This is a story about how different families handled very similar situations “back in the day.”
|This picture was taken in 1923 of the seven surviving siblings.|
Their first child lived only three weeks. She was followed by another daughter, a son, a daughter, another son, and then four daughters and finally, another little boy. My grandmother was #9. She was born in March, 1905.
Two years later (like clockwork) her mother had a son. Great-Grandmother Rachel went out into the chilly morning air too soon after her little guy was born, and she caught pneumonia that would end her life. This was 1907. I don’t think she reached her 40th birthday.
The family tried to keep the little boy alive, but there was no one to nurse him and Lord only knows what all they tried. The oldest girls were able to care for him otherwise, but there was no milk, or not enough of it. You didn’t just run to the store for Similac© in that day. I don’t know what all they did, but in September 1907, he too died.
The story doesn’t get any better. The following April, the 8-year-old girl contracted Typhoid and she too died (although her two older brothers survived). My great-aunt, born in 1899, told me how the home was quarantined and the other children went elsewhere. The four of them, mother and father, baby boy and little girl are buried in West Jefferson Cemetery. I don’t know where the first little girl was buried.
What is interesting about this family is that my Great-Grandfather John was able to keep his family together without farming them out all over to different friends and relatives, or marrying some young girl to take care of the place (or an older spinster or widow). We will find out later, it doesn’t always work out like that. He was a teacher and while not a “farmer,” they had land near West Jefferson, Ohio and grew their own food. Later, when my grandmother was 7 or 8, they moved to Springfield, Ohio where her Dad worked in a factory. The older children were leaving home, getting married and starting their own families. Grandma was the youngest and “benefited” (?) by playing and learning from older siblings.
When my husband and I got married, over the course of time, we discussed family histories, I was interested to learn that my husband’s great-grandfather also had a large family, and lost his wife in much the same way as my grandmother’s mother died: three weeks after her last child (my husband’s grandfather) was born. The word pneumonia was never used, but it was in early Spring and was too similar to believe it was anything else! It was a few years earlier as this first marriage took place in 1874.
However, his great-grandfather handled things differently. His first wife gave birth to six children, and he couldn’t take care of them and farm. His step-sister took the baby, and although the word “nurse” was never used, that is to be assumed. He kept the other five at home and he got ready to marry the girl down the road, to take care of them.
|The family reunions started with those six siblings.|
Today, we take for granted things like formula, medical care, and paid childcare (although that is not necessarily used in crisis). When a family loses a parent, friends and family step in. There are crisis services available. In those days, people DID step in to help, but ALL of them had large families of their own and they could only do so much. That’s why many siblings were split up.
Thankfully, for both of these families, although each was done a different way, the family stayed intact.