Cause of Death: “Saw Throat”

BORN NOV. 27, 1848
DIED JULY 24, 1859
This tall marble grave marker in Danville’s Green Hill Cemetery belongs to ten-year-old Florence Ayres. Her parents were William Ayres, a wealthy tobacconist, and his second wife Julia Ann Henderson Ayres. At the time of the 1850 Federal Census, the only census that Florence was living during, her family lived in Danville. Sadly there is no street address listed on the census. I think it’s interesting to be able to link the house to its former inhabitants & imagine what life was like when they were living there.

Continue reading Cause of Death: “Saw Throat”

A Ghostly Prank Turns Fatal (1833)

In memory of Elizabeth
Eldest daughter of John B. and Pamela W. Royall
of Halifax County.
She was born in the year of our Lord 1818 and departed this life on the 30th day of July 1833.
Aged fifteen years, 4 mo’s. and 18 d’s.
When blooming youth be snatched away
By Death’s resistless hand
Our hearts the mournful tributes pay
Which pity must demand
While pity prompts the rising sigh
Oh may this truth impress’t
With awful power ‘I, too must die’
Sink deep in every breast”
Elizabeth’s grave in Grove Street Cemetery is memorable for two reasons: she the earliest known burial in the cemetery and according to folklore, the teenaged boarding school student was “scared to death” after a foreboding message appeared on her bedroom wall in 1833.

The plaque by her brick tomb gives an outline of the events surrounding her death. “Elizabeth Royall, a native of Halifax County, died while a student at one of Danville’s female academies. She was supposedly frightened to death by a prank played by schoolmates.”

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Death, Taxes, and Insanity

I made a note in my copy of Green Hill’s Mortuary Reports on William Fernald because it listed his place of death as the “Govn’t Hospital for Insane” in Washington, D.C. According to this record, he’d been buried on April 7, 1885 (the day after his death from “paresis.”)

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Cause of Death: Septicemia Following Abortion

Sue R. Doe
Wife of 
Jno. R. Hutchings
Died Dec. 15, 1888
This is another marker in Danville’s Green Hill Cemetery. I regret not having a better photo of Sue Hutchings’ tombstone so that I could transcribe the verse underneath her information.
What stood out about this person was the cause of death indicated in the burial records.
From pg. 100 of the cemetery records

This is what was written about Sue’s death in the cemetery ledger:

“Mrs. Sue Doe Hutchings Age 28 years I hereby certify that she died on the 15th day of Dec. 1888 and that the cause of her death was ceptisemia following abortion, LE Harvey, M.D. (undertaker) W.H. Covey & Co.”

Susan Ritchie Doe was born between 1857-1859 (the different reports list different years) to Thomas B. Doe (of New Hampshire) and Sarah Ross Doe (of Virginia) in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. One of her uncles was Judge Charles Doe of the United States Supreme Court, suggesting that she came from a family which probably had some prominent standing in the community. While searching for information about Sue’s early life, I came across a letter written by her uncle Charles while he was visiting Thomas’ family. In that letter, which was written before Susan was born, a slave visiting one of Thomas’ servants falls ill and dies and Charles makes observations about the funeral and some of the traditions of slave funerals.

Sue married Capt. John Richard Hutchings in or around 1880 and at that time the couple was living with her parents. In the 1881 Danville City Directory John, a tobacconist, is listed as the head of J.R. Hutchings & Company in association with the Star Warehouse.

Their first child, Lucy Allen, was born in 1881 and their second child, Susie D., in 1886. Sue was pregnant at least one other time that I know of, in 1888. The wording on the above burial record troubles me because the reader can’t be sure if it indicates that Sue developed septicemia from having an abortion or if she developed the infection from a spontaneous abortion. Either way, it was a tragedy for someone to die so young of an infection that could’ve been prevented or treated today with the advances in medicine, sterilization, and hygiene.

The Descendants of Capt. Thomas Carter of Barford, Lancaster County, Virginia; with Genealogical Notes of Many of the Allied Families

The Reynolds Homestead

A few months ago I set out towards Critz, Virginia to see the family and slave cemeteries on the grounds of the Reynolds Homestead, birthplace of tobacconist R.J. Reynolds.

R.J. and his mother were interred in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at Salem Cemetery but many of his relatives were buried near the homeplace.

I’m not sure if the gate on the family cemetery was secured in order to prevent people from being able to enter or if I should’ve eaten spinach before making the trip, but I decided to take pictures from outside the ironwork just in case I was in violation of the Homestead’s rules. This accounts for some of the unflattering angles.

Continue reading The Reynolds Homestead


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