Interesting stuff here and I recommend reading the whole article, but I wanted to focus here on the first three children. They all died in October, 1896.
There was an epidemic in 1896-1897 in that area. Dora Ann, Ammon Leroy, and their parents somehow survived, but their siblings all died.
Devastating. Terribly sad.
But not as sad as this.
The Kershaw family were the neighbors of the Stephens family. Mrs. Kershaw had a baby girl in 1878 who lived for less than two years.
She then went on to have eight more happy, healthy children.
They homesteaded. I’m sure they were all crunchy, back-t0-the-land folks who unschooled and raised some livestocks and probably hens along with their roosters. I’m sure all that wonderful homesteady living meant that they all had wonderful robust immune systems, right? I mean, you just let children play at will and get in the dirt and they’ll be fine. Right?
But then, diphtheria came calling, and Mr. and Mrs. Kershaw watched in horror in late February, 1897, as their son Edmund (7 years old) got sick and then died. Five days later, William (9) and Joseph (12) died.
Maybe at that point they thought it was over. They probably buried their children, and then realized that George (14) was sick. On March 4, George died.
Two days later, on March 6, Lillie (a month shy of her 5th birthday) and Francis (a little over 2) followed their siblings. Baby Frederick (11 months) succumbed on March 9. And finally, the oldest, Harriet (16) was the last to die. How much you want to bet that poor Harriet was exposed over and over again taking care of her younger brothers and sisters as they died?
They lost all their children. Every last one of them. That couple watched their eight children die one after another in less than two weeks from diphtheria.
The Kershaws went on to have two more children. One was either stillborn or died shortly after birth (birth and death date are the same day). The other one didn’t make it to be two years old.
All their children died before they did. All of them. Mrs. Kershaw lived until 1929 and her husband until 1941.
The saddest part of all this, for me, is embodied in this.
Are we sure that reverting to living like it’s the nineteenth century on the prairie is a good idea?