As I mentioned early this past summer, one of my projects was to collect census records for all my direct line ancestors. Although I had quite a few, I knew my record set wasn’t complete.
Working backwards through my family tree software, William Tarbox, my 4X great grandfather, popped up. There were actually no census records attached to his file, probably because I worked on the line decades ago and town records provided birth, marriage and death dates for his family.
William Tarbox was born 21 March 1779 in New Gloucester, Cumberland, Maine, the 9th and youngest child of Samuel Tarbox and Deborah Sayward, who migrated from Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts to New Gloucester in the 1760s.
William married Judith Haskell, the daughter of Nathan Haskell and Judith Witham, on 25 November 1802, also in New Gloucester.
[Last spring, you might remember the major tree pruning necessary when I discovered that there were two Judith Haskells, only a few months difference in age and cousins, growing up together in New Gloucester at the same time. The wrong Judith’s line was in my family tree!]
Back to William’s story! The 1850 census of New Gloucester shows William and wife Judith living with their son Benjamin Franklin Tarbox and his family.
William’s occupation was given as “farmer,” not unexpected.
William Tarbox died 22 May 1860 and I think maybe because he has a gravestone still standing and legible in the New Gloucester cemetery that I didn’t look for him in the regular census schedule or even in the mortality schedule.
Checking the mortality schedule index, William Tarbox was indeed there.
The problem was that he didn’t died in New Gloucester, as I thought. Instead, he shows up in Augusta, Kennebec, Maine on a page where every single person is called insane; his cause of death was erysipelas, a skin infection caused by strep.
Maine Insane Hospital
I correctly surmised that he died at the State Hospital, but had yet another surprise waiting. When I contacted the Maine State Archives, I learned that not only were the patient medical records from the 1840s until 1910 still in existence, they have been digitized and are accessible for free on DigitalMaine!
I knew that William lived at home in 1850 and died in the hospital on 22 May 1860. Given that he was 82 years old, I guessed that he probably hadn’t lived there for many years.
An index of patient admissions confirmed my theory. William Tarbox was admitted to the hospital by the town of New Gloucester on 2 May 1860, just 20 days before he died.
Delving further, I found the volume of patient records covering 1860. It’s a PDF that downloads and opens VERY SLOWLY. It took me about 10 minutes to get to page 432 out of 560.
Because William’s stay was so short, his patient record is only one page long. However, it documents the very sad end to a man loved by his family.
William Tarbox, New Gloucester
Adm May 2.
Age 81 years. Carpenter
Married – This is his first attack – Came on about one year since. The difficulty is supposed to be owing to the metastasis of a humor [tumor?] with which he has been afflicted about fifteen years. His son thinks that he as been somewhat depressed during the period above named. To now melancholy. Is not destructive –
Appetite is poor. Bowels are now regular. When the attack first came on was quite [costive?]. the disease is not hereditary.
Address P.C. Tarbox Danville Junc.
May 4 – He is quiet but indisposed to communicate his thoughts to others.
May 20 – Has progressed comfortably until today; an erysipelas inflammation began to manifest itself upon the face and he refuses all nourishment & medicine. We succeeded however in getting him to take a cathartic which operated favorably.
May 21 – No better. A friend called to see him, but he would say nothing save “Get out of my room.”
May 22 – Died about 12M.
It sounds like it was believed that William suffered from some type of tumor and his behavior became more and more unwieldy during the last year of his life.
Although not stated, I think it can be inferred that William was aware that his family had placed him in the hospital and he had determined that he was not going to live much longer, given that he refused food and medicine.
P.C. Tarbox is William’s youngest son, Plummer Chase Tarbox, who lived in Danville at the time. Danville is just north of New Gloucester and about 37 miles south of Augusta.
Knowing that William Tarbox was hospitalized in Augusta in 1860 made me rethink why his son, my 3X great grandfather George Rogers Tarbox might have had a photo of the proprietor of Cushnoc House, a hotel located in Augusta.
I had dated the photo of Thomas Benton Ballard to around 1870, but it could have been taken in the 1860s. His photo is just himself; he didn’t marry until 1866.
Oddly enough, Thomas Benton Ballard also died at the Maine Insane Hospital on 29 August 1881.
Could George Tarbox have gone to August to visit his father one last time in May 1860 and stayed at the Cushnoc Hotel? MIght he even have been the “friend” who William told to get out of his room?
It might explain why a seemingly unimportant photo was kept by George and his daughter – “Oh, that’s where I stayed when I visited Dad just before he died.”
It’s an interesting – and possible – explanation for the photo.
As for William, it was a very sad ending to his long life. His family must have been heartbroken, too, having to send him away to the hospital, but they brought him home to New Gloucester for burial.
Many of the 11,000+ patients who died at the Maine Insane Hospital never returned home again.
What did the hospital look like? Read this 2018 article by Michelle on Only In Your State – 21 Staggering Photos of An Abandoned Asylum Hiding in Maine.
The ending to William’s life was nothing I ever expected!