Fridays From the Mortuary Reports – Cholera Infantum

The poorly punctuated entry for Josephine in Green Hill’s Mortuary Reports is as follows:

Josephine Schoolfield names of parents R.A. & A.R. Schoolfield Place f death Main St. 3rd Ward Sex Female Color White Age 1 year & 6 months Birthplace Danville Va I hereby certify that I saw her on the 1st day of June 1887 that she died on the 3rd day of June 1887 and the cause of her death was cholera infantum, LE Harvy MD Undertaker WH Covy place of burial Greenhill Cemetery5

Josephine was born on Feb. 13, 1886, the first born child of Robert Addison and Annie Redd France Schoolfield in Danville, Virginia. (Regular readers of this blog will recognize the Schoolfield name from other posts.) Robert was one of the three Schoolfield brothers who (along with several other local men) was instrumental in creating the now-dead but once booming textile industry in the city.

Of the 50 entries in the available text of people buried in Green Hill in 1887, Josephine was one of 6 who died from cholera infantum.5 Also called summer complaint because it was widespread during the warmer seasons, this non-contagious bacterial disease’s symptoms were similar to cholera and it only affected infants.1 Usually children who were being bottle or hand-fed were stricken. Josephine was seen by the doctor on June 1 and pronounced dead two days later, suggesting that she was ill for only a short period of time before succumbing to the disease. She would have experienced prostration, severe and painful diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration with an insatiable thirst, stomach irritation, remittent fever, and a swollen abdomen.3 She would have been emaciated due to the inability to keep any fluids in her system from the vomiting and diarrhea. Her pulse weakened and breathing was labored. As death neared, Josephine’s body would have taken on a more corpse-like pallor, her eyes hollowed, and her skin cold to the touch. She might have experienced convulsions or slipped into a coma before dying.4

This is just a brief overview of cholera infantum’s symptoms. My real focus here is on those who died from it who were also buried in Green Hill between 1883-April 1895. As I’ve said before, the Mortuary Reports to which I have access are not complete. Entries could have been mistranscribed, names omitted, causes of death unlisted or improperly declared, a tallying mistake on my part, etc.

Other children from this record who died due to cholera infantum:
F.M. Hamlin’s child, June 18, 1884
C.W. Childrey’s child*, age 3, June 28, 1884
Mr. Sampson’s infant, age 1 year, Sept. 17, 1884
J.R. Swain’s child, age 16 months, Oct. 27, 1884
Edna, daughter of F. Staples, age 1 year, June 10, 1885
Martin Reynolds, age 7 months, July 3, 1885
Jane Edward’s child, June 27, 1886
Delia Williams’ child, age 1-1/2, Aug. 3, 1886
Daisy Hall, age 5 months, Aug. 22, 1886
Infant of J.H. & Bettie Ligon, age 17 days, June 4, 1887
Mary B. Hobson, age 6 months, June 19, 1887
Harris Copeland, age 5 months, July 31, 1887
Professor Phifer’s daughter, age 8 months, Sept. 25, 1887
Infant daughter of James L. and Sallie Tyack, age 6 months, May 12, 1888**
Infant of W.S. and Josephine Armstrong, age 8 months, July 9, 1889
Charles Fox (son of T.A. & Willie), age 9 months, July 9, 1889
Cora Holder, age 1 year and six months, July 10, 1889
Infant son of J.C. McAdams and wife, June 13, 1891
Dora Roman, age 4 months, June 26, 1891
Child (female) of Ralph and Catherine Milliton, age 9 months, Sept. 28, 1891
Child (male) of N.P. & Katie Thomas, age 3 months, Sept. 6, 1892***
Infant of Richard Bray & wife, age 5 months, June 28, 18945

*This name may be misspelled; the handwriting was difficult to read.
**There is a birth record for an Ethel Tyack to J.L. & S. Tyack on Oct. 6, 1887 in Danville-this may be the same child.
***A death record exists for “F. Thomas”, a male, who died on the same date but the age is listed as 6 months.2

1 About Pepto-Bismol
2 Virginia, Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
3 English Glossary of Causes of Death and Other Archaic Medical Terms
4 Tilden, John. The Etiology of Cholera Infantum The Merchants Publishing Co., 1909.
5 “Virginia, Danville City Cemetery Records, 1833-2006.” Images. FamilySearch. Web. 28 March 2013.

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