Monthly Archives: October 2011

Thriller Thursday – Major Harris Survives Baker’s Hospital

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Crescent Hotel, formerly the Baker’s Hospital Photo by Melanie Myhre 2010

In 1937, a man named Norman Baker, having been kicked out of Iowa where his original hospital was, fled to the Ozark Mountains where he bought a majestic Victorian Hotel and turned it into the Baker’s Hospital.

My Great Grandfather, Major Harris checked into Baker’s Hospital and he checked out.  Alive.  Not many did.  The fact that he was at this hospital at all, is why I choose this story for Thriller Thursday.  I’m totally creeped out that my great-grandfather could have suffered a terrible fate in the hands of Norman Baker.

Norman Baker.  Yes, that’s right.  You heard me.  Norman Baker, not Bates.  Although, I think they have a lot in common.  Both were murderers.  Both worked in old Hotels.   Anyway, thinking of either of them doesn’t make me want to go jump in the shower, I can tell you that.

In 1938 my father, Rufus Higginbotham, a boy of four years old remembers the trip to take his “Grandpa” to the Baker’s Hospital in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, now the Crescent Hotel, very well.

Back in the day, before seat belt laws, my father stood right behind his father, Earl Higginbotham, clasping the front seat as Earl drove.  My father watched out the
front glass as Earl drove them up the mountain on the winding road.  My father became so overcome with motion sickness that he passed out.

It was a hard journey, but they made it.  They dropped off Major and his wife Mollie at
the hospital and headed back home, to Texarkana, Arkansas.

Major and Mollie Harris

Little did they know that Norman Baker, founder of the Baker’s Institute, inventor, radio station owner of KTNT (Know The Naked Truth), and self-proclaimed doctor was actually a flamboyant con man who took the lives of many people who believed that he had the cure for cancer.

What he actually used was the Hoxsey’s Treatment, which according to this article by Walter Bissell, proved to be no more than crushed up watermelon seeds in mountain water.  According to this Wikipedia entry, it was a topical paste of antimony, zinc and bloodroot, arsenic, sulfur, and talc for external treatments, and a liquid tonic of licorice, red clover, burdock root, Stillingia root, barberry, Cascara, prickly ash bark, buckthorn bark, and potassium iodide for internal consumption.  Wikipedia states that this paste was highly caustic, and could burn or scar the skin.  It is in fact, still being administered today in Mexico!

How my great-grandfather walked out of Baker’s hospital alive, I just don’t know but I do
believe he took that medicine and I offer up proof via two postcards that I found in my grandfather’s memorabilia.  They are very hard to read, so I transcribed them.  The postcards were sent from Major and Mollie while at the Baker’s hospital, to my grandparents.

The first postcard, dated Feb 9, 1938 talks about Rufus being drunk.  My Dad says that they are talking about him passing out from the motion sickness, so that must have been shortly after they arrived at the hospital.

They talk about the medicine in this second postcard, dated April 2, 1938, and from what they say, it appears they must have been getting ready to come home.   That is almost two months that Major stayed at the hospital, and lived to tell about it.

There are tales that Norman Baker would often have patients send home for more money, convincing the patient that they needed it for various things, when in fact he would just pocket the money.

The fact that Mollie stayed by his side is probably what saved his life.  The patients that were there alone suffered a fate different from Major’s.  Having no family nearby, when his patients died, he would hide the bodies until they could be burned later in the incinerator, often at night.

I’m happy that my great-grandfather Major didn’t die in that hospital.  In fact, he lived until 1955 when he suffered from internal bleeding in his brain.  He was working under a door that was propped open with a stick and it fell and delivered a blow to the top of his head.

Did Norman Bates, I mean Baker, (I can’t keep them straight) cure Major during his stay at the hospital?  I don’t think so.  I wish I knew Major’s medical history, but I don’t.  I don’t even know what he went to the Baker’s Hospital for.  My father remembers him having surgeries on his stomach at a later time, so my guess is that no, Norman Baker didn’t cure anything. I think Major was just lucky he didn’t die in that hospital.

It was only a matter of time, before Norman Baker was convicted in 1940 of mail fraud, and was sent to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary to serve four years.  He was released in 1944 and retired to Florida where he died in 1958.

Norman Baker

I wonder if Major and Mollie ever knew who and what Norman Baker really was?  I wonder if they knew what a close call Major had by being in that hospital.

You can read all about the Norman Baker and the Baker’s Hospital on the Crescent Hotel’s
website, by clicking here.  I won’t put all that information in this post but it is very interesting.   Many believe the Hotel to be haunted, and Ghost Hunters have even done a TV show about it.  You can check that out here.

Maybe I will take a Ghost Tour at the Crescent Hotel and see if I can catch a glimpse of Ole Norman Baker who is reportedly still hanging around, in his purple suit no doubt.

~Susie Higginbotham~

Site down?

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I guess the site has been down for the last couple of days and I didn’t realize it.  I will have to stay on top of the hosting company!  At any rate, if anyone happens to catch it down, please let me know so I can get it back up ASAP.  Thanks!


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Military Monday – Sonny Cowan

My dad Robert Allen Cowan, Sr. or “Sonny” as he was called, joined the Army on December 8, 1941 right after Pearl Harbor…..was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana for basic training….then was selected for Officers Candidate School (OCS) and I am not sure where that was, possibly Waco.

He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1942.

He was shipped to the Pacific late in 1942 or early 1943 and did ‘island hopping’ following Marines who went in and secured islands and then the Army would come in and ‘mop up’ according to him. He was wounded in late 1943 and was finally sent ‘stateside’ to a VA hospital. I believe it was in San Francisco.

My mom took a train to visit him and in March/April of 1944 became pregnant with me. My dad was released from the hospital and was shipped to the “European Theater” and was part of the 36th Division.  Audie Murphy, WWII’s most decorated soldier and Congressional Medal of Honor winner and later movie star, was my dad’s friend, which plays a major role later in his life.

My dad was now a Captain and was with the 36th Division, I believe 142nd Infantry, but, I am not exact on that….I am fairly sure he was in General Butler’s division and was in Italy,
and France.

He received the bronze star, the Croix de Guerre and French Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart, participation ribbon’s for the Pacific and European theaters of war, the fleurs de guerre and was discharged in late 1945 as a Major.

He came back to Texarkana and could not find work. A call to Audie Murphy in Los Angeles prompted him and my mom to move and I was one year old.

We moved to Venice, California and Audie got my dad a job as a stuntman for Culver City Studios, where he did work on a few Clark Gable films (most notable was “Band of
Angels”) and he doubled for Gene Autry in at least 5 films.

My mom left him when I was 3 and we moved back to Texarkana, where they
subsequently divorced.

My dad stayed in the Army Reserve, was an instructor in 3rd Army at Fort Hood, Texas,  Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Eustis, Virginia.

He retained his Captaincy and died at the age of 48 from alcoholism and was buried with full military honors in Rose Hill Cemetery in Texarkana, Texas with the rank of Captain.

His Military Page on can be viewed here.

Robert Allen Cowan, Jr.

Family Tree Maker with the new Tree Sync Option

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I’m not all that happy with this upgrade to Family Tree Maker 2012.  There are many things I like about it, but the whole reason I paid for the upgrade was because I was very excited about having my tree sync with the tree on my computer in my Family Tree Maker program.

More and more of my family has become involved with working on our lineage and I wanted all of our information to be on so family members can keep up with progress, but have my tree in my computer, for reports and such.

Supposedly, I can sync my trees with Family Tree Maker 2012.  That doesn’t seem to be the case for me.

First problem that I encountered was I couldn’t sync the tree I already had on to the tree I already had on Family Tree Maker.  You can only upload one and then sync it, or download your tree from Ancestry and sync it.

My dilemma with that was, I had about 350 more people on my Family Tree Maker program that I did on my Ancestry Tree.  Since I have spent many hours connecting my Ancestry tree to other family members, photo’s and other information, I didn’t want to lose those connection’s by uploading a new tree.

Thinking I had no choice, because I didn’t want to have to reenter all the people and their information, I downloaded my tree and I merged it to my tree in Family Tree Maker.  Then I spent days cleaning up the mess that it caused.  Then I uploaded that tree to Ancestry, creating tree number two on my account just so I could sync my tree.

Nightmare number two commenced.  Pictures went everywhere, sources got linked to multiple people they didn’t belong to, so on and so on.  So, I started working on cleaning up that mess.  Then about day two, the tree stopped syncing.  After countless emails to Ancestry, their solution –  keep trying.

I gave up.  After three days. support says “Keep Trying”.  That’s what the program tells me as well.  That however, is not helping me one iota.

Not to be beaten by a program, I decided to download my original tree because I really didn’t want to lose those connections anyway,  and I spent another two days adding the 350 people who weren’t in this tree, and the syncing worked fine.

Until two days ago.  I got the error message again, and still today, it will not sync.  I’m not sure why I thought I could go to bed and it would work fine today, but it is what it is.

So, and Family Tree Maker people, listen up!!  You better do something besides tell me to keep on trying, or I will discontinue the $30 a month I am currently sending you.  I’m not wasting any more of my life trying to make your program work.

Neither of the two trees I have spent the past week and a half working on will sync at all.

Am I the only one that is having this problem??  I would really like to hear from some other Family Tree Maker users.

Back from Trips

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Hello cousins and friends!  Just a quick note to let you know I am back from all my trips and will be back to posting this week.  Look for some good stuff coming up!

Here is a teaser of more to come.  I met with Marilyn Metcalf Huber, and she had this photo of our Ancestor’s Lynn and Sallie Davis.  I love it!



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