Saturday, March 27, 2010

Typhoid and Kudzu

Dr. Joseph Chambers was said to be a top graduate of Emory Medical School in 1899. He was said to have two professional claims to fame. One was his work with typhoid. The other was his part in bringing the kudza vine to Georgia. Picture above is the Joseph Chambers' house and hospital at Inman in Fayette County, Georgia in early 1900's. I grew up hearing about our accomplished Chambers and Mask relatives.

My mother, Ielua Dick Baird (3-5-1885-12-7-1973) 's father, Charles Irvin Dick, died when she was a baby and while her mother was pregnant with her youngest brother. So she and her seven siblings were raised in a house on the Inman Georgia farm of their maternal grandparents, Bogan and Mary Chambers Mask. (More details are on my blog post about school in the 1890s).
My mother always told us children that we came "from good stock."

This was at a time when the word "egalitarian" was yet to be spoken. I grew up learning in school about three classes of people: (1) The Upper Class, (2) The Middle Class and (3) The Lower Class. People socialized with their own class as well as their own race. When the segment about "Classes of People" was taught in our Civics school class, one little boy said to the teacher, "We are middle class, aren’t we?” The teacher did not answer. I remember realizing the teacher thought we were not middle class but part of the lower class. After all, o
ur community, Porterdale, Georgia was a "mill town."

The Civil War had taken it's toll. While most of the workers in our town and in the South had little to no opportunity for education or learning skills, the work of many, including what my intelligent widowed mother did as a weaver in the Cord Weave Shop was far from unskilled.
The cord weave department, as the name implies wove heavy material of various widths for military tents or to reiforce tank and airplane tires.

The accomplished Chambers family included the "good stock" ancestors of which Mama was pleased to tell me about. Even though the Mask family, the Dick family and the Bairds were "good stock" also. Or so we thought?
As a matter of fact, most of our neighbors were hard working people of intelligence and high morals. Unfortunately, Southern families had kept going downhill in educational and financial opportunities after the destruction of the South called "the War between The States." Mama's Chambers great grandparents had died before she was old enough to know them but she grew up knowing and revering Uncle Daniel and Aunt Rebekah Chambers McLucus as well as Grandpa and Grandma (Bogan and Mary Chambers Mask). They were hard working farmers, managing large farms and leaders in church and community. Bogan Mask was also a Methodist preacher who did not "own" slaves but was said to have bought one slave in order to gain his freedom.

One of the stories Mama told about her childhood was on Sunday afternoons when she and her siblings would watch for any young couple riding in a horse and buggy dressed like were on their way to get married. She said many Sunday afternoons she and her sibings and other children would run to Grandpa's house and take turns peeping in the widow and excitedly watching as Bogan Mask performed weddings.
Mama told me that her Grandma Mary Chambers Mask was a small slim woman who always wore a neat little bonnet on her head and a long dress and long clean apron.

Dr. Joseph Chambers was said to be a top graduate of Emory Medical School in 1899. He was remembered by Sara Jane’s Grandmother Overstreet as a very kind man with two professional claims to fame. One was his work with typhoid. He figured out that human waste needed to be buried at least 18 inches down in order not to spread typhoid which was a big deal at the time.
His other claim to fame might not be considered a good thing by Kudzu haters. It is said Dr. Chambers was among the first to have Kudzu imported from the Orient in the 1930s after farmers had lost about a couple of feet of topsoil. Kudzu would (and does) grow fast and hold the dirt on the land. It was very necessary. Unfortunately, kudzu got out of hand with no natural enemies in this area. But in the 1890's the topsoil did not wash away with kudzu to hold it. Dr. Chambers was a doctor by profession and a farmer by interest and necessity.


Carol said...

Fascinating stories. Thanks for writing them and sharing them with us.

Ruth said...

What a fascinating story! Aunt Ruth, I wish you would write a book, a history of our family. I would love to have this to pass down to Jared and his children. What a gift it would be.

Freddie Sirmans said...

Dear Ruth: Great read, great blog, I enjoyed reading it.