Many of us have very clear memories of staying up with sick children when they were little and worrying over them until we could take them to their pediatrician or phone a trusted relative. Imagine if you didn't have that option. Parenting would become something for the very brave. Imagine what Dell is going through - she still hasn't named this baby and while she says it is because she is struggling over the decision you have to wonder if she's just concerned that this little one will not make it through this winter outbreak of whooping cough that occurred in Bethel, CT in 1889. She had already buried children. No wonder the mothers were kept in a secluded part of the house with the baby for so long. There were no antibiotics. It was just mothers and aunts and sisters protecting the children. These women would laugh at our complaints. Here's another letter from Dell...still with an unnamed baby.
Bethel March 24th 1889
It seems a long time since I heard from you and I suppose it seems the same as to you hearing from me. I should have written you last Sunday but had to lie in bed all day with a sick headache, the forerunner of a heavy cold. We all are having such colds, seem to catch them of each other. Whooping cough is around and I have thought, Kittie had that but I hear no Whoop and she has coughed the longest time, coughs so nights that she throws up what she has on her stomach sometimes.
Well, now for the news! I am real smart, only of course a cross baby as usual so I cannot rest good nights and it makes one feel dragged out. She didn't sleep so I could sleep any until after midnight last night, but I do think she gets better from day to day so I have that to encourage me. She is letting me know now that I need not expect to write long and neglect my duties. Mrs. Patterson left me the Thursday I wrote you she was to leave. That was the Thursday after baby was three weeks old. She was three weeks old the Tuesday before. Mather Hayes came up to see me the next Wednesday and stayed with me a week and left here last Wednesday, so I have had quite a lift from her. She grows old though fast. I felt as if I was better able to take care of the baby than she was, and didn't put that off on her. Only as she cared for it one night when I had such a hard sick head but she did the baby's washing for me, made the four beds upstairs here and cared for the rooms up here. She acts as if she thought she was smart for her age (66) but I think she grows old fast, she is quite lame too.
Julie has had to stay out of shop for the past week for Maggie was sick abed with her cold. She has done the washing for baby since Mrs. P and mother left. I haven't done anything downstairs, only as I made a cake pudding this morning. I am sure I don't know where I could find much time if I was ever so smart and willing with such a cross responsibility. When I can get the bedroom cleaned and baby downstairs it will be more handy for me. Are you commencing to plan to come up and see me? Julie says she is coming down to get you and have you see to the work of getting this hill off. I do not hear or see any move towards it yet.
Julie has just come home from S.S. and says to tell you "She and Mamie Reed are coming down for you when you get ready to come. Coming down Saturday and up with you the following Monday." She says she means it. For Mamie's mamma told her Mamie could come today, so write where you get ready to come and let them know. I expected to hear from Nell before this but think likely she is busy and doesn't find the time to write, but I have thought so much about Uncle's tumble on the stairs, and have feared he was sick. I hope she will drop me a few lines soon, if not able to write me a long letter. Trade isn't very brisk here this spring, the girls do not have near what they wish they did. Will has lots to do, and doesn't look or act as if he felt as well as usual but you cannot find out anything about it even if he doesn't. He is over to the shop yet and it is most three o'clock and his supper getting cold.
Haven't heard from or seen any of Dwight's folks yet. Maggie has had a letter from Maggie B. which she is going to answer tonight. I will read over her letter dated Feb. 3rd and jot down the items of news. "Father will go to Washington middle of March, then I will write you his description of Gus' nice home", "Haven't any news from Louise as I haven't seen her in a long time, they are busy sewing for Cora's wedding." "We have a girl this winter as Henry had to have two men." "Aunt Lois sits with folded hands, or lies on the lounge all day, feels like resting all the time." Didn't say a word about Aunt Harrietta.
Dwight, Libbie and Bessie have just been here. Libbie stayed in Washington two weeks. Maggie was coming home with her but had a card from Uncle Knapp that he was coming out so she couldn't dome, Uncle is out there, went the 13th Libbie said and they must have passed each other on her way home. Dwight didn't come up so I only saw him through the window. Bessie wished I would let her name the baby, she should call her Annette, but I like Hazel best yet of any of them. Must close and take baby...Love to all, Dell
Mina and Mame went up to see Eli's baby the other day. A big, nice, fat, good, baby they said two weeks and from Sunday until Tuesday older than mine. Mina said it made our baby look go green by contrast - that it seemed like it didn't know anything. Mame Judson was here yesterday. Sid saw Will and told him the reason none of them had been to see me was because the little one had had the whooping cough, and Ern had had it or something near enough to it.
I have more to add about this but will do it in a later post! Time is limited - even today!
- Danbury, CT
- I'm a full-time substitute teacher and coordinator of CMT's at a large middle school. Married with two grown sons (both redheads)! I'm not afraid of anything! One son just graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a degree in Journalism - he minored in Cinema Studies. The other just began his freshman year at The University of Hartford where he is a student of the Hartford Art School. We are owned by a smelly, old cat, a frenzied dachshund named Otis and a chinchilla!