Saturday, March 11, 2023

The Brief Life of Eugene Head


Stock photo

When learning of the lives of distant relatives along the bloodline, I'm struck by how often and tragically certain individuals lost children, hence the need, then, for larger families to hope to survive at all. All manner of diseases and accidents for which they had minimal, if any treatment for, lay around every bend.

I wanted to focus breifly on one such child and one such family. Occasionally, I feel as if I am being led by someone other than myself across the veil, as if they ask to be found, to be remembered, for their lives and their existence to be acknowledged. Such is the case of Eugene Head and his family. 

Eugene was born on June 13, 1899 in Weakley County, Texas. He was the son of William Paul Head and Mary Elizabeth "Bettie" Phillips. He was a Great Grandson of Gideon Job Faulkner and wife, Nancy Sellers Faulkner, originally of Anson County, NC, who migrated to Carroll County, Tennesee in it's earliest days. 

Eugene had an older sister, Zelphia R., born in 1898, and a younger sister, Oma Mae, born in 1902

The family managed to avoid the 1900 census, the first after Eugene's birth, but they were probably in Weakley County, Tennessee, where William's mother, Rebecca Alabama Ridgeway Head, was, where William died on October 7, 1904, while working as a brakeman for the Railroad. He was only 34 years old and left Bettie with three small children, Zilphia, 6, Eugene, 5 and Oma, 1. William Paul Head was buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Weakley County, Tennessee.  Bettie would then move her children to Fulton County, Kentucky, where she had family, in the very tip-end of Kentucky, bordering the Mississippi River and Tennessee.

Tombstone of William P Head, contributed to Find-a-grave by Mrs. Fenton

The cemetery revealed that William P. Head had had a first wife "L. Z. Head", born in 1870, who had died at the age of 26 in 1896, the year before he married Bettie Phillips. 

Bettie would outlive him by quite awhile and raised her children as best she could. In 1910, the only census in which Eugene appears because the 1900 skipped them, Bettie is running a Boarding House in order to support her children. She may have also gotten a pension from the railway. 

Name:Bettie M Head
Age in 1910:40[41]
Birth Date:1870[1870]
Home in 1910:Leitchfield, Fulton, Kentucky, USA
Relation to Head of House:Head
Marital Status:Widowed
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:Tennessee
Native Tongue:English
Industry:Boarding House
Employer, Employee or Other:Wage Earner
Home Owned or Rented:Own
Home Free or Mortgaged:Free
Farm or House:House
Able to read:Yes
Able to Write:Yes
Number of Children Born:5
Number of Children Living:3
Out of Work:N
Number of Weeks Out of Work:0
Household Members (Name)AgeRelationship
Bettie M Head40Head
Zilpha R Head12Daughter
Eulie G Head10Son
Oma May Head8Daughter
Adam C Cook44Boarder
Harry B Cook16Boarder
Clarance W Cook18Boarder

The Cook family were boarders and it is revealed that Eugene's middle initial was "G". I wonder if it was for Gideon.

Eugene's short life ended on November 10, 1914 when he succombed to Tetanus. He was 15 years, 5 months and 2 days old. (It always gets me how specific they were on these old death certificates.) Eugene had been helping to support the family by working as a delivery boy for a Grocery Business. I wonder if he had acquired Tetanus from something involving his coarse of work. 

His mother was the informant, and I believe she was so distraught, that when they asked for the name of his father, she instead mixed in the name of her own father, Elbert Pinkney "Pink" Phillips and the coroner wrote "Pink Head", which is a humourous moniker, instead of William Head, whose middle intial of 'P' definately stood for Paul, not Pink. 

The location of Fulton County in realtion to Weakley County, Tennesse. 

Young Eugene G. Head was returned to his home county of Weakley, Tennesee for burial at Mount Moriah with his fathers. 

NameEugene Head
Birth Date13 Jun 1899
Death Date15 Nov 1914
CemeteryMount Moriah Cemetery
Burial or Cremation PlaceWeakley County, Tennessee, United States of America

This would be the end of the story of the Brief Life of Eugene Head, but we must continue with the story of his survivors for one small reason. 

Courtesy of Mr. Reece, the tombstone of Eugene Head

While researching the descendant of Gideon Job Faulkner, records for his mother, Bettie, were not adding up. 
Everyone had Bettie mixed up with the below lady, "Mattie", whose name was also Martha Elizabeth Phillips, and she had also been born in Tennesee and was close in age to Bettie. 

Name:Martha Elizabeth Adams
Birth Date:31 Dec 1868
Death Date:29 Jun 1902
Death Place:Comanche County, Texas, United States of America
Cemetery:Albin Cemetery
Burial or Cremation Place:Comanche County, Texas, United States of America
Has Bio?:N
Father:Elbert Pinkney Phillips
Mother:Nancy Jane Phillips
Spouse:John Quincy Adams
Children:Cora Ann PerryWalter Jefferson AdamsElbert AdamsJohn Linley AdamsJoseph Washington AdamsMary Lou ClementsCharles Frank AdamsVergie M Ayers

She's even linked to Bettie's parents on Find-A-Grave, but Mattie Phillips Adams was an entirely different person than Martha Elizabeth "Bettie" Phillips Head. Rev. John Quincy Adams of North Carolina moved around quite alot and he, himself is buried in Arkansas with his third wife, Nellie. Mattie was his second and he had a first named Fannie. His second wife, Martha Elizabeth "Mattie" Phillips, whom he married on August 17, 1886, in Tansy County, Montana, was the daughter of an Ezekial "Red" Phillips and Deonisha A. "Nishie" Stovall Phillps. I had to straighten out this misconception for future researchers. 

The Correct Martha Elizabeth Phillips had married William Paul Head on February 23, 1897, in Fulton County, Kentucky, about a year after he had lost his first wife. They returned to his home county of Weakley, Tennesee, where their three children were born. Actually, there were five, as reported by Bettie in the 1910 census, two having passed away, within their short, 7 year marriage. 

Name:Zylphe Head
Birth Year:abt 1899
Home in 1920:Memphis Ward 12, Shelby, Tennessee
Residence Date:1920
Relation to Head of House:Daughter
Marital Status:Single
Father's Birthplace:Tennessee
Mother's Name:Martha E Head
Mother's Birthplace:Tennessee
Able to Speak English:Yes
Occupation:Trained Nurse
Employment Field:Wage or Salary
Able to read:Yes
Able to Write:Yes
Household Members (Name)AgeRelationship
Martha E Head50Head
Zylphe Head21Daughter
Anna E Head17Daughter

Bettie seems to have been a tough lady and very "take charge". She ensured her children were educated, despite not having a husband and never getting remarried. By 1920, five years after loosing her son Eugene, she moved to the city of Memphis. It was easier for a woman to find work in a city than it was in a rural community or small town. There were businesses and people needing temporary accommodations. Her oldest daughter, Zilphia, was by then, at 21, a trained nurse. Oma, seen incorrectly as 'Anna' here, was still in school at 17.

Name:Miss Zilpha Head
Residence Year:1916
Residence Place:Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Publication Title:Memphis, Tennessee, City Directory, 1916

Zilpha is listed as a Nurse as early as 1916, when she would have been only 17, herself. 

In fact, in this Memphis City Directory, it tells us that Zilpha is working for the practice of Drs. Pettey and Wallace, Oma is listed without occupation, unusual as she would have been only 14, and Bettie is an employee at the Shelby Bisquit Company. They are all living at 30 East Iowa Street in Memphis. This would have been the year after Eugene's death. Bettie was obviously anxious to get away,

A Tin from Shelby Bisquit Company

Zilphia would remain as a Nurse in Memphis until at least 1925. Also a driven young woman, she would move to Denver, Colorado.

There, she would marry James L. Epley, at Pueblo, Colorado on November 21st, 1928. She would have actually been 30, not 28. James Leroy Epley was originally from Kansas. They would remain in Waveland, Bent County, Colorado for the remainder of their 15 year marriage.  Zilpha would pass away in 1943 at the young age of 45. Her husband, Leroy, would remarry, move to Oregon, and live another ten years. There were no children from either marriage.

Youngest daughter, Oma Elizabeth Head, remained in Memphis. She married James Elmore 'Emo' Mauzey in 1922. There would be one child, a daughter, Jean Elizabeth. Bettie would spend the remainder of her life living with Oma Elizabeth Mauzey in Memphis. After about 20 years of marriage, Oma would divorce Elmo. who worked as an Auto Mechanic and a plumber. He would remarry a woman named Olive, but Oma would not remarry. 

The 1950 census finds all three generations of women living together.  Bettie, 81, Oma, 47, and Jean, 16. Oma, 'Elizabeth' was working as a Mechanics Bookkeeper at a Tire Manufacturer. 
Martha Elizabeth Phillips Head passed away on November 15, 1957, at the age of 90. She was buried at Forest Hill Cemetery Midtown, Memphis, Tennessee.

Oma Elizabeth Head Mauzey died in 1994 at the age of 91 and is buried in the same cemetery. 

Bettie, we found you. Eugene, you are remembered.

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