Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

One Tragic Day in October, a True Story re. the Death of Evelyn Langhorne Houchins and Joyce Knowles Helms


Women riding horses in 1910

      Saturday, October 6, 1900 was a beautiful Fall day, crisp and cool in the mountains of Patrick County Virginia. For our family, it was a tragic day. My maternal great, great-grandmother, Evaline Howell Langhorne, age 34 went into labor with twins. She was living at the plantation home of her blind father James Steptoe Langhorne and her mother Elizabeth Rachel Omohundro Langhorne, along with her husband and six children. A rider went out to ask her cousin and midwife Louvenia Joyce Knowles Helms, age 64, to come quickly to help with the complicated home birth.

Louvinia Knowles Helms

     Louvenia grabbed her supplies and asked her daughter Louisa,age 36, called Lutie,  to accompany her by horseback to the Langhorne’s home. They rode hard through the woods as they knew time was of the essence. Louisa was just behind her mother as they galloped along. Suddenly her mother slowed, stopped and dropped to the ground clutching her chest. Lutie was stunned as she rushed to her mother’s side. Doing all that she could to help her mother, it wasn’t enough and her mother died that day of a heart attack, rushing to help my grandmother give birth! Louvenia had eleven children of her own and her beloved husband Adam Helms who survived her.

       Meanwhile, Evaline Houchins was in trouble as well, The birth wasn’t going well, and her body was just not able to withstand the physical stress. This wonderful young woman and both infants died that day as well as Louvenia! What a tragic day for our family, and what a tragic day for all of Patrick County, Virginia on that beautiful Fall day in October, 1900! 

(This story was told to Helen Holshouser by Harvie Langhorne Spangler on April 26, 2013.)


Louvenia Joyce Knowles (1836 – 1900)

is your 2nd cousin 4x removed
mother of Louvenia Joyce Knowles
father of Jane Harbour
father of David Harbour
son of Abner Harbour
daughter of Moses* Harbour
daughter of Joyce Harbour
son of Nancy J Houchins
daughter of Walter Thomas Houchins
daughter of Katherine Steptoe Houchins
You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kerse –


Evaline Langhorne (1866 – 1900)

is your great grandmother
daughter of Evaline Langhorne
daughter of Katherine Steptoe Houchins
You are the daughter of Margaret Steptoe Kerse

Author: Helen Holshouser

Old enough to enjoy life, I am a Red Hatter, grandmother, gardener, and amateur genealogist. I am a retired clinical psychologist, master's level, who is disabled with heart disease, but having fun with family and friends. Married over 40 years, I have two grown daughters and three grandchildren. I have learned that grandchildren provide a joy one never knew existed---writing feeds my soul, gardening is therapy, and genealogy research makes me feel like a detective!

22 thoughts on “One Tragic Day in October, a True Story re. the Death of Evelyn Langhorne Houchins and Joyce Knowles Helms

  1. Theresa McCullough Pyne- this story is a treasure! Good history of Family to record and keep!


  2. Pam Currie: Cool that you have those details!


  3. Very sad family story, but loved learning about it. I will be following you!
    Love and hugs, Linda


  4. I had heard this story before but glad to be reminded of the details. Did Harvie ever tell your about “Tump” Spangler’s first wife, who also died in childbirth? They lived in my house when they were first married. But I never knew there were any plantations in Meadows of Dan!


  5. Hi Leslie! I am so happy that I’ve met you on mountaintop, and thankful that you came by, read and took the time to comment! It means the world to me! I had not heard the story of Tumps first wife, and will have to ask Harvie. He and I have just gotten to know each other since February of this year, and have never actually met, only talked on the phone multiple times! I’m planning on getting up there this summer, and am looking forward to meeting him tremendously! Its hard for me to believe how things were in early Virginia, a little embarrassing truth be known, with the idea of slaves and plantations and all, but here’s one quote of many I came across: ” His eldest son John Scarsbrook Langhorne (born 1819) married Sarah Elizabeth Dabney of “Edgemont”, a great-granddaughter of William Randolph II of “Chatesworth”. He inherited Langhorne Mills, along with the bulk of his father’s estate. The second son James Steptoe Langhorne (1822-1905) was given an ample number of slaves and the 13,000-acre “Langdale” plantation located near the border of North Carolina.” My understanding is that this was located in Patrick County, Harvie told me he would show me where when we came up there. I am living near Raleigh, North Carolina but I was born in Richmond,Va. I think the plantation was pretty worthless after the Civil War, and I know he had a mill of some kind as well. I understand that he divided the property up among his 10 children and umpteen grandchildren when he died in 1905. As far as I know, since my own g grandmother, his daughter died before him as in the story above, and her husband deserted the family, I do not know how or if he provided for my grandmother Kate and her siblings, but you’d think he would have as they lived with him. Perhaps he did, I just do not know. The story goes that Lady Astor, Evaline’s very wealthy first cousin stepped in and educated them all while a Ms. Wright raised the two youngest boys. James’s wife, Evaline’s mother Elizabeth can be seen on the 1910 census still alive, but living with her daughter Mary who married a DeHart. I figure she must not have been well enough to keep her grandchildren after James died in 1905, they were scattered across Virginia, Kate and Julia to different homes in Richmond, Tom to military school, Harry lived with Joseph Hall (he was blind) there in Patrick Co. and John and Guy to Mrs Wright in Stuart then later to different military schools. They were my great aunts and uncles, and when I was a child I knew them all except Tom, whom I’ll tell a story about some time soon. They were close and I never knew they were separated until I started researching for our family tree! Its amazing how quickly family history gets lost! Harvie knows more than anyone I know, and I can hardly wait to meet him! Hope to see you soon, Helen


  6. Thank you so much for becomming a “follower” Linda! And thanks for your constant support and friendship! love you, Helen


  7. Thank you so much for reading and responding my dear friend Pam! Love you,helen


  8. Thank you so much Theresa! And thank you for reading and commenting! Love you, Helen


  9. You should write a book of your family. You not only have a good family history, but are a gifted writer as well.


  10. Helen, I did not know this story. I did not know that this was how she died. Unfortunately, this happened all too often back then. So tragic. Did you know the road where the Jeff and Lutie Helms Cockram homeplace is is named Helms Road for Adam Helms?


  11. Oh my goodness, what a sad, tragic story! It is, however, an interesting one, and a gem to have record of in your family history — it is so fortunate the story was handed down to you to pass on to future generations!


  12. No I did not know that Beverly! I love now knowing some of you who know the area where my ancestors come from! It is simply amazing! I feel you are a part of my journey, I just can’t believe we met this late in my life! Love you cuz! Helen


  13. You are so right Becky, on all counts! The tragedy, and the fortune to have family stories handed down! It makes all the difference in knowing these people as more than names in a family tree! Thank you so much for coming by and for leaving a comment! Helen


  14. Local history is always more interesting, isn’t it? Better late than never! Love you too!


  15. Wow!…what a sad story! Thanks for sharing!


  16. Thanks for reading and commenting Betty! It means so much! Helen


  17. Wow! Thank you so much for the compliment! I appreciate it from one who also knows so much about family stories and genealogy! Thanks! Helen


  18. No, I’ve never heard that story, I know Tump’s first wife was a Shelor though, so sad. I’ll ask Harvie.Wow, they lived in your house!Interesting! You are not the first person who has told me how surprised they were about the plantation. According to our family history, Steptoe inherited it from his fatther. But you know, then he went blind. He died in 1905, and his wife went to live with her daughter Mary Langhorne DeHart, until her death. I searched for their wills this weekend when I was there to no avail. I’ve heard different rumors, but am really not sure how the land was divided, but apparently it was after his death. Debra and Rob told us how many acres they have the other day Ithink, but I can’t remember, I’ll have to ask Harvie. I really want to go visit Aunt Susie, who will soon be 104. They say she is very lucid, so I’d love to ask her some questions! It is so great to “talk” with you! Thanks for commenting!


  19. Pingback: W. Thomas Houchins, An Ancestor Gone Wrong –52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #34 | Heart of a Southern Woman

  20. Pingback: Harry Langhorne Houchins, Blind, Extraordinary Banjo Player! 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks @42 | Heart of a Southern Woman

  21. Louvenia was my GG Grandmother.


  22. Dear Robin, what a smart, kind, and dedicated woman she was–which leaves a great legacy for you!
    Thanks for saying hi! Helen


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