Archive for the ‘Illness’ Category

George Washington: “one of my best Friends and Favorites”

ELIZABETH WILLING POWEL was a renowned hostess and the Powel home on Third Street in central Philadelphia was the gathering place for important political and social figures of Revolutionary America and the early republic. Elizabeth and her husband were close personal friends of George and Martha Washington. During the Constitutional Convention in 1787, with Martha back in Mount Vernon, Washington was often in the company of the Powels. He particularly enjoyed conversing with Elizabeth who was brilliant, well educated, and outspoken in her opinions. In a letter Elizabeth wrote to Mrs. William [Ann Bolling Randolph] Fitzhugh in July 1786 she refers to George Washington as “one of my best Friends and Favorites.” Elizabeth Powel either wrote or copied verses which she sent to Washington on his birthday in 1792 beginning with the line: “No Peerage we covet, No Sceptres desire.”

In the following letter, dated 9 January 1792, Elizabeth Willing Powel informs George Washington that she is sending information about a possible treatment for his nephew George Augustine Washington who was suffering from tuberculosis. The preparation of the medicine koumiss, fermented mare’s milk, described by John Grieve was published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1788. Writing that it was “recommended as an almost universal remedy”— Elizabeth quickly anticipates Washington”s reaction—”which I know you will say proves too much and rather savours of Quackery; yet the Authorities appear so respectable and the Object of the Publication so benevolent, that I think it is entitled to considerable Confidence and Attention. . .” She then waxes philosophical, considering whether

the protracting human Life is adding to the Mass of Happiness. But what is this Life that we should be so over studious to prolong the Respiration of that Breath which may with so much Ease be all breathed out at once as by so many successive Millions of Moments? For surely there are more exquisite Pains than Pleasures in Life, and it seems to me that it would be a greater Happiness at once to be freed forever from the former than by such an irksome Composition to protract the Enjoyment of the latter. We must all die, and, I believe there is no Terror in Death but what is created by the Magic of Opinion, nor probably any greater Pain than attended our Birth. As I suppose at our Dissolution every Particle of which we are compounded returns to its proper original Element and that which is divine in us returns to that which is divine in the Universe.
I most sincerely wish you the two Extremes of Happiness—fullness of Joys in this Life and an immortal Series of Felicities in Heaven. I am dear Sir with Respect & Esteem your affectionate Friend
Eliza. Powel

“To George Washington from Elizabeth Willing Powel, 9 January 1792,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-09-02-0248. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 9, 23 September 1791 – 29 February 1792, ed. Mark A. Mastromarino. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000, pp. 419–420.] The photographs are from Wikimedia Commons. Use of the parlor photo was given to Wikipedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

posted August 24th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Friendship,Illness,Medicine,Philadelphia,Powel, Elizabeth Willing,Washington, George,Washington, George Augustine

“When God his Summons Sends”

That inveterate writer JEMIMA CONDICT from Pleasantdale, New Jersey, summarizes what had befallen her family in the past year.

It is now the 2 of JANUARY [1777] & as I have not had time to write any this winter I thought this a Proper Season, as I am up With my Sick Sister, to take Pen in Hand & Recollect a little of What is Past. I intended to kept a Strickt account of the Times, But as Providence has ordered matters, I have my Hands full By Night & Day, So that I shall Now only jest Tell you In Broken Languige What Troubles we have had in Our family. since I Saw you Last. My Dear mother was taken Sick the 25 of October & was So Bad that we Did not much Expect her recovery. It was then I thought I Should Bin Deprivd of that great Blessing I had so Long undeservedly enjoyd. My Youngist Brother also Lay Very Bad So that we did not Expect him to Live for many Days. Dear father was taken Sik Quick after, But through the Goodness of God they Soon recovered; So that we were in Hopes of having health in our habitation. But at Chrismas my Sister was taken Sick & was Extreme Bad. She had a Strange Disoder. it Lay in her throat & Stomack Sometimes she would be So Choack that we never expected She would Come too agin. another of my Brothers Likewise at the Same time was very Sick; But it has Pleased a holy god to show us his Power in Raiseing them to a State of health.

JANUARY ye 29 1777 Samuel ogden my Brother in Law was taken Sick at Newark & was Brought up to his uncle abrams. Where after a Short tho Tedious fit of Sickness Died; his mother Being there to tend him; she was taken Sick the Next Night & Died the week following So the both died from home yet not from friends.

And so all must Go
When God his Summons Sends

Jemima Condict, Her Book: Being a Transcript of the Diary of an Essex County Maid During the Revolutionary War (Orange N.J.: Jemima Condict Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1930), 64-65, 66. The original of Jemima Condict’s diary is in the archives of the New Jersey Historical Society, “Manuscript Group 123.”

posted March 27th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Condict, Jemima,Death,Illness,New Jersey

“the Blody flux”

JEMIMA CONDUCT, the young woman from Pleasantdale, New Jersey, once again writes about actions of the British.

Monday May first [1775]. this day I think is a Day of mourning we have word Come that the fleet is coming into Newyork also & to Day the men of our Town is to have a general meeting to Conlud upon measures Which may Be most Proper to be taken; they have Chose men to act for them & I hope the Lord will Give them Wisdom to Conduct wisely & Prudently In all matters.

In 1776, disease ravaged the area. “July 23, Did that Distressing Disorder the Blody flux Began to rage in this Neighborhood.” Jemima cites death after death: of friends and neighbors, adults and children, civilians and soldiers. “August the 16th, Then Died Jered freeman. he was taken Sick at newyork among the Sogers & was brought home & Died Soon After.” Some soldiers were killed in action, but more died as a result of sickness.

September 1776. We hear News from our army at Montigue & Several of them we hear is Dead. sense there Departure Benjamin Canfield & Stevan Morris, David Luis Died with the Camp Disorder & william acorn we hear was killed by the injuns; Sen Jabez freeman the Son of the Late Diseast John freeman is Dead, also Sias Heady Died up there with Sickness.

The bloody flux or dysentery is characterized by bloody diarrhea. The “Camp Disorder” is likely typhus. It is heartbreaking to read Jemima’s list of the dead. It goes on and on, year after year, and is a reminder of the fragility of life at that time and the ineffectiveness of treatment. What is also impressive is the way sickness and death were borne: always regarded as God’s will, to be accepted. Gratitude was expressed for those who had been spared.

Jemima Condict, Her Book: Being a Transcript of the Diary of an Essex County Maid During the Revolutionary War (Orange N.J.: Jemima Condict Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1930), 52, 59, 60, 61. The original of Jemima Condict’s diary is in the archives of the New Jersey Historical Society.

posted March 23rd, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,Condict, Jemima,Death,Illness,Medicine

“Was took With The measles”

You may recall JEMIMA CONDICT from previous posts here and here. She lived in Pleasantdale, New Jersey and kept a journal from the age of eighteen (1772) until she died in childbirth at twenty-five. (She was married to Aaron Harrison.) Much of the journal concerns her religious life: there are texts of scripture, verses of hymns, descriptions of sermons, notes on her attendance at the Church of Newark Mountain (which became the Presbyterian Church of Orange which still stands), and her inner struggles of conscience. But there are other entries as well which provide a glimpse into Jemima’s life and those in her circle as well as events during the Revolutionary War. Herewith a selection of entries.

May the 10 [1772] Rose in the morning tho not very early and Went to weaving yet not very willingly for tho I Love that yet it likes not me and I am in the Mind that I never shall be well as long as I Weave. this spring is a very sickly time, the Measles spreads very fast Beside other Disorders. they are sick each side of us Yet the Lord is still throwing mercy To us, he has given us Health whilst others have sickness & is spareing our lives Whilst Others are taken away. . . .

June the 10 I went to Newark I and my Sisters. We thought to Have had A good Deal of pleasure that Day But before I got Home I had a like to have Had my Neck broke I rid a young Horse and it Was a very windy day and the Dirt flew and there Was chairs and Waggons a rattling and it scared the horse so that he started and flung me of[f] and sprained my arm and now I am forced to write with one [illegible]. . . .

Sunday August 16 Was took With The measles and on Monday Night I broke out in My face and Hand. on Tuesday I was a Red as a Chery And I Was of a fine Coular. My measles turned on Wednesday But still felt very Mean all that week and a Sunday. yet is Great Mercy Shown to me I want so bad As Some.

Jemima spent some time with friends from West Branch who urged her to visit them.

They told me there was young men Plenty there for me But I thought I was In no hurry for a husband at Present. And if I was I thought it was too far to go upon uncertaintys. So I concluded to Stay where I was & I Believe I shan’t Repent it. A Husband or Not, for I am best of[f] in this spot. . . .

thursday I had some Discourse with Mr. Chandler. he asked me why I Did not marry I told him I want in no hurry. Well Said he I wish I was maried to you. I told him he would Soon with himself on maried agin. Why So? Because says I you will find that I am a crose ill contrived Pese of Stuf I told him I would advise all the men to remain as they was for the women was Bad & the men so much worse that It was a wonder if they agreed. So I scard the poor fellow & he is gone. . . .

More from Jemima’s journal in the next post.

Jemima Condict, Her Book: Being a Transcript of the Diary of an Essex County Maid During the Revolutionary War (Orange N.J.: Jemima Condict Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1930). The original of Jemima Condict’s diary is in the archives of the New Jersey Historical Society.

posted March 9th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Condict, Jemima,Daily life,Illness,Marriage,New Jersey

“the Thoat distemper . . . . a terrible disease”

In a letter from London prior to the Adams’s trip to the West Country ABIGAIL ADAMS gives her sister Elizabeth Smith Shaw advice on how to deal with an outbreak of throat distemper. The term referred to infections of the throat, which were very contagious sometimes reaching epidemic proportions. Could have been diphtheria or strep throat. Women of that time were the ones who dealt with illness and nursed the sick. The go-to medical reference was Dr. Buchan’s Domestic Medicine, a copy of which Abigail had carried with her to Europe.

London july 20 [19] 1787my dear sister
I will not plead in excuse that I have not by any of the late vessels received a Line from my Sister, and on that account omit writing to her. I know she would have written to me if she had known early enough of the opportunity I hope she has before this time received all the Letters I have written to her, & the little matters I have sent her— Mrs Cranch wrote me that the Thoat distemper had broken out, with great voilence in Haverhill it is a terrible disease & frequently Baffles the Skill of the Physician. it is so infectious as to expose every person who attends the sick to it, and therefore taking large doses of the Bark in powder is considerd as a good antidote & preservative, but smoking airing washing & cleansing ever article as after the Small Pox in the natural way, is considerd here as absolutely necessary. it has been known to break out in families after the disease had quitted it, only from some infectious garment. I should have advised my sister to have Sent her children immediately out of Town. as she would from the Small Pox in the natural way burning pitch & Tar, Hot viniger, are all good purifiers of the air; I pray Heaven preserve you & yours— I want, yet feel affraid to hear, from you. I hope the warm weather will be the means of abating and removeing the disease. I am something relieved by a Letter from Dr Tufts of the 15 of june if any of my Friends had been sick, he would have mentiond it. . . .
I am my dear Sister with Sincere wishes for / your Health & happiness / your ever affectionate / Sister
A Adams

Source: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2016.

posted September 1st, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Illness,Shaw, Elizabeth Smith

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