I research three main families: mine and those of my two closest friends. I’ve blogged about one already with my posts about the Little/Fratis/Rapose/Smith/Hyde families. Signe Holm is the aunt of my other friend.
Signe Marie Holm was born to Gustaf Holm and his first wife, Anna Alfrida Anderson in Fort Dodge, Iowa on 24 June 1907. She was their first child.
Her life was contentious because the marriage between her parents was contentious. In the words of my friend, her grandfather (Signe’s father) was “a bull headed Swede.”
The marriage was bad enough that Frida packed six year old Signe and four year old Elmer and went back home to Sweden in November 1913 after six years of being married to Gust. They didn’t return until March 1918.
I believe they returned because Signe had started to show symptoms of tuberculosis. Frida probably had more faith in American doctors. Eventually, Signe deteriorated to the point she had to be put in the Glen Lake Sanatorium in Minnetonka, Minnesota. The family was living in Minneapolis at the time.
It was there that Signe died from TB on 16 February 1921 at the age of 13.
Lillian Angeline Linville was my great-grandmother’s sister and the only one of her siblings who died as a child. If or that time, that was really good. It hardly ever happened. It would have been a perfect record, but for her death from appendicitis at the age of 13 in 1910.
What a set of circumstances for that to happen. A rural family with no stillborns, no early death from disease.
But life isn’t perfect.
Appendicitis was always fatal in the days before surgery. It was caused by a blockage of the appendix by infection or stool. Without surgery, it always ruptured and the person always died. Death was quick, but painful and brutal.
My great-grandmother’s sister was not forgotten. When my great-grandmother had her second daughter, she named her Lillian for the sister she lost.
India Hyde was the first child of Lafayette and Caroline Fox Hyde. She had been born 29 July 1874. The family had been living in Saginaw, Michigan and were on an extended visit to Caroline’s parents, William and Emeline Fox, in Harpersfield, Ohio when it was noticed that little India couldn’t stop coughing and she couldn’t catch a breath. She had the lung fever, known now as pneumonia. I’m sure they called a doctor but there wasn’t much to be done as India sweated and coughed and cried. She died on 10 January 1877, when Caroline was carrying her next daughter Inez, who was born that June.
Mother Goose says that Wednesday’s child is full of woe, but how can you be full of woe when you barely lived at all?
One of 1895’s hottest days was August 10th. My great-great grandfather Joseph David Street paced the floor while his wife Minerva sweated and cried and pushed. Later that afternoon, she was finally (finally!) delivered of two babies, a boy and a girl. Luther Allen and Lucy Alice Street were the tenth and eleventh children born to this family. Their older sister Myrtle helped mom deliver them.
Minerva had bled a little more than usual. There was nothing to do but pray it stopped, which it did soon enough. The family’s prayers had been answered.
Or so they thought.
A day or two later, Minerva woke up drenched in sweat and having sharp pains in her stomach. After nine other births, she knew this wasn’t right at all. She must have wondered the rest of that night whether it was going to be too late for her. The hours before sunrise must have been agonizing.
It was too late for her. Minerva Alice Jamieson Street lingered for days, dying on August 16. She was only 37. After 19 years of marriage, Joseph was left alone with ten children, two of them newborns. Most men in his situation up and married again just to have help. But Joseph didn’t. He had a 17 year old daughter and a 19 year old daughter as well as several sons to help in the field. He would make it just fine, maybe a little lonelier than necessary, for the next twelve years.
Luther followed his mother to the grave four days later. Lucy died two days after that. Even in 1895, there were substitutes for mother’s milk, but most likely Luther and Lucy didn’t take to them. They could have been premature and their bodies weren’t developed enough to handle raw animal’s milk. They could have been lactose intolerant and the milk made them ill. Or they could have just been so underdeveloped they never stood a chance. Multiple births were also harder on both parent and child.
Some days I worry whether they choked, smothered, or starved to death. Infant mortality was high and life was hard. I know it was real and I know it wasn’t ever anyone’s fault or done on purpose, but it hurts all the same. I shed real tears for people I never knew. Maybe that makes me soft or crazy, I don’t know. They’re my family, however far back. I’m sure even after nine other children, Luther and Lucy would have been loved. I grieve for the family who just lost a wife and mother. I grieve for the lost potential and memories and lives never lived.