Isaac Calvin Sutherland part 2

I was always told that Charles Wesley Sutherland died of tuberculosis when he made the trip to Louisiana in 1892. I think his brother, Isaac Calvin, was also killed by that disease.

In 1870, the younger Isaac was living on his farm in Guthrie County, Iowa. A census worker recorded that the family consisted of Isaac, 23, his wife Anna, 22, and five month old Nellie.

Four years later, Isaac had returned to Bureau County, Illinois so that his family could care for him during his final illness. In his will dated May 28, 1874, Isaac speaks of his children, Robert and Nellie, but there is no mention of Anna his wife. She might have died giving birth to their son or she could have succumbed to the same disease that later killed her husband. Probably tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis was incurable before antibiotics. The disease slowly killed its victims over a period of years. In the 1880’s, TB killed one out of seven people in the United States and Europe. Sanatoriums provided specialized care for TB patients and prevented the spread of the infectious disease.

Sadly, both of Isaac’s children may have contracted tuberculosis from their parents. The 1880 Iowa Census contains an entry for newlyweds C.W. (Charles Wesley) and Ellen Sutherland in Adel. The household included Charles’ mother Margaret, his sister Marriah, and a seven year old boy named Robert. His nephew.

Census page for Charles Wesley and Ellen Sutherland

Robert died just a few months later, March 14, 1881.

I could find no record for Nellie until I happened upon the 1885 Colorado state census. A Nellie Sutherland is listed as the adoptive daughter of a family that ran a boarding house in Colorado Springs. One of the occupants of the household is a boarder with “Lung Trouble” or TB. Nellie’s age, place of birth, and her parents’ place of birth match Isaac’s daughter.

Colorado Springs was a resort town that became a mecca for tuberculosis patients. During the late 1800s, Colorado was known as the “world’s sanatorium”. The high altitude and clear skies attracted “lungers” from all over the United States. There was no cure for tuberculosis but the climate in Colorado allowed victims to extend their lifespan as much as possible. At the height of the TB epidemic, it is estimated that one in three Coloradans had the disease. By 1925, 60% of incoming residents to Colorado had tuberculosis.

The family must have collected enough money to send Nellie to Colorado Springs. It was the only chance to prolong her life.

Nellie died sometime before her father’s will was probated in Iowa in 1892. There is no mention of her in the probate records.

Charles Wesley named his oldest son and daughter after his brother’s children, Robert and Nellie. They were never forgotten.


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