Home Remedies and Prayer
That, and some stubborness, may be why Emma Potts has been able to avoid doctors for most of her 99 years
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Emma Potts spent almost all of her 99 years without ever having to visit a physician. "She's always refused to go to the doctor," said great niece Kathie Millsap. "She'd say, 'I know how I feel. I don't need no doctor to tell me.'”
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts   

Jan. 22, 2006 -- Home remedies and the healing power of prayer are what 99-year-old Emma Potts believes have kept her out of doctor's offices for almost a century now.

That, and maybe a little stubbornness, according to her family.

"She can be a pill," laughed her great niece Kathie Millsap, who recently took her aunt in for her first check-up in order to get her on a med-alert program. "Everyone was just amazed that she had never been to a doctor before."

On one occasion, however, a doctor did pay her a visit. Potts said when she was just a young child she fell from a bluff and broke her arm. The town physician made a house call to set her broken bone.

But that was the one and only other time Potts ever saw a doctor, until recently.

"I'm not scared of doctors, I just trust in the Lord for my healing," said Potts. "I've had my ups and downs, but I never did go running to the doctor. I just handled it myself. The Lord always worked it out for me."

Lavon Millsap, one of Potts’ many nieces, said she believes her aunt's secret to good health is no caffeine.

"She never drinks any cokes, coffee, tea, anything like that," said Kathie, Lavon's daughter. "She only drinks water and lots of juices."

According to Kathie, her great aunt is very independent and definitely has a bit of a stubborn streak.

"She's always refused to go to the doctor," she recalled. "She'd say, 'I know how I feel. I don't need no doctor to tell me.' She's just always had her home remedies for everything, and she would go to praying."

Honey and lemon mixed with hot apple cider helps ease sore throats and coughs, while wet, heated flour sack rags laid across a chest rubbed down with Vick's salve helps break up congestion, according to Potts.

"When I was a little girl, I had the most awful earaches. My Mama used to put hot pads up against my ear," recalled Potts, whose memory seems every bit as good as her health.

According to Lavon, the home remedies and praying weren't just for herself, either. Aunt Emma was always the one called on when family members were sick or had new babies to tend to.

"She was a nursemaid to a lot of people," said Lavon, who was named by her Aunt Emma, and taken care of by her, as well. "She has a tender, loving care way about her."

And neighbors who where fortunate enough to live on Connally Street, where she has resided for the past 40 years, knew they could call on her any time.

"She's sat with people all up and down that street for the past 40 years," said Lavon.

Nancy Emma Potts came to Hopkins County in the fall of 1912. She was born near Ardmore, Okla., on Aug. 8, 1906, the second to the youngest of seven children. Her father, Henry Jackson Potts, died of a brain hemorrhage when she was just 5 years old and her baby sister was an infant.

Potts' mother was the former Ellen Newsom. She had three brothers, Henry, Joe and Salis Newsom, all of Hopkins County, who traveled by caravan to Oklahoma in covered wagons to bring their widowed sister and her seven children back to Texas with them after the untimely death of their brother-in-law.

"It rained and rained. I was just a little girl, but I remember," said Potts of the trip that took place just after her 6th birthday. "My uncles had to undo the mules and hook them to the team to help get the wagons through high waters, cause they'd bog down. It probably took a week or more. We stayed in wagon yards in little old towns we went through. We didn't see any Indians, but they were out there."

The family settled near relatives in the Bonanza community, farming cotton, corn and sometimes ribbon cane, according to Potts.

Her mother developed a blood disease, and Potts learned to take care of her by administering shots to her every couple of days.

"I had to be real careful not to let an air bubble get into her veins," Potts recalled of the beginning of her caregiving days. "My desire was always just to help people. If there was someone in need, I was there to help them. Back in those times, it seemed like everybody helped everybody. That’s just the way it was."

Potts lost her mother when she was 19 years old, and in her 99 years all of her siblings have died, as well.

"I’ve seen lots of heartache and happiness," said Potts, who never married or had children of her own, but was content to be a part of all her nieces' and nephews' lives. "They all remember that. We were always a close family, and they’ve all been good to me."

Potts said she has experienced good times and bad, but unlike most she has seen firsthand almost 100 years of history.

Potts can remember riding in her first automobile, and the development of indoor plumbing and refrigeration.

"Why, we used to tie a rope on a jug of milk and hang it down into a cistern so we’d have some cool milk when we came in from the fields," she recalled. "Later, we had a box we’d sit jars in with cool, wet rags wrapped around them, and then after that we had an ice man come by."

Telephones and televisions came along also, and Potts admitted she never did take much interest in watching TV.

"I’d rather read my Bible or the newspaper or something," she said. "I did have one for awhile, and I’ve thought about getting another one, but at 99, what’s the use?" she added laughing.

Luxuries in life were few and far between as Potts was growing up, but she said living in the country like she did, "everyone was in the same shoes."

"We never did even think about it. I appreciate them now, but when you never had them you didn’t know any different," said Potts.

One innovation Potts did take a liking to was the telephone. According to Kathie, she likes it even more since she recently found out she can order pizza, one of her favorite foods, to be delivered right to her doorstep.

Potts doesn’t drive, not because she’s up in years, but because she never did learn how.

"I walked or rode in a wagon everywhere I went," she laughed.

Which also probably contributed to her good health.

Potts is an amazing woman, according to her family, who say they hold her dear to their hearts.

"We all admire her with great love," said Lavon. "She’s a dear aunt to all of her nieces and nephews. And now, great nieces and nephews, too."

"My family has been good to me," said Potts. "And the Lord’s been real good to me. The older you get the closer you get to Him, and when He comes, I’m ready. But I feel good and healthy for my age. I think I’m doing fairly well. I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey."

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