A Visit From Home.
The Sheridan News from December 20, 1907 reported that “Mrs. Elwood Millikan left last Thursday for Nara Visa, New Mexico where she will spend the winter.” A notice from December 27 stated that she went to New Mexico “for the benefit of her health and to visit her son Arza.” Arza’s Mother, Martha Ellen “Mattie,” took the train out to stay with him for the Winter. Hard to imagine what benefit it would have been to her health, staying in a small cabin out in a field with no running water and leaky walls—remember snow came in between the boards. I have a couple of pictures from her time out there:
Here she is standing outside of Arza’s cabin. Looks like she was a small woman.
This picture was taken inside the cabin. I wish it was better quality. But some details can be figured out. First, it looks like there may be a curtain next to Mattie’s right elbow. Perhaps this was used to give a little privacy in the sleeping area. Behind Mattie is the bed with a quilt covering it. There are clothes hanging on hooks on the far wall next to what may be a small closet. Just below the clothes, leaning up against the wall in the corner is a rifle.
The Sheridan News again announced Mattie’s travels. On April 10, 1908, it reported that Mattie had returned home to Indiana the Saturday before. A letter sent to Arza from his sister, Edna, in May 1908 told a little about how Mattie fared while out in New Mexico: “We weighed mamma a few days after she came home and she weighed 95 1/2. We weighed her today and she weighed 102. She lost about 9 1/2 while in New Mexico and has gained near six since she came home.” I wonder if all that good food Arza reportedly had—canned milk, dried meat, beans and cornbread—had anything to do with her weight loss. But Edna tells of something else that may have contributed to it: “I suppose the steam baths and not eating very much was the reason she lost.” She then talks about borrowing a “cabinet” for a steam bath like Mattie had while out in New Mexico.
I found a couple of advertisements for these cabinets:
This ad is from the Albuquerque Citizen, June 21, 1898.
The Indianapolis News advertised this cabinet on February 17, 1900. A large advertisement for the Vapor Bath Cabinet included the information that it was “A Godsend to all Humanity…Guarantees Perfect Health, Strength & Beauty to Every User, and Cures Without Drugs All Nervous Diseases, Rheumatism, La Grippe, Neuralgia, Blood & Kidney Troubles, Weakness, & the Most Obstinate Diseases, by Nature’s Method of Steaming the Poisons Out of the System. It is an air-tight inclosure, in which one comfortably rests on a chair, and with only the head outside, enjoys at home, for 3 cents each, all the marvelous cleansing, curative & invigorating effects of the famous Turkish Bath.”
The price for the wonderful treatment device was $5.
I don’t know what kind of medical condition Mattie had that would have sent her out to New Mexico in the Winter. I’m sure it’s no wonder that she lost weight though if she regularly used a steam cabinet like one of these.
A couple of months after Mattie left New Mexico, Arza and his friends proved up their claims…
© MJM 2018