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May 5th birthdays

Four members of my family are recorded with birthdays on the 5th of May. Three are living today: the oldest is my brother-in-law Mike; in the middle is my nephew Tim; and the baby is my great niece Sydney, who still isn’t a teenager no matter how much she thinks she is.

I love them dearly, and wish them the happiest of birthdays, but it’s the remaining May 5th birthday boy who’s on my mind today. Not just because there will be no more birthdays for this member of my family, but because he only ever had so few. So little is known about him, and he needs to be remembered.

Sammie Cottrell was born on 5 May 18871, probably in Clay County, Texas. That’s where his parents and older siblings had been recorded in the 1880 census,2 and the family isn’t found in the records of Wichita County, Texas, until 1889.3

He had an older brother John4 and four older sisters — Effalie5, Nettie, Addie and Theo.6 And he was just about three weeks shy of his fifth birthday when he died, on 11 April 1892. He was buried in the family plot, where his grandfather was already interred, at Highland Cemetery in Iowa Park, Wichita County, Texas.7

There are no existing photos of Sammie. I’d like to think that he’d have grown up looking a lot like my Great Uncle Gilbert, the brother born only months after Sammie’s death, or like my grandfather, born years after this older brother had passed on.

And literally nothing is recorded in family lore about his life or his death. Texas didn’t begin requiring death records until 19038 and there is nothing to tell us what happened to this little boy.

Was he lost to fire or flood? Did he perish in a storm? Or was he cuddled in his mother’s arms as he passed on from illness? We’ll never know.

What we do know is that he was loved and cherished and sorely missed. Alone of my family’s burials in that plot, Sammie has a tombstone placed at the time:

Sammie Cottrell, 1887-1892

The inscription at the bottom of the stone reads:

We miss thee from our home, dear Sammie,
We miss thee from thy place,
A shadow on our life is cast,
We miss the sunshine of thy face.

Rest in peace, Sammie. And rest assured, you’re remembered still.


  1. Highland Cemetery (Iowa Park, Wichita County, Texas; on Rodgers Road 0.1 mile west of the intersection with Bell Road North, Latitude 33.96704, Longitude -98.6595041), Sammie Cottrell marker; photograph by J.G. Russell, 9 Nov 2002
  2. 1880 U.S. census, Clay County, Texas, Precinct 4, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 164, p. 492(B) (stamped), dwelling 17, family 17, M.G. Cottrell household; digital image, ( : accessed 4 May 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 1296; imaged from FHL microfilm 1255296.
  3. The first recorded transaction was a deed showing Sammie’s father, M.G. Cottrell, as grantee. Wichita County, Texas, Deed Book O: 64-65, 19 Sep 1889; County Clerk’s Office, Wichita Falls.
  4. See 1880 U.S. census, Clay County, Tex., pop. sch., Precinct 4, ED 164, p. 492(B), dwell. 17, fam. 17, J.W. Cottrell.
  5. Ibid., M.E. Cottrell
  6. 1900 U.S. census, Wichita County, Texas, Iowa Park, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 127, p. 238(A) (stamped), dwelling 86, family 86, Martin Catrell household; digital image, ( : accessed 4 May 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 1679.
  7. Highland Cemetery (Iowa Park, Wichita Co., Tex.), Sammie Cottrell marker.
  8. See “Frequently Asked Questions About Texas Vital Statistics Indexes,” Texas State Library and Archives Commission ( : accessed 4 May 2012).
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