The book Lauderdale County from its Earliest Times has a lot of little tidbits about life in Lauderdale County. While reading the  book I came across a tidbit about a man named Tom Rice. What stood out about Mr. Rice’s tidbit is the way he died.


“Tom Rice (Negro). Tom swallowed a table fork in a fight, killing him”


Excuse me, he swallowed a fork? That sounds especially painful. I then searched for his death certificate. Because Mr. Rice died in 1910 he has one of the earliest versions of death certificates for Lauderdale County. The early death certificates list little to no information compared to later versions. His cause of death is listed simply as “choked”. According to his death certificate Mr. Rice was 70 years old at the time of his death having been born in 1840. At the time of his death he was married and he worked as a laborer. Further researched turned up a marriage certificate and census records for Mr. Rice. He was married to Rebecca Turner Rice and by 1900 they had four children, Kate, Annie, William and Mary. What is missing from the story is exactly what happened to Mr. Rice the day he died. Was he indeed in a fight? If so, who was he fighting with and where were they fighting? Since he died by swallowing and choking on a fork I wonder if they were at an African American eating establishment? If so, what was the name of that establishment? I sure hope he did not meet his death at home at his own dinner table.


– Tiffany

– Source: Lauderdale County from its Earliest Times pg 117. State of Tennessee Marriage and Death Records, US Census Records for Lauderdale County, TN