infant mortality

The doctor could not get there.

Six month-old Shirley Jean Everett died before Dr. T.G Bradshaw could reach her in the winter of 1948. Given the condition of the roads, it is not clear how he “sent medicine” from his office in Rock Ridge.

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“Probably Pneumonia Did not see [her?] & Roads so bad no one could get to see her Sent medicine 2/4/48”

 

Mortality schedule, no. 6: Town of Wilson, 1870.

Each of the United States federal censuses from 1850 to 1880 included a mortality schedule enumerating individuals who had died in the previous year previous. Each entry noted the decedent’s family number in the population schedule, name, age, sex, color, marital status, place of birth, month of death, occupation, and cause of death.

Here is a detail from the 1870 mortality schedule for the Town of Wilson, Wilson County:

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  • Charles Edwards. Age 6 months, died in August, cholera infantum.

In the 1870 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: teamster Cally Speight, 23; wife Margaret, 26; and Ann, 13, domestic servant; Abel Edwards, 84; wife Arden, 72; Issa, 20, hotel chambermaid; Gracy, 23, domestic servant; and Ann P. Edwards, 5.

  • Lane Scarborough. Age 8, died in August, “inflammation brain.”
  • Infant Scarborough. Age 3 months, died in September, “inflammation brain.”

In the 1870 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: Anna Scarborough, 35; son John, 17, furniture shop employee; daughter Louisa, 14; and Henry Blackman, 19, teaching school.

  • Rena Clark. Age 6 months, died in July, cholera infantum.

In the 1870 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: Mariah Clark, 20, listed as a domestic servant in the household of retail grocer Edwin G. Clark.

  • Neal Mac. Age 1, died in July, unknown.

In the 1870 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: Mary Whitaker, 22, domestic servant; Ann Pender, 13, servant; and Mariah Mac, 25, servant, born in South Carolina.

  • Elias Edmondson. Age 1 week, Died in May, “inflammation brain.”

In the 1870 census of the Town of Wilson, Wilson County: farm laborer Ellias Edmonson, 28; wife Emiline, 23; and Joseph E., 9.

The death certificate of the infant son of Geo. Ferguson.

North Carolina did not mandate death certificates statewide until 1914, but some towns and cities implemented the requirement earlier.

Wilson’s first death certificates date from late 1909. As the record below shows, in the early days there was sometimes confusion about who was to fill in what blanks. It appears here that the family took a shot at writing in personal information about the decedent, a duty that should have fallen to the undertaker. The result, however, is a fascinating collection of details that would otherwise have gone unrecorded.

The basic facts: George and Bettie Ferguson‘s infant son was still born (or died the day after he was born). The family lived at 505 Spring Street, Wilson.

The facts as entered:

  • The baby’s name — was it Stephen?
  • His sex? “Nov. 24” — apparently his birthdate, though this date should match his death date, which was recorded by Dr. W.A. Mitchner.
  • His color? “Color.”
  • His age? “No” years, which was true, as the boy was stillborn.
  • Father’s birthplace? “22 bone 1887 Nov 7.” This was George Ferguson’s age and birthdate.
  • Mother’s birthplace? “Mother bone 1888 August 10.”
  • Occupation? “Stem tobacco.” This, of course, was the occupation of one or both of the baby’s parents.
  • Informant? Charles Darden, though Darden did not serve as undertaker. Quinn-McGowan Firniture Company did.

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George Ferguson, 20, son of Sam and Mary Ferguson, married Bettie Barnes, 18, daughter of Aaron and Margaret Barnes, in Wilson on 12 July 1909. W.H. Neal of Saint James Holy Church performed the ceremony in the presence of J.A. McKnight, Annie Pitt and Edmonia Perrington.

In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: George Ferguson, 21, factory worker, and wife Bettie, 18.

Bettie Ferguson died 24 July 1918 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 10 August 1890 in Wilson to Aaron Barnes and Margarett Blount; was married to George Ferguson; lived at 117 Wiggins; and worked as a stemmer at “Emperial Tobacco Co.” She was buried in Wilson by C.H. Darden & Sons.

George Barnes Ferguson registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County in 1940. Per his registration card, he was born 8 October 1914 in Wilson County; lived at 1120 East Nash Street, Wilson; his contact was wife Wilhelmina Ferguson; and he worked for R.B. Carroll Grocery.

Georgia L. Barnes died 3 June 1945 in Goldsboro, Wayne County. Per her death certificate, she was born about 1913 in Wilson to George Furgerson of Edgecombe County and Betty Barnes of Wilson County and was married.

The deaths of little Louisa Sims and Infant Thorpe.

Though the state of North Carolina did not require death certificates until 1913, some municipalities began to record them earlier. Below, the returns of a death for two young children born in Raleigh to parents from Wilson County.

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Louisa Sims died on 1 March 1900 after a six or seven-day illness. The three year-old had been born in her parents’ home on West Connor Street, Raleigh. Her father was from Wilson County; her mother from “near Goldsboro.”

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Thomas and Mary Thorpe’s infant son was stillborn at 832 South Wilmington Street. His father was from granville County; his mother, from Wilson.

Death Certificates 1900-1909, Wake County, North Carolina County Records 1833-1970, familysearch.org.

Suffer the little children: death from brain and heart disease.

Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, and violence bore them away in sorrowful numbers. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children. Few children who died in Wilson County were buried in marked graves. In town, most early burials were in Oaklawn, Rountree, or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, Rountree was engulfed by pine forest, and their headstones, if they ever existed, have been lost over time.

By allowing us to call their names again, this series of posts memorializes the lives of children who died in the first twenty years in which Wilson County maintained death records. May they rest in peace.

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On 14 July 1915, Theodor Smith, 13, schoolboy, of Wilson, son of Tom Smith and Edith McDowell, of “congestion of the brain.”

On 24 January 1917, Mary Myrtie Belle Banks, 3 months, of Springhill township, daughter of Allen Banks and Florence Taylor, died of “status epilepticus.” She was buried in “Watson graveyard.”

On 30 September 1917, Sadie Austin, 4, of Saratoga township, daughter of Matthew Austin and Hattie Eason, died of “brain trouble — don’t know cause.”

On 30 December 1921, Harriett Newsom, 10, of Black Creek township, daughter of Layfayett and Rebecca Newsom, died of “cerebral congestion,” with jaundice as a contributing condition. She was buried in “Jones graveyard.”

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On 28 January 1911, Irene Dewey, 2, of 619 Vance Street, Wilson, daughter of Thomas Dewey and Callie Smith, died of cardiac failure. She was buried in Dunn, North Carolina.

On 17 January 1917, Edgar Lindsey, 17, of Wilson township, son of John Lindsey and Nancy Lane, died of endocarditis. He was born in Franklin County, N.C.

On 19 September 1918, Charley Hagans, 12, school boy, of Wilson, son of James Hagans and Hannah Bynum, died of “acute dilatation of the heart.”

On 2 November 1919, Raymond Dixon, 4, of Walstonburg, son of Thomas Dixon and Millie Barnes, died at Wilson Sanatorium, of “shock and heart failure on account of anaesthetic.” He was buried in Greene County, N.C.

On 10 May 1920, Creasa Ann Hinton, 14, of Springhill township, daughter of Rufus Hinton and Melvina Cook, died of valvular heart disease.

On 29 February 1924, John Brewster Armstrong, 5, of Farmville, son of E. Douglas Armstrong and Ellen Freeman, died at Wilson Hospital of cardiac decompensation. He was buried in Farmville, Pitt County.

On 10 June 1921, Morriss Lee Edwards, 11, of Wilson township, son of Anthony Edwards and Mollie Howard, died of “[don’t know] heart trouble stated death came suddenly. No doctor in attendance.”

On 14 October 1926, Elise Barnes, 11, of East Nash Street, Wilson, daughter of Rosco Barnes and Jessie Adams, died of acute pericarditis.

On 21 March 1930, Cleotha Taylor, 7, of Wilson township, daughter of Henry Strickland and Allice Taylor, died of “heart lesion –aortic insufficiency,” with rheumatism as a contributing factor.

On 11 April 1930, Ray M. Pierce, 4, of 1212 East Nash Street, Wilson, son of Andrew Pierce and Lessie Haskins, died of acute myocarditis.

Suffer the little children: alimentary and gastrointestinal disorders.

Well into the twentieth century, children faced harrowing odds against reaching adulthood. Disease, accidents, and violence bore them away in sorrowful numbers. In the 1910s, 17% of American children died before age 5, a figure that was higher for Southern and African-American children. Few children who died in Wilson County were buried in marked graves. In town, most early burials were in Oaklawn, Rountree, or the Masonic cemetery. The Oaklawn graves were exhumed and moved to Rest Haven in the 1940s, Rountree was engulfed by pine forest, and their headstones, if they ever existed, have been lost over time.

By allowing us to call their names again, this series of posts memorializes the lives of children who died in the first twenty years in which Wilson County maintained death records. May they rest in peace.

Diarrhea and dysentery

  • On 29 October 1909, Mary Perry, 2, of Wilson, daughter of Ed and Mary Perry, died of “supposed to be diarrhea.”
  • On 16 April 1910, Bettie Louise Askew, 5 months, of “corner of Vick Viola,” Wilson, daughter of John Askew and Dosia Boykin, died of diarrhea.
  • On 14 May 1910, Mary John Rodgers, 10 months, of Wilson, daughter of J.W. Rodgers and Mary E. Thomas, died of dysentery and bronchitis.
  • On 6 October 1910, Lillie Christine Foster, 1, of 132 Manchester Street, Wilson, daughter of Claud Foster and Cora White, died of “summer diarrhoea.”
  • On 20 May 1920, Clide Parker, 1, of Saratoga township, son of Henry Parker and Mary Barnes, died of dysentery and ileocolitis, with “too much rich food” as a contributing factor. [The certificate noted that Parker had been born on Edwards’ farm, WIlson County.]
  • On 29 June 1915, Estella Farmer, 15, of Stantonsburg township, daughter of Robert Farmer and Pennie Bynum, died of acute dysentery.
  • On 27 May 1917, Louis Armstrong, 12, of Black Creek township, son of Bill Armstrong, died of dysentery.
  • On 31 May 1917, Dorsey N. Powell, 10 months, of Wilson township, son of Dorsey Powell and Ella Hines, died. “No doctor. This child was cutting teeth, which effected the stomach, causing diarrhea.”
  • On 1 October 1917, Cecil Thomas Lucas, 1, of Elm City, daughter of Wiley Plymouth Lucas and Minnie Cooper, died of diarrhea and enteritis due to “faulty feeding.”
  • On 24 June 1918, Willis Edmundson, 21 months, of Saratoga township, son of Doc Edmundson and Mary Cullen, died of dysentery and was buried at Mrs. Eliza Barnes’ place.
  • On 30 June 1923, John Wesley Reid, 2, of 707 Harper Street, Wilson, son of John C. Reid and Byner Cutchon, died of summer complaint. [Summer complaint an acute condition of diarrhea, occurring chiefly in infants and children during weather and caused by bacterial contamination of food. The condition is associated with poor hygiene.]

Stomach disorders and conditions

  • On 16 October 1910, Chas. H. Gunn, 1, of Wilson, son of Moses Gunn and Annie Barnes, died of gastritis.
  • On 21 November 1910, Joseph Batts, 13 months, of Wilson, son of Willie and Oliver Batts, died of gastritis.
  • On 17 May 1917, Naomi Petway, 2, of Toisnot township, daughter of Allen Petway and Annie Mercer, “started with a very sick stomach, died in 24 hours.”
  • On 11 July 1917, Emma Davis, 1, of Wilson township, daughter of David Davis and Mary Johnson, died of gastritis.
  • On 24 July 1930, Detha Lee Mitchell, 22 days, of Taylors township, daughter of Gus Mitchell and Cora Hicks, died of starvation and dehydration and congenital pyloric stenosis.
  • On 8 August 1930, Ben Dalton Ricks, 27 days, of Toisnot township, son of Dalton Ricks and Quinnie Farmer, died of pyloric stenosis.
  • On 30 August 1930, Laura Mae Dew, 2 months, of 412 Lodge Street, Wilson, daughter of William Dew and Laura Cogdell, died of gastritis, with bad milk a contributor.

Indigestion

  • On 23 December 1910, Lucial Whitehead, 1, of Wilson, daughter of Henry Whitehead and Victora Ennis, died of “don’t know, was suffering from indigestion at the time.”

Pellagra

  • On 30 June 1916, Mark Parker, 6, school boy, of Wilson, son of Herbert Parker and Mary Simms, died of probable pellagra. [Pellagra is a disease caused by lack of niacin in the diet.  In the early 1900s, it reached nearly epidemic levels among poor people in the South as a result of over-reliance on milled corn in the diet.]
  • On 19 June 1918, Johnnie Hagans, 5, of Wilson, son of Alonza Hagans and Fronney Anderson, died of pellagra.

Intestinal disorders and conditions

  • On 14 November 1909, E.G. Bostis, 1, of Wilson, son of E.G. and Julie Bostis, died of “supposed to be bowel trouble.”
  • On 27 April 1910, John William Barnes, 11 months, of Wilson, son of J.M. Barnes and Annie Darden, died of “inflammation of bowels.”
  • On 9 June 1910, Johnnie Bryant, 10 months, of Wilson, son of Anthony Bryant and Bertha Best, died of entero-colitis.
  • On 11 July 1910, Marie R. Taylor, 4 months, of Wilson, daughter of Rev. H.B. Taylor and M.L. Taylor, died of entero-colitis.
  • On 29 June 1911, Charles Fletcher Morgan, 1, of 504 Stantonsburg Street, Wilson, son of Calvin Morgan and Almater Bynum, died of intestinal cramps.
  • On 2 June 1914, William Maning Barnes, 3, of 109 East Street, Wilson, son of Lemon Barnes and Lizzie Smith, died of intestinal catarrh.
  • On 3 June 1914, Vanjaline Williamson, 4, of Wilson, daughter of William and Hattie Williamson, died of an “obstructed bowel, cause unknown, should have been operated on.”
  • On 24 June 1914, Ernest Artis, 12, of Stantonsburg township, son of Willie and Mollie Artis, died of an intestinal perforation, with typhoid fever as a contributing cause.
  • On 29 July 1915, Howard Simmons, 13, of Wilson, son of John Simmons and Emma Bray, died of intestinal obstruction.
  • On 26 April 1917, Davis Snookums Barnes, 1, of Old Fields township, son of Wiley Barnes and Martha Homes, died of “acute enteritis caused from eating fresh green vegetables.”
  • On 9 May 1917, Willie Moore, 1, of Wilson township, son of Samuel Smith and Clara Moore, died of “possibly bowel trouble and teething.”
  • On 20 August 1917, McChata Barnes, 1, of Wilson, son of William Barnes and Maedie Taylor, probably died of ileocolitis.
  • On 12 September 1918, Novilla Barnes, 13, “in school,” of Saratoga township, daughter of Ned Barnes and Allice Locust, died of an intestinal hemorrhage, with typhoid fever as a complicating factor.
  • On 24 December 1918, Pauline David, 3, of Taylors township, daughter of Herman David and Annie Parker, died of “elleo-colitis, probable cause.”
  • On 10 June 1922, Jessy Hussey, 12, “school child,” of Wilson township, son of Willie Hussey and Bessie Holmes, died of gastroenteritis with “non-ripe berries” a contributing cause.
  • On 6 September 1922, Rematha Barnes, 8, of Stantonsburg, daughter of L.R.S. Barnes and Edealia Scott, died of an intestinal obstruction.
  • On 15 April 1929, Jessie Henderson Jr., 5 months, of Wilson, son of Jessie Henderson and Pauline Artis, died of ileo-colitis. He was buried in Rountree cemetery.
  • On 21 February 1930, Euraline Thompson, 7 months, of Cross Roads township, daughter of Addie Thompson and Lenetta Newsome, died of acute intestinal toxemia improper feeding.
  • On 17 June 1930, Herline Fulton, 8 months, of Taylors township, daughter of Rufus Fulton and Maggie Blackburn, died of “acidosis and dehydration. Undetermined. Possible intestinal obstruction operation too hazardous to attempt.”

Poisoning and esophageal burns

  • On 15 March 1916, Lee Roy Vick, 1, of Black Creek township, son of Willie Vick and Nancy Lewis, died from eating lye.
  • On 12 June 1916, Claude Homes, 4, “farmer’s child,” of Stantonsburg township, son of Stanford Homes and Louisa Pate, died of “poison from potash, accidental.”
  • On 23 October 1917, Allie Hunter, 8, of Old Fields township, daughter of James Hunter and Rosetta Barnes died of “ptomaine poisoning from eating sour vegetables.” [Ptomaine is “any of a group of amine compounds of unpleasant taste and odor formed in putrefying animal and vegetable matter and formerly thought to cause food poisoning.” Ptomaine poisoning, then, is a non-scientific term, no longer in use, for food poisoning.]
  • On 13 May 1917, Willie Benjamin Wells, 1, of Wilson, son of Willie Wells and Mazie Holland, died of “ptomaine poisoning from eating fish.”
  • On 18 June 1917, Ruffin Rowe, 8, of Lucama, son of Ruffin Rowe and Piety Tucker, died of “ptomaine poisoning ate cold cabbage not thoroughly cooked & highly seasoned with meat.” He was buried in the Rose graveyard.
  • On 18 March 1918, Olivia Dickens, 3, of Wilson, daughter of R.D. Dickens and Nora Joyner, died “supposed of poisoned milk.”
  • On 29 May 1919, George Braswell Jr., 2, of Old Fields township, son of George Braswell and Lizzie Bridges, died of “stricture esophagus for caustic lye.”
  • On 20 December 1918, Andrew Tinley, 3, of 117 Manchester Street, son of James Tinley and Lula Coppedge, died of “constriction of esophagus” as a result of drinking of boiling water from tea kettle.”
  • On 20 December 1923, Connie Barnes, 2, of Spring Hill township, daughter of Fletcher Barnes and Jemima(?) Wilder, died of accidental poisoning with lye. He was buried at Rocky Branch.

Nutritional disorders, marasmus and inanition

  • On 27 July 1916, Timothy Vick, 1, of Cross Roads township, son of John Vick and Thanie Williamson, died of “nursing from a pregnant mother — unknown.” He was buried at Williamson cemetery.
  • On 7 March 1917, Louisa Speights, 3, of Wilson, daughter of Jacob Speights and Rebecca Robbins, died of malnutrition.
  • On 16 July 1917, William Alonzo Finch, 20 days, of Elm City, son of Alonzo Finch and Annie Hall, died of “inanition due to inability of mother to nurse and lack of suitable diet.” [Inanition was a term for exhaustion caused by lack of nourishment.]
  • On 12 August 1917, David Junius Smith, 10 months, of Toisnot township, son of David Smith and Lessie Dawes, died of inanition resulting from improper feeding.
  • On 14 August 1917, Matha Matlena Braswell, 9 months, of Stantonsburg township, daughter of Ezecial Braswell and Minnie Barnes, died of morasmus and improper feeding. She was buried at the Jack Sherard place. [Marasmus is severe malnutrition causing a child to be significantly underweight.]
  • On 18 January 1919, Mayetta Jones, 1, of Saratoga township, daughter of Oscar Jones and Sue Edwards, died of “some wasting disease, don’t know exactly, looked like morasmus, don’t know cause unless was tuberculosis.”
  • On 10 November 1930, Gonnell Wallice Hagans, 2, of Wilson, son of Isaac Hagans and Essie Mae Farmer, died of rickets. [Rickets is the softening and weakening of bones in children, usually because of an extreme and prolonged vitamin D deficiency. It is not, in and of itself, a fatal disorder.]