The Diary of Lizzie Dopps





Chapter XIV


Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.  Psalms XXIII, 4th verse.

It was not long after I had made the long trip with the children to have their pictures taken, that one Sunday afternoon our Gracie became ill.

We had gone to Church and Sunday-school and had asked the minister and his wife to come home and have dinner with us.  We were now living about a mile from the little town of Norton, the little settlement that had grown into a town.

Gracie lay down on the couch, didn't want to play.  Her little sister Jennie couldn't seem to interest her.  Finally she began to cry.  This was very unusual for her.

There had been an epidemic of scarlet fever in town, but Gracie had been nowhere to come in contact with this dreadful disease.  Still, I wondered if she might have contracted it in some way in spite of our isolation from it.  The child was evidently sick.

I hurried with my dinner and our company soon left.  I had no time, nor mind for entertaining with a sick child on my hands.

Papa went for the doctor.  There were two doctors in the little town, both good, but one was a drug addict.  The other doctor was out of town that day so there was nothing to do but to call the one who used this dreadful drug.

He told papa he would soon be out to our house, so papa hurried home to his sick child.  We waited for the doctor but he did not come, so papa went again to hurry him up.

Finally when the doctor did arrive, he was so under the influence of drugs, he hardly knew what he was doing.

He said the child had scarlet fever, but was not at all broken out, that we must make her break out and so bring the disease to the outside of her body.  He wanted to give her hot tea, but she was too sick to swallow it.  He then put her in hot packs, but it seemed to do no good, and before the dawn came our little Gracie was gone*.  

"Ere sin could blight or sorrow fade
Death came with friendly care
The opening bud to Heaven conveyed
And bade it blossom there."

I could not reconcile myself to my grief.  I was stunned.  I seemed to be living in a nightmare--our little darling gone!  It was so sudden I couldn't believe it.  I almost lost my reason.

Eli went to the doctor and told him about it.  The doctor said I must snap out of it or I certainly would lose my mind.  That night Eli had a long talk with me and told me what the doctor said.

  I realized then how thoughtless and selfish I had been, giving in to my own grief and adding worry and sorrow for my poor husband when of course, he grieved for his little daughter as much as I did.  I got myself in hand and promised my God I would never feel so bitter again if He would only help me.  He did.

Poor little Jennie missed her little sister so much, too, She would get her toys and try to play by herself, but in a few minutes she would be by my side and say, "Mama, I can't play without Gracie,"  And she would put her playthings away.

We had an old yellow tom cat that Jennie was very fond of and it seemed he would do anything for her.  She would get the broom and say, "Come on Tom.  Let's have a romp."  He would get up and stretch and then go and sit on the broom while she hauled him all around the room.

It was things like this she did, but she could never again play with the toys that she and Gracie had played with together.

Not long after Gracie's death our Nellie* was born, and when she was about three months old, an epidemic of diphtheria whipped our little town.  Jennie was stricken.

In her play before this, she had stuck a bead up one of her nostrils.  We tried to get it out but could not do so, and as it was small and did not seem to bother her, we thought it better not to irritate the delicate membrane any more and it would probably work out itself.

It was not long after this that she was stricken with the diphtheria and these dreadful germs finding this lodging place in her nose made quick and deadly work; it caused a terrible hemorrhage.

She was sick only a few hours.  Her papa had gone to get the doctor and I picked her up in my arms.  I could see she was sinking rapidly and was shaking so with nervousness I thought I would drop her, so I asked the little darling if she didn't think she would feel better lying on the bed and I'd go to see if papa was coming.

She said, "No, I want to lay in my mama's arms."  And in my arms she remained.

She looked intently towards the wall and finally said, "Mama, what is that?"

I could see nothing, but a small flaw in the plastering and explained what it was.

But I am wondering if it was a messenger from heaven she saw, the Angel of Death, who took her from my arms to the arms of Jesus, Who said, "Blessed are the little ones for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven."

With a little sigh and a turn of the head she was gone*.  The little girl who could not play without her little sister had gone to join her.

After we had laid her away, her old yellow cat came in the house looking everywhere for her and calling.  He at last went out and we did not see him for two or three days when he came in and repeated his actions.  This time he went away and never returned.  He simply could not stay there without her.  Perhaps, he was still hunting for her.  Months afterward, Eli thought he saw old Tom sitting on a fence quite a distance away, but when Eli walked towards him to get him, he jumped down and disappeared.  We never saw him again.  If it was old Tom, he had just gone wild.

I must have caught the diphtheria from Jennie.  At least, I had it and was very, very sick.

I was nursing Nellie, of course, as we did not bring up our children on formulas in those days, and of course, she got it too.  The doctor gave me some of the most terrible bitter medicine.  I ever tasted and said we must give this little three months old baby a very little bit too.

"Try and do it!” baby Nellie seemed to say.  She shut her little gums so tight, when we would try to give her a drop, it was utterly impossible to pry them open.  We did manage to rub her little gums on the outside with this bitter stuff though, and in time Nellie and I both recovered, thanks much to the care and devotion Mother Dopps gave to us.

My dear sister-in-law, Ellen, now had two little boys about this time, Wilbur a little older than Nellie and Burt a little younger.  We enjoyed our babies together.

When Nellie was almost four years old, some neighbors came to take her away for the afternoon, and when she returned, she found a little baby sister.  This was our Jessie*.

Never will I forget the consternation I felt one day when Jessie was about six months old.

I was bathing her, and when I looked at her eyes they were all mottled and funny looking.  I was frantic,  I grabbed her up and rushed to Ellen and screamed, "Oh Ellen, look  I think my baby is blind.  Her eyes look so funny!"

She hastily took the baby and then laughed.  Turning to me she said, "You have always wanted a brown-eyed baby.  There she is!"

Oh, what a relief!  I hadn't thought of that.  All my other babies had blue eyes.  In a short time there was no doubt about my baby’s eyes.  They were brown.

When Jessie was two years old our boy, Oscar Leroy*, came to us, but I came very nearly not remaining on this earth to enjoy even the two short years he was with us.

It was the only time I had ever had a doctor at the time of birth of any of my children.  There were four other women who gave birth to babies about the same time I did.  We all had what was then called "child-bed fever," and we all had the same doctor.  The other four mothers died.

After a long, long time in the valley of death, I came out and recovered.

I think I shall tell of a good joke on me in regard to my recovery.  The doctor said I must do all I could to regain my strength and that beer would be a good tonic,  I had always been a temperance worker and hated to take the stuff,  I had never tasted it.  However, I was so anxious to get well I decided to take the doctor’s advice.

Eli got a bottle of beer for me and opened it.  After the first swallow I exclaimed, "Why, Eli, that is spoiled."

Well, he couldn’t have his wife taking something that was spoiled so he got another bottle.  That was spoiled too.  He was no more of a connoisseur than I, as he never drank it.

However, after trying the third bottle and finding it also "spoiled" we decided that the beer was alright, that that was just the way it tasted, but I just didn’t like it.  I thought I’d rather die than drink that stuff.  I got well without taking beer as a tonic.  

* Gracie Dopps is buried in the Norton Cemetery.  Her tombstone indicates her date of death was 15 April 1877.

* Jennie Dopps is buried in the Norton Cemetery.  Her tombstone indicates her date of death was 10 July 1878.

* Oscar's tombstone in the Norton Cemetery indicates he was born in 1885 and died 01 March 1888.


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 © 2006 Laurie Arnold.  All material presented herein was transcribed or otherwise provided by Laurie Arnold from the unpublished text of the diary, family photos and personal genealogy.  She and her family have graciously given permission for the diary to be posted to the Norton County Kansas GenWeb website, for the benefit of others who had pioneer families in Norton County, Kansas. This diary, photos and personal genealogy may not be reproduced, published or re-published for any reason, in any format, without prior written consent of the contributors or copyright holders.  web design © 2006 Ardie Grimes