animal attack

Little William Isam succumbs to rat bite.

In the spring of 1949, five month-old William Earl Isam died in his crib after a large rat bit his face. 

Wilson Daily Times, 27 April 1949.

The county coroner was incensed. Not only had the boy died in horrific circumstances, but he had not been seen by a doctor beforehand, and his adoptive father Henry Gervin had buried his body before receiving a death certificate.

Wilson Daily Times, 30 April 1949.

William Isam finally received a death certificate six days after he died. Per the record, he was born 3 November 1948 to Annie Bell Isam. The document bristles with details of the boy’s death. The “Register of Deeds gave burial permit without death certificate.” The cause of death was “Probably blood stream infection from rat bite. Bitten in its crib about midnight. Died 9 hours later Coroner not notified. Heard about 24 hours after burial.” 

Three days later, the Daily Times followed up with a report on little William’s neighbors’ concerns. What they thought about the boy’s death went unmentioned, but their indignation that Rock Ridge’s reputation had been smeared is clear.

Wilson Daily Times, 3 May 1949.

April clippings courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.