Ever since I began my hobby of genealogy back in 1987 when I was pregnant with my daughter, I have wondered about my maternal grandpa’s mom. Why did she die so young and what was she like?
My grandma (wife of my maternal grandpa) told me that Martha Agnes passed away when she was 23 (when my grandpa was just a toddler and his older sister was a few years older), that she was Choctaw (probably about 1/2 or 1/4), and then just her name and basic dates. We had her born on June 27, 1900, and passing away on July 6, 1923, for all of these years and many others have those same dates online including “Find A Grave” citations. The stone on her grave says that she was born July 27, 1897, and she passed away on July 6, 1923. This gravestone appears to be MUCH newer than anywhere around 1923, so that explains why these dates are so off, too. The 1900 United States Census also puts Agnes at being born sometime in 1899 or 1900 because she was less than one year old when the census was taken; not being born as early as 1897.
Looking back on these dates tonight, I realize that I had just followed the family story regarding the ages of my grandpa and his sister when their mom passed away and never questioned them. Now knowing that my grandpa probably did not personally remember his mom at all due to his age at her death, make this even sadder to me.
I discovered a copy of my great-grandma’s obituary last night and am amazed at the virtual gold I have discovered with this. We not only have her correct dates, but we also can now know more about her life and her faith. This is the real gold to me. I always love knowing more about my family members and finding this obituary truly fills in many blanks.
Here is the transcription of the original obituary (seen above) in the “Fort Scott Weekly Tribune-Monitor,” page 8, on Thursday, July 12, 1923:
Martha Agnes FRARY WILLIAMS’ Obituary
AGNES FRARY-WILLIAMS DEAD
“Young Mother, Who Had Heat Prostration on Ozark Trip, Died At Seven O’Clock Last Night.”
“Unusually sad is the death of Mrs. Agnes Frary Williams, wife of Arthur J. Williams, of 121 So. Lincoln Street, who died last night at 7 p.m. at the home of her mother, Mrs. Alice Frary, 706 So. Wilson Street.
Mrs. Williams’ death was the result of heat prostration, she having been overcome while on a vacation trip to Eureka Springs, Ark., two weeks ago Sunday. Her condition became critical, while at Joplin, Mo., and her mother was called to her bedside. The patient wanted to come to the old home, where she was born. Realizing the end was near, Mrs. Williams said, “The Father has called me. I am going home.”
A few hours before she became unconscious she sang a favorite hymn, “Trust and Obey,” prayed and recited Scripture.
Beside the bereaved husband, she leaves two small children, Genevieve, 3 years old, and Carlton, 1 year old last March. Left to mourn are her aged mother, Mrs. Alice Frary, three brothers: Claude, a mail carrier of Fort Scott; Reed of Lenexa, Kans., who is here and Robert, of Chicago, Illinois; three sisters, Mrs. Edna Brannen of Prescott, Ariz,. Mrs. Cora Thornton of Wilsonville, Ore.; and Mrs. Irene Bach of St. Louis, who is expected.
Three brothers are deceased: Daniel Hays, who died in infancy; John Franklin, of Co. G. 137th infantry, killed in the Argonne in 1918; and Fred Lee, who died two years ago.
Martha Agnes Frary, was the daughter of Sherman Frary, a veteran mail carrier, and Mrs. Frary. She was born in Fort Scott, July 27th, 1899, and would have been 24 years old her next birthday. She attended the public schools, three years in high school, when she took a position with the telephone company.
She was married five years ago next fall to Arthur J. Williams. When a child she was baptized in the Grace M.E. Church, but since her marriage has been identified with the Nazarene Church. She manifested a beautiful Christian faith. A wide circle of friends who knew Mrs. Williams’ kindly influence and devotion to her family, regret her death in the prime of life.
By her request, the Rev. W.L. Morris, of La Harpe, Kans., former pastor of the Grace Church, will conduct the funeral, which will probably be held Monday morning from the home of the mother, 706 South Wilson Street. Burial will be in the family lot at Centerville. Word is being awaited from distant relatives.”
My Thoughts and Questions After Reading This Obituary
What Is Heat Prostration? And then: What Exactly Is Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke and How Do They Differ?
I first of all wanted to know what heat prostration is and more about the fatal consequences of this. Heat prostration is also known as heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Agnes’ cause of death according to her obituary was Heat Prostration.
I have personally had a somewhat substantial case of heat exhaustion back around 1998. They said it was a case of heat stroke, but reading about it now, it was definitely more of a really bad case of heat exhaustion (except I HAD stopped sweating). Thankfully it was NOT heat stroke in my case, in my opinion. That being said… it was still extremely miserable! …and I had modern medicine and air conditioning to help me.
I also had a severe fever of 105 when I was a teenager. This was from being really sick with what turned out to be a severe kidney infection and not heat exhaustion related, but I remember being totally delirious from this high fever and my mom putting me in a room temperature bath. It did not go well… but the fever DID break. This turned out to be an older treatment, but my mom didn’t know that it was no longer a recommended one, because of the consequences from doing this. That also being said… I can only imagine my great-grandma’s experience.
Heat exhaustion usually includes a fever that is no higher than 104 degrees, excessive thirst, nausea, fainting, cool/clammy skin, muscle aches, heavy sweating, weakness, slow heartbeat, rapid pulse, and dizziness. Heat stroke may develop if heat exhaustion is not treated.
Heat stroke happens at 104 degrees or higher. It can cause permanent damage to your brain and other vital organs that can result in death. At 104 degrees in body temperature, your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles can become damaged; leading to serious complications or death… even today.
Usually with heat exhaustion, a patient is sweating a lot, although with heat stroke, the patient has stopped sweating and are actually dry. This isn’t always true, but usually.
Questions About What My Grandpa Knew
- Did Grandpa even remember his mom? I do not see how, since he was less than a year and a half. His older sister, Genevieve, very likely only remembered a few things, if anything at all, since she was just 3 years old. If she did remember, did she tell my grandpa much about their mom? (Genevieve passed away less than 8 years later at the age of 11.)
- Did my great-grandpa talk much about his first wife? Maybe not. That generation, in my experience, do/did not talk about the hard times and/or upsetting situations that much. I think this could be a part of why there are conflicting dates all around about Agnes.
- Did my grandpa know that his mom passed away because of something on a vacation to the Ozarks? I’m not sure. It was never brought up in front of me by my grandma (his wife) or my mom even when we went to the Ozarks often. Grandpa was even the one who took me to the bus when I went to camp in the Ozarks. He never showed any hesitation about it or anything. If he knew the details, would our family still have gone there so much? Especially, without ever mentioning it?
What Did I Learn?
- I learned why/how Agnes died and her true birth date and date of her death.
- I learned the actual addresses of my great-grandparents as well as the address of my great-great-grandma (which also happens to be where Agnes was born).
- Agnes wanted to be with her mother in the end and to pass in the home she was born in. This shows me how much she loved her mother and her first home.
- Agnes was a lot like my great-great-Aunt Susie when she passed away. Something I will always remember. Agnes was singing, praying, and reciting scripture at the end. She obviously was a great witness and full of amazing faith! I also love how she said, “The Father has called me; I am going home.” Sad for those remaining, but SO beautiful for her.
- It truly appears that Agnes was extremely well-loved by family and neighbors alike. She also appears to be intelligent and very well-spoken.
- I learned more complete names of some of her siblings and that she had another brother I never knew about who died in infancy. I also learned where they all lived when Agnes passed away.
- I now know the military company, where, and when her brother John Franklin Frary was killed in the war. All I knew before was that he was the first one killed during the war from Fort Scott or Bourbon County (or maybe the state of Kansas?) and they named the Frary Field (a stadium in Fort Scott, Kansas) after him, because of that.
- Agnes completed three years of high school and then worked for the telephone company before she got married less than five years before her death.
I am thankful that I discovered this obituary and that I can now know a lot more about my great-grandma Martha Agnes FRARY WILLIAMS. Even if her life was not remembered very well or correctly before, it will be from now on. I will never forget what I learned about her through this and will always admire this young lady who left us WAY too soon.
Where Does Martha Agnes FRARY Fit Into Our Family Tree?
Martha Agnes FRARY was the mother of Carlton Nathanial WILLIAMS, Sr.
Carlton Nathanial Williams, Sr and Ruby Irene PORTER were the parents of Carol Elizabeth WILLIAMS, who was my mom.
Martha Agnes FRARY was my great-grandma on my maternal grandpa’s side.
Martha Agnes FRARY WILLIAMS
July 27, 1899 ~ July 11, 1923