Epidemics and my family

As I write this, our world is in the middle of a global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 Coronavirus. It is a scary time. And weird. New phrases like “self-isolating” and “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” are common in our vocabulary from now until who knows when. My work building is closed for 2 weeks. Schools are closed, Sunday church services are cancelled, restaurants are closed except for take-out food, movie theaters are closed, malls are closed, gatherings of more than 10 people are banned. The professional sports world has completely shut down. We learn new things every day about the virus and what we need to do to get through this time in our history.

Since I’m working from home and practicing “social distancing,” it got me to thinking that some of my ancestors have lived through their own global epidemics. Here are just a few examples.

Frederick Orlando Shrum, Martha Horsey and Frederick Orlando Shrum II – Malaria

Grave markers for Martha Horsey Shrum and Frederick Orlando Shrum. Spring Hill Cemetery, Shoals, Indiana

At age 29, my second great-grandfather, nicknamed Orlando, took ill in November of 1871 in Shoals, Indiana. He was a brick maker. He died on December 3, 1871 of malaria. He left behind his 28 year old wife, Martha Horsey, and their two sons, 2 year old Mark, and 3-month old Frederick Orlando Shrum II. Sadly,  little Frederick II would contract the disease as well and he would die on February 17, 1872 at 5 months of age. Even more tragic, Martha Horsey died just 2 years later on September 10, 1874, leaving my great-grandfather Mark an orphan. Martha’s cause of death hasn’t been discovered yet.

Thomas Joseph Dillon – Polio

Living in Windsor Locks, Connecticut with his bride of two years, Katherine Johnson, my first cousin 1x removed, died at 34 years old on October 11, 1912 of the polio virus. Sharing some similarities of the tragedy of Frederick Shrum’s family, Thomas and his wife had just welcomed twin boys two weeks earlier on September 24. One of the twin boys, John, died just three days before his father on October 8, 1912. I’m still trying to discover John’s cause of death, but my theory is polio as well. The other twin, Thomas Joseph Dillon, would go on to live a long life of 80 years old.

Laura Haseltine – Consumption

Laura Haseltine died single, at the age of 31, of consumption. She was the sister of my third great-grandmother, Jane “Jennie” Haseltine Willett. Laura was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts and died in West Newbury, Massachusetts.  In an 1860 Haverhill city directory she is listed as a stitcher, living with her sister Jane, who was also listed as a stitcher. They boarded with E.H. Souther on Portland Street in Haverhill. She is buried at Merrimack Cemetery in West Newbury, Massachusetts.  

Our friend, L.E. Haseltine Died May 19, 1866 Aged 31 years


We will all get through this together. Sometime in the future, our descendants will be writing about this crazy time. Stay safe and well, everyone.

(c) 2020 Jenny Hawran. Like-Herding-Cats.com

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