Friday, October 18, 2013

The Consumptive Disease

About six months ago, I came across a database online that had information about one of my family lines that I had been searching for years.  My great grandmother was the daughter of Buena Vista Bailey (A Life Too Short) and I knew very little beyond her.  Buena Vista died at the age of 21 years old, just a few short months after my great grandmother’s birth.  All I knew about her mother was that her name was Margaret.  This database that I located online not only had Buena Vista – but the full name of her mother as well….Mary Marguerite Church.

I must admit that it was quite a discovery, and I gained a lovely cousin and friend as well.  However, a picture started to emerge of Buena Vista’s family that started me wondering about something else.    Mary Marguerite Church was born 16 Jun 1845 probably in Watauga Co., NC as the daughter of Noah Howard Church and Asinth “Jencie” Irena McCall.  She married Jasper Bailey probably around 1868 and had her first child soon after, Colorado “Collie” Bailey born in 1869 and then Buena Vista in 1872, John W. in 1873 and Ninevah Frank b. 1876.  Mary Marguerite Church died at the young age of 32 years of age.  According to a letter that my Bailey cousin had, she died of tuberculosis also known as consumption.  Not only did she have tuberculosis but so did her daughter Colorado and son Frank.

Colorado “Collie” married Asbury Reid and moved to Illinois and had several children but had to move to Colorado because of the drier climate.  She tried to go back to Illinois, but couldn't take the climate and her husband didn’t want to live in Colorado so they eventually divorced.  Collie remarried and lived to ripe old age of 97 which is shocking.  To be so sick with tuberculosis that you couldn't live in one area of the country but you could survive to an old age in another part of the country is surprising.  Her brother Frank is found living with Collie and her husband in the 1930 census, but he dies about a year later at the age of 55.
So this leads me back to Buena Vista Bailey, my great grandmother’s mother.  I've always wondered what she died of exactly.  My great grandmother was born in late January and it wasn't until April that Buena Vista died.  I've never really heard of a cause of death except that she never recovered from childbirth.  This makes me wonder if her death cause was in fact, tuberculosis.
When I was 19, my step grandfather was in the hospital during the late stages of Alzheimer.  During the last three weeks of his life, they had to move him to a different hospital because they had diagnosed him with tuberculosis of the brain.   They moved him to the different hospital so he could be under ultraviolet light which helped treat the condition.  When he died a few weeks later, he had a nice healthy tan.  I found out at that point that most people of a certain age had been exposed to tuberculosis and that it could rear its ugly head almost at any point.  I also found that everyone in my family had to be tested to see if we had been infected …thankfully, none of us were.  That understanding of the disease makes me question whether tuberculosis is what killed Buena Vista Bailey at the young age of 21.  She could have been week from childbirth and became ill with the tuberculosis that was so prevalent in her family.

The new information about the Bailey family has opened up a whole new set of questions – most of which will probably never be answered.  There are a lot of theories that could be spelled out such as the belief that tuberculosis might have been prevalent in the Church family since several of Mary Marguerite’s seemed to die at a young age.  Perhaps it all can be explained by the facts that my ancestors lived in a rough and unsanitary time with little to no positive prognosis for anyone who developed tuberculosis.  Collie was unusual in that she lived to be 97 years old – I think it is much more common for tuberculosis victims to live much shorter lives…which could explain Buena Vista’s death at 21 and her mother’s at 32.