Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mystery Monday/Great Grandfather O'Hora's Last Days

Edward O'Hora 1868-1920

     New rule!  All newspapers MUST have the date at the top of every single page.  Well, I guess they do now, but those old newspapers are a different story.  The weekly local, The Enterprise, from Shortsville/Manchester, NY has come online at Old Fulton Postcards and I've found several articles about my Great Grandfather Edward O'Hora. 

      Grandfather suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that ran in the family and caused the death of his older sister Sarah Jane McGinty when she was only 42 years old. I found three separate articles referring to Grandfather's search for a cure or at least alleviation of his pain.  One referred to his being a patient at the Clifton Springs Sanitarium, only a few miles from his home, where he was being treated for "a most severe attack of rheumatism."

      Clifton Springs was famous for it's sulpher springs, which on a warm day still smell strongly of eggs gone bad.  Another mentioned his brother Daniel coming from Detroit to visit him at the same sanitarium, which indicates he was quite ill. Yet another article told of his trip to Alden, NY to try the black water springs there.  On the back of the post card below, the sender wrote, "the water is black as charcoal, and so filled with minerals it causes one to float."  That alone must have been a relief to someone in excruciating pain from arthritis.

     Problem is, the list of "hits" on the Old Fulton site has a date range, in my case it was 1919-1921.  The site doesn't give you the option of turning pages either, once the page containing your search term pops up that's it.  This particular newspaper only dated page one, so if your article isn't on the front page, there is no way of determining the date...or is there?  I knew I could rule out 1921 since Grandfather died in September of 1920, but were the articles written in 1919 or 1920?  Most people would ask, "does a year one way or the other really matter?"  YES!  It matters a great deal to a family historian trying to reconstruct her Great Grandfather's final months.

    I was ultimately able to determine the correct years using other articles on the same pages as the ones about Grandfather.  In one case a local man named Oliver S. Titus had died a few days before according to the obituary on the same page; by using other sites I found his death date and thereby, the month and year of my article.  In another case, the only clue I could find on the page was  a movie theater ad which mentioned it being summer.  I googled the title of the movie that was showing and found the year it was released. In the last case, I used an article informing readers that the last meeting of the Women's Missionary Society for the year 1919 would be held on "Wednesday the 19th inst." (Inst. is the abbreviation of instant, meaning in the present month.) Looking at a 1919 calendar, I saw the only Wednesday that fell on the 19th in the last nine months of 1919 was in the month of November.  The article on the same page about a local charity planning to donate food for Thanksgiving sorta gave it away too.

     From all this, (and his death certificate listing the length of his stay at Thompson Hospital), I was able to deduce Grandfather's illness took a real turn for the worse in the summer of 1919.  After trying the water treatment at Clifton Springs, where he was visited by his brother Daniel, and finding no relief, he traveled to Alden in the late fall and was treated there.  He returned home, but within nine months he was admitted to Thompson Hospital in Canadaigua where he died in September of 1920 at the age of 52.

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