murder of Dr. Sam Houston Adams is not a tragic tale. |
It’s not necessarily
a gloomy story. Nor is it a hopeful story about overcoming hardships or tribulations.
It’s not quite folklore either.
For lack of a better
description, it is simply - a love story.
It’s a tale of love shared between
two people, their daughters, and the place they called home – Slaton.
It is a love story beginning in 1918 - the year of the Influenza.
most of the world in 1918, Slaton
was not completely spared by the flu epidemic. However, according to some, she
may have been rescued from the worst of its deathly grip through the tireless
efforts of one of its citizens.
As most townspeople stayed in homes that
protected them from the monstrous blizzards during the winter of 1918, on any
given day, Dr. Sam Houston Adams could be seen roaming the wintry streets. “Many
developed the dreaded pneumonia, which was the real killer, more than the flu.
Dr. Adams often brought in wood and built fires, fixed food, and administered
to the sick in any way necessary,” Dr. Adams daughters’, Frances Adams Kerrigan
and Josephine Scott Adams Westefeld wrote in Slaton’s Story. “He slept with his
clothes on for eleven days, and though his entire family had the flu at the same
time, he never got sick.”
Whether it was late into the hours of night
or early mornings, through sleet and snow, carrying his doctor’s bag, going on
little to no sleep, and with Calomel and Castor Oil; Dr. Adams traveled from house
to house treating citizens who had been affected by the deadliest pandemic since
the Bubonic Plague.
“Besides the big snow of 1918, the great influenza
epidemic caused the deaths of millions of people in the country and throughout
the world,” Frances and Josephine Scott wrote. “The little community of Slaton
had at least one member in every household with the disease, and often a whole
family was stricken at one time.”
he aided those who had been stricken by the Influenza, it was his wife, Julia
Ann Adams, who consoled the doctor and supported him that demanding winter.
according to Slaton’s Story, the Adams met years before they even knew they would
be spending the rest of their days in a town that did not yet exist. It was the
summer of 1905 and young Dr. Adams looked across a crowded room at a church meeting
in Georgia to see the love of his life, Julia Ann. “He saw a young lady at a church
meeting,” Frances and Josephine Scott wrote. “On asking his friend who she was,
he said, ‘I’m going to marry her.’”
Sam Houston Adams ||Julia
| More than a year
later, on Christmas Eve, Julia Ann Price agreed to become Mrs. Adams. The couple
married on October 1, 1907 in Plainview,
Texas. They lived in Louisville for two years as Dr. Adams completed medical
In 1911, the Athison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad appointed Dr.
Adams as the local surgeon for a new town being developed fifteen miles south
of Lubbock. By
train, the young couple made their way to the new frontier town with a briery
name - Slaton.
several years, Dr. Adams was the only physician in Slaton,
and he and Mrs. Adams underwent the hardships of the usual lot of pioneer families
in a new country,” Frances and Josephine Scott wrote. For many years he walked
to make his calls in the town. Across from his office, where vacant buildings
now stand on West Panhandle Street, a once thriving livery stable stood. From
the stable he would hire a horse and buggy for rural calls.
In 1915 the
Adams built a house at 255 South 10th Street. Almost un-changed the house still
modestly stands on a street corner. Many of the organizations and civic duties
the Adams overtook, also continue flourishing. They were the driving force for
building the first Methodist Church. Although Dr. Adams was reared as a Baptist,
he converted to the Methodist Church when he married the love of his life, who
happened to be Methodist.
Another institute the Adams assisted in establishing
was Slaton’s first school.
Prior to the building of Slaton Schools, classes were held at the Methodist Church.
When the new school was built, coal stoves were used to keep the children warm.
“Dr. Adams went many a morning, before school, to build the fires,” Frances and
Josephine Scott wrote. “He served many years as a member of the school board and
twelve years as its chairman.”
1923, as other doctors moved into Slaton,
Dr. Adam’s and his family of four loaded their vehicle and went on their first
vacation since moving to Slaton.
At the time, the family consisted of their two daughters. “Little Josephine’s
grandfather, Winfield Scott Adams, was so disappointed when their second child
was a girl, that they named her Scott for him,” Frances wrote.
It is believed,
according to Slaton’s Story, that this adventure was a pleasant and joyous event
in the young family’s life. It had been 37 years since Dr. Adams had visited his
birthplace near Lumpkin, Georgia. “The house he was born in had long since burned,
and only a brick chimney with a crepe myrtle brush remained,” Frances and Josephine
Scott wrote. “We visited many historical places and returned to Georgia other
times, but it was never so great an adventure as in 1923.”
1920s, the family continued thriving and in 1925, their first daughter, Frances,
set out to make a life of her own as she enrolled in Texas Women’s College in
Fort Worth. It was five years
later, in 1930, when their youngest daughter, Josephine Scott, followed in her
sister’s footsteps. Frances eventually transferred to the University of Texas
before finding her niche in the dramatic arts and made her way to New York City
and became a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
August of 1932, as the Adams’ daughters continued on their venture of a life outside
of Slaton, Woodie Tudor,
son of R.H. Tudor who built many of the first Slaton
homes, was involved in an auto accident where he sustained a broken arm. When
his father took him to see Dr. Adams, it is believed, R.H. told Dr. Adams that
Woodie had a weak heart and that he should avoid ether. However, the mistake had
already been made and ether had already been administered.
minutes after the mix up, Woodie died.
It was two months later October
13, 1932 that Julia Ann discovered that her husband’s body, surrounded by a shallow
pool of blood, lay lifeless on the cold floor of his office on 9th Street where
Brite Way Cleaners now stands.
Dr. Sam Houston Adams was 58-years-old
when he was shot with a revolver held by the hands of another grieving Slaton
founding father, home builder, R.L. Tudor.
Tudor Takes the Stand; Slaton, Texas 1932
© James Villanueva
shoe horses, don't they?" Guest
Column, November 1, 2010
Published in The Slatonite, Slaton's newspaper