I like reading old newspapers. At times I have found tidbits that have helped fill in the gaps of my family history research. The social columns weren’t just for the wealthy. Each week, there would often be reports of who was on the sick list, who visited whom, as well as any social gatherings in the community. I think there were “reporters” who told the newspaper of the local events in the smaller communities the paper served. My Grandmother told me that the newspaper would call folks to see if they had any news. Now that many old newspapers have been digitized and indexed, finding the information is a lot easier than it was in the past, when it required a trip to the library in whatever community I was researching in order to browse through microfilm copies of the papers. I have used Newspaperarchive.com for much of my Indiana newspaper research as it has the papers from Morgan and Hamilton Counties which correspond to the areas where Dad’s ancestors lived. I recently started a subscription to Newspapers.com as well. They were having a special offer & I was curious to see if their collection could give me any additional information on both Maternal and Paternal ancestors.
Of course, as I do with any new data collection, I plugged an ancestor’s name into the search box to see what they came up with. In this case, I searched for my GGG Grandfather, Clark Millikan (1824-1926).
One result was the following article dated Friday, September 29, 1899, from the Marshall County Independent, published in Plymouth, Indiana:
“Afflicted with Black Diptheria—Westfield, Ind.–About two weeks ago Clark Millikan’s family returned home from the west, and on Sunday last one of the daughters 14 years old, took sick and died. Others of the family are reportedly dangerously ill with the same disease, which is said to be black diphtheria of the most malignant type. The people in that section are greatly alarmed. Every precaution is being taken to prevent a spread of the disease.”
Diphtheria–caused by a bacteria & spread by respiratory droplets. An infected person would be contagious for 2-3 weeks. The disease is noted for the formation of a thick grey (or black) coating over nasal tissues, tonsils and throat which then caused breathing difficulty. Also, toxins released by the bacteria could affect the heart. From what I found, there were some treatments available for the disease in the mid 1890’s but it wasn’t until the mid 1920’s that the development and use of vaccinations helped decrease the prevalence of the disease.
So who was the 14 year old girl who died? I remembered a visit my folks and I made to a relative’s home. She had information on another branch of Clark Millikan’s descendants. Clark was married to Lydia Hinshaw (1833-1917). Their daughter, Alice (1864-1926), married Owen Dudley Cox (1861-1894). They had 2 daughters, Estella and Carrie. The lady we visited was Carrie’s daughter-in-law. She showed us the Cox family Bible.
Inside was a family photo of Estella, Owen, Carrie and Alice. Owen died when the girls were young, Estella was 8 and Carrie was 6.
Another item in the Bible was an obituary. I don’t know what newspaper it came from.
My assumption is that Estella Cox was the girl mentioned in the first article. Her obit. states that she contracted the disease from the children of Clark Stout who was her Uncle. He was married to another one of Clark Millikan’s daughters, Anna (1869-1945). The little children would have been Lester (5 yrs old) and LaRue (3 yrs old). Even though the first article mentions a trip “West” and the obit mentions a trip to North Carolina, I don’t think it matters where they had visited. Regardless, the dreaded Diphtheria came back with them.
One more thing about Estella Cox. She doesn’t show up in the US Census records. She was born after the 1880 US Census and died before the 1900 US Census. (The 1890 Census records were destroyed.) So only looking at US Census records, we wouldn’t even know she existed. Other records would have to be used to help prove the family connections.
She is listed in a couple of Quaker Meeting records from Eagle Creek Monthly Meeting in Hamilton County, Indiana.
First, the family was accepted into membership in 1893:
Then, after Owen’s death, Alice and her children moved to Lamong Monthly Meeting. They were living with Alice’s father, Clark:
The Cox family lived with their share of sorrow, with the loss of Owen and Estella. It’s also sad to think that the family members who traveled, probably to visit other relatives, never expected to return from their trip with a disease that infected their cousin and caused her death. I can’t imagine how the family coped with that. Alice lived with her father the rest of her life. Carrie, who was 11 years old when she lost her sister, eventually trained to be a nurse.
© MJM 2017