Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More Pioneer Days in St. Joseph County

Here are the rest of Mrs. Elizabeth Lomison Snyder's comments on the early days in St. Joseph County.
"One of the hardships of the young was going to school, as in all new places it takes several years to get school districts started, so for the present purposes they would have a bee and put up a log house, put a window in each side, a door in one end and the building was completed. The furniture consisted of a row of boards for writing desks on each side and slabs for benches, stove and six or eight hickory sticks in the corner seasoning for future use, as at that time they taught only Readin' Ritin' and Rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick. The children often walked two or three miles to school. I have heard my father tell of blazing the trees for the older children to go to school by as there were no laid out roads.

The earliest pioneers found Michigan healthy, my father came at the worst time, for later so much ground was plowed up and the malarial gases set free that the country became very sickly. Every family had fever and ague, sometimes every member of the family being down at once; there were no healthy ones except persons just arrived, but the doctor came every day with free good will and dealt out his portion of calomel. He bled, blistered, purged and salivated his patients, but never cured them.

The subject of sickness brings to us that of death and the grave; how many pioneers lie sleeping in nameless graves we shall never know for the avaricious land owners in a few years plowed over the acres where rested the strangers. Even in Three Rivers a row of thick set houses is standing over one of the earliest cemeteries, whence the bodies have never been removed. Everybody attended funerals forty years ago and there was no expense except for the plank coffin and the white cambric shroud which was the burial robe for man and woman alike. There were no flowers, no hearse, no undertaker; the body was carried in a lumber wagon and was lowered in to the grave with lines taken from the horses. All remained until the grave was filled up, the head and foot plank set into shape; then it seems that all was done by kind friends that could be done for each neighbor had taken part in these sad duties. There were only planks to mark the graves; these soon rotted out and the sleepers beneath passed into oblivion, their friends dead, gone away or worse, indifferent.

The resources in an early day were all that the pioneers could ask, notwithstanding they had an abundance of fever and ague which was a sure sign that any man too lazy would not remain long in the country, which accounts for its rapid progress and prosperity; one of the resources was fruit; they were able to pick from field and swamp – strawberries and blackberries from field and cranberries and huckleberries from the swamp.

As I have mentioned before the women of that day wove, spun, colored and made wearing apparel for the family until the invention of machinery which changed everything and the women were arrayed in calico at 12 ½ cents and delaine at 25 cents per yard. Then the spinning wheel and loom were put aside. But with all the reverses the old pioneer he still forged ahead and we today can hardly realize the trials that beset him.

The Indian watched the oncoming civilization and heard the stroke of the ax as the busy pioneer worked day after day felling the mighty oak to build his home. We look upon the country as it is today – and then think what it was some eighty or more years ago – when the band of men had scarcely touched it and find we now have fine farms, flourishing villages and cities, fine school houses and elegant churches, telephones, electricity, automobiles and our interurban roads. We are amazed when we stop to consider the change time has wrought.

When we think of those brave pioneers who have made it possible for us to enjoy the luxuries of today, let us bow our heads in thankfulness and gratitude to those brave pioneers, our parents and grand parents.”

From the Vicksburg Semi-Weekly Commercial: September 5, 1913

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Kalamazoo Telegraph is Online

Extra, extra, read all about it. The Regional Publications & Images database, currently featuring the Kalamazoo Telegraph has just gone live. I would like to give a big thank you to the Kalamazoo Public Library for digitizing this valuable resource. So far, the images available are for the Kalamazoo Daily Telegraph (1868-1885) and the Kalamazoo Weekly Telegraph (1893-1899), but more is planned.

Published with generous permission of the Kalamazoo Public Library.

In addition to a continuation of the Telegraph digitization process (currently ongoing) they intend to digitize other records previously available only in hard copy or on microfilm. One of the items planned for inclusion is the Grand Army memorial record. This book, published in 1884, is “for the purpose of securing and perpetuating the military history of every Grand Army comrade .” If you have Civil War ancestors who lived in Kalamazoo you will likely find something once this record is available online.

So, before you head straight to the website there are a few things you should know. First, this is a beta site, which means that it is still being refined so you may encounter a few bugs while doing your searches (you can email them your feedback at the bottom of the search or grid pages). I ran into a few bugs, but they were intermittent and nothing that couldn't be worked around in most cases. I'll mention them as I describe how the system works.

On the search page you can choose which resources you want to search, what years you wish to search and then your search term(s). You can choose “all of these words,” “any of these words” or “exact phrase.” You can't do proximity searching, so you'll have to try variations of names if you hope to find them together or use the exact phrase option. I also tried searching with initials, but this didn't work for me even when I selected “exact phrase.”

Once on the results page, I found it easier to select “grid” view at the top of the page. The hits will be in a list of 25 per page. Occasionally, I have had a problem continuing on the the next page, but this has been sporadic. Once you have brought up the image you'll want to watch on the left panel of the screen for it to pull up your hit(s). The first hit will appear in a blue-outlined box with your search term highlighted in blue. To go to the next hit click on it in the list in the left panel.

One quirk I have noticed is that sometimes when I click on the image the left panel indicates that there are no hits in that issue of the newspaper. When this happens I click back onto the “grid” view and look for the words immediately next to my search term. Back on the image at the bottom of the left panel is a “Find” feature. Try searching for one of the alternate words or part of your original search term. Sometimes this works and sometimes not. One difficulty is that in grid view only a few of the words surrounding your search term pertain to your hit. Most of the rest is irrelevant.

A few final things. If you find there is no scroll bar on the right side, click the button next to the box displaying the percent magnification. When you save be sure to include the page number and column number (I also add T, M or B for top, middle or bottom; my typical notation is KT1876-5-4P4Col3M) so you can more easily find your hit later, otherwise you'll have to read the entire issue to find it. While that would certainly be interesting, it would be more than a tad irritating if you wanted to quickly find your hit again.

One last thing I did discover is that, although the KPL website says digitized images only go through 1885, I found hits in the Daily Telegraph as late as 1899. As for my research, I found the first indication in print of my bad boy, Henry Harrigan's, run-ins with the law. As a seventeen- or eighteen-year-old (in 1876) he was sent to Detroit for ninety days for assault and battery of a woman upon his forcibly entering her house to retrieve a baseball that went through her window. It's disturbing, but I can't really say that I'm surprised.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Digging in Newspapers for Context

While you can find all sorts of interesting tidbits about your ancestors in newspapers, don't forget to look for other topics that you can use to find out more about their lives in general. Were there any natural disasters that struck your ancestors' town? What might they have done for fun? The county fair seems to have been a big draw in Kalamazoo, as were the horse races. The circus came to town a few times. There were also 4th of July celebrations every year.

Several of my ancestors served during the Civil War. In the course of searching for other items, I found that there were many old soldier reunions for particular regiments as well as for Michigan soldiers in general. When they met, they often set up a large camp, drilled and even held mock battles.

One of my people, Ada (Wallace) Hoard Alger Miner Nelson Carr enjoyed dancing in the early decades of the 20th century. By searching in the paper I found articles about dancing ordinances that were enacted. Certain dances were even banned.

Henry Harrigan, my bad boy distant cousin, enjoyed gambling years before he killed a man in New York City while there gambling on the horse racing circuit. I found that “Gentleman Hank” decided to close his gaming establishment in Kalamazoo to move to the greener pastures of Chicago out of the goodness of his heart (his story, not mine). He claimed that he felt bad that men struggling to feed their families spent their hard-earned cash gambling. He denied that it had anything to do with the recent kerfuffle (and lawsuit) with a prominent Kalamazoo doctor over gambling losses. After a bit more searching I even found the gambling laws of the time published in the paper.

Don't forget about the times your ancestors lived in. Many things we take for granted began to impact them during the years covered by the Kalamazoo Gazette (as found at GenealogyBank). Electric street lights were introduced in a few locations in the early 1880s. Another important advancement was street paving, originally done with wood. Just imagine trying to move a horse and buggy down a street mired in mud after a heavy rainfall. Speaking of horses and buggies, the introduction of the automobile changed lives. One of my people actually died in 1911, months after sustaining injuries when she was thrown from a buggy after the horse drawing it was startled by an automobile.

The sky is the limit when you are looking for context. Almost any search term will yield interesting results. To start you thinking of your own list, here are some of the search terms I looked for: circus, gambling, horse racing, celebration, reunion, soldiers, flood, tornado, disaster, base ball, county fair, produce prices, dancing, street car, trolley, diphtheria, tuberculosis, etc.

Happy hunting!  To see what else you might find in newspapers please see:  Casting a Wide Net in Newspaper Searches, Digging For Dirt in Newspapers and Search Tips & Tricks

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pioneer Days in St. Joseph County

A few years ago my mom (my genealogy partner in crime) copied a long article from the Vicksburg Semi-Weekly Commercial that was published in 1913. It described a family reunion of the Krader, Fisher and Hutchinson families who lived in the northern part of St. Joseph county. If you've ever heard of Fisher Lake then you have heard of the family. In the article, one descendent of the original settlers in the area described life in the early days. I found it quite interesting and I hope you will too.

Mrs. Elizabeth Lomison Snyder, as written in the article, said
“We deplore the neglect of our parents and grandparents in not leaving for the rising generation a history of their pioneer days, days of danger, privation and misfortune; days of toil, days when they were buoyed up with hope and nerved with vigor to build for themselves and their loved ones homes amidst this beautiful scenery, while yet the whoop of Indian and the howl of wolf resounded on every side. “When the brave pioneers left their eastern home of plenty and comfort and started for the wild western country to take up government land to make homes for themselves this beautiful township was indeed “the happy hunting ground” of the Indian; our rivers and lakes the avenue of travel for hunter and trapper.”

“It was known by the settlers that the Indians were to yield up their possessions within two years, which had put the land under squatter sovereignty. Under the treaty of Chicago the Indians agreed to surrender up their possessions within the time stated. This treaty was made and confirmed in September, 1833. Squatters commenced to locate the claims in the eastern part of the reservation, but no claim was located in the western portion in Park township until later on in the fall of 1834. Park was settled later than the surrounding country because of the Indian Reservation. This trespassing on the land of the Indians by settlers was regarded by the Indians as a violation of the treaty of Chicago and caused deep apprehension of danger to those located there.

“John Lomison came to Michigan in the spring of 1836 from Danville, Penn. with his wife. . . and two small children. . . with them were two other families. . . They darve [sic] through with teams and covered wagons and were six weeks on the way. On this journey they encountered all of the hardships of the early pioneers such as the swamps of Ohio, crossing the Maumee river which was flooded at that time, and sleeping out at night in tents or wagons. My father, at once after reaching Michigan. . . went into the wilderness of Park township took up government land, felled trees to build his cabin to which he afterward brought his family and there my mother shared with him the toil and privation and loneliness of pioneer life. My father took up land one mile north of this place and went through all the hardships of the pioneer as there was little that could be bought with money. There were many Indians about at that time and I remember hearing my mother tell that she never refused them anything they wanted; when they came to exchange fish and game for bread, flour or salt pork, she gave them the last she had if need be, rather then incur their displeasure.

I have often heard my father tell of the severe winters they had when the country was new, snow usually fell in October or November to the depth of two or three feet and remained until January, then came a thaw which entirely removed the snow; after this it would fall again to the depth of two or three feet and remained on the ground until April. I also remember hearing my father tell of going to town meeting in sleds the first of April.
In those days anything was fashionable that was comfortable; people manufactured their own clothing largely from wool and flax grown on their own farms. I well remember my mother's old spinning wheel and the miles she walked back and forth every day. She converted the carded rolls of wool into yarn which was knit into stockings for the family.

But do not think for one moment that the early settler's life was all toil and privation; one of their chief pleasures in social life as the sun was going down in the west was the old fashioned winter evening visit, when a lumber wagon or bob sleigh brought to your door a load of women and children. They remained until midnight and during the evening a hearty meal was served of pan cakes, sausages, preserves and dough nuts and coffee, and the time spent in telling stories and singing songs.

The article is a little long so I'll stop here and post the rest in a later blog post.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WMU Archives & Regional History Collections

I wish I could tell you more about the resources available at the Western Michigan University Archives in Kalamazoo. Unfortunately, the truth is that living out-of-state, I have not been able to spend as much time there as I would like. Toddlers only nap for so long and a couple of hours doesn't even scratch the surface of their holdings.

The Archives is currently located in East Hall, one of the oldest buildings on the Western Michigan University campus. Their holdings total over 17,000 linear feet, some of which is located off site. They hope to move to a larger facility in the future.

The Archives holds several different types of records. To learn more about their collections you can search their online catalog (be sure to select the WMU Archives as the location in the drop down menu).

The large manuscript collection can be searched through the online catalog and encompasses letters, photos, business records and much more. Due to the large number of records and the variety of records within a particular collection you should not expect a detailed description of every document within a given collection. After conducting a search you can click on a particular collection to learn more. Here you will find a brief description of the contents of the collection as well as names of individuals, businesses or general subjects mentioned therein. So far, I have not found information directly pertaining to “my” people in the manuscript collection, but perhaps you will be more fortunate than I.

If you cannot find much in the manuscript collection to aid you in your research, if you have ancestors from almost anywhere in south west Michigan you should certainly find something in the governmental records housed here. Records from the counties of Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, Kent, Muskegon, Ottawa, St. Joseph, and Van Buren can be found here. It is also worth mentioning that the records available vary by county. Many of these records, which include tax records and court records, are on microfilm and are available in the LDS catalog. For more specific information on the government holdings (at least for some of these counties) you can refer to the Archives of Michigan circular, but note that while this lists most counties in Michigan, only records with a single asterisk are located at the WMU Archives. You will also notice that though WMU has records from the twelve counties listed above, some counties are not included on this list. I have not found an online source that specifically lists which governmental records are available at the WMU Archives. I would suggest identifying the records microfilmed by the LDS (search by county name at FamilySearch) and then calling the Archives to verify they possess them before planning a visit.

One thing that I discovered the hard way is that the LDS did not microfilm every court case. I was searching for a chancery case in which a mother sued two of her children (more on this in another blog). I found the docket and case number in the index. I then began scrolling through the microfilm only to find that the case I was looking for was absent. A staff member informed me that at least for chancery cases, the LDS only microfilmed divorce records and cases in which the people had different surnames. It seems to me that suits within a family might be some of the more interesting cases (i.e. dishing up family dirt). While the archives did possess the records they were located off site so I was unable to obtain them before driving back to Tennessee. Luckily for me, my mother still lives in Kalamazoo and could go back later to page through the documents and flag them for copying.

In addition to the manuscript collection and government records, the WMU Archives has an extensive collection of books, city directories, many local newspapers on microfilm, a large photo collection, the Ross Coller card file (see my blog post) and many maps, including plat map books for surrounding counties.  They also recently made several Civil War era diaries and letters available on their website.  See here for more information.  For more general information on their holdings I refer you to the “Collections” page on the WMU Archives website. While the exact holdings are not listed on their website, they do have binders on site that list which records/newspapers they have in their collection. An email or a phone call can quickly inform you if they have what you are looking for. You should also ask if the resources you wish to examine are on site, as retrieving them may take a couple of days if they aren't held in East Hall.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Show Me the Maps!

Am I the only one who appreciates a good map? Am I the only one who when reading about places in non-fiction books would like to see those locations on a map? In the past year I have read several books that could have benefited, in my humble opinion, from at least one map, though more would have been better. Between them there was not a single one. The books, in no particular order, were:

The Great Famine: Ireland's Agony 1845-1852 by Ciaran O'Murchada
A Brief History of the War of the Roses by Desmond Seward
Mistress of the Monarchy by Alison Weir
For Country, Cause and Leader: The Civil War Journal of Charles B. Haydon, by Stephen W. Sears

Maybe I'm just weird in that I like to “see” the places I'm reading about, but I do. In reading about the Irish potato famine it would have been nice to see a map showing those areas worst affected, for example. While learning about the War of the Roses I think it would be helpful to view a map showing where battles raged. Where were the estates where Katherine Swynford lived before, during and after her relationship with John of Gaunt? When Charles Haydon and my gg-grandfather were marching through the wilds of Tennessee or on picket duty in Virginia I would like to know where they were.

Am I just crazy? If I am, please let me know so I can stop writing reviews on Amazon asking where the maps are.

In addition to using maps when reading books like these, I like to inspect maps to see where my ancestors lived and worked. I have used maps to see how far my gg-grandfather's brother commuted to work at the Michigan Buggy Company both before a devastating fire burned the place to the ground and after it rebuilt in a different area of town. I also like to compare plat maps to current satellite images so I can see what my people's land looks like now. To start your own ancestral mapping project see my post on Mapping the Past.

Satellite images can also show you things that a regular map cannot. One of my families lived in Tiffin, Ohio before moving to Kalamazoo. In 1913, a terrible flood struck the city and according to a family account the rushing water carried both the family bible and the piano out of the house. Zooming in to the present location of their home shows just a few houses left on their block and in the general vicinity (compared to the surrounding area). Tellingly, within the arc of the river by their former home are a number of athletic fields and other open areas. Navigating through the FEMA website for a flood plain map of the area indicated that, indeed, the area within the arc of the river is considered to be a one hundred year flood plain.

Clearly, there are so many things we can learn from maps that I couldn't possibly think of them all, let alone discuss them here. Let's just say that I like a good map. If you haven't used many in your own family history research I suggest you take another look. Apparently, the Kalamazoo Public Library has a nice collection of local maps (see their website for details). I wish I could tell you more from first-hand experience, but I only make it to town once per year and try to spend time with my living family so I don't have as much time to investigate my dead family as much as I might like.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Digging for Dirt -- Beyond Obituaries

Obituaries can be very useful, as we all know, but there is a lot more to uncover in newspapers than that. You may also find marriage notices, anniversaries, birth announcements or divorce cases on the court docket. But, if your ancestors lived outside of a large metropolitan area you are likely to find much more.
I signed up for a one-month trial of Genealogy Bank and found much more than I could have imagined. In the spring of 2011, they added a run of the Kalamazoo Gazette starting in 1837 and running through the end of 1922. Some of the things I found included: descriptions of weddings, notices of sickness, birthday parties, arrests, involvement in baseball teams, winning categories at the county fair, visits from out-of-town kin and more.

And then we get to the interesting things, like the young woman whose fiance was paying a call at her house when the other woman vying for his affection appeared. She took him with her across town, marriage license in hand, to get married. The original fiance and her mother reportedly fainted. There was also the case of the young man who was arrested in Canada after running away with his underage girlfriend and leaving her with no means to get home. No other mention of the case was found, except for a notice of application for a marriage license a week or two later.

Other family secrets included my great-grandmother's sister, Nettie Allion, who was arrested for theft. When the police searched her room they found “half a bushel of handkerchiefs, stockings, towels, a belt, a pair of black glass goggles, a pair of shoes, hair pins and other trinkets” she had stolen. I hadn't expected that, but the item that really shocked me was the revelation that the brother of a different great-grandmother had been arrested, tried and imprisoned for rape in 1890.

Some entries may only be a few lines, but can speak volumes about your ancestor. For example, I found this notice: LOST-- Two white and black hounds. Kindly turn these dogs loose, as there is no reward on them.” That sure seemed pretty cold to me. Twelve years later this same man cheated on his wife leaving her with five young kids to raise after their divorce.

Although each entry may be small, every little line adds a bit more information that will flesh out the lives of our ancestors. If your ancestors lived in Kalamazoo between 1837 and 1922 you can add tremendously to your knowledge by an investigation of the Kalamazoo Gazette. Now that the Kalamazoo Public Library has released the digitized Kalamazoo Telegraph we have twice as many opportunities to find out more about our people.

To read more about what newspapers can teach you about your ancestors see:  Digging For Dirt, Adding Context, Casting a Wide Net and Search Tips & Tricks.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Dreaded Diphtheria

This was the title in the Kalamazoo Gazette above the death notice for the young son of Daniel Harrigan in 1886. Unfortunately, this was neither an isolated case nor would it be the last to befall the family that year. In fact, three in Daniel's family would succumb to the disease in a month's time.

Daniel's four-year-old son died of diphtheria on October 16, 1886. Only a few weeks later, Daniel's eldest child, his daughter Essie, also died of the disease. The newspaper described her as suffering terribly in the afternoon before her death, but noted that Essie's child (a girl of four) was improving. However, about a week after Essie's death her daughter also died “with the same much dreaded and unconquerable contagion.” Within the space of a month, Daniel Harrigan had lost a son, daughter and granddaughter to a disease that can now be prevented with a simple vaccination. I can only imagine the fear and anxiety within the family as first one and then two more loved ones were taken from them.

Between 1876 and 1886 diphtheria was second only to consumption (tuberculosis) in causing mortality in the state of Michigan, with the exception of 1881 when it topped the list, killing 2063. [1] The first year vital statistics were collected for Michigan (1867) only 110 deaths from diptheria were reported. [2] The numbers steadily increased so that from 1879 to 1886 (excepting 1881) between 1000 and 1600 people perished from the disease each year, most of them children under ten. [1, 2] According to the Michigan Board of Health Report for 1885, diphtheria had only recently become an epidemic disease in the United States. [2] This source stated “the first death from diphtheria in this century” occurred in New York City in 1852. In 1885, the mortality rate for diphtheria (percentage of people who perished out of the total number of cases) in Michigan was about 24 percent. [2]

To truly understand why diphtheria was so feared, besides the obvious reason that it was a killer, it may be helpful to learn more about the disease. Diphtheria is caused by a bacterium that most often infects the nose and throat. According to the NIH “The throat infection causes a gray to black, tough, fiber-like covering, which can block the airways.” In addition to difficulty breathing, symptoms can include a sore throat, fever, chills, a barking cough, bloody/watery drainage from the nose, drooling and a bluish tinge to the skin. [NIH website above] The diphtheria bacterium also produces a toxin which is disseminated throughout the body via the bloodstream, causing damage to organs such as the heart. The disease is spread by respiratory droplets (from a cough or sneeze) of an infected person or asymptomatic carrier or by contact with contaminated objects.

A descendent of Daniel Harrigan recalled that she was told that when diphtheria or some other potentially fatal, contagious disease struck a family that all of the healthy children were sent to family, neighbors or friends. Everyone was willing to do this because they knew they could do the same if their own families became afflicted. The house was quarantined so that only the child, a caretaker (usually the mother) and the father would be allowed in the house. I assume that doctors were also permitted. The mailman, milkman, and other deliverymen would leave their parcels outside the house to decrease their risk of infection.

For the quarantine to take place and be most effective, doctors were supposed to report cases of diphtheria (and presumably other highly contagious diseases) to the city health officer immediately. According to an article in the Kalamazoo Gazette [3] many physicians took their own sweet time in doing so. The article noted that in one case “the house had been placarded by the city marshal [after reading about the case in the Gazette]. . . before Dr. Mottram received notice of it from the attending physician.”

While today we understand that diphtheria is caused by a bacterium, in 1886, the germ theory of disease was still in its infancy. Only in 1876 did Robert Koch discover that a bacillus caused anthrax. By 1882 he had likewise determined that a different bacillus was the causative agent of tuberculosis. Even so, these were but two cases and many likely didn't believe such a fantastic idea, just as many ideas today are not accepted when first proposed, such as the prion theory of disease [think mad-cow disease]. The 1885 Michigan board of health report alluded to the possibility that diphtheria might be caused by bacteria, but only after pages and pages of quotes from reporting medical officers describing the foul water and fetid air they supposed caused diphtheria in their districts. [2]

To give you examples of the prevailing ideas on the causes of diphtheria I'll quote from the Kalamazoo Gazette. In late October 1886, one article's sub-headline read “With Falling Leaves Comes Diphtheria – Basement Stenches.” [4] The author mentioned that “nearly a dozen have died in as many days. None are sick more than a day or two.” He went on to say that most families had at least two sick with the disease which indicated the rapidity of its spread.

The author then discussed the cause of diphtheria as he believed it. “It is the contagion which lurks in the air, in the cesspools, swamps and damp ground that is working havoc. . . By the falling leaves the ground is kept damp and those warm sunny days cause fumes which are poisonous to mankind to arise from the earth. Decaying vegetable matter in the low ground has the same effect. On some it produces diphtheria, on others simply malarial sore throats and others shake with ague. . . Damp and foul cellars are the starting point of much disease.” He recommended sanitizing cellars with carbolic acid or “copperns.” He later stated “much may be avoided by keeping the leaves cleaned up and burned.” [4] I wonder if that is why when I was growing up everyone still raked their leaves to the curb and burned them rather than using them as mulch for the flower beds. The practice began, as they thought, to reduce infection, but continued even after the initial reason for doing it was long forgotten.

The author continued “there are several localities where the ravages of diphtheria have been more serious than others. Invariably, however, the deaths have occurred in localities where the ground is low and not far from mucky open fields. But one case has occurred in the heart of the city. Why there have not been cases is a conundrum. [Perhaps because his theory is wrong] The east side of north Burdick st. from the drinking fountain to Water st. is in a continuous cess pool from which a stench almost unbearable always arises. The west side of the street is even worse. One cannot pass along Burdick st. at the corner of Water, day or night, without holding his nose.” [4]

While the number of cases of diphtheria surely would have been lower had our ancestors understood the true cause of the disease and taken preventative measures, without any effective way to treat the disease, mortality likely would not have been much different. No matter what you know, diphtheria is not a disease to be trifled with.

  1. Twentieth Annual Report Relating to the Registry and Return of Births, Marriages and Deaths in Michigan for the Year 1886 by the Secretary of State of the State of Michigan. 1888. Thorp & Godfrey, State Printers and Binders. Lansing.
  2. Thirteenth Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Board of Health, of the State of Michigan for the Fiscal Year Ending Sept. 30, 1885. 1886. Thorp & Godfrey, State Printers and Binders. Lansing.
  3. Kalamazoo Gazette, 9-30-1886, p4
  4. Kalamazoo Gazette, 10-23-1886, p4