1860: Diphtheria strikes the Charbonneau household

Fifth in a series about my paternal Charbonneau and Zinsk ancestors in New York State’s Adirondack region during the 1800s.

The last post chronicled the brief life of my great grandfather Will Charboneau’s younger brother, Ludwig Nicholaus — who died in July 1860, at one month old, from diphtheria.  Sadly, this heartbreaking loss was not unusual in the mid-nineteenth century.

https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Charbonko&GSfn=Lewis&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GRid=12949379&df=all&
July 2011: The gravestone of little Ludwig Nicholas [Lewis Nicholas] Charbonneau in Hayes Cemetery, Boonville, Oneida, N.Y. Photo: CHerr/Find a Grave
In Prescription potions, I discussed the medical treatments my Union Army great, great grandfather Arthur Bull might have received when he gave out on the battlefield in 1864.

How much more rudimentary would such treatments have been nearly 5 years earlier when little Ludwig Nicholaus fell ill?

There were no vaccines then, no antibiotics, no trauma units — little to protect children against infectious disease. There was just the parents’ hope that their child would survive their first years of life and make it through the childhood illnesses that laid so many low.

Shared pain

Alas, my great, great grandparents Laurent Charles and Ursula Angeline (Zinsk) Charbonneau — then living in Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y. — were not the only members of my extended ancestral family to lose children in 1860.

The same year — across the border in St. Eustache, Deux Montagnes, Quebec — Laurent’s younger sister Elise (Charbonneau) Bouchard lost two triplets less than a year old. Her infant sons died from “debility” of unknown origin. Only the third triplet, Marie, made it to her first birthday.

 Hayes Cemetery yields its secrets

Where was little Ludwig laid to rest? I found my answer among papers I received from the Boonville, Oneida, N.Y., town historian — which included a typed transcript of tombstones from Boonville’s Hayes Cemetery.

On this list, Ludwig’s name is Americanized and spelled phonetically, and the date of death differs slightly from the church records — but his story is much the same:

CHARBONNO, Lewis Nicholis — son of Lawrence & Angeline Charbonno, died July 25, 1860, aged 35 days.

Restored to the family tree

I can only imagine the Charbonneau family’s sadness on that warm July afternoon as they laid Ludwig to rest in Hayes Cemetery — so soon after his birth and baptism — in a graveside ceremony that their toddler Will, age 2, may have attended.

My ancestors’ lives went on and history nearly erased this wrenching loss. Memory of Ludwig’s short life faded with succeeding generations of my family.

But one of the joys of genealogy research is resurrecting forgotten loved ones and restoring them to their proper place in their family’s history — as little Ludwig Nicholaus Charbonneau has now been restored to his. Please pause for a moment to remember his brief life — and to welcome him back home.

Next week: Join me to celebrate the birth of my great grandfather Will’s younger sister, Harriet “Hattie” Charbonneau.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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2 thoughts on “1860: Diphtheria strikes the Charbonneau household”

  1. “one of the joys of genealogy research is resurrecting forgotten loved ones and restoring them to their proper place in their family’s history”
    This…this is why I started my blog, and started it with my Pleaus of Rochester, NY.

    1. Thanks for this, Christine. And a special thank you as well to the Find a Grave volunteers who discovered and photographed Ludwig’s grave marker and added him to the Hayes Cemetery database.

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