The Diary of Lizzie Dopps
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*.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
|© 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|