Friday, September 18, 2009

The 1874 Diary of Ypsilanti Teen Allie McCullough

Part of a year-long weekly series of excerpts from Ypsilanti teenager Allie McCullough's 1874 diary, from the last year of her life.

You may remember that last week Allie was having "so much fun" at school and starting up the Lyceum season again. She got a new belt and collar and learned how to steer a boat; "it is real fun."

Sept. 18 Fri. Called on L. L. D. tonight after school. When I got home they were all gone. Carrie N. came down a little while. Got ready and went to lyceum. Got acquainted with Mr. Chase. I was chairman after the last piece was sung. J. S. on his way from the piano sat down in my seat and went home with me. I have not spoken two words with him before since last night. Never shall forget.

Sept. 19 Sat. Went up town this afternoon. Was caught in the rain. Went up to Carrie N.'s after supper. On the way I overtook J. B. Was as cool as I knew how to be. Came down town with Joe and Carrie and then went back to C.'s. Had a splendid time. Came home about 8 o'clock. Never enjoyed myself at C.'s more.

Sept. 20 Sun. Did not go to Church this morning. Wrote a composition. Had dinner very early and Will took me down to Mr. Gill's. Emma Stone was there. We had a good time and a magnificent ride. Will told me a good many things and I heard an everlasting string about what B. thinks. They wanted me to stay. Wish I could.

Sept. 21 Mon. Went up to Carrie's after school. Durbin told her the other day that I would not live long. Strange he should think so. He thinks that I will have consumption and look as -- ----- as can be every time I cough. Studied all the evening. It is very cold. Had to read my composition. [Note: Durbin Newton was right. Allie died of consumption the following July].

Sept. 22 Tues. Was so sick this afternoon in school today that I did not know what to do, but I got over it before long. I have a fever every afternoon and a headache. Ma and Mary were up to Mrs. Williams this afternoon and to tea. Ripped up my black straw tonight and played.

Sept. 23 Wed. Have had ever and ever so much fun today. Went around to all of the milliner stores tonight. There is one hat that I want ever so much but I'm afraid I can't get mine done over like it. Have got my sleeveless jacket almost done. Went up town with Mary.

Sept. 24 Thurs. Mary is going to fix my hat over. Have had all my lessons. Carrie was down just a little while tonight. I went up there and had an elegant time. We were having a good time and talked about everything supposing that we were alone when Durbin came downstairs.

Sept. 25 Fri. Dressed and went to Lyceum. Expected that I would have to read, but did not. There were very few there and the debate was wretched. [:)] I wrote a French note to the Frenchman and directed it....... Had a jolly time. This is the last day of Emma's school.

Thanks for reading; tune in this coming Friday for another chapter!.


Anonymous said...

Wow - how matter of fact she is about Durbin's comment. I know she is trying to be pleasant and just state facts in the diary as mentioned before. So do we know what she is suffering from during this time? Does it weaken her and result in consumption later? KP

Dusty D said...

KP: Hmm, good question. At this point all I know is that she died from TB ("consumption.") I tried checking around to see if there's a general life expectancy for those with active (as opposed to latent) consumption (to see if, as you ask, she was suffering from it at this time) but all I could find is that the mortality rate for untreated consumption is 50-66%. Perhaps someone with medical knowledge could contribute a thumbnail figure.

Oddly enough, I also read that Vitamin D somehow seems to help consumptives, which immediately reminded me of TB sanitariums with patients sunning themselves on big porches, even in winter...

I also learned that persistent fevers are one symptom of TB, and Allie says, "I have a fever every afternoon." That plus her coughing leads one to believe she is likely already suffering from TB at this writing.

I also learned that other symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, night sweats, pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, intensely colored urine, and coughing up blood.

Lisele said...

Poor Allie! It's shocking how kids like Durbin will talk so matter-of-factly about death--right in front of her. I remember hearing about an interesting history of attitudes towards death following the Civil War and how they changed so radically. The book was called ‘This Republic of Suffering’ -- here's a link to the first chapter:

Dusty D said...

Yet another fantastic reader suggestion. I definitely will read this book; thank you, Lisele!

Quote from the article: "The Civil War's rate of death, its incidence in comparison with the size of the American population, was six times that of World War II. A similar rate, about 2 percent, in the United States today would mean six million fatalities."

Dusty D said...

p.s. Oops, also meant to say that I happen to be looking at a 1860-1861 business directory of the city this afternoon, and aside from grocers it looks as though the most numerous profession in town was...doctors.

There seem to be an amazing number of them for what was then a town of just a few thousand. More anon...