24 October 2019

(OTL) Amanda Jane Stubbs Watts and Tuberculosis of the Spine

She was my 2nd great grandmother.

Amanda Jane "Mandy" Stubbs was born on 23 May 1856 in Christian County, Missouri. She was one of at least eleven children born to Arametta/Ametta Friend and Robert Stubbs. Mandy married James Riley Watts (1860-1952) on 4 April 1880, and they possibly had seven children:

- William Robert Watts (b. 1881)
- Harrison Watts (1883-1957)
- George T. Watts (b. abt 1885)
- Cora Etta Watts Prine (1887-1974) *my great grandmother
- Minnie May Watts Lawson (b. abt 1891)
- Leroy Watts (1892-1966)
- Nellie Watts (name provided by my grandmother, but I've found no other information about her)

Image by White River Valley Historical Society
Mandy Jane Stubbs Watts died 15 April 1911 in Marion, Ozark County, Missouri and was laid to rest at Bethel Cemetery in Taney County.

Ozark County Times (Gainesville, MO)
Friday, 5 May 1911 - pg. 5
Mrs. James Watts, nee Mandy Stubbs, was born May 23, 1856, died April 15, 1911. She married James Watts April 4, 1880; to this union were born 7 children 5 of whom are still living.

She was a kind and loving wife and mother, we miss her very much but God said "come unto me."

...We should be happy to know that she is at rest, she made an early profession and leaves a clear record behind.

She had been in bad health for some time but bore it well until the end. For four or five years she was unable to do her work but she found comfort in Jesus.

...We cannot call her back but we can go to her; so do not weep but follow on to the "glory land."

The bereaved ones have our sympathy.
This obituary combined with Jane's death certificate, which showed her cause of death as Tuberculosis of the Spine, painted a sad and suffering ending to her life. It reminded me of a book I am currently reading: The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, 1860-1865 [affiliate link]. This book not only details life in middle Georgia during the Civil War, it also details the plight of a young man suffering through what modern doctors say was tuberculosis of the spine, also known as Pott's Disease. Excerpts from the "Medical Afterword" portion of the book:
...LeRoy early on develops an open sore on his back...Plasters and salves and liniments are employed to treat the back pain and the sores, but the young patient goes on to develop abscesses, first on the left side of his back, and later on both sides...In 1863 (and perhaps earlier) they are "running freely," discharging large quantities of pus continually, suggesting the presence of a large, deep, and incompletely evacuated source of infection.

As the pain intensifies, LeRoy's back becomes so weak he cannot sit up without pain...

On May 23, 1864, he writes, "One joint of my spine, right between the abscesses is very sore and you can see the matter, as it runs from the joint to the abscess."

In early 1865, LeRoy's throat is sore and swollen. Indigestion, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, cholera-like diarrhea, and finally bloody dysentery follow...

Gresham's back ulcers, progressing to chronically draining abscesses, and the progressive pain and weakness in his spine, suggest that he suffered from Pott's Disease -- extrapulmonary tuberculosis of the spine, extending into the paraspinal or psoas muscles and causing the chronic drainage there...

[Evolution of spinal tuberculosis summarized from medical journals "in our current era:"]

The natural course of skeletal tuberculosis without chemotherapy passed through three stages spanning 3-5 years. In the "stage of onset," lasting from one month to one year, the localized disease developed into a warm tender swelling with marked localized osteoporosis and minimal destruction. In the "stage of destruction," lasting one to three years, the disease progressed until there was gross destruction of the vertebrae with deformity, subluxation, contractures, and abscess formation. The abscesses finally ruptured and drained as ulcers and sinuses developed frequent secondary pyogenic [pus] infection...

...[S]pinal tuberculosis...causes a sharp angulation, of "gibbus" deformity of the spine, with impingement on the nervous tissue of the spinal cord, leading to paralysis...
Even if my great, great grandmother "only" suffered a fraction of what this young man did, I am saddened to think of it. Imagine trying to put on a brave face for a husband and (at least) five children. This revelation about her death gives so much more meaning to "she had been in bad health for some time but bore it well until the end."

May you rest in peace, Grandma Watts.

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