One can easily picture pioneer men and women raising large and lusty
families in an atmosphere of abundant health and vitality. Nothing could be farther
from the truth. The most lethal dangers the pioneers faced weren't
savages or wild animals, they were typhoid, malaria, dysentery, scarlet fever,
pneumonia, erysipelas (a strep skin infection), spotted fever,
meningitis, childbirth, tuberculosis, diphtheria and in the case of the Blair
This page will give some additional information on the perils that faced our family in the previous century. Perils that today we give
little thought to, but back then were a part of everyday life. Death
certificates weren't widely used until after 1880 so little is known about
the causes of death in the family prior to that date. As a whole the family was remarkably
healthy and if a person managed to live beyond the diseases of childhood and adolescence and
the complications of childbirth then they could expect to live to old age.
Many family members lived well beyond their 90th birthday!
The Blair family was unlucky when it came to trains, but trains seemed to have been a
common menace in their infancy. The newspapers regularly ran very detailed accounts of the carnage that trains
caused. It seemed to take awhile for people, and their horses, to get used to
the idea that a large moving object is nothing to be messed with. The following Blair
family members died as a result of train accidents: Daniel Blair,
Nancy Blair White, David Crawford Knox,
George L. Long. See their personal pages for an account of how
these accidents occurred.
Tuberculosis, often referred to as "consumption" in earlier
days, is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is passed from person to person in airborne droplets. The disease primarily affects the
lungs but may also involve the lymph nodes, intestines, bones, brain and other
Tuberculosis was epidemic in America and Europe during the 18th and 19th
centuries. In Europe it is believed to have been responsible for more than a quarter of
all deaths and that as many as seventy percent of the population was infected with the
disease. It was so prevalent that a culture of sorts grew out of its sufferings.
The "graveyard school of poetry" which featured weepy landscapes
surreally dotted with langourous women, stone tombs and falling leaves, was started by the
many artists of the time who were suffering from consumption. It became so popular
that it was theorized that one could not be a good poet or artist unless he was suffering
from or dying of tuberculosis and that the disease itself was in some way connected with
genius. A more accurate theory is that tuberculosis appeared in its 19th century
epidemic form due to the industrial revolution and its accompanying changes in peoples
lifestyles and environments.
The most common TB remedy, for those that could afford it, was considered
to be travel and rest. In Europe the "lungers", as they were referred to,
whisked themselves off to TB resorts in the Swiss Alps or along the Mediterranean Riviera.
After the decline of tuberculosis these TB resorts were converted to tourist
accommodations. In the United States the most popular destinations were Albuquerque
and Tucson Arizona or the mountains of Colorado. Several friends and neighbors of
the Blair family made these treks West for rest and recuperation. Those in the Blair
family who were known to have died of tuberculosis are: Arthur L.
Blair, in 1885 at the age of 20, and his mother, Amelia
Robins Blair, in 1890 at the age of 45. James William
Knox Jr. died in 1939 in an Ellis Island hospital at age 33. A sad account of the
illness and death of Arthur Blair was recorded in the local newspaper and these clippings
are available to read on his personal page.
INTERESTING FACT: Ever
wonder why so many beautiful hardwood floors were covered with ugly linoleum? Well,
it was done to protect the residents from tuberculosis. It was believed that the
germs hid in the cracks between the wood planks and linoleum was widely advertised as a
sanitary alternative. It was also easier to clean the coughed up sputum off of linoleum.