52 Ancestors – Defective, Dependent, & Delinquent


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small and this week’s theme is “Defective, Dependent, & Delinquent.”

According to No Story Too Small:  In 1880, there was a special census schedule for “Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes” — the blind, deaf, paupers, homeless children, prisoners, insane, and idiotic.

I don’t have a direct ancestor listed on this special census (that I’ve found), but I have an aunt, the sister of my great grandmother, who went through quite an ordeal, one that ultimately led to her demise.

ora blanks bates

Ora Alice Blanks was born in 1889 to William Henry Blanks III and Martha Lettie “Mattie” Carpenter. She was the second youngest of six girls. To understand her fragile state, one must understand her parents.

Her father was born in 1846. By the age of thirteen, his mother and father had both died. He served in the Civil War 1861-1865 and after the war, at the age of 21, he married Mattie. Mattie’s childhood was even worse. She was fourteen when her father was killed in the war. Typhoid swept through her family at the same time, killing her baby brother, her maternal grandparents, and a host of aunts, uncles, and cousins. She lost seventeen family members in that year. Yes, you read that right. Seventeen. In one year. I imagine the trauma of losing loved ones at such young ages was hard on both William and Mattie and may have been the bond that united them, but how do you think they functioned as emotionally-damaged parents?

blanks ora blanks shellie bates family 1917Ora and her sisters grew up in Mississippi, and at the young age of sixteen in 1905, Ora married Shelly Houston Bates. A year into the marriage, they had a son. Four years later, another son. And four years after that, a daughter. Two years later in July 1916, they had their fourth child, William Lenard Bates. This is a photo of the family just before disaster struck.

On 29 May 1917, ten-month-old baby William died of enterocolitis, an inflammation of the digestive tract and intestines.

The family moved to Alabama to get a new start because Ora was taking the death so hard. She was seen by a physician. I don’t know what kind of medication was prescribed in 1917, but it may have hastened Ora’s decline. She died 2 Sept 1917, just over three months after her baby, and her death certificate states she died of acute melancholia and convulsions.

Her obituary is as follows:

LAUREL DAILY LEADER September 5, 1917

Death of Mrs. Bates Mourned in Laurel–

The heads of many relatives and friends are bowed in grief at the news of the death of Mrs. Ora Bates of this city. This sad occurrence took place Sunday morning at 8 o’clock, following a nervous breakdown. Three months ago she was taken to Selma, Ala., where all hoped that the change would be of benefit to her. It was in this city that the sad end came, bringing sorrow to her husband, Mr. S. H. Bates, and her three small children, besides a multitude of relatives and friends. The kindness of the Selma Grove of the Woodmen Circle, No. 48, was generously tendered and was appreciated beyond words, Mrs. Bates being a prominent member of the Laurel Grove. Her body was brought to Laurel on Monday afternoon and was met by a devoted delegation of the Laurel Grove of the Woodmen Circle. These ladies accompanied the remains of their much loved member to the Bates home and did all in their power to be of help and comfort at this time when it was so needed. The funeral services followed yesterday afternoon at 4 o’clock, with the interment at the Hickory Grove cemetery. Deepest sympathy is extended especially to Mr. Bates in the loss of his lovely young wife, who was only 26 years of age.

Ora Blanks Bates headstone



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