Friday, October 28, 2011

Thankful Taylor....and the Snake

I volunteer at the Tennessee State Library and Archives and am currently working on a project that involves going through the surname vertical files. I get to see a lot of really cool stuff. Then one day I stumbled across a newspaper article about Thankful Taylor. I thought about it for weeks afterward, and alternated between laughing and being completely grossed out. Since this is Halloween weekend I thought it would be a good time to share it with you.

Thankful Taylor lived in Rutherford County, Tennessee with her mother and stepfather, Didama and William Carroll. In the article Thankful is described as, "She wasn't much in the way of looks but she was hardworking and of sturdy health." Ouch. Not exactly a description any girl would be thrilled about.  

So Thankful, being a hardworking girl, was toiling away in the fields one day when she became thirsty. Fortunately, there was a spring nearby that offered up some cool fresh spring water. Thankful took a break, kneeled down, and drank her fill. Afterwards she returned to the summer heat in the fields and continued to tend the cotton. Later she would recall what felt like "a little string passing down her throat when she drank." Life continued on for many weeks as usual, until one day Thankful displayed strange symptoms and was confined to bed. She was having convulsions which grew in intensity "until her days and nights merged in a longdrawn horror." Apparently this continued for five years into her "young womanhood."

The local doctor of course was called for and gave her all sorts of treatments to no avail. However, then something strange was observed, "We could see the movements of something in her stomach...we could see it all the way across the room." A neighbor gave Thankful some wine thinking it might help, only to make the movements worse. 

Finally a different doctor, Dr. J.M. Burger, was called in to examine Thankful. He observed that, "At regular intervals something dark would appear in the girl's mouth briefly and retreat to her stomach." A neighbor claims to have touched it and described it as cold and clammy. What was wrong with poor Thankful Taylor?! The doctor decided that whatever was lurking within Thankful had to be extracted and instructed the family to grab the thing when it next came peaking out of Thankful's throat and send for him immediately. The family did just that. When the doctor arrived Thankful's mother was struggling with the item in her daughter's mouth. Dr. Burger grabbed it and pulled out a striped, scaled old water snake! After it was pulled from Thankful's throat it thrashed around and then died. The description in the paper says, "It measured 23 inches from its evil head to the tip of its tail." 

After the incident Thankful told the doctor that she felt "...a great load has been taken from stomach." No doubt. What happened to the snake? Dr. Burger took it home and put it into a jar of alcohol, which eventually ended up in the hands of his grand daughter, Mrs. Lena Burger Woodley Rogers.

On the left is Mrs. Lena Buger Woodley Rogers (the grand daughter), the middle is Dr. Burger, and on the right is the spring that Thankful drank from.

So there you have it, Thankful Taylor and the Snake! 

1 comment:

  1. O.K. that was weird and strange - perfect story for Halloween. But I'm going to be very careful where and what I drink from now on. Yikes!