Amy Johnson Crow suggested a weekly blog theme of “52 Ancestors” in her blog post Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on the No Story Too Small blog. To help focus my writing, I’ve accepted her challenge with a little catching up to do, but starting with a paternal great-aunt. Here’s Gracie’s story collected from family interviews.
It was breakfast time and Jim was building a fire in the cook stove.[i] Jim was 19, living with his parents and his pretty sister Gracie, two years younger than him. The older children, Bill Jr. and Nora, were already married and gone, though Bill and his growing family lived just down the hill. Gracie was in the kitchen with Jim in the small wooden house behind the main farm-house.
Jim was using green wood and he went to pour some white gas in the cook stove to set the fire. The fire blew up and caught his hand on fire. He hollered and threw the flaming container out the door, just as Gracie was trying to go out the door to get away from the flames. The white gas splashed all over Gracie. She caught on fire and ran outside. Jim grabbed his leather coat hanging by the door, chased Gracie down, got her on the ground and put the fire out.
Their mother, Mary Pennington Musgrove, was a Pentecost and didn’t believe in doctors, so they put Grace Odessa to bed, prayed over her and tried to make her comfortable. Someone told them to keep Gracie warm, so they kept her in the kitchen with a fire in the cook stove. She was in terrible pain, only somewhat comfortable when sitting in her beloved father’s lap, her skin coming off on his overalls.
Aunt Dessi, Mary Pennington Musgrove’s sister, heard about the accident. No one knows exactly how she heard. There were no telephones in Powell, Oklahoma in 1940. Perhaps a letter was written. Never the less, as soon as she learned of the accident, she, her husband Jesse and young Jerry, their nephew and cousin to Gracie and Jim, packed up in the Buick and drove the 120 miles south from McLoud. They arrived about a week after the accident; the smell of decaying flesh in the 90 degree kitchen was overwhelming. Aunt Dessi, with Gracie carrying her middle name, insisted Gracie be taken to the hospital. An ambulance was called, over the protests of Gracie’s mother, Mary Pennington Musgrove, who threw such a fit she was placed in a straight jacket by the ambulance attendants.
Gracie died a few days later in a Oklahoma City hospital. Funeral services were held on a Sunday afternoon at the Holiness Church in McLoud, Oklahoma.[ii]
Gracie’s boyfriend from when she lived in McLoud, Johnnie Henderson, helped to dig her grave. Johnnie later worked at Tinker Air Force Base, married and still has family in the area.
Aunt Dessie and, her husband, Jesse Smith had just one son, Kenneth Eugene Smith, born in 1917, and purchased three burial plots in Dale, Oklahoma, near their home. Kenneth had told them he wouldn’t use his plot. So Grace Odessa Musgrove was the first to be buried in those three plots. Her grave can be found next to her Aunt Dessi and Uncle Jesse’s at Dale Cemetery, Dale, Oklahoma.
Gracie’s death was hard on the family, especially Jim, as his mother constantly reminded him that he had killed his sister. A few years later, he joined the navy. Then, he went to school on the GI bill. He met a woman in college. They married and her two young sons took his name. They later divorced. Jim became a shop teacher, first in Bokchito, then for many years in the Sasakwa High School. When my great-uncle Jim died there was no one to bury him, so my dad had his body transported to our small town and buried Uncle Jim in the local cemetery, in one of my dad’s own suits.
Author’s notes: All locations are in Oklahoma. Information for this article was collected from family interviews. Due to current Oklahoma laws, a death certificate is not available. All pictures are in the possession of Andrea Musgrove Perisho, from the collection of [NAME FOR PRIVATE USE] passed down from William Walker (Bill) Musgrove Jr. and Eva Evalina Buckmaster Musgrove.
[i] [NAMES FOR PRIVATE USE], a nephew, a niece and a cousin of Grace Musgrove, Bryan County, Oklahoma, interviews by Andrea Musgrove Perisho, July 2013; interview notes privately held by interviewer, [private address], 2013.
[ii] “Lamp Burns Take the Life of Powell Girl – Death Claims Grace Musgrove at Oklahoma City Hospital,” Madill Record, March 1940.
Written for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge at No Story Too Small.
Copyright © 2014 Andrea Musgrove Perisho