William and Rachael Blount – Teresita Pioneers
Thu, 05/11/2023 - 9:55am admin
Nineteenth and early twentieth-century newspaper obituaries are a great source for historians and genealogists doing research. To our sensitivities, they often contain too much information, seem a bit harsh, and more resembled a news story. That is because the newspaper editor most often wrote them, whereas today the funeral home or family members produce a kinder, gentler obituary. This is not an article about obituaries; it is about a special couple and the long and exemplary use of their lives. Without this news story/obituary, I doubt we would know anything about them.
Under the headline “Oldest Woman Dies,” the West Plains Gazette on August 17, 1911, announced, “Mrs. Rachael Blount, Aged 113 Passes Away.” The subtitle follows: “Her Late husband, William Blount, Was a Noted Southern Missouri Character.”
“The article stated, “Mrs. Rachael Blount, widow of the late William Blount, the oldest woman in Missouri, died at her home east of Mountain View, in Howell County, last week. According to information that cannot be disputed, Mrs. Blount was 113 years of age. For a number of years, she had been making her home with Mrs. Emma Galbraith, the widow of her foster son, James Galbraith.”
“William and Rachael Blount came to Howell in 1865 from Clay County, Arkansas, where they were married. 'Uncle Dick' Smith, of West Plains, knew them in Arkansas and they renewed acquaintances after meeting again in Howell County. Mr. Smith believes that Rachael Blount was as old as her relatives claim.”
Richard “Uncle Dick” Smith, one of the earliest settlers from a family that was here from the beginning would know. He was especially well regarded for his veracity when it came to the early history of this part of the Ozarks. The editor continues with a priceless description of Rachael’s husband:
“William Blount was a noted character during his lifetime. He was small of stature, with a big head that picturesquely fitted on his broad shoulders and little body. His voice was like the sound of a cracked bell, and he talked a great deal.”
Somehow, I feel I know this guy.
“When the Civil War broke out William Blount enlisted in the Confederate Army and joined a regiment of cavalry. In crossing the Black River Mr. Blount's horse fell in, coming up the bank at the landing, and he was so severely injured that he was relieved of duty and allowed to return home. He finally recovered from his injuries and being quite industrious, accumulated considerable property.”
I find this last sentence interesting. I have searched the tax records and plats for Howell County in this period and haven’t found any land or property in the couple’s name. They left almost no record here. In the article reporting her death the writer spelled her first name two ways, and any documentation I found about the couple often spelled their last name “Blunt.”
“Before the railroad was constructed from Springfield to Memphis and through the Ozark region of Missouri, the mail was carried on horseback and by mail hacks through this section. Mr. Blount secured the contract to carry the mail from Mountain Grove to Chapel Township, where he resided. It was a fifty-mile ride, and through a wild and sparsely settled country, frequented at that time by bear, deer, and other game, and by wolves that howled in the forests in the wintertime.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Blount had no children. This perhaps accounts for their kindness to orphans and unfortunate persons for they were always endeavoring to assist anyone in distress. They were hospitable in every sense the term implies and even the hungry tramp was fed and sent on his way rejoicing. Both were devout members of the Baptist Church and labored hard to spread the gospel in the early settlements of Howell and adjoining counties. After the death of Mr. Blount, which occurred seven years ago (1903), his widow went to live with her relatives.”
Actually, Rachael was taken in and cared for by the wife of a foster child she raised. Mrs. Emma Galbraith, the former Emma Reese, daughter of Doctor Sherwood Reese, physician at the old Willow Springs, seven miles east of the present-day town, cared for her husband’s foster mother until he died.
According to the Mountain View Standard, “They were the very best of neighbors and had no enemies. These old people were odd in many ways, but they did not suffer any unfortunate poor person or orphan children to go in need if they knew it and could render their assistance in any way. Not even the hungry dirty tramp was denied the hospitality of their home.”
The next element in the obituary was the cause of death, often left out in today’s newspapers. Editor Will Zorn was great at word painting. Though his work would not pass today’s HIPPA standards:
“Her (Rachael’s) health has been gradually failing in recent years. She became almost deaf and blind and spoke with difficulty. Her face became covered with deep wrinkles and upon her forehead, there appeared several spots the size of silver dollars, of a deep blue color, resembling birthmarks. These appeared since she passed the century mark in her lifetime.”
“Mrs. Blount was very fond of children. She took a great delight in having them around her and seemed happiest when they were near. Among the old settlers of Howell County, she was widely known and her demise takes away another sturdy old pioneer. The remains were laid to rest in the Mountain View Cemetery beside those of her husband.” A friend and minister M. P. Smotherman wrote of the couple, “They were both converted and joined the Baptist Church many years ago and lived so far as the writer knows consistent Christian lives.”
A gravestone in the Mountain View Cemetery does not exist for either William or Rachael Blount, though they are listed in cemetery records. I suspect they wanted it that way, spending any money for that on the poor. Their last name is spelled wrong on the online “Find a Grave” website.
Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as saying, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Too bad Gandhi did not get to meet the Blounts.