When Maggie Sue Franklin was born on October 9, 1885, in Buffalo, Missouri, her father, Mattison Monroe, was 26 and her mother, Rosa Bell Sutherland, was 18. The Franklin’s came to Missouri from Virginia and the Sutherland’s traveled west from Ohio to settle in the Show-Me State. Maggie married Charles William Horn on October 13, 1907, in Aurora, Missouri when she was twenty-two. She had three children by the time she was 28. Her oldest daughter, my grandmother, Helen, was born in 1908. She had two more daughters, Kathryn, and Flora, who were all born in Aurora.
Her husband was a miner for many years in Aurora. Galena ore was discovered in 1885 while digging a well on a farm, marking the beginning of Aurora as a mining town. Large scale commercial mining began shortly afterwards as the mines grew deeper and zinc and galena were discovered. The zinc from the Aurora mines was of exceptional purity and high-grade. By 1893, 12,651 tons of zinc ore were mined and shipped from Aurora.The mines attracted prospectors and miners like my great grandfather. Aurora’s population peaked at 10,000 around 1900. The family moved to Kansas around 1915 settling in Newton for a while when the girls were in public school but later moving to a farm outside Madison, Kansas, population 701, when Great Grandpa took a job with T.K. Simmons Oil Company repairing and maintaining oil rigs in and around Greenwood County.
Flora, Maggie’s youngest girl child, died during the flu pandemic of 1918 which ravaged the country and the world. The global mortality rate from the 1918-1919 pandemic is not known, but an estimated 10% to 20% of those who were infected died. With about a third of the world population infected, this ratio means 3% to 6% of the entire global population died. Influenza may have killed as many as 25 million people in its first 25 weeks. Older estimates say it killed 40–50 million people, while current estimates say 50–100 million people worldwide were killed. My Aunt Flora was one of the many unlucky ones to fall victim to the disease.
My great grandmother, not really understanding the disease, and unable to console herself over her loss, blamed herself for Flora’s death. She believed, unjustifiably, that she didn’t do enough as the homemaker to keep her home clean and the flu germs away from her little girl. This guilt grew stronger in her later years as she was became, seemingly, obsessed with her thoughts about Flora and compulsive about cleaning her home to the extent that the woodwork and cabinet fronts in her kitchen were scrubbed clear of any varnish and warped with her constant scrubbing with a mixture of hot water and bleach. She worried so about the health of all of her offspring including her great granddaughters. Whenever we were near, she pleaded with us over and over to wash our hands. My grandmother and her sister, Aunt Kate, took care of Maggie, after her husband, Charley, passed away in 1967 when I was six years old.
Great Grandpa was fun and easy-going and made his wife laugh out loud. He could fix anything and loved to mow the yard with an ancient riding lawn mower that he was constantly tinkering with to keep it running. He was tall and thin and Maggie was short and curvy. She took his passing very hard. It was not easy after his death for her daughters and I remember many family conferences about how they were coping with Maggie’s dementia and anxiety and subsequent care to the end. I wished I had known her before she slid into the depths of this disease. My memories are of a frail, worried woman but as I look at the family photographs a different image materializes of a loving mother and wife living at a time that was so much harder for women, in general, and in particular for women struggling with mental health issues. Thank you, Great Grandma Maggie, for your strength, determination and fallibility that continues to live on in all of your offspring wherever they may wander now; many far from the beautiful and rather lonesome Flint Hills of Kansas.
Maggie Sue died in January 1976 in Newton, Kansas, at the age of 90, and was buried there alongside her beloved husband, Charley.