Throckmorton, Ann Rattan [Annie] (1829–1895)


By: Kenneth Howell

Type: Biography

Published: April 1, 2022

Updated: April 4, 2022


Ann “Annie” Rattan Throckmorton, early pioneer of Texas, frontier nurse, caregiver, and First Lady of Texas in 1866 and 1867, was born in Carrollton, Illinois, on March 25, 1829. She was one of fourteen children born to Thomas H. Rattan and Gillian “Gillie” Milligan (Hill) Rattan. Her father, a native of Madison County, Illinois, helped to establish Carrollton, the county seat of Greene County, Illinois, in 1819. As a resident of Carrollton, he operated one of the town’s first hotels and was contracted to build a two-story courthouse in 1830. He also built several mills, operated a tavern, constructed a brick home for his family, and served as a state representative and senator before leaving Carrolton for the Republic of Texas. Annie’s mother was born in Gainesville, Hall County, Georgia, on September 25, 1792, and married Thomas Rattan on March 5, 1807, in Belleville, St. Clair County, Illinois.

In the early 1840s the Rattans, along with the Throckmortons, Witts, Kincades, and other families, moved to North Texas and settled on lands near the present-day city of McKinney in Collin County. Life on the North Texas frontier was harsh and filled with dangers. As a pioneer woman, Annie likely assisted her family with the tasks of preparing the land for cultivation, building a new home, and defending themselves from American Indian raids. Fortunately, the Rattans had settled an area with fertile soil for growing crops and plentiful timbers for constructing their home and outbuildings. The land also provided a bountiful supply of wildlife that provided the family with an endless source of sustenance. More problematic were the frequent raids by American Indian groups in the area. In 1841 Annie’s brother, Wade Hampton “Hamp” Rattan, a private out of Bird’s Fort and a veteran of the Sauk and Fox wars in Illinois, was killed by unidentified American Indian raiders. Aside from this tragedy, scholars know little about Annie’s frontier experience prior to her marriage to James Webb Throckmorton on January 20, 1848.

Given that the Rattan and Throckmorton families arrived in North Texas at the same time, it is probable that James and Annie knew each other for several years before their marriage. However, since James left the area in 1844 to attend medical school in Kentucky, it is also likely that he did not court Annie until his return two years later. Any budding courtship was disrupted when James volunteered for military service during the Mexican War in 1846. His service, however, was cut short due to medical issues, which left him to make the long journey back to the Throckmorton settlement to start a medical practice. Shortly after his return home, James asked Annie to marry him, and she accepted his proposal. Given that many members of the Rattan family still lived in Illinois, the couple traveled to Carrollton, Greene County, to exchange their wedding vows. The newlyweds, along with one of Annie’s sisters, returned to Collin County, Texas, where James continued his career as a frontier doctor.

Many contemporaries familiar with her early experiences in Northeast Texas claimed that Annie Throckmorton was considered the personification of a typical pioneer woman. An article in the December 29, 1912, edition of the San Antonio Express described her as “unselfish and self-sacrificing.” While the historical record does not recall her views about life on the Texas frontier, she likely experienced hardships that many settlers faced. Not only did she give birth to the first of ten children in relative isolation, but her husband, one of the only doctors in the region, was frequently away from home for days at a time to attend to his patients, who were scattered across the numerous settlements of Collin County. Consequently, often the responsibilities for taking care of her family and coping with unanticipated dangers fell solely on Annie. In one such incident, Annie saw a band of unidentified Native Americans approach her home one morning. According to the 1912 San Antonio Express article, one of the visitors “bent over her baby, took him up and played with him.” The group soon moved on without further incident, but the episode was permanently etched into Annie’s mind. The newspaper praised her courage and demonstrated calm given the number of raids on Anglo settlers in the region during the previous years.

Life on the frontier was characterized by hardship in other ways for the wife of a frontier doctor. Crucial to the success of her husband’s medical practice, Annie served as a nurse to his patients, especially those brought to the Throckmortons’ home. Annie fondly remembered one of her patients—a little girl who was near blind. Because her eyes were sensitive to light, James required the girl to stay in bed in a dark room for more than a month. During this time Annie cared for the young patient’s every need. After two months, the girl’s condition had improved enough for her to return home. However, when the parents of the child arrived, the young patient grabbed Annie and screamed that she did not want to leave. Nevertheless, the parents carried their daughter home, where she grieved and cried to such an extent that her vision problems returned. As such, the parents brought their daughter back to the Throckmorton’s residence, where she lived for almost a year before Annie convinced her to return home. While not all episodes were as dramatic, this incident reveals much about the life of a frontier doctor’s wife.

As Annie was fundamentally involved with her husband’s practice, she learned much about the medical profession. Her knowledge was not simply based on observing the actions of her husband as he took care of his patients. She was a voracious reader and frequently read her husband’s medical books. This served two purposes. First, aside from the Bible, his books represented the only reading material in the house. Second, the knowledge gained from the volumes provided her with topics to discuss with her husband. Armed with both practical experience and book knowledge, Annie was able to contribute in meaningful ways to James’s practice and likely helped him perform various medical procedures. Being able to perform even the simplest of treatments could mean the difference between life and death on the isolated frontier. This was especially true once James left the medical profession and entered state politics, for which he frequently attended political events and served in the legislature in Austin. During such an absence, one of his sons jumped on a broomweed, which broke off in his foot. Annie retrieved several instruments from one of her husband’s medical cases. Then, as a family acquaintance held her son down, she made an incision over the wound, removed the embedded stick, and bandaged the wound. Out of an abundance of caution, she sent for a local doctor, who revealed that her prompt action surely saved her child from the ravages of lockjaw.

After serving as a frontier doctor for less than eight years, James Throckmorton went into law and politics. His political career meant longer periods of isolation at home for Annie. When he was elected governor of Texas in 1866, she refused to move to Austin and remained at home to take care of their children and manage the affairs of the family farm. Like most wives of nineteenth-century politicians, Annie quietly supported the endeavors of her husband from a distance. She did not desire the life of a socialite and was happy to support her husband from the shadows. Despite her desire to remain out of the spotlight, she remained informed about current political topics by reading newspapers. While her husband served in the United States House of Representatives, she read the Congressional Record so that she might write to him about matters consuming his time and energy. When her daughter asked about this practice, she commented, “I began it as a duty; now I find it necessary and really enjoy it.”

The Throckmortons lived in Collin County for the remainder of their lives. James died on April 21, 1894, after suffering a fall and subsequent health issues. On October 30, 1895, a little more than a year later, Annie Rattan Throckmorton died at her home in McKinney, after suffering a severe stroke in August. She was interred next to her husband in the Pecan Grove Cemetery at McKinney, Texas, on November 1, 1895. She was survived by six of her children.

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Claude Elliott, Leathercoat: The Life of James W. Throckmorton (San Antonio: Standard Printing Company, 1938). Fort Worth Gazette, August 25, 1895. Ruby Crawford Holbert, The Public Career of James Webb Throckmorton, 1851–1867 (M. A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1932). Kenneth W. Howell, Texas Confederate, Reconstruction Governor: James Webb Throckmorton (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008). Pearl Cashell Jackson, Texas Governors’ Wives (Austin: E. L. Steck, Publisher, 1915). Harold E. Massey, History of Collin County (M. A. thesis, Southwestern University, 1948). McKinney Democrat, October 31, 1895; December 9, 1897. Gwen Pettit, “Between the Creeks”, Lindy Fisher, comp. (Fairview, Texas: 2007), available at University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth752794/), accessed August 23, 2021. San Antonio Express,December 29, 1912.

Categories:
  • Health and Medicine
  • Nurses and Nurse Administrators
  • Politics and Government
  • First Lady/First Gentleman of Texas
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Civil War
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
Places:
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kenneth Howell, “Throckmorton, Ann Rattan [Annie],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 13, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/throckmorton-ann-rattan-annie.

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April 1, 2022
April 4, 2022

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