Tuesday, December 10, 2013

1914 Was a Difficult Year for the Mackeys

1914 saw the deaths of two people who were very important to Will and Rhoda Mackey (my grandparents). Will's father, Joel Elliott Mackey, the family patriarch (and confederate cavalry veteran) died on June 10th, at the age of 87. Less than three months later tragedy struck the family when Burtie Mackey, Will and Rhoda's first child, died on September 2nd, aged eight and a half.
Joel Elliott Mackey

Joel Elliot Mackey Death Certificate
Joel E. Mackey's Tombstone

Death Certificate of Burtie Mackey

Burtie's death certificate (where his name is misspelled "Bertie") states that he died of Gastric Fever, with the contributory condition of Paralysis. (I wonder--was this referring to his cerebral palsy, or was it an additional paralysis such as would be caused by polio?) What "Gastric Fever" really was in today's medical knowledge, we'll never know, but it proved fatal for Burtie.

Two years later Will and Rhoda, with their children Vera, Boyce, and Rose, emigrated to Wyoming as homesteaders.

I don't remember Grandma Mackey ever mentioning her firstborn and his loss. Evidently she just couldn't talk about it. I did hear Vera's story about how Burtie (who today would be diagnosed as having cerebral palsy), would think up mischief and have his little sister Vera carry it out.

Burtie Mackey
Burtie's full name was Burton Clarence Mackey. He was born March 16, 1906, in Idaho. He died and is buried in North Carolina. (His parents lived in Idaho for a time when they were first married, and one of the things Will did during that time was drive a stagecoach.)


  1. Grandma had a special soft spot in her heart for Tina and I kind of thought it might have been because of the similarity of her condition and Burtie's.

    1. I wouldn't be surprised if that were so. Burtie's spasticity is very clear in the photo. I think he was more handicapped in his arms and neck than Tina, judging from the photo. From Vera's account I don't think he could walk. Since she was only six when Burtie died, I don't know how much she remembered. He was a handsome little guy and would certainly have been the treasured firstborn.