Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Woodlawn Taylors’ Six Month Battle with Typhoid By Cordelia Waller Taylor and Emma Carson Taylor, With Help from Pat Kinsella Herdeg (in 2014)

 Aunt CB, or Mom to me, has written several times over the years about the many cases of typhoid associated with the Taylor Homestead of Woodlawn, in Oakfield, NY.

In 2000, she wrote of a visit she and Dad and her sister Doris made to Woodlawn many years after it had been sold out of the family (and, as Woodlawn has since burned down, we are very grateful for this visit and the many pictures and written memoir of the visit):

Woodlawn in 1900

Behind the shed is a well, also enclosed, which is the famous cause of many cases of typhoid in the family over the years.

The journals of Emma C. Taylor detail these illnesses of typhoid with many queries to God as to their origin. It was unknown to them then that the animal barn, less than 100 feet away, certainly provided a fertile drain for the germ to enter the well water as it seeped through the rocks beneath.

In 1903, my great grandfather Bryant Waller (or ‘B.W.’) Taylor was 44 years old. He and some of his family came down with typhoid in the middle of June.

His mother, Cordelia Waller Taylor, writes of this painful time in her journal. But first, it is January 1st of the New Year, 1903, and Cordelia gives thanks for the past year and expresses her love for her family:

“January First: New Year’s Day.


This is the beginning which is all we can know and can say about the ushering in of the new year.

Our eyes are mercifully blinded as to the events of the coming year. I have not the slightest desire to lift the curtain to see the end or to take the reins in my own hands for guidance. But will resolutely follow our Heavenly Leader who never makes any mistakes or leads astray.

Our two lives have been mercifully spared through fifty years of married life (ed. She and her husband Daniel Rockwell Taylor).

The blessing of God has rested upon us in all our ways notwithstanding our unworthiness and imperfections. The celebration of our Golden Wedding was the chief event to us last year and Bryant and Emma were the leaders in it all and such a beautiful heavenly and glorious surprise they made for us. May the Lord richly reward all the precious children for the tender thoughtfulness and loving words and deeds they have ever given us. They have left nothing undone for our comfort and happiness and in our declining years, they are our chief joy, comfort and blessing in this life.

May his banner of love ever be over them.”

Golden Wedding Spoon, Gift to Cordelia and Daniel on their 50th Anniversary

Then, in early summer:

Younger Bryant--Taken about 1885

“June 3rd: Dear Bryant’s 44th Birthday—he and Emma go out to Mr. Carson’s at a meeting of the Grange and how glad that they can go. The Lord bless the dear boy and all he has. The dry parched earth is begging for rain and I feel that it will come in God’s good time.

June 12th: The dear ones from Jacksonville have come, and how glad we are to meet again and how thankful that our lives have all been spared (This is Bryant’s brother Carlton and his wife Jeannie. They spend summers in Oakfield and then go back to Jacksonville, Illinois to teach at a school for the deaf). All are well, but weary with hard teaching and work and so glad to get to this dear little home, and the house is being newly painted, and so beautiful—white with green blind. How happy we all are.

June 18th: Daniel and I go up home till Saturday night. Poor Bryant is far from well, and we must see what we can do.

June 26th: Go up home for two days to lend a hand. Find poor Bryant a very sick man and how my mother-heart aches for him. Dr. Turk comes every day. Dear little Floyd is coming up all right, but Bryant’s gain is slow.

The Typhoid is a terrible disease, but I think the Dr. with the blessing of God on his treatment will bring them safely through. Dear Bryant is getting so emaciated—the first dangerous sickness in his life—grace is sufficient.

June 28th: All remain at home this Sunday, but Carlton goes up to care for dear Bryant.

June 30th: Spend the day up home and help and care for berries. Dear Carlton is looking very weary caring for poor Bryant day and night. He must take a rest. All are doing well.

July 15th: A long time has passed, little Diary, since I last wrote. The critical illness of poor Bryant has been a heavy burden on our hearts. Hope has almost died at times, but the great Physician has been pleased to bless Dr. Turk’s treatment and there is a change for the better. Little Floyd is dressed and beginning to take solid food. How glad our hearts all are.

July 19th: Can it be that I have been permitted to go to our dear church once more? Carlton is with dear Bryant a part of every day, and cares for him some nights. Dr. Turk tells me Bryant is much better but no one is allowed to see him but the caretakers. Thinks he will be able to sit up in two weeks. Poor dear boy—what a hard struggle he has had. May the Lord sustain him and fill his heart with His love and peace. Excellent sermon today from John 14:19.

July 24th: Daniel and I go up home for a few weeks for a needed change and rest and to help as needed.

Dr. permits me to see dear Bryant today, this a.m. I must go from my knees with perfect self-control. The dear boy looks up into my face with a pleased look and says “ I’m glad to see you, little Mother, dear”. And then we talk a few minutes and I go till 3p.m. and then I go to him again with a spoonful of custard which he enjoys. Poor boy! So thin and white and so patient withal. May this terrible affliction be sanctified to the spiritual good of all.

July 26th: No going to church from here, but we have an omnipresent God, and who rules in all our affairs. We have our quiet Bible study and reading and meditation. Leon is growing no worse—a mild attack—and hope it will soon be over.

July 28th: Clara and I go down to Carlton’s to pick berries—other pickers are there and we bring home 17 quarts of red berries. The best picking is over. Our time is limited and we get what others picked.

August 2nd: No going to church today. All too weary and worn, but hope to go next Sunday. Hope on as ever. The sick ones improving and all are so thankful.

Taylor Family in 1904--Florence and Mildred in front, Floyd, Clara, Emma and Lloyd in middle and Leon and Bryant in back

August 5th: Little Mildred was two years old last Saturday and this is the 11th birthday of the twins. Dear Bryant comes down stairs the first time in six weeks and what a joy fills our hearts. The children go to Oakfield to Sunday School picnic.

August 6th: Mr. and Mrs. Carson (parents of Emma Carson, Bryant’s wife) go home today. They have done us a world of good in very many ways. The Lord bless them and prolong their lives.”

August 23rd: Daniel, Raymond and I go to church this beautiful day, after a heavy blow for two days. Excellent sermon from Acts 19:20.

So, by the beginning of August, the Taylors believed the worst was behind them.

A cousin of Bryant’s, Raymond Taylor, aged 32, was living with them. Raymond’s parents (Elliot and Sarah Taylor) had a farm named ‘Homestead’ just down the road from Woodlawn. But, Elliot died unexpectedly in 1889 and Sarah died in 1902. When Sarah died, Homestead was sold, so Elliot moved in with his cousin, Bryant and Emma Taylor and their family.

In early November, Emma writes in her journal: “But, we are all here. That means a great deal with the Typhoid lurking for the last six months. What were our feelings at having Raymond come down with it? Symptoms were such that it was thought best to take him to the hospital at Batavia where he is receiving good care and attention from Dr. Turk who helped us all out. Raymond was so faithful and was in fact the only one to carry on things here as far as chores go for a while, that it seemed a pity he should have typhoid.”

Emma does not write for another month. “We all know what came to Raymond—Death, and unexpectedly. He seemed to be getting on as well as could be when suddenly on November 16th at nine o’clock in the morning at the hospital at Batavia he died. He was buried beside his father and mother.”

November 16th was the wedding anniversary of Daniel and Cordelia Taylor. Cordelia writes in her journal: “Our 51st anniversary and I am thankful to see an improvement.  Raymond passes away at the hospital this morning—poor stricken boy from his birth, and I believe it is well with his soul now. He served the Lord to the best of his ability, and it was his wish to go and be at rest.”

So ends this typhoid episode. As Cordelia writes on the New Year--   the family’s ‘eyes are mercifully blinded’ to what will be ahead in their lives. One year later, Cordelia’s oldest child, Clara Taylor Henry dies at age 48 at her home in Wisconsin. Four years later, Bryant and Emma’s beloved Mildred, now age six, dies of typhoid and scarlet fever. Her mother Emma writes: ‘Our little six year old lamb has gone Home.’ Emma describes her white casket nearly covered underneath the last home flowers of the season--bachelor’s buttons, pansies (the flower she loved so well), asters, bluebells and pretty maple leaves.’

Amidst the heartache are stories of happiness and achievement for this family centered around the farm at Woodlawn. We are so grateful to both Cordelia and Emma for writing their journals. It allows us to remember and honor their stories, and reminds me of the ancient Celts who kept memories alive through their rich oral tradition of reciting tales of great battles and loves. One hundred and ten years from now, how will we be remembered?


CB/ Ethel's daughter said...

There is no way we can possibly thank Cordelia and Emma for all their journals! We would know nothing of their world without them! And thank , also, Lloyd's wife, Ethel Baker Taylor, who while cleaning out BW"S last home, came upon them an d saved them for posterity! They had been unkown before then!
Perhaps , they are aware of our great love and thanks! let us hope so!

Susan Kinsella said...

Such a touching story. Thank you, Pat!

It's so sad to see the ravages that a disease like typhoid made on our own family and to realize, from our vantage point 100+ years on, that even a highly intelligent family didn't have the knowledge then to prevent it. It was only decades later that people learned that prevention was ultimately (and often literally) in their own hands.

I don't know when people began to realize the connection of typhoid to proximity to animal habitations as well as the need for very careful hygiene practices like frequent hand-washing. But I'm reading at that a typhoid vaccine was first developed in the late 1890s (possibly not in the US) and an American vaccine was developed in 1909 that then was used to vaccinate the entire US army. It was not until the widespread introduction of antibiotics in 1942 (shocking now to realize how recent the life-saving advent of antibiotics was!) that typhoid was really brought under control.

I have also been interested in learning about times when typhoid changed the course of history. When Alex and I first toured Stanford we learned that, in the 1800s, Leland (a railroad baron and CA governor) and Jane Stanford's 15-year-old son came down with typhoid in Athens when he was on a grand tour of Europe with them. They quickly took him to Italy, where they thought he would get better medical care. He did seem to rally at times, but then died in March 1884. The heartbroken parents eventually decided that if they couldn't educate their own child, then they would educate all the children of California. Thus was Stanford University founded because of typhoid.

It's interesting that Leland Jr. apparently first caught typhoid in Athens. Many centuries earlier, typhoid may also have been to blame for the end of the Golden Age of Greece. A devastating plague of some kind overwhelmed the population of Athens from 430-424 B.C., when they were being besieged by Sparta. A third of the people died, including their great leader Pericles, throwing the balance of power to Sparta. Ten years ago, microbiologists conducted a fascinating study of the dental pulp of plague victims who had been thrown into a mass grave and determined that the cause was most likely typhoid fever.

What profoundly wrenching shifts in history typhoid has produced - from our own family (in particular when Mildred died), to institutions, to entire civilizations.

CB/Mom said...

I think we have a "confusion" here. We have confused Typhoid Fever [ enteric Fever} with Typhus, another disease entirely, altho they somewhat resemble each other! Typhoid is caused by drinking infected water, mainly. Typhus is carried by animals, rats, etc and is endemic in dirty uncared for areas.
Typhoid Fever produces fever, nausea, amnd great abdominal pain . [ Ulcers in intestines. ] Also diarrhea and bleeding. These are the symptoms that were present with the Taylor family.

Pat said...

Emails back and forth--typhoid fever and typhus--Mom, Sue and I stand by typhoid fever being the culprit at Woodlawn back in 1903. But, good to learn about typhus also. We strive to teach all SORTS of things on this blog!