Minnie Mae Adickes: An Uncommon Woman

 

 

When the heritage society here in town recently offered a tour of the Riverside Cemetery and some of our historic homes, I decided that would be interesting. I didn’t know the half of it. I learned so much about the local area and the people who founded it.

One piece of information that came to light was about a settler named Minnie Mae Adickes. She came to Wichita Falls in 1905 with her husband, Thomas Adickes. They were barely here a year when her husband suddenly died. It left Minnie Mae with five daughters, the youngest only three months old, to raise.

It would’ve been easy for Minnie Mae to accept the help of both her brother and brother-in-law who were the town’s founding fathers and quite well-to-do. But, she turned them down and decided to make her own way. She valued independence over everything. And I’m sure she didn’t want to be a burden on family. The picture here is the Frank Kell family – her brother-in-law, his wife, mother, and seven children. They’re a story of their own.

So spurning family help, in 1906 Minnie Mae entered into the real estate profession and embarked on a career of building houses. Now as a woman, she could not at that time sign a legal document herself. But she built over 300 homes and never lost a dime. Her only contract was a simple handshake that she never regretted. She built homes for the influential and also for the poor that she let pay out in installments. Her buyers always paid her on time. She taught all five of her daughters to record cash payments at their home weekly.

And so, a woman who didn’t seem to have any ability to provide for herself when her husband died ended up building over 300 homes. Her extraordinary efforts helped the city to grow and proper until her death in 1931 at the age of 57.

The image of this late Victorian house is one that she designed and built for her brother-in-law Frank Kell and his family. It’s called the Kell House and is now a museum. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and bears both the Texas State and local landmark designation. The house is 5,500 square feet and it still has a working elevator as well as many original furnishings.

Minnie Mae never married again. She raised her daughters and taught them everything about independence and of the rights of women. During WWI she was chairwoman of the Red Cross canteen division and held parties for officers and men at the local air base. In 1920, Mrs. Adickes was the first woman elected to serve as a member of the school board. I’m sorry I can’t find a photo of her. I hear she was as beautiful as she was intelligent. She’s exactly the kind of woman I want to model the heroines in my books after.

Minnie Mae Adickes was an uncommon woman and way ahead of her time.

Are there any interesting people or history in your area? Do you know of any stories of extraordinary women? Want to share?

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A True Texas Medicine Woman

Hi! Lorraine couldn’t be here today so I’m filling in. I hope you’re not too disappointed, but she’ll be back on October 10th. Meantime, I hope you find this as interesting as I did.

gun-and-holster.jpgAt a time when strapping on a gun was as commonplace and as necessary as breathing, you can imagine that the odds of getting shot were fairly high. Treatments for gunshot were basic—dig the lead out if you could and if you couldn’t you were likely a goner. Not a good scenario when doctors were hard to come by.

When we’re crafting our western romances, we usually have to do a lot of research about various things and sometimes we run across truly amazing stories. Here’s one I stumbled upon when I was researching gunshot wounds and treatment. I thought you might like to know about one of the most unique women who lived in Texas.

sophie-herzog.jpgDr. Sofie Herzog who came from back East to Brazoria, Texas in the late 1800’s was quite colorful. The lady doctor’s arrival in the small coastal community of Brazoria created quite a stir. She was attractive, energetic and a highly skilled physician. Though not Texas’ first woman doctor, in 1895 she was definitely a pioneer in a male-dominated field of the Victorian era. Not only was Dr. Sofie out of place in her chosen profession, but her appearance shocked a good many. She wore her hair cropped short, rode a horse astride instead of sidesaddle, and shaded her face with a man’s hat. Needless to say, she set tongues wagging. But the doctor had obvious medical skill and little competition, so when someone needed assistance, they weren’t too picky about the gender. Soon folks were calling her simply Doctor Sofie. 

She became particularly adept at removing bullets from gunshot victims. One of her techniques was elevating a gunshot patient so that gravity would aid in getting the lead out. Only twice in her career was she unsuccessful in recovering a bullet. When she had accumulated 24 extracted pieces of lead from gunfighters, she had a jeweler fashion a necklace with a gold bead threaded between each slug. She wore it constantly as a good luck charm the rest of her life.

 

Word of her medical skills and pleasing bedside manner soon spread. Dr. Sofie made calls in her buggy or traveled astride a horse. Often, she rode on handcars or trains to get to someone along the rail line in need of a doctor. In 1906, the railroad formalized its relationship with Dr. Sofie, appointing her chief surgeon of the S.L.B. & M Railroad. But, when headquarters learned that a female doctor had been hired, Dr. Sofie received a polite letter asking her to relinquish her position. She stubbornly refused and remained on the line’s payroll the rest of her life.  

In addition to her medical practice, Dr. Sofie operated her own pharmacy, built and operated a hotel, and became wealthy by investing in real estate. She was very enterprising.

In 1913, the 65-year-old doctor married Marion Huntington—a 70-year-old widower—and moved to his plantation seven miles outside Brazoria. Having reached an age when many would have retired, Dr. Sofie continued her practice, commuting each day from the plantation to town in a new Ford—the first automobile in the county.Fourteen years later, Dr. Sofie died of a stroke at a Houston hospital on July 21, 1925. At her request, they buried her with her lucky bullet necklace, evidence of her surgical skills and charming eccentricity. 

Here are a few prices for medical procedures and assistance in the 1800’s: 

A visit within one mile    $1.00

Each succeeding mile — .50

Simple case of midwifery — $5.00

For bleeding — .50

Bullet Wounds — Between $1.00 to 10.00

For setting fracture — $5.00 to 10.00

Amputating Arm — $10.00

Amputating Leg — $20.00

For advice and prescription in office — $1.00

For difficult cases, fee based in proportion to difficulty.

But as was often the case, the doctor accepted goods in lieu of money. I haven’t heard of one doctor who refused to treat someone because they couldn’t pay.

Have you read about or know an interesting person with an unusual story?                                       Or maybe you’d like to comment on the cheaper cost of medical treatment in relation to today’s prices?

Also. . .If you haven’t registered yet for the Big Fall Bonanza Contest, better get your name in the hat. The contest ends on November 30th.