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1900-1910: Madstones were working miracles

In the first decade of the 20th Century, many practitioners of the the art of curing hydrophobia and snake bites with madstones were reported in Adair County. At one point in the 1960s, a famous man ofTaylor County, KY, was in possession of, and was an authority on, madstones. We are trying to contact him for more information. Also, there is an entry, "Try a Madstone," on in The Old Farmer's -CM

By JD Gee

Mrs. Charlotte Patterson, nee Nell, a native of Adair County, removed from Texas back to the Auld Sod a few years after the death of her husband, Eli Jackson Patterson.
Mrs. Patterson's Madstone

Mrs. Charlotte Patterson is now located at Mr. T.J. Rossen's in the Breeding country. She has in her possession a very valuable madstone. (Adair County News, November 5, 1902.)
Not quite a month later, the madstone was put to the test:

Mad Dog

Last Saturday night [Nov. 29] while Mr. Jo Coffey, Jr., was en route home he was attacked near Dr. U.L. Taylor's residence by a dog and bitten twice upon the hand. The next morning Jo, in company with Dr. C.M. Murrell, went to the residence of Mr. T.J. Rossen, twelve miles from town, where Mrs. Charlotte Patterson keeps a madstone. The madstone was applied several times, and it is supposed that if the dog had rabies the poison was absorbed. At any rate Jo's hand was giving him much pain when he started, and after the stone his suffering ceased.Sunday at noon as Mr. Fred McLean was returning home from church the same dog bit him upon the left leg below the knee and Monday morning Mr. McLean left for the madstone.

After the last attack Messrs. W.A. Coffey, Lem Smythe, P.V. Grissom and perhaps others started on a hunt for the dog, finding him near the residence of Ed Murray, of color. They were armed with revolvers and the canine was soon dispatched. (December 3, 1902)Dr. Russell's first wife, the former Miss Marie Nell, was a close kinswoman of Mrs. Patterson.
Aunt Sis Patterson, of Breeding, is now making her home in our town, at the home of a nephew, G.H. Nell. She has a madstone and anyone bitten by a mad dog should call at the residence of Mr. Nell. (Gradyville newsletter, March 18, 1903.)
That the afflicted should "call at the residence" was in strict accordance with protocol concerning madstones: the madstone never went to the patient, the patient always went to the madstone. More information about madstone legend and lore may be found here. .
Mrs. Charlotte Patterson was in Columbia last Wednesday and in company of with Mrs. W.R. Grissom, visited the News office. While here she exhibited a mad-stone which has been in the Nell family, Mrs. Patterson's maiden name being Nell, for seventy years. It is a porous rock, and during the seventy years it has been applied to a large number of persons who had been bitten by rabid dogs, snakes, etc. The stone originally came from Europe, and is pronounced genuine, as it has perfected many cures. (Adair Co. News, September 6, 1905.)
The fate of Mrs. Patterson's madstone is quite unknown. In the latter part of July, 1906, at the age of 80, she removed to near Moody, Texas, where she died a few months later at the home of John Kilman, her adopted son.

Two other specific madstones were mentioned in the News from this era, one located in Casey County, the other in Green County. The following paid advertisements appeared in numerous issues of the News:

I have a madstone. Persons bitten by dogs or snakes call on me. Will guarantee the stone. C.B. Kenett, Dunnville, Ky.


I have an Excellent Madstone which has been tried in about one hundred cases of hydrophobia and snake bites, with good results. I can cite you to many of the cases. Write or call on me at Dulworth, Ky. -- J.A. Dulworth.

The latter drew mention again several years later in the Gradyville newsletter:
On last Tuesday morning Mr. Claud Gilpin, who lives near Nell, came to our town in pursuit of a mad stone claiming that the horse he was driving had been bitten by a mad dog a day or two ago. Mr. Gilpin heard of a stone for stock at James Dulworth's, of Green county. (July 7, 1909.)
Between 1901 and 1910, the News reported three other madstone cures (owner or owners not identified)
Tyler Grant, son of J.B. Grant, was bitten by a mad dog last Monday was a week [i.e., a week ago Monday]. Mr. Grant carried his son to a madstone and it stuck seven times. The boy is now doing well. (November 7, 1901.)

Willie Monday, a little son of Mrs. Nannie Monday, this county, was bitten by a mad dog one day last week. He was carried to a mad-stone and it stuck a number of times. (January 23, 1903.)

A little boy of M. Clay Beck, was bitten by a mad dog one day last week. The boy was carried to a madstone and is now getting along nicely. (Tarter newsletter, December 28, 1910.)
And finally, this entry from the Dirigo newsletter in the July 27, 1910 News that reminded your humble contributor of madstones and led to (dare I say?) a mad search for information:
A mad dog produced considerable excitement in this neighborhood one day last week. Mrs. Z.W. Scott was out some distance from home when she saw the dog have a fit and come toward her. No other means of escape being apparent she sought the friendly protection of a tree; she climbed beyond the reach of the dog and says she would have climbed higher had it been necessary.

She thus occupied her perch until she thought the dog was entirely gone, when she descended and started for home. She had nearly reached the house when her daughter happened to see the dog coming and hollooed her; she quickened her pace and reached the house just in time to prevent being bitten.

The dog then left; it was seen at W.J. Bean's a short time after this and then disappeared.
Perhaps CM readers will be wiling to add to the Adair County madstone lore. -JD Gee.

This story was posted on 2010-07-25 16:54:19
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