In 1921, Thomas Jefferson “Jeff” Souder and Mary Ellen Souder, a couple married for sixty years died less than 48 hours apart and were laid to rest in a double coffin. The two had contracted dysentery, known as “The Flux” at that time. Dysentery is a form of gastroenteritis, usually contacted by contaminated food and water. Without treatment, a person with dysentery will rapidly lose bodily fluids leading to dehydration and eventually, death. This disease was a common killer in the 19th and 20th century before the invention of penicillin in 1928, especially in times of war when clean water was not easily accessible. It is unclear if the couple commissioned this double coffin while dying of dysentery or if it was the choice of their surviving family.
However, it is clear that the love these two had for one another was so strong, not even death could separate them. Being prominent members of the community in their town of Hurst, Texas, the couple’s death and unique burial made front page news in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on July 16, 1921:
“Death fails to Separate Couple Wed 60 Years. Even death failed to separate Jefferson Souder, 80, and Mrs. Mary E. Souder, 78, his wife for more than half a century. Side by side, they will be laid to rest in the same casket in the little cemetery at Hurst Sunday afternoon after the span of more than an average lifetime, during with they were never separated. Only a few days intervened between their deaths. Mrs. Souder passed away at the old home near Hurst Wednesday. Her husband’s death followed Friday afternoon. Both were caused by infirmities incident to old age. They are survived by several children [the couple had eight children, seven of which outlived them], twenty-four grandchildren and nineteen great-grandchildren. Both were taken ill about the same time and of the same malady. Souder and his wife were Tarrant County pioneers and widely known in the Hurst neighborhood. There were married sixty years ago, their eldest child being 58 years of age.”
Thomas Jefferson Souder and Mary Ellen Souder are buried in the Arwine Cemetery in Hurst, Texas. No official death records were ever filed for the couple, but more information on their lives can be found at Roots Web.
Photos courtesy of Roots Web.
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