Images from North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, Clinton County, Page 1. https://northcountryundergroundrailroad.com/clinton-county.php
The images above are from the home of Quaker UGRR agent, Stephen Keese Smith, who lived in Clinton County, NY. He wrote about his activity in 1887. It is believed that he hid self-emancipators in his barn (first photo) in a room (photo on the right) behind a false wall (photo on left). The quote below is from Smith and should give you an idea about agents and station masters did to move freedom seekers north to Canada:
“I first became acquainted with the “Under Ground Rail Road” twenty years or more before the [Civil] War … Samuel Keese was the head of the depot in Peru. His son, John Keese – myself, and Wendell Lansing at Keeseville were actors. I had large buildings and concealed the Negroes in them. I kept them, fed them, often gave them shoes and clothing. I presume I have spent a thousand dollars for them in one-way and another. There were stations at Albany, Troy, Glens Falls and then here in Peru. The Negroes would come through the woods and be nearly famished. We kept them and fed them for one or two days and then ran them along to Noadiah Moore’s in Champlain… He went with the Negroes to Canada and looked out places for them to work.”
The final segment in the short story, “The Newcomer,” is finally here. My conclusion is short (only about 1 page), so I tacked it onto the bottom of Part 5 so you can re-enter the flow of the story. I also did some editing to Part 5. That’s how it works when you write. What you’ve been reading is only a second or third draft. Authors do a great deal of revision and polishing – and then get other folks to read and edit, so the finished projects are as good as they can get.
Thank you for reading this and I apologize for getting this out late. I had a sick doggie yesterday, and it just wasn’t possible to post. Vida is much better today (she ate a whole bunch of something that didn't agree with her and that I did not want her to eat).
I may be doing other online early-draft writing “for the duration” while we are social distancing. Maybe I’ll write a wedding story next. Who will be getting married? Wait and see.
Take care all, stay safe and well, and help those who need it.
(Image: Biohazard symbol)
A number of epidemics struck the population of the United States during the first 60 years of the nineteenth century: Yellow Fever (1803, 1847, 1850,1852, & 1855), Cholera (1833, 1834, 1848-49, 1851), Typhus (1837 & 1847), and Influenza (1847-48,1850-51), 1858-59), There also was a Small Pox epidemic among the Native Peoples of the Great Plains, brought on in 1837 with the arrival of infected goods and people of European descent on the steamboat S.S. St. Peter. The disease killed more than 17,000 indigenous people. The disease did not abate until 1840, nearly wiping out some of the tribes.
It is important for us to remember that people living in the first half of the nineteenth century in America did not have antibiotics, nor did they have a clear understanding of what caused most diseases or how to treat them. Germ theory was embryonic and personal standards of cleanliness were low. People would wash their face and hands in the morning, of course, but bathing was generally a weekly thing. Flush toilets, running water, and bathrooms were still in the future. My point is many diseases spread easily and readily.
During the Civil War, typhoid fever was a common disease within most communities, but especially within military regiments and camps. According to the Mayo Clinic, typhoid fever is caused by Salmonella typhi bacteria. “Typhoid fever spreads through contaminated food and water or through close contact with someone who's infected. Signs and symptoms usually include a high fever, headache, abdominal pain, and either constipation or diarrhea.” Without treatment, the disease can be life-threatening. Here’s the crucial thing: “Salmonella typhi is passed in the feces and sometimes in the urine of infected people. You can contract the infection if you eat food handled by someone with typhoid fever who hasn't washed carefully after using the toilet. You can also become infected by drinking water contaminated with the bacteria.”
When I did research for Walk by Faith and A Time to Heal, I learned that army camps were petri dishes for all kinds of disease. In fact, character Patrick McCoy, who works with the ambulance corps, comments that the fallow times were as dangerous the times the men were in battle. Typhoid fever was just one of the diseases fighting men encountered.
But because it was not routine for nineteenth-century food handlers to wash their hands – and they certainly did not have protective gloves – it was possible for an asymptomatic carrier like cook Mary Mallon (“Typhoid Mary,” 1869-1938) to spread the disease later in the century to 51 people, three of whom died. And Mallon was not alone in transmitting the typhoid fever through food handling. She was just the most publicized case.
In the Saint Maggie series, several diseases have shown up. Most notably, rheumatic fever, which Maggie says claimed the life of her husband John and their son Gideon. Rheumatic fever develops from a throat infection caused by group A streptococcus. Today we treat the infection with antibiotics. No such luck in for people in 1850. Actually, no such luck in the 1920s, either. Little Guy L. Stafford, who later became my dad, contracted the disease back then.
Obviously, my father didn’t die, because I’m here today. But many years later, when he was in his 60s, we learned that the disease had damaged a mitral valve in his heart. He underwent surgery for a valve replacement –but the damage turned out to be not as severe as the physicians had thought and they only needed to make a few repairs. Needless to say, my dad, who probably should have been a doctor instead of an engineer, was a bit ticked off. He really wanted that new valve!
I have since learned that my dad was part of a national outbreak of rheumatic fever. According to an editorial in the AHA Journals, “In the 1920s, rheumatic fever was the leading cause of death in individuals between 5 and 20 years of age and was second only to tuberculosis in those between 20 and 30.” In addition, in an era before the advent of antibiotics, “The only treatment was salicylates and bed rest. The majority remained at home for weeks, more often for months, with a smoldering illness while the sicker children were managed in foster homes. In several large cities, special institutions took over the care of the chronically ill…”
So now we can see how Maggie’s son Gideon Blaine could have died from rheumatic fever. I suspect that his father, John, probably experienced complications, most likely due to undiagnosed, pre-existing heart disease.
Another disease mentioned in Walk by Faith is puerperal fever or childbed fever, a uterine infection after childbirth. It is caused by a bacterial infection. Cleanliness on the part of the person delivering the child as well as in the birthing environment dramatically reduces the incidence of this fatal disease. Germ theory was starting to come into the awareness of doctors in Europe but would blossom later in the century thanks to Joseph Lister. However, certain practices were starting to be considered helpful. In Walk by Faith, Maggie’s daughter, midwife and aspiring doctor, Lydia Lape, is fortunate to work in Gettysburg with a German midwife, Adela Edler. Adela reads medical publications from her native land and these advised her that washing hands with a chloride of lime solution before attending a woman in labor would reduce cases of puerperal fever. Adela follows these directions and most of the mothers in her care survive. Lydia then takes these practices with her when she returns to Blaineton.
The mysterious fever that grips the boarding house family’s children in The Christmas Eve Visitor could be anything, since childhood fevers were not uncommon. It most likely was a strain of influenza to which the adults had been exposed and had developed an immunity, but the children had not. Still, who knows? Some diseases were unidentified and classified simply as “contagions.”
If I decide to write about a disease hitting the town of Blaineton, it most likely will be typhoid fever. In fact, I even know where and from whom it will come! Spoilers? Maybe. But right now I’ve got two short stories that I have published online. These need to be polished and re-edited and put out in a more professional format. So a new, full-length novel might take a while.
Speaking of short stories, the conclusion to “The Newcomer” will be up on Wednesday!
Meanwhile, stay safe, my friends. Wash those hands, buy only what you need (no hoarding, please), and be healthy.
 “Typhoid Fever,” Patient Care & Health Information, Diseases & Conditions, Mayo Clinic, 31 July 2018.
 Bland, Edward F., MD, “Rheumatic fever: the way it was,” AHA Journals, Vol. 76, No. 6, December 1987, 1190.
Image: A hiding place for self-emancipators at the Levi Coffin House, Fountain City, IN. The beds could be moved in front of the door to mask it. People working in the Underground Railroad hid freedom seekers in walls, attics, cellars, barns, and even furniture. Image from https://www.waynet.org/levicoffin/
In Part 4 of the Newcomer, Eli Smith learned that his landlady Maggie Blaine has a secret. In Part 5, he suddenly finds himself participating in an act of civil disobedience – although, as it turns out, this is something with which he is familiar.
Is Emily overprotective of Maggie? Or is she just being a good friend? I think it could go either way. However, propriety in the 1800s was everything, especially in a small town like Blaineton. It would be only natural that Emily would want to protect her friend’s reputation.
What is it that Maggie wants to discuss with Eli? I guess we’ll have to wait until next week and the conclusion of The Newcomer.
And, since the COVID-19 pandemic is in the news and our lives, I think I’ll look at epidemics in the mid-1800s for my Friday or Saturday blog (this might require a bit of research!).
Until, then, gators, REMEMBER TO WASH YOUR HANDS! Love ya!
(Image from http://clipart-library.com/clip-art/182-1828329_kindness-png-kindness-week-clipart-png-transparent-back.htm)
This week I mentioned to my office mate Jen that I was buying candy Easter eggs made by our church’s United Methodist Women and friends. (Side note: They are delicious and have been a church tradition for a looong time!) I told Jen that I intended to send them as a gift to another friend. I have some good reasons for doing this, which I won’t go into.
“You’re so kind,” Jen responded.
I answered, “Well, she just needs a little kindness right now.”
But when I think about the subject, it seems that we all need a little kindness these days. Have you noticed how mean people can be? How impatient? How judgmental? How angry?
It really hits you smack dab in the face when you wander into social media. People feel perfectly free there to criticize or overtly attack strangers for any reason: how they look, what they like or dislike, and of course politics. How can we judge another person by their political stance when we don’t know who they really are?
I’m far from perfect in this regard. I get sucked into the never-ending parade of anger and hatred as well as the next person. But I’m trying to check myself when I do. And I’m trying to change my behavior, as well as my heart, by practicing the art of being kind.
What is kindness? Well, according to Karyn Hall:
“Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Affection, gentleness, warmth, concern, and care are words that are associated with kindness. While kindness has a connotation of meaning someone is naive or weak, that is not the case. Being kind often requires courage and strength. Kindness is an interpersonal skill.” (Karyn Hall, “The Importance of Kindness,” Psychology Today, 04 Dec 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201712/the-importance-kindness,)
I usually listen to Audible books while in the car. Recently, I’ve been listening to Barbara Taylor Brown’s book, An Altar in the World. She challenges readers (and herself) to remember that everyone we encounter - whether face-to-face or online – has a life about which we know nothing. And yet they live lives. Real lives. And these may be just as joyous, heartbreaking, hopeful, confusing, and difficult as ours. When we come face-to- face with others, one simple way of connecting and seeing our shared humanity is to look them in the eyes. That’s right. Meet the eyes of a cashier when we’re paying for groceries, or the post office employee when we’re mailing a package, or people when we’re waiting for our coffee. Smile. Thank them or chat with them. For those we encounter online or on the phone, I suppose the best thing is to use our imaginations and see these disembodied voices or collection of words as the living, breathing individuals that they are.
I’ve been trying to practice Brown’s simple form of kindness and connection lately. Last week, while waiting for coffee at my local Starbucks, I entered into a conversation with an employee and a customer about how we all somehow mistook Tuesday that week for Wednesday and were disappointed to discover that we wrong and actually had another day in our work week. We had a good laugh about it. Afterward, the customer and I talked about life and, believe it or not, blessings all in the space of a few minutes. I left the store feeling joyful and … well, blessed. I hope my new friends felt that way, too.
By now, it should not surprise anyone that kindness turns up as a common theme throughout the Saint Maggie series as well as in my contemporary romance, Heart Soul & Rock’n’Roll.
Maggie Blaine Smith, of course, makes it a point to be kind, compassionate, and helpful to the people who come into her life. If you follow the novels or this blog, you can't miss the fact that Maggie is a compulsive do-gooder.
Lins, my heroine in Hearst Soul, is an assistant minister. Like Maggie, she also is compassionate, open, and kind. Early on in the book (and in the film script based on it), Lins meets Kenny, a homeless Navy veteran, and takes him to lunch. This is a simple thing for her, but a badly-needed meal for him. And Lins' one little act of kindness has a multiplying effect – Kenny ends up getting hired and given a place to live by Lins’ new friend, a "part-time rock god" named Neil.
Why is kindness such a focus in my stories? Well, to be honest, writing is one way to influence people. Although I am an inveterate storyteller, I prefer to tell tales that focus on love, hope, and other things of a positive nature. However, it doesn’t mean that I am sappy about it all. It does mean, though, that I prefer these themes over themes of coldness, hate, and despair (which appear but do not dominate in my work). Since we seem to be living in a pretty cold, despairing, and hate-filled environment at the moment, I figure we can use a good dose of the positive stuff as an antidote.
As far as I'm concerned, the flat truth of it all is that kindness is essential to life, perhaps as essential as water, air, and food.
So here’s my challenge to you and to me. Do one little kindness for someone, an animal, or the natural world this week. Don’t expect a reward for being kind. Just note the impact it has on the one you have been kind to – as well as the impact it has on you. Try to make on little dent in the meanness that so frequently nips at our heels these days.
Give my little experiment a go. I bet you’ll find it not only lifts someone else up, but lifts you, as well.
Until Wednesday, gang!
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder