September 16, 2021

GOING WEST AND GOING HOME

The dapper young man in this photograph is Tom Ensminger, a younger brother of my maternal grandmother Evalee Ensminger Cate.  According to the U.S. Census of 1900, he (age 20) was still living at home with his parents Charles and Sarah, a 17-year-old brother Tim and a 12-year-old sister May.  Sometime shortly after that, he left home and like so many young men in Tennessee, moved west to Texas. 

I don’t know exactly where he lived there or what job he found.  But in March of 1903 he got word that his father was ill and fearing the worst, he wanted to come back to Tennessee to see him. His older sister Julia wrote to him begging him not to come, as typhoid fever was rampant in their community.  I assume that was what was wrong with their father, too.

Tom was determined to see his father alive again and made the trip home against his sister’s advice. While there, he indeed fell ill with typhoid fever.  The devoted young son died on March 23 at the age of 24.  His father survived and lived on another 13 years. Tom’s family mourned as they buried him in the McMahan Calvary cemetery.  If only he had listened to his sister Julia’s advice, they thought.

My great-grandfather Charles had some interesting customs!  Mother remembered that he always wanted to set a record every Easter weekend by eating a hardboiled egg for each year he’d lived—60 when he was 60 and so on.  No one else in the family could come close to his record!  On Easter weekend in 1916, he was 71.  That Saturday, April 22, the story was that he went to the barbershop for a haircut, and came home to eat all those hardboiled eggs.  And that’s when he died!  The death certificate simply said “sudden death, chronic heart trouble.” One family tradition that was wisely discontinued. 

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