What happened in that house

Amaryllis Routh Jameson kept meticulous scrapbooks full of news items about her family and friends. Since her husband was heavily involved in Texas business and politics, there was no shortage of clippings. And, as it turned out, no shortage of dramatic news:

This ran in the Austin paper (which was then the Democratic Statesman I think?), sometime around May 1899:

This morning little Vida, the 5-year-old daughter of Mr. Joe Lee Jameson, residing at 1108 Colorado street, while leaning over the banister at the head of a stairway, lost her balance and fell about nineteen feet to the floor of the hallway below. She struck head first, but fortunately alighted upon a rug, which to some extent broke the force of the fall…. while the little girl has not recovered from the shock, it is not believed that her injuries are of a serious nature. It was a miraculous escape from death.

When you look at the photo of that house, you can see from the windows how high the ceilings were and visualize those nineteen feet. (Interesting to think that the photo must have been taken not too long after the incident, too.)

A miraculous escape, but then, just below that clipping, others are pasted, with the penciled-in caption “Eighteen months later.”  Eighteen months later, on Thursday, November 15, 1900…

Vida, the 7-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joe Lee Jameson, died suddenly yesterday at the family home…. Death was due to an attack of meningitis. Vida was apparently well until last Sunday evening, when she became ill. She was the pride of the family circle and by her affectionate and gentle disposition had won the hearts of not only her bereaved parents, but all those with whom she came in contact….

Meningitis is sometimes caused by a traumatic injury to the head or spine. Since it doesn’t sound like Vida’s case was a contagious one, it seems possible she developed the infection as a result of her accident. While going through the family files, we found photos of Vida with annotations by my grandmother saying she had “died from a fall,” so perhaps the family felt the events were linked.

More clippings:

This interesting child was the light of the family circle… her attractive ways and affectionate disposition won many hearts. Everyone deeply sympathizes with the afflicted parents.

I cropped this portrait from the family photos in this post.

An interesting child: Vida Jameson 1893-1900

News items ran in other Texas papers where the Rouths and Jamesons had family. The governor’s wife attended the funeral (and presumably, Governor Sayers as well).

And Vida’s brother Malcolm contributed a few lines as well:

Dear Aunt Ruth: I will be 9 years old next month.

I only had one little sister. Her name was Vida. She was 7. She died last Thursday. I am so sad. Her schoolmates and lots of people sent flowers. Her grave was all covered wtih them. Mrs. Sayers twined ropes of violets around the little white casket.

Good-bye.

Malcolm would name his only daughter Vida. He eventually became a writer. (Was this his first published effort?)

Vida’s death was one of several trials the family would experience in the 1900s. Here is her memorial on Find A Grave.

More about the house

Here’s the letter pasted on the reverse side of that Austin house photo. Dig that letterhead, huh? The letter tells us a lot about who Joe Lee was: State Revenue Agent of Texas, crony of Governor Sayers, family man, and… connoisseur of foliage, apparently.

And yet  it didn’t tell me much that could help me find out what happened to the house. From Ammie’s scrapbooks we figured out that its address was 1108 Colorado Street, which, according to Google maps (see link) is right across from the State Capitol. And we could see on the map’s street view feature that the house was no longer there. But it had been an important house, right? What happened to it? There had to be the history of it somewhere, or at least another picture.

I spent a whole afternoon online trying to follow the clues in the letter, looking up places where Albert Sidney Johnson (ahem, Johnston) had lived, and later, Joseph Sayers. I had no luck, and much later I would figure out that Joe Lee got some of his facts wrong.

One day, though, I was going through an online photo archive on the Austin History Center’s website, and I found this image—a glass-plate stereoscopic photo of the view from the Governor’s Mansion. I knew the house was in the same neighborhood, so I peered in as close as I could. Sure enough, there, off in the distance, was the house.

The photo description said the view was of the “Cook house and quality shop, 1104 Colorado,” which made no sense to me. It wasn’t even the right address. But eventually I figured it all out. You’ll see.

The people who lived in that house

(They lived there for a short time, at least.)

A closer view of the family seen in this photo: Joe Lee Jameson and Amaryllis Routh Jameson (aka “Jamie”), my great-great-grandparents; Malcolm Routh Jameson, my great grandfather, and Vida Jameson (the first of two Vidas: there would be another in the next generation).

The top two photos are from about 1899. The bottom photo may be a year or two later, since MRJ is a little older. And since Vida isn’t there.

By 1905 their family portrait would look much different.