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The photograph that should have been

There were five Cottrell sisters who grew to adulthood.

Ten children in all were born to Martin Gilbert Cottrell and Martha H. “Mattie” (Johnson) Cottrell, great grandparents of The Legal Genealogist. Two — a daughter Willie and a son Sammie — died as children.1

sistersBut, in addition to the three sons (John, Gilbert and my grandfather, the baby, Clay) who lived to reach majority, there were five daughters who grew to adulthood as well.

Yet there are only four in this precious family photograph, dated — we believe — from about 1910.

At the top, from left to right, are Theo Cottrell Hodges and Maude Cottrell Gottlieb. At the bottom, from left to right, Addie Cottrell Harris and Nettie Cottrell Holly.

The one missing: the one born 140 years ago yesterday, on 6 November 1875, probably in Clay County, Texas. Her name was Effalie.2

She was the oldest of the Cottrell children, and appears for the first time in the records in the 1880 U.S. census in her parents’ household. She was shown as M.E. Cottrell, age four, with her brother John, age 3, shown as J.W. and sister Nettie, age 1, shown as N.H.3

She appears again in the marriage records of Wichita County, Texas, on 5 May 1898, when she and Hinton Snoddy, a Tennessee native, were united in matrimony by county judge J. H. Barwise.4

And then she was gone.

In 1900, Hinton Snoddy was listed in the Wichita County census as a 30-year-old widower living with his mother and siblings.5 He went on to remarry and had two children, Nannie and Marguerita.6 He died in October 1932 in Burkburnett, Wichita County.7

Of Effalie, little else is known.

What made her laugh. What care she took of a houseful of younger brothers and sisters. What her life in rough-and-tumble-before-the-turn-of-the-century Texas was like. What made her say yes when Hinton Snoddy asked her to marry him. What she thought of being presented with a baby brother — my grandfather Clay — just two weeks before she herself became a bride. What her dreams were for children of her own.

All we know is what has been passed down in oral family history: that she contracted typhoid and died within weeks of her marriage.8

From that, we can surmise that — not long after that spring wedding in 1898 — Effalie began to suffer poor appetite, headaches, generalized aches and pains, fever, and lethargy. The disease typically ran its course in four stages of roughly a week each… and, left untreated, typhoid kills 10-30% of the time.9

As it did there, in Wichita County, Texas, in the spring or early summer of 1898.

Leaving only a name behind… and a photograph of four sisters… when there should have been a photograph of five.


  1. Interview with Opal Robertson Cottrell (Kents Store, VA), by granddaughter Bobette Richardson, 1980s; copy of notes privately held by Judy G. Russell.
  2. Ibid.
  3. 1880 U.S. census, Clay County, TX, population schedule, Precinct 4, enumeration district (ED) 164, p. 492(B) (stamped), dwelling 17, family 17, M.G. Cottrell household; digital image, ( : accessed 12 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 1296.
  4. Wichita County, Texas, Marriage Book 2: 29, Hinton Snoddy and Effalie Cottrell, 1898, marriage license and return; County Clerk’s Office, Wichita Falls.
  5. 1900 U.S. census, Wichita County, TX, population schedule, Justice Precinct 6, enumeration district (ED) 127, p. 241(B) (stamped), sheet 8(B), dwelling 157, family 157, Hinton Snoddy household; digital image, ( : accessed 30 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 1679.
  6. 1920 U.S. census, Wichita County, Texas, Burkburnett, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 197, p. 156(A) (stamped), dwelling 67, family 82, Hinton Snoddy household; digital image, ( : accessed 6 Nov 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T625, roll 1859.
  7. Texas Department of Health, death certif. no. 44707, “Henton” Snoddy (1932); Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin.
  8. Interview with Opal Robertson Cottrell, by granddaughter Bobette Richardson, 1980s.
  9. Wikipedia (, “Typhoid fever,” rev. 5 Nov 2015.
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