Confirming a Family Story: the 1929 Death of Merle Winford Campbell

Sometimes genealogists have trouble finding evidence that proves a family tale. Even if the tale began as a truthful one, snippets here and there eventually get altered, embellished, or even omitted as the story is passed from person to person, and generation to generation. Thus changing how the tale is received or perceived.

And sometimes, we keepers of the family history get lucky.

— Morley Cemetery at Scott County, Missouri*

Merle Winford Campbell was born 1 September 1927 in Vanduser, Scott County, Missouri to my great-grandparents Norma Ethel Robins (1906-2000) and Chester Wesley Campbell (1906-1994). He was their first-born child, coming almost eleven months after their marriage. Though Merle died before she was born, he was a brother of my grandmother, Betty Sue Campbell Lincecum (1934-2014).

Family lore stated simply that Merle died of an ear infection. Fortunately, I was able to find a death certificate to support this claim.

Mearl’s death certificate provides the cause of death as Mastoiditis. Medical News Today defines the condition this way:

Mastoiditis is a serious infection in the mastoid process, which is the hard, prominent bone just behind and under the ear. Ear infections that people fail to treat cause most cases of mastoiditis. The condition is rare but can become life-threatening without treatment.

Symptoms of mastoiditis include swelling behind the ear, pus coming out of the ear, throbbing pain, and difficulty hearing.

Ear infections that do not receive treatment, as well as antibiotic-resistant ear infections, sometimes spread. When this happens, the bacteria travel to surrounding structures, including bones such as the mastoid process.

Without antibiotic treatment, the bacteria can continue spreading to the bones of the skull. They may also travel to the blood and organs, including the brain.

Middle ear infections, which doctors call acute otitis media, and mastoiditis are most common in children younger than 2 years of age.

Norma’s and Chester’s second child Lynuel (d. 2008) was born one month after the death of Merle.

Visit Merle Winford Campbell’s page in the Lincecum Lineage database.

*Image by Graver Gal via FindAGrave memorial #29636238. Permission for use granted in bio.

Ruth Elizabeth Lincecum: Thrice Married, Thrice Widowed

She begged him to stop flying, but he only laughed at her fears.

Ruth Elizabeth Lincecum was born 28 August 1903 at Morales, Jackson County, Texas. She was one of three children born to Dr. Addison Lysander Lincecum (1874-1965) and Letha Gandy (1873-1959). At the age of nineteen, Ruth married her first husband. He was Albert Ray Hilton, son of Wade H. Hilton, Jr. (1879-1959) and Lillie Bell Johnson (1880-1970). Ruth and Albert were married 23 December 1922 at Harris County, Texas.

Sharp-Hughes Tool Company – Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library, Public Domain

Albert was firstly a chemist and metallurgist, at one time connected with the Hughes Tool Company (est. 1908 as Sharp-Hughes Tool Company). By the end of 1930, he and Ruth had three children: Dorothy Ray (d. 2001), Addison Hampton (d. 2004), and Albert Jr. (d. 2018).

In the summer of 1950, Ruth’s first marriage came to a fiery end when Albert died in a plane crash.

Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, Texas) – 11 August 1950

Another news article published the same day in the Gladewater Daily Mirror (Texas) said Mrs. Hilton “had been begging him to stop flying, but that he only laughed at her fears.”

But her fears seem to have been well-founded. A few years prior, Albert was piloting a plane and had to make a crash landing after his aircraft had engine trouble. “Burned in aeroplane accident” was Albert’s official cause of death.

Three years and five months after Albert’s death, Ruth married again. On 15 January 1954, she wed Travis Audley Crosby. He was born 16 March 1901 at Ennis, Ellis County, Texas, a son of Audley C. Crosby and Etta Brown.

Less than six weeks before their 11th wedding anniversary, the character of death dealt Ruth a double blow. On 6 December 1965, she lost both her father Addison and second husband Travis. The following sentence was found in an obituary for her father published in the 7 December 1965 Dallas Morning News (Texas):

Moments after his daughter, Mrs. Ruth Crosby, a want ads employee for the Houston Post, learned of [her father’s] death at his isolated ranch near El Campo, her husband, certified public accountant T. A. Crosby, 64, suffered a fatal heart attack.

Enhanced image. Original by Sue (2014) via FindAGrave. Permission for use granted in bio.

Finally, Ruth was married to Archie Robert “Bob” Trussell. He, a salesman for General Electric Co., was born 25 September 1900 to Andrew Jackson Trussell and Catherine Joel.

I don’t know how long Bob and Ruth were married, but I do know she was widowed again when he died on 24 April 1979. Cardiac arrest was the cause of his death.

Ruth E. Trussell died 16 May 1982 at Houston, Harris County, Texas. Her obituary noted she was “past president of A&M’s University Mother’s Club,” and also “a member of the Jefferson Davis Daughters of Confederacy.” She was laid to rest next to her third husband in Pleasant Grove Cemetery #1 at Decatur, Wise County, Texas.

Visit Ruth Elizabeth Lincecum’s page in the Lincecum Lineage database.

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