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

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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