Lemuel writes to Henry of their brother Anson’s unexpected death. He was not able to send a telegram, as he had to Franklin in Phelps, because Ashfield still did not have telegraph service. Anson had caught a bad cold which seems to have turned into pneumonia, but that did not seem to be the cause of his death. The doctor who treated him supposed the cause of death was heart-related because Anson was apparently quite “fleshy” and weighed 220 pounds, which was a considerable amount in an era before routine obesity.
Lemuel also mentioned that their cousin Fred (Samuel Ranney’s son) had died a few months earlier in Illinois, and passed on news of relatives and friends living in Detroit. He sent his regards to Henry’s wife and grandchildren, since both of Henry’s adult children, Ralph and Ella, had died in the mid-1870s.
It is once again worth noting that, unlike most letters of the era, this correspondence between the Ranney brothers remains entirely free of references to religion. Despite this being the very first notice Henry is receiving of his brother’s death, the way Lemuel describes the loss is sympathetic, but quite secular: “But he has gone. A good man and true, honest & upright, a good neighbor, a genial & social companion for old or young. Caroline & Ev. & Hattie will miss him very much.”
My transcription follows the images:
Hillsdale, March 28, 1886
I come to you with sad news. Brother Anson died last Wednesday after a short illness of one week. On Saturday the 13th he & his wife went to Quincy to see her uncle & aunt, who were quite sick, and returned home the next day.
It was very muddy, and a long drive in a cold wind. He got very cold & chilled through. But feeling better then next day he went to Allen with a load of wheat and before he got home it rained & he got wet and more cold. And the next day, Tuesday the 16th, he went to an auction sale of farm stock & implements, & in the afternoon he told Lucius he wished he would take him home, about 1 ½ miles, as he felt quite unwell.
Lucius took him home immediately & they soaked his feet in hot water & gave him a warm bath. But that night he had a high fever and the next morning they sent for a Doctor who thought it was not a serious or alarming case; thought he could break the fever & get him out again in a few days. Saturday & Sunday, a week ago, I went up there. Found him quite sick but I didn’t think him dangerously so. Although he told me on Sunday that he was sicker than the Doctor thought he was. He says I intended to write to Henry today, but I don’t feel able to and probably never shall again.
I went up again on Tuesday morning & stayed with him until he died, Wednesday about 11 o’clock. Monday night he had a very bad night, in a good deal of pain, nervous & restless, and didn’t sleep a wink. His left lung filled up so he labored for breath, but his right lung seemed to be all right & sound & clear. And Tuesday afternoon & night he slept well. Breathed very much easier & no pain.
Wednesday morning about 6 o’clock he woke up and says to me, I have had a splendid sleep, a good night’s rest. I feel much better now, if I had a little bread & milk I think I could eat it. Caroline got him about half a teacup full of bread & milk. He eat it and said it tasted good. Talked quite a good deal & seemed so much better. We thought the crisis had passed and there would be sure if not rapid improvement from thence on. About 8 o’clock he went to sleep again and we soon discovered that his pulse was very irregular, sometimes very fast sometimes very slow. It was hard work to arouse him, he was growing stupid.
The Doctor came and gave him some stimulant & stimulating injection which quickened his pulse & aroused him temporarily. But after 10 o’clock he never spoke nor recognized anybody or anything. But gradually & almost imperceptibly sank to rest, so quietly that we could hardly tell for some time when the end had come.
But he has gone. A good man and true, honest & upright, a good neighbor, a genial & social companion for old or young. Caroline & Ev. & Hattie will miss him very much.
Anson has been troubled a good deal in the last 2 or 3 years & especially the past winter with rheumatism & sometimes a very acute & painful dodging from place to place. In the fore part of the winter he was confined to the house 2 or 3 weeks with it. He was very full & fleshy, weighing about 220#.
The Doctor called his disease catarrhall or lung fever, but thinks he died with heart disease or fatty generation of the heart, from the symptoms & manner of his final taking off.
Myself, Maggie & Owen are quite well. Priscilla’s health is very good. Lucius health for the past year has been better than in the previous ten years. Clara has been afflicted very much the past year with rheumatism in her hands, arms, and limbs. Her hands are very much out of shape & joints enlarged. Hardly looks like her former self. Once so plump & rosy & healthy, now so poor & sallow & feeble. She has been better in the last few weeks than for some time before & thinks she is improving. She is under treatment of a new Doctor here in Hillsdale who says he can help her immediately and eventually cure her, not as well as she once was but comfortably well.
Our cousin Fred Ranney died at his daughters in Batavia Ill. about the 20th of December last. I saw his son Frederick in Detroit about two months ago, who told me of it. I also saw Charlie Hathaway, who is City Inspector of buildings in Detroit. Frederick T. Ranney, I think his name is, is Secretary of the Waterman Real Estate Exchange in Detroit.
I telegraphed Anson’s death last Wednesday to Franklin, thinking perhaps he might come out to the funeral. I recd a letter from him Friday evening saying it was his wishes & desire to have been here at the funeral, but for the first time this winter he & his wife both have had quite a severe cold, and though tit imprudent for him to come at this time.
I would have sent you a telegram if there was any office at Ashfield. How do you get telegrams there? Where is the nearest point?
Hoping this may find you fully recovered from your illness last year. With kindest regards to yourself, wife, and grandchildren. I remain