'clock on the morning of June 2, Lizzie's brother Finley sat down at Willie's desk at Mount Pleasant and--using Willie's stationery--began to write the first of two letters and one telegram he would send to his sister that day. Willie had left a phone message for for Finley at "Clifton," his home in Lexington, at 8:30 the previous evening. Annette had suffered a stroke at dinner and said that "She felt very queerly...her hands and feet tingled and her mind seemed to be leaving her." Finley added: "I fear the end will come very soon, or may come at any time." Annette clung to life throughout that day and died June 3.
     Lizzie departed for Mount Pleasant right away. She left her sons, twenty one year old Houston and seventeen year old Horace, in charge of managing Sunshine farm until her return. For a few years now Houston had in effect become the man of the house and Lizzie had come to rely heavily upon him.

Obituary of Annette Houston

     Annette Houston was buried at New Providence Presbyterian Church next to her husband George. Lizzie kept the flowers from her mother's funeral for the rest of her life.

Flowers from Annette's grave

Flowers from Annette's grave

Headstone of Annette Houston

Inscription on headstone of Louise Houston

     Lizzie had resolved to stay in Rockbridge with her grieving relatives for several days and begin sorting out the details of the Houston estate. She had no idea that the death of her mother was only the beginning of her sorrows.

Houston Row with Dolly Chewning and Jennings sisters

     Just a few days after her mother's burial, Lizzie received an urgent message from Spotsylvania. She must return at once. Houston had taken sick and was now desperately ill with pneumonia.

Obituary of Houston Row

     I think that Lizzie made it back home before Houston died on June 12. At least, I hope she saw him one more time before he left this world. She wrote in the family Bible: " Died as he lived, brave and true." Houston Row was buried in the family cemetery at Greenfield.

From the Row family Bible

Headstone of Houston Row

     Lizzie's friends and relatives were stunned by the unexpected nature of this double tragedy. She received many letters of condolence which she kept carefully stored in her trunk. One of these, written by Lizzie's niece Estelle Tribble of Charlottesville, expressed the feelings of all: "I don't know when I've been so shocked as I was yesterday...My heart goes out to you in this great affliction. The Lord knows what is for our good but we can't see it now. Have patience and some day we will understand. He has been such a good boy and so faithful to his mother. May God comfort the mother's heart."

Estelle Tribble to Lizzie Row 14 June 1899

1 comment:

  1. Estelle's words "Have patience and some day we will understand" are so hard to believe, yet eventually are realized one way or another.
    I can't help but wonder at the intensity of the pneumonia and the speed at which it took both Houston and his father GWE ten years earlier. Perhaps there was some sort of extreme exposure at the time. Farmer's Lung was a common ailment of those times. Inhalation of mold spores from moldy hay, wood & saw dust, wet seed all contributed to it. What WAS on that property???