Ray City Child Dies From Bite Of Rattle Snake, 1925

The September 4, 1925 Nashville Herald reported the tragic death of Merle Elizabeth Langford.

Child Dies From Bite Of Rattle Snake

     Little Muriel Langford, the 5-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Luther Langford, who resides about a mile from Ray City on the Milltown-Ray City road died Tuesday morning from what was thought to be the bite of a rattle snake.

     The child was playing in a potato patch, near the house, while her mother was working nearby, when she cried out and ran to her mother. The mother thinking the child had fallen down and hurt herself took her into her arms to console it when she noticed that blood was oozing from her leg just above the ankle. Thinking that possibly the child had been bitten by a snake or some reptile the mother started for the house but before reaching the house the child had become limp.  The father, who was at the home of a brother nearby was notified and an effort to secure a physician in Ray City failing, Dr. Smith of Milltown was summoned and arrived within a short time after the child was bitten. Dr. Sloan of Stockton was passing and was also called in and both these physicians rendered all the aid that medical skill could give, but the child died within half an hour after their arrival. 

     The funeral services were held at Beaver Dam church and the internment took place in the church grave yard Wednesday, Rev A. W. Smith of Ray City and Hahira conducting the rites.

Merle Elizabeth Langford, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

Merle Elizabeth Langford, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA.

Rattlesnakes have always been a part of Wiregrass Georgia.  The New Georgia Encyclopedia entry on Georgia folklore observes, “In its unburnt state, wiregrass became an integral part of the terrain and served as cover for wildlife, a place where quail might nest or predators like rattlesnakes might lurk.”    As early as 1763, European text were referring to the venomous rattlesnakes of Georgia.  A Universal History, published that year in London over-optimistically reported, “Their woods abound with … snakes-; but none of them, except the rattle-snake, are venomous and, as in Louisiana, the natives have a ready and infallible cure for its bite.”  By 1804, treatments for rattlesnake bites were discussed in Georgia newspapers. In the Southern Botanical Journal of  August 4, 1838  Thomas Fuller Hazzard of St. Simons Island discussed additional treatments for venomous reptile bites and cases where the victims survived. But  he also noted, “many persons die annually from the bites of poisonous reptiles in Georgia and Carolina.”

The New Georgia Encyclopedia goes on to discuss the Wiregrass ecosystem as a source for Georgia folklore and the rattlesnake motif in storytelling.

Rattlesnakes constitute another popular motif.  A rationale for ritually burning the forest, unchecked rattlesnake populations represent a real threat to people. Personal experience narratives, as the prime prose narrative form of our times, frequently function as cautionary tales, warning about this potential threat. Several wiregrass Georgia towns (Claxton, Whigham) annually host rattlesnake roundups. These festivals shift public attention to the prevalence of this dangerous species, especially since local laws prohibit burning the woods without a special permit. Instead, communities sponsor roundups in which competitors literally capture hundreds of snakes. Every year, for example, as many as 20,000 people attend the parade and festival in Whigham (population 605). Claxton promotes its roundup as “the beauty with the beasts” competition: the judging of the snake competition occurs at the same time as the crowning of the Roundup Queen.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  in Atlanta, GA only a handful of  snakebite fatalities occur  annually in the U.S. today.

Venomous snakes found in the United States include rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths/water moccasins, and coral snakes…. It has been estimated that 7,000–8,000 people per year receive venomous bites in the United States, and about 5 of those people die. The number of deaths would be much higher if people did not seek medical care….There are many species of rattlesnakes in the United States. Rattlesnakes are the largest of the venomous snakes in the United States. They can accurately strike at up to one-third their body length. Rattlesnakes use their rattles or tails as a warning when they feel threatened. Rattlesnakes may be found sunning themselves near logs, boulders, or open areas. These snakes may be found in most work habitats including the mountains, prairies, deserts, and beaches.

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Dr. Folsom ~ Warrior Doctor

Dr. George Hill Folsom had family connections and was well known in Ray City and Berrien County, GA for more than 50 years.  He came to live in Berrien County some time prior to 1929, and established a home in Ray City where he engaged in general practice as one of the Medical Men of Ray’s Mill.

Dr. George Hill Folsom lived in Ray City, GA in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Dr. George Hill Folsom lived in Ray City, GA in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

George Hill Folsom was born July 26, 1877 in Colquitt County Georgia, a son of Randall Nathaniel Folsom and Mary E. Marchant.  George Hill Folsom could trace his ancestry back to William Folsom (ca 1745-1785), “who assisted in establishing independence while acting in the capacity of Lieutenant in the Georgia Line.” Lieutenant William Folsom is thought to be a native of Virgina who later moved to Georgia where he lived  and died in Burke County.

At age 3, George Hill Folsom was enumerated in the town of Warrior, Colquitt County, GA where his father was engaged in farming.

On April 7, 1903 George H. Folsom married Mattie Laura Brown in Pinopolis, Colquitt County, GA.  Her parents, Eliza Catherine Hancock and Simon Peter Brown, were also from Colquitt County, but had relocated to the 1487th district in Berrien County some time before 1900.

It is said that George H. Folsom  attended the Atlanta School of Medicine. If so, he would have studied there sometime between 1906 and 1910.

The Atlanta School of Medicine was  formally opened in October 1905, and became a part of Emory University in 1913.

It appears that  Mattie Folsom continued to live with her parents while George was away at medical school, for the couple’s   first child, Bessie Viola Folsom, was born on March 11, 1905 at Milltown, GA (now Lakeland). A second daughter, Susie Mae Folsom, was born at Ray City, GA on June 13, 1908.

After receiving a medical degree, Dr. George H. Folsom returned to his birthplace.  In the Census of 1910, he is enumerated on May 2, 1910 with his wife and daughters in Warrior, Colquitt County, GA where he was employed in general medical practice.  Although Mattie’s parents had also relocated back to Colquitt County by this time, the Folsoms must have retained a place or family connections near Ray City, for on December 11, 1910 this is where their first son, Ernest William Folsom, was delivered. A second son, George Jr. was born at Lakeland in 1913, followed by a daughter delivered at Valdosta in 1915.

By 1917, Dr. Folsom had moved his family to  Ellenton, GA where he engaged in general practice on his own account.  The Folsoms lived in a house on Baker Street, which Dr. Folsom owned free and clear.

It was while living in Ellenton that George Hill Folsom registered for the draft for World War I.  At 40 years of age, he was described as tall and stout, with dark hair and blue eyes. He was not called to serve in the war.

Dr. George Hill Folsom, wife Mattie and the children.

Dr. George Hill Folsom, wife Mattie and the children.

The Folsom’s final two children were both born in Valdosta, GA; Elmer  A. Folsom, born July 9, 1919 and Elton Brown Folsom, born March 6, 1924.

In 1928, Dr. Folsom’s daughter, Susie Mae Folsom, married Joseph Edward Boyett in Nashville, GA.  Apparently by at least 1929, the rest of the G.H. Folsom family had moved to Berrien, this time to Ray City, GA.  Dr. Folsom served on the 1929 Board  of Trustees for Ray City School.  He was one of the business men who endorsed the establishment of the Ray City News newspaper.

The Census of 1930 found the Folsom family living in town in Ray City. Dr. Folsom owned one of the finest homes in town, valued at $3000.  Mrs. Folsom kept house while their daughter, Bessie Folsom, was a grammar school teacher. The rest of the children were not employed and presumably were engaged in studies.  The family neighbors were H. C. Hutchison and the widow Mary J. Fountain.

By 1934, the Folsoms moved to Lakeland, Lanier County, GA where Dr. Folsom continued his medical practice.  A notice from the 1934 Lanier County News puts the financial outlook of the medical profession in the 1930s into perspective:

Notice to Public: To Whom It May Concern:  By mutual agreement the following charges will be made for our services effective immediately: Office Calls, $1.00. Local Calls, $1.50. Out of Town Calls 50 cents per mile. $1.00 extra charge will be made for night calls, both local and out of town. Obstetrics, $25.00 cash, or $30.00 on time, with $10.00 cash payment. Dr.  Louis Smith, Dr. G.H. Folsom.

By the 1940 census, George and Mattie Folsom had moved to Lakeland where they were living on Church Street. Still living in the Folsom household were the doctor’s adult children, Bessie, Ernest, Elmer, and 16-year-old Brownie. The Folsoms owned a home valued at $5000.

Income data from the 1940 census paints an interesting picture of relative wages of the time. The good doctor was drawing an annual income of $1000 for his 70 hour work week.  Bessie was working as a school teacher with an income of $540. Ernest Folsom, a road inspector for the Highway Dept, was drawing the highest wages, at $1200.

Dr. Folsom’s wife,Mattie Laura Brown, died November 8, 1947.  Dr. Folsom continued to live in Lakeland until his death January 17, 1963.

Children of Mattie Laura Brown and George Hill Folsom:

  1. Bessie Viola Folsom, born March 11, 1905, Lakeland, GA
  2. Susie Mae Folsom, born June 13, 1908, Ray City, GA RFD
  3. Ernest William Folsom, born December 11, 1910, Ray City, GA
  4. George Hill Folsom, Jr., born July 8, 1913, Lakeland, GA
  5. Katie Louise Folsom, born September 20, 1915, Valdosta, GA
  6. Elmer  A. Folsom, born July 9, 1919, Valdosta, GA
  7. Elton Brown Folsom, born March 6, 1924, Valdosta, GA

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