Tuesday, May 10, 2011

1904 – “Something of a Hard Year” By Pat Kinsella Herdeg

We’ve written other blog posts about the Carsons and the Taylors, who lived in Oakfield, NY.
Emma Jane Carson married Bryant W. Taylor and together, they raised Clara, Leon, Floyd and Lloyd (my grandfather), Florence and Mildred.

I am transcribing parts of Emma’s journals, and thought giving you slices of them from time to time might be interesting. Her mother-in-law’s journals--Cordelia Waller Taylor—are wonderfully detailed, but quite religious. Emma’s are more personal, more to the heart.

In July of 1904, Emma writes of her sister Anna visiting. “She and the children stayed until the morning of the 5th of July when Floyd carried them to Batavia. The very day that she left word came that Aunt Clara Henry (blog story about Clara at--http://taylorbakercousins.blogspot.com/2009/12/clara-taylor-henry-1855-1904-by-pat.html) was dead.

Clara Taylor Henry

How we felt! She had been so sick, but we felt that she was going to get well. Death came early on that morning. Then followed the usual getting ready for the funeral which was held from this, the “Homestead” on the 8th of July at 2 o’clock P.M.

The body was brought on from Madison their home by Mr. Henry and Arnon, reaching here Friday a.m. where Father, Bryant, and Carlton met them. They all came to lay the dear body in the old home for a few hours where we and the old friends might take a last look. By Five o’clock all was over.”

By August, Emma confides that Mr. Henry (a professor at the University of Madison, WI and who was ‘wandering’ for a few weeks following his wife Clara’s death) “thinks our Clara too frail looking to try to undertake trying to graduate the coming year. It is a great disappointment to her and to me to think of giving it up when we have both worked so hard to bring it about.”

Clara’s ‘frail-ness’ (she was seventeen in 1904) was an early sign of the mental illness that would finally bring her to spend the last of her years in the Willard Hospital (see blog story about Clara--http://taylorbakercousins.blogspot.com/2011/01/clara-elizabeth-taylor-burt-by-aunt-cb.html).

Topping Carrots, Lloyd, Leon, Floyd

Emma goes on to write: “Wheat is cut but not in. Part of hay is still out. A great deal of rain makes it so hard for farmers to get on this year.”

The next entry is in October. Emma writes: “The boys and Florence started for school September 12. Florence only went one day and a half when she was taken sick so I called the doctor who said she had Typhoid Fever. She was under his care for three weeks—so small a girl and so terrible a disease.

How and where she got it is the question we cannot answer. And how many more of us will have it before we get through.” What Emma did not know, as we have told the story before, is that the school’s well water was daily brought from the Taylor wells which were behind their home and too close to their own cow barn. The manure effluent drained into their well.
Haying, Floyd, Lloyd, Leon

Also in the October entry: “Fall work is some behind with us. Potatoes and most of the apples to pick yet.”

By Thanksgiving, “Well, potatoes and apples finally were gotten in but last were frosted some.”

On January 1st of 1905, Emma writes, but not of her usual ‘What Will This Year Bring’. Instead: “ Little did I know when last I wrote what would be to tell when I wrote again. I will write a few of the particulars for the benefit of those who may wish to read in the future.

On November 28th, 1904, Leon was at West Bethany (ed.—with his Carson grandparents) expected home by noon. Lloyd and Floyd (who were twelve years old) went to school in the forenoon. At noon, when Leon came, Bryant thought best to keep both boys at home and draw hay to the horse barn. This being done, apples were next taken hold of to get them to the cellar and out of the way of frost.

Lloyd went to take the forks to the west barn. When the others went back for another load of apples, they discovered Lloyd lying in the barn unconscious.

Bryant picked him up and carried him in. We laid him on the couch and there he lay for four long hours, not knowing a thing that was going on. Of our feelings I need not write. Leon went for Dr. Turk who was here in less than an hour.

I left Lloyd to their care. During the evening I was called to help undress him, get him onto a bed on the couch. For a week he needed constant care, Bryant and I not undressing for this length of time. The doctor was a daily visitor for two weeks. Lloyd suffered terribly from headache and nervousness. His mind wandered for a few days, then Lloyd keeping on a steady slow gain.

All this trouble was caused by the kick of a horse on the head we suppose. Marks lead us to think so. Lloyd himself could not tell us what happened.

I dressed him first on December 20th in the evening, then each day following, he was dressed part of the time. On the eve of December 23rd, he came out to the table for his first supper. Then, on Christmas morning, he came out to breakfast and since then has been to the table for all meals.

So we may say that he is well—a narrower escape never came so near to us, and I expect the reason he did live was that the worst part of the kick came on the double cap rim (Pat asks-- Of his hat?). As it was, the bone was dented in about as far as it could be without being cracked. We feel very thankful that his life was saved!

All this, with dear Aunt Clara’s death and Florence’s sickness in September made 1904 something of a hard year.”

Our Emma, my great grandmother, did not know that the year of 1907 was to be much harder. But, that is a different story.


Jack Kinsella said...

Pat, how lucky we are to have those journals making it possible to know such interesting details about the lives of ancestors.

Kathryn said...

Those old journals hold a lot of good stuff!
These images of how life was then are priceless.
What a hard year your great-grandmother had! It will be interesting reading to see how much worse 1907 was to be for her.
Thanks, Pat!
You do a great job!
I love you lots!

Susan Kinsella said...

The difficulties people lived with then as just "normal life" are haunting.

Pat Herdeg said...


Not sure I will write up 1907--but it was a tough year for our Emma, and the entire family--Emma's father-in-law and mother-in-law were living with them at this point, and mother-in-law Cordelia writes: "November 10th: Why this long silence, little book? Oh, thrilling experiences have come to us since last I wrote and are too sad and terrible for description. The 9th of October, when all were well and happy children, all in school and everything working prosperously, the terrible scarlet fever came into our family and Clara and Mildred were taken very sick. Best physicians and a nurse were in constant attendance but the angel of Death entered on October 19th, bore away our little darling. Oh how our hearts sorrow."

So, little five year old blondie Mildred died, and her sister Clara, who was now twenty and had virtually raised Mildred, had a psychotic break and retreated to her room for months.

All of this seemed to take the air out of the sails of their grandmother, Cordelia, who had been elderly and quite vibrant in her writings--she stopped writing and very shortly after, died quietly.

Aunt CB/Mom said...

when I read these journals writen by my grandmother that I never knew, my heart just breaks for her! She fought so hard to give each of her children a "taste" of higher education! The farmwork took tem too often from school but still she inssisted thay each have a chance! Clara eventually spent 8 monthe in Rochester, living with a family working for her room and board and attending a nutrition course at Mechanics Institute [ early RIT] Leon had 6 monthe agriculture course in Ithaca, Lloyd took a course in Albany for Morse code and work for the railroad . Floyd eventually returned to high school and graduated !! Florence did also and then went on to normal school to teach! Emma was a fighter and life was so hard then!