Wednesday’s Child: Luther and Lucy Street

Tombstone for twins Luther Allen and Lucy Alice Street at Antioch Primitive Baptist Church cemetery outside Ripley, Mississippi
Tombstone for twins Luther Allen and Lucy Alice Street at Antioch Primitive Baptist Church cemetery outside Ripley, Mississippi

Mother Goose says that Wednesday’s child is full of woe, but how can you be full of woe when you barely lived at all?

One of 1895’s hottest days was August 10th. My great-great grandfather Joseph David Street paced the floor while his wife Minerva sweated and cried and pushed. Later that afternoon, she was finally (finally!) delivered of two babies, a boy and a girl. Luther Allen and Lucy Alice Street were the tenth and eleventh children born to this family. Their older sister Myrtle helped mom deliver them.

Minerva had bled a little more than usual. There was nothing to do but pray it stopped, which it did soon enough. The family’s prayers had been answered.

Or so they thought.

A day or two later, Minerva woke up drenched in sweat and having sharp pains in her stomach. After nine other births, she knew this wasn’t right at all. She must have wondered the rest of that night whether it was going to be too late for her. The hours before sunrise must have been agonizing.

It was too late for her. Minerva Alice Jamieson Street lingered for days, dying on August 16. She was only 37. After 19 years of marriage, Joseph was left alone with ten children, two of them newborns. Most men in his situation up and married again just to have help. But Joseph didn’t. He had a 17 year old daughter and a 19 year old daughter as well as several sons to help in the field. He would make it just fine, maybe a little lonelier than necessary, for the next twelve years.

Luther followed his mother to the grave four days later. Lucy died two days after that. Even in 1895, there were substitutes for mother’s milk, but most likely Luther and Lucy didn’t take to them. They could have been premature and their bodies weren’t developed enough to handle raw animal’s milk. They could have been lactose intolerant and the milk made them ill. Or they could have just been so underdeveloped they never stood a chance. Multiple births were also harder on both parent and child.

Some days I worry whether they choked, smothered, or starved to death. Infant mortality was high and life was hard. I know it was real and I know it wasn’t ever anyone’s fault or done on purpose, but it hurts all the same. I shed real tears for people I never knew. Maybe that makes me soft or crazy, I don’t know. They’re my family, however far back. I’m sure even after nine other children, Luther and Lucy would have been loved. I grieve for the family who just lost a wife and mother. I grieve for the lost potential and memories and lives never lived.

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