Monday, June 13, 2011

Dollie Loyd Cofield

Dollie's real name was Mary Marenda Loyd, the youngest child of Isham and Rachel Young Loyd.   She was born January 11, 1877 north of Shottsville on the Loyd family farm near Bull Mountain Creek in Marion County, Alabama.  My great-grandmother died when she was only 35 years old, leaving behind five orphaned children, the oldest being not yet twelve years old.   Pearl, my grandmother, was only five.

Dollie married John Richard Cofield on September 10, 1899.  The following April, John received his dental degree from Birmingham Dental College, and when the census taker (Dollie's brother-in-law, John L. Shotts) came 'round that summer he found the young married couple living with Dollie's parents.  Their first child, James Clyde, was born that July. Within a couple of years, John and Dollie had moved to Hackleburg in northeastern Marion County where John opened a dental practice, and by 1904, the family was in Haleyville where John died in 1910.

Dollie Loyd Cofield died March 29, 1912.  Her grandson, Hunter Stone, told me that his mother always said that her mother (Dollie) died of a broken heart following the death of her husband.   Officially, Dollie's death certificate indicates that she died of pellagra which is a rather odd diagnosis for Dollie.

Dollie died in 1912 when much about pellagra was misunderstood.   First reported in 1902, pellagra is a disease manifested by skin lesions, diarrhea, depression and sometimes dementia.   Patients are said to "waste away." Many cases were misdiagnosed as I suspect Dollie's was - she certainly would have been wasting away, and depressed, if she was mourning over the death of her husband less than two years earlier.  She may also have been suffering from an undiagnosed cancer or other illness.

In the rural South in the very early 1900's, pellagra reached epidemic proportions with high rates of morbidity.  Doctors blamed the disease on an unknown toxin or germ, believing it to be an infectious disease.  Not until 1915 was the link made between pellagra and diet, although several more years would pass before the lack of niacin was found to be the causative factor.

Pellagra is a nutritional disease caused by a deficiency of Vitamin B, or niacin.  Although pellagra can be caused by a metabolic disorder, the disease is usually related to a diet highly dependent upon corn.   Overwhelmingly, pellagra was found among the rural poor in the early 1900's.   Reliance upon corn and corn products (cornbread! grits!) combined with a diet lacking in fresh fruit and vegetables as well as meat, especially in winter months, made most Southerners at risk for pellagra.  The availability of milled flour after the Civil War also played a role since most of the vitamins were removed during the wheat milling process.  After the Great Depression, commercially packaged white flour was enriched with niacin.  Pellagra was essentially eradicated by 1960.

After her death, Dollie was buried next to her beloved John in the Cofield-Cockrell Cemetery near John's family home north of Shottsville.  She was survived by five children:  Clyde, Ruby, Louis, Pearl and Pauline, along with both her parents, a brother Luther, and two sisters, Millie Frances Shotts and Louella Clemontine Davis.  Dollie's young daughters went to live with Dollie's sister-in-law, Vannah Cofield Harbor, in Tremont while her sons moved in with their grandfather, Sam Cofield.

No comments: