Thursday, April 28, 2016

Diphtheria - The Strangler

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection caused by Corynebacterium diphtheria which is transmitted through close contact with an infected individual, usually through respiratory secretions in the air. It is known as “The Strangler” because the toxins produced by the bacteria causes a thick film to develop in the throat which makes it more and more difficult to breath, ultimately leading to strangulation. The spread of the toxin in the body can also lead to serious issues with the heart, and other vital organs. It was found that some people were chronic carriers without knowing it or contracting the disease.

Medical reports of the “strangling disease” first appeared in the 1600's. Becoming a great threat as cities grew and became more populated. The more people, the greater the spread of the disease. In the 19th century, diphtheria became a major cause of death, fueled by the Industrial Revolution and the increased population in urban communities. Though mostly a disease associated with the poor and a particular threat to children, diphtheria did not discriminate by class or age. It's cause, route of spread, and a cure remained a mystery until the last part of the 19th century.

Underscoring diphtheria's broad threat was demonstrated with the death of Princess Alice, daughter of Queen Victoria of England, in 1878 at the age of 35. Alice fell ill after 4 of her 7 children and her husband, Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt were all stricken with the disease. Alice and her youngest child died. Ironically none of the rest of the 60 members of the household were affected. It was thought that the disease could be spread by the kiss of a mother and child which is where the term “kiss of death” come from.

Princess Alice - 1870's ( Public image from Wikipede)

Diphtheria raged through the United States and Canada during the same time period. While doing research for my Tombstone Tuesday blog I came across the Utter family in my family tree. Daniel Utter was born in Wentworth Ontario, Canada in April 10, 1831. Julia Ann Hainer was the daughter of John and Nancy (Bowman) Hainer. She was born on October 2, 1838 in Brant, Ontario. ( I am related to Julia Ann through the Hainer family.) They were married in Brant, Ontario on April 16, 1855. Daniel was a Blacksmith in Burford, Brant County, Ontario.

They began their family in 1859 with the birth of a son, John and every couple of years or so they had another child; Next was Annie born in 1862, then Melissa born in 1864, then Mary in 1866, Charles in 1871, Rosa Belle in 1872, William in 1874 and Nancy in 1875.

In the 18th of December, Mary became sick  with diphtheria and she died on December 24th. On December 21st, Anne became ill, on the 23rd Nancy and Melissa became ill and by the 25th, Charles became ill all stricken with diphtheria. Five children from this family became ill within a week. On December 27th, Anna, Charles and Nancy all died on the same day. Melissa died the following day on the 28th of December. On December 28th Rose Belle became ill and on January 2nd William became ill. William died on January 7th and Rose Belle died on January 8th, 1878.

It is very hard for me to imagine what it must have been like to watch and try to care for each of these children as they died this horrific death. Julia and Daniel lost 7 children to diphtheria beginning on December 18th of 1877 and ending on January 8th of 1878. They had one child who did not get diphtheria, that was the oldest son, John. He would have been 18 years old at the time and was likely working somewhere out side of the home. With the onset of the disease, the house would have been placed under quarantine. John would have to stayed away.

Seven graves of the Utter Children
In the 1881 Canadian Census, John is still living at home and is age 22 and Julia and Daniel have begun the rebuild their family. They have a son William who is 3 years old and a daughter Nancy who is 7 months old. By the 1891 Census, they have another son, Elroy who is 5 years old.

Julia Ann died in December 27, 1899 of a Liver disease. Daniel remarried and is found in the 1901 census with his new wife Catherine and the two youngest children, 20 year old Nancy and 15 year old Elroy. Catherine Ann Utter, Daniel's Second wife died on April 24, 1920 and is buried in Brookton Ontario. Daniel died November 22, 1920 at the age of 84.

The Diphtheria Bacterium was finally identified in the late 1880's and in the 1890's a diphtheria antitoxin was developed in Germany to treat victims of the disease. The antitoxin was prepared after horses were injected with larger and larger does of the toxin. The toxin cause no harm in horses and it stimulated an immune response and the white blood cells were processed into an antitoxin. The antitoxin, when given in time and in large doses, saved lives but it did not prevent diphtheria nor did it stop it from spreading.

In 1924, there were 9000 cases of diphtheria in Canada resulting in 2000 deaths. In 1923, Gaston Ramon, at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, discovered that when the Diphtheria Toxin was exposed to minute quantities formaldehyde and heated, the toxin became nontoxic and could stimulate the immune system and the first vaccine was born.

I just could not pass up the chance to tell this tragic story. I know that diphtheria had tragic results in many families. I know that through my research I have seen other child who died from this disease but to have 7 children from the same family died in a span of about three weeks was just very hard for me to comprehend.

Happy Hunting,


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - April 26, 2016 - William May

William May

Photo shared on by Lynn Reed - 9/24/2009

William May was born in Ontario on April 5, 1808 to John May and Dorothy Hainer. (even though the photo says 1803, all other documents say 1808.) John and Dorothy had seven children; George (1802), Hannah (1804), Magdelan(1805), William (1808), Sarah (1810), Elizabeth (1812).

 William May married Anna Schram on February 15, 1827 in Lincoln, Ontario. William and Anna had five children; John(1828), Andrew W,. (1829), George (1831), Charles (1833), Elizabeth(1836). 
In the 1871 Census, William , Anna and John are living in the St Catharines, Lincoln, Ontario. William's occupations is as Hotel Keeper in the census and on his death certificate. In the Census Record they have three people living with them; Fredrick Smith, age 28, a servant from England, Joseph Linda, age 18, who declares that he is from the US, a machinist of Irish descent, Conrad Linda age 16 also from US, a machinist of Irish descent.

Wm May is the center column on the upper left page.
William died on April 26, 1875. According to his death record, he died of dropsy, which today would be congestive heart failure but back in this time frame it was often used as a common explanation for a death of unknown cause. I have not been able to identify where he is buried. Ill keep looking and post if I find it.

Rest in Peace,


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - April 19, 2016 - Jesse Clinton Crites

Jesse Clinton Crites

Jesse Clinton Crites was born on June 17, 1892 in Newton Kansas, the son of Jesse and Sarah (Burns) Crites.  In the 1895 Kansas State Census, the father, Jesse is still alive and the family is living in Newton, Harvey County, Kansas. By the time of the 1900 Federal Census, Jesse is with his mother who is a widow and head of the household in Newton, Kansas. 

Sarah Crites moved her family back to Ohio between the 1900 and 1910 Federal Census. In the 1910 Federal Census, Jesse is 17 years old and the family is found in Austintown, Mahoning County, Ohio. His occupation is listed as laborer.  Four years later at the age of 21, Jesse married Florence Winchell Grimwood (who was previously married to Jay C Grimwood) on September 2, 1914. 

Jesse Clinton Crites  and Florence Winchell Grimwood Marriage License
 In the WWI draft records of 1917, Jesse is in Phalaux, Turnbull County, Ohio with his wife and two children. (but he actually has three children) He was farming for Mrs Dell Kerns in Braceville. He has a broken instep so he was claiming a medical exemption. Florence and Jesse would have following children; George (1914-1923), Emery(1914-1922), Themond Jesse (1915), Arlo Adolph (1917), Ester Florence(1919), Henry Ray(1924) and possible another daughter named Clara. 

 I am unable to find Jesse and his family in the 1920 Census in Ohio.  Florence died on May 1, 1926 in Warren,  Ohio. Jesse remarried Matilda Cecelia Miskie on December 4, 1926. In the 1930 Federal Census, Jesse  and Matilda are shown living with three of the children; Themond J. Crites, Arlo A Crites and Ester Crites.

The 1940 Federal Census shows Jesse and Matilda Crites living in Paris, Portage County, Ohio. All of the children are grown and living on their own. In the WWII draft records from 1942, Jesse Clinton lives in Newton Falls, Turnball  County with his wife Matilda Crites and works for Portage Ordinance in Ravenna, Ohio. Jesse Clinton Crites died on April 19, 1944 at the age of 51 years old.  He is buried in the Burnstetter Cemetery in Mahoning, County Ohio, with is first wife Florence Crites.

Rest in Peace,

Jan Smith

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - April 12, 2016 - Hannah Elizabeth Spencer Davis

Hannah Elizabeth Spencer Davis

Hannah Elizabeth Spencer Davis was the third wife of Benjamin C. Davis.  They were married in Whitley County, Indiana in 1868 after the death of Benjamin's second wife Margaret Smith Davis. Hannah became the stepmother of Margaret and Benjamin's children when she was 26 years old. In the 1870 Federal Census, they are living in Nine Mile Indiana. They are raising Joseph(1856), Martha(1857), Mary(1860), Margaret Lucinda(1863) and Elnora(1866) all of whom are children of Benjamin and Margaret Smith and two daughters of her own from a previous marriage, Florence(1863) and Emma Snyder(1866).  By the 1880 Census, Benjamin and Hannah now have two of their own children, Ira(1871) and Elzina(1874) along with Margaret, Elnora, Emma and Florence Snyder.  And they are now living in Timber Hill, Bourbon County, Kansas.

Benjamin C. Davis died on July 28, 1886 at the age of 78 and is buried in the Morris Cemetery, which is located in Butler township, Bates County, Missouri.

Elzina is also buried there on March 26, 1890. She was 6 years old when she died.

I find little information about Hannah after Benjamin died in 1886.   She is a fairly young woman at that time at the age of 45 years old. I assume that she remarried and that is why I had so much trouble finding her.  I have looked for the children to see if she is living with them and so far have not found her in any of the census after 1880.  I will continue to try  to unravel the remaining 38 years for her life.  She died on April 12, 1924 and is buried next to Benjamin in the Morris Cemetery.

Rest in Peace to you all,

Jan Smith

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - April 5, 2016 - Lule (Lulu) Etta Wert Studebaker

Lule (Lulu) Etta Wert Studebaker

Lule Etta Wert was the daughter of William Homer Wert and Etta Clare Smith. She was born on July 11, 1905, sadly her mother, Etta Clare, died during child birth. William Homer and Etta Clare had a son also, James Frank Wert(1903). William Homer married Allie Ferguson on June 12, 1909. I  do not find Lule Etta in the 1910 Census. James Frank and a daughter of Allie are listed in the 1910 Census living with Homer and Allie. 

In 1915, Lule and her brother Frankie are attending the Buckley School in Wells County.

Lule Etta is the little girl with the braid on her shoulder. (Fifth from the left standing in the back row) Frankie Wert is the second from the left kneeling in the middle row. Thanks to Susan Allen for sharing the photo on

In the 1920 Federal Census, Lule Etta is living with her Grandparents, Cyrus and Lois Wert. 
Lule Etta married Clayton Studebaker  at the age of 17 on March 10, 1922. In the 1930 Census, Lule Etta and Clay Studebaker are living in Union township,Wells County, Indiana. They have one child, 7 year old Merlin and Lule's Grandfather, Cyrus Wert is living with them. Lule's Grandmother Lois died in 1927.  It took some searching because of misspelled names but I finally did find Clayton and Lule Studebaker in the 1940 Federal Census. They are still living in Union Township, Wells county, Indiana and now they have two sons living with them, Merlin (1924) and Richard (1931) and Cyrus Wert who is 86 years old.

Lule Etta was quite dedicated to her Grandfather . It appears that he lived with her until he died in 1947. Clayton and Lule Studebaker later moved to Logansport in Cass County Indiana.

Lule died in April of 1995. She is buried with her husband, who died in 1968, in Six Mile Cemetery in Wells County, Indiana. 

Rest in Peace,