Published On: Fri, Jan 10th, 2014

Surnames in history

Dear Editor:

Perhaps everyone is familiar with the story of the Ambassador to Mexico who returned from his post with a native plant that was unknown other than in its local area in the countryside. As it developed he had made a discovery of a new and well received seasonal flower that as an honor was named after him, “Poinsett,” which is but one example of how surnames have come to become explanations.

Many have heard the expression, “Here come the Campbell’s” taking it as a greeting when actually it was a warning of danger, that was even exceeded by it becoming dangerous for your personal safety if it were known you were of that family.

In this country, the killing of President Lincoln not only ended the stage careers of many who shared the name of Booth, but in the unfortunate act of a medical doctor who unknowingly or not, treated the broken leg of the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, as he attempted to escape. The doctor was arrested, tried and convicted of involvement and sentenced to life in prison. He spent a hellish four years in a military prison, Fort Jefferson, located on the Dry Tortuga Island off the coast of Florida. Even though he was a prisoner, his acts of service during a Yellow Fever epidemic resulted in his being pardoned.

“Your name is mud,” still in use today is a memory of that physician, Samuel Mudd, MD.

Jack D. Ballard

Lewisburg

 

P.S.

My last “letter” quoted a film quote source as “Citizen Cane” when I meant “Citizen Kane.” I’m certain that most people would know my mistake but nevertheless I am still reminded of the story told about the late Richard Pryor, upon the suggestion that the word was that he drank too much and that it might be better for his image, if he would switch to vodka that wouldn’t reveal itself on his breath. After thinking it over, he said “No thanks, I would rather have people know I am drunk than think I was stupid.”

[Editor’s Note] Actually, Mr. Ballard did use the “K” in his submission, but noble to the end, he chose to slightly fall on his sword for accuracy’s sake. Mountain Messenger apologizes for the error.