The Sad Lives of Young Mothers and Children in Early Carleton Place



Photo by Robert McDonald- St. James Cemetery Walk

Of  any grave in the St. James cemetery these two tombstones I feel the closest too.  These are markers for four young children that died within a few years. If you were on my cemetery walk you know their last name– but I just want them to rest in peace, so  the name is staying with me.

Was it a fire? What was it? Who put the little recent ceramic memorial dogs that lie at the foot of their tombstones?  I found out that it is an old Jewish woman that is fond of this Carleton Place cemetery and became enamoured of these two grave markers like I have. She comes once in awhile and scatters graham crackers all around and gets annoyed if the  birds eat the crumbs. So why is she scattering them? I found out that she is  performing this ritual around the gravestones so the animals will come out at night and protect the children.

So how did these children die? I found out from a family genealogist in Saskatchewan that there was an issue in this particular family that the female bodies were not mature enough to bear children. Lifespan was also shorter, so you pretty much had to have babies very early in life. Having children in quick succession was therefore paramount.

So because the genes were inferior and if a young child was sick they became weak quickly. One local family lost five children in weeks to scarlet fever. Babies and young children were extremely susceptible to illness. In the worst and poorest districts, two out of ten babies died in the first year. One fourth of them would die by age five.

When the fever wasn’t fatal, it nearly always weakened the child who often died months or even years later from complications. Young children were at risk of dying from a lot of diseases that we’ve eradicated or can control in the 21st century, like smallpox, measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, and dysentery (to name just a few). Death was a common visitor and no one was immune.

The mother of this particular family had 4 children die very early in childhood:

Emma Dora was 2 years 11 months-1871

Andrew-1 year-1871

Mary-18 days- 1874

Ellen- 11 years 1 month 1887

Birth injuries, genetic defects, malnutrition, infections and other health problems are  likely causes of death.

The mother died a few years later and the father of the late children remarried another local girl.  His new wife had been charged with prostitution while living in Carleton Place, and had two illegitimate children, but he didn’t care. You see, he just wanted to make sure any woman he took in marriage was able to bear living healthy children. They had two other children and on record it showed they survived to an old age.

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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