Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Last Breathe of Lenora

I finally recieved the Death Certificate of Jenny Lenora McSwain Davis. She was born in Stanly County, North Carolina and died in Hoke County, North Carolina. She is buried in the Davis family Cemetery near Cottonville, North Carolina. 
The father of Lenora McSwain remains a mystery. She was the oldest of four daughters born to Inez C. McSwain. Inezzie, herself was an unfortunate child, born of a relationship that would have been considered a dire crime in this time and place, but accepted and swept under the carpet in the days of Reconstruction following the Civil War. Inez was born to Martha Ella McSwain, a 14 year old girl whose father, John Calloway McSwain died during the Civil War. Her mother, Betty, married the widower of her sister, another Civil War Vet, Caleb Hampton Aldridge. Hamp, Ella's uncle and stepfather,also became the father of her child. Ella would later marry Frank Smith and have a large family, in the Smith's Grove community of Stanly County, but not necessarily a happy life. Nezzie would become an unwed teen-aged mother herself, giving birth to Jennie Lenora McSwain on September 25, 1891, when she was just 17. And then to her second daughter, Verina Isabelle McSwain, less than a year later, in 1892 at age 18.
At age 19, in  1893, she married another unfortunate child, William Thomas Hooks, the son of William Mathew Hill, his mother's brother-in-law and Emmaline Hooks, sister of Matt Hill's wife Sarah Jane. Tom and Nezzie had two daughters together, Martha Irene Hooks, just 9 months after their October wedding in July of 1894 and then Lina in September of 1896. Shortly after Lina's birth, Tom's mother married W. Martin Munson, a widower, and Tom took up with his daughter Della Munson in 1898. No marriage license is found in North Carolina for Tom and Della, but the first of their many children, Adam, would be born in 1899. Tom, Della and Adam took up residence in Cabarrus County, near his mother as the twentieth century was born in 1900. Inez and her girls went back to live with her father, Hamp, while a few of her girls went to live with her mother, Ella and her husband, Frank Smith. Inez did not live long after that. Her grave has not been located, but she is listed as deceased when her daughter Verina marries young in 1907. 

Lenora married a widower, John Teeter Davis in 1912. He had one young son, Dewey. Together, they would have 6 children: Ray, Christine, Maxine, William Wooten, Esau and Jewel Lee. In their latter years, they moved to the Little River community in present day Moore County, near the town of Vass, to farm tobacco. Little River, at the time, was in Hoke County and just north of the Fort Bragg Reservation. 

Lenora died just two months after the birth of her last child, Jewel Lee. She was 37 years old. 

Mitral regurgitation is a side-effect of mitral valve prolaspe. When the mitral valve does not close tightly, it allows blood to flow backward into the heart. It is most common in women and most common in aged people. Lenora was only 37. It can be caused by trauma, rheumatic heart disease, endocarditis, dilated cardiomyopathy, or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Lenora may have suffered some trauma or disorder during her last pregnancy. The death certificate said the condition had a probable duration of 5 years. Possibly something happened before their move to Hoke County that brought it on. Maybe she contracted rheumatic fever in Stanly County before the move. This was during the years of the daming of the Yadkin. Several dams were built along the border of Stanly County, Norwood or Tillery Dam, Narrows or Badin, Falls, Tuckertown,   and High Rock all in a row. The backwash caused by the dams covered farms and old riverbank villages, and the resulting decay bred disease and bacteria. Many fevers, flus and plagues followed.
The Rocky River was suffered not to dam, but at its forks with the Yadkin/PeeDee, plagues abounded. Several Stanly county towns in previous decades had been deserted due to river carrying plagues and fevers, Tindallsville, Allentown and Rest, among them. 

Lenora's last breathe left 6 children motherless. J. T. Davis would take the infant Jewel Lee, to his half-brother Travis Crump to raise. There, he would meet a girl from Davidson County, Valedia Kinney, who was boarding with the Crumps. They married and John Davis would then die of tubercular symptoms in January of 1932. His new bride was pregnant with twins, born 4 months after their father's death. She would remarry and have another set of twins, and two other children, before loosing her second husband in 1947 and passing herself in 1949.

As of yet, the name of her father is still a mystery, possibly only unlocked with DNA.

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