Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Sunday, March 18, 2018

Typhus


1893. The year of the Typhus outbreak in Teasdale, Utah that proved so devastating to my Grandma Stringam’s family.
Back to my Grandma’s journals . . .
“One and a half years after Father died (of dropsy—edema, according to Wikipedia), our whole family came down with typhoid fever.”
A stark statement that packs such a wallop.
Except for Jane (third eldest child) and Sylvester (youngest), everyone, Great-Grandmother Williams and six other children, were stricken. There had been a lot of flooding in their area in September, 1893 and the family dipped their water out of ditches. It was through this water they all got the disease.
The two unaffected children were sent to Grandma’s house to be looked after and the rest tried to nurse each other. Living so far out, help was hard to find.
And no one else wanted to expose themselves to the disease.
One man, Joseph Stickney, a handyman and a ‘sort-of’ nursing orderly came by after Great-Grandma was stricken. As did a woman, Mrs. Rust, a practical nurse, who stayed until after Christmas.
A third helper, cousin Gustavus Noyes, who lived 40 miles away, came to help. But he “took it and died”.
The eldest sister, Florence was the first to go. She was fifteen. Florence was a very good scribe and had been told some years earlier in a prayer that she would assist her father in his work. Her father had died a year and a half before, so the family always accepted that she had been called home to do that work.
Two brothers, Gus (second-eldest) and George (fourth) were gravely ill. Shortly after Florence died, Gus quit breathing. The family thought he had gone, but after a few minutes, he came around and eventually recovered.
But George did not. As Gus began to breathe once more, George slipped quietly away.
In all, three people died, Florence and George and cousin Gustavus. The disease clung to the household from September till March. All who recovered were left deaf in one ear, a side-effect (they were told) of the quinine they used to treat the disease.
Another side-effect was their hair loss. To cover their bald heads, the family, particularly the girls, wore caps to church and school.
“The boys [there] teased us unmercifully and were continually jerking the caps off just to see our bald heads. But we lived through it . . .”
And there, in that one statement, is Grandma Stringam’s stout philosophy of life.
Times were very, very hard indeed: Losing their father, and in short order, two of the children.
But they lived through it.
Something I can definitely learn from.

14 comments:

  1. That is a familiar refrain -- I have heard it from both my parents, although they had no deaths in their immediate families. Still, there was poverty and other illness and bad teeth (which sounds like a bad joke but is definitely not meant that way). "But we lived through it" is not something I've really had to say.

    Your grandma was a strong lady.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, then you just got on with it. It's not really surprising that people were old at 60.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Definitely a tough breed. With few alternatives. Soldier on - or go under.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think I would have made it. I think of people walking across the plains or surviving terrible diseases. I would have been the first to go!

      Delete
  4. Yes....I think about people I knew who survived the 1918 "Spanish Flu" epidemic (one of them is still alive at age 106). It's interesting that my father was deaf in one ear and survived a childhood sickness. I wonder if it was related to how he was medicated - yes, quinine can cause hearing loss . We take people surviving childbirth, or early childhood years, for granted but, for most of human history, it wasn't that way at all. I see it in visiting historic cemeteries and seeing all the graves of children

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I see all that could (and did) go wrong, it's a wonder to me that anyone survived!

      Delete
  5. Every time I think that life is getting hard, I stop to think of those who went before us. We have nothing to complain about. Well, we can still complain about those really tough things, such as: 'My truck won't start; my soda went flat...'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I don't know. Flat soda is definitely on the same level . . .

      Delete
  6. I had no idea typhoid causes hair loss. Sad that so many died, but like your grandma said, tough times, but we lived through it. And that's the important part, they recovered and lived.

    ReplyDelete

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