Back Row: Floyd, his father Bryant Waller Taylor,
Front Row: Rex and Bryant, Floyd's sons
Another slice of life from the journal of Emma Carson Taylor, my great grandmother.
In January of 1910, Bryant and Emma Taylor live on their farm in Oakfield, NY with their children and Bryant’s father, Daniel. Daniel’s wife, Cordelia (yes, if she is familiar, it is because we have often quoted from her voluminous journals) died eighteen months earlier and Daniel still talks to his Delia as if she were alive.
Floyd, twin of Lloyd Taylor, is seventeen years old. Just two and a half years earlier, the family watched their darling Millie die at age six in their home. Emma brings flowers regularly—pansies were Millie’s favorites--to the cemetery and her journal is filled with missing her littlest girl. To witness Floyd become so sick so quickly must have been very scary for all.
Less than ten years earlier, British doctors were not recommending surgery for appendicitis. So, it must have been a fairly new operation—and to take place at your home!
“Thursday Floyd helped the boys husk corn and got some chilled. On Friday morning, he was taken with a stomach ache which kept up until we thought best to call Dr. Messinger. He came twice New Year’s and has been here twice today.
January 16th, Sunday:
Everything is beautifully white with snow and frost this morning. Sleighing is good.
It has been two weeks since the last writing. Since that time, we have had another never to be forgotten time of our lives. On Monday following that writing, the Doctor came once. Floyd was growing better.
Floyd read and stayed around all day; at night, he felt some worse and tired, went to bed only to roll and toss all night. Was sick on Thursday morning, so remained in bed. Friday I decided to call the doctor who came and we did all we could for him in the line of poultices and salves, but he steadily grew worse and more feverish, with a rapid pulse and symptoms worsened.
Doctor came twice, holding off the thought of an operation, for he knew Bryant and I did not think best to have one unless it was necessary. When he came Sunday morning, January 9th, we soon saw that he feared to wait longer. The swelling was growing larger.
So it was decided that Doctor and Mrs. Cottis of Batavia and Dr. and Mrs. Messinger should meet and perform our operation in the afternoon.
Leon, Lloyd and Florence were at church. They had not been home but a short time when the Doctors and their wives came. All thought of dinner was dropped and soon everything was in readiness.
The picture it made in our dining room shall not be forgotten in years to come (which I think means the dining room table was the operating table!). Floyd was brave as a boy could very well be, and while I could hardly make up my mind that it must be, he said “Now Momma, don’t you go and upset any plans made.” They gave him chloroform in his bed, carried him down, spent two hours over him—from 3:30 until 5:30—and carried him back.
It was some time before he began coming to. As he says, he spent one of the most miserable nights he ever had or wishes to—sick, thirsty, terrible. He can scarcely describe it. He couldn’t have but a few drops of warm water at a time all through the first twelve hours, then we gradually gave him cold water until the doctor said he could have all he wanted. For three nights, Papa and I were up with him so never changed our clothes. Last night, he slept all night without waking. We surely would not like to pass through such an experience again.
What about Leon and the rest of the children? Well, we might say they have suffered a great deal in thought during this ordeal, as we surely all have. I hope we are stronger and better. We surely have had to face probable death, and life looked frail at best during the worst of it. Work that had to be done was done, the rest has gone undone. We are all very happy today for things look brighter.
Oysters and ice cream for dinner.”
Oysters were special treats, usually only for holidays in their house. Ice cream too meant it was a festive event.
One week later:
“All of our relatives are some concerned about not knowing about Floyd. Carlton (brother of Bryant) speaks of Walbridge not getting well as fast as they might wish (Walbridge—fourteen-year-old cousin of Floyd-- would die two months later from complications with diabetes—insulin was not used yet). Mary Taylor tells that a baby boy came to Jessie and Arnon Taylor Henry but never drew a breath. So the world jogs on and as we live each day we are trying to be more as our Savior would have us be and are well and happy with the dear ones about us.
Father Taylor knows nothing of Floyd’s troubles.”
As you may have guessed, by Floyd later marrying Aunt Goldie and having two boys, Rex and Bryant, Floyd survived his home operation. I try to think of what Emma and Bryant must have been coping with—this home filled with children and doctors and operating instruments and on top of that, they never told Grandpa Taylor, who also lived in their house! And, Emma’s last sentence, ‘to be well and happy with the dear ones about us.’ She so missed Millie but was trying to move on.
I passed this story on to Aunt CB (aka Mom) for any input, particularly on the medical side. She replied:
“For your understanding, hospitals were not used very much UNLESS all was lost until the mid to late 1920's. People were generally cared for at home. Surgery was the VERY last resort!
Even at Rochester General Hospital, the operating room was the library; filled with books-- the doctors wore their frock coats, seldom shirtsleeves. First "modern" addition was to wear a butcher’s apron [an idea one of the nurses had to save doctors’ clothes].
Appendicitis was not well known and not understood, so Dr. Messinger was very brave and ahead of his time. Chloroform was used then but rarely as it was so very flammable and remember, very little electricity then, hence must use daylight. Eventually, ether was to be used, still flammable but easier on the patient. With Chloroform one must be very careful not to give too much and kill the patient. Ether was still used in my day, when I was in Waterloo; I gave it many a time for deliveries. Not used much today I think, and even then, not much in big cities.”