Following the flood in the Spring of 1913, farmers were settling back in to the hard work of making profitable their homesteads.
It was autumn when celery-farm owner Herbert Young was knocked unconscious in a ripsaw accident while cutting blocks of wood for plant stakes.
“Dad walked up to the saw and fell over backwards,” his 7-year-old son frantically told his mother.
That little boy would become my paternal grandfather. Nurses hired by Herbert’s father, Samuel, cared for the badly injured man around the clock. Hope for his survival began to dim after two weeks in a coma.
The family was still reeling from the death of the husband of Samuel and Elizabeth’s only daughter, Stella.
Dr. William Henry Dennis had died of pneumonia, leaving an infant son and a grieving widow. Stella gathered with the rest of the family at her brother’s bedside. On the fourteenth day after the saw accident, Herbert began rallying.
It was considered a miracle, as the family doctor said he knew of no one who survived after such a long time comatose. His left eye gone, his cheek bone and jaw bone crushed, those who knew him said he was never quite the same.
Today’s medical studies of traumatic brain injuries validate his life-long struggles from this point on. His father, Samuel, was also leveled by this accident. He had bolted across fields and jumped fences on that day, panic for his oldest son overtaking him.
After having worked hard to build an empire of fertile land and impressive buildings for his wife and three children, at age 70, this tragedy took an enormous toll on Samuel. He continued to push himself, accomplishing harvest, but he was never again vibrant and strong.
Samuel died in the home he had built in March 1914 at age 70, an enormous loss to his beloved family and community. The obituary paid tribute to a man who had accomplished, and given, so much.
Son George took over the farm. A scientist and inventor, George lacked his father’s business sense and incredible drive. By the summer of 1915, after having left the farm equipment sit out and rust for a year, heavy rains pummeling the crops, his wife and two young children moved to town.
George grew despondent. His mother Elizabeth saw to it that all ammunition was hidden from her son, fearing the worst.
Elizabeth, a strong woman who refused to sit idly by as her family seemingly fell apart in one very bad year, took the train to town to bring George’s wife and children home for a talk. As she neared the homestead upon her return, a gunshot rang out. George had found a bullet used as a sinker on a fishing rod and taken his life.
Elizabeth, at age 61, had buried her husband, the husband of her only daughter, had witnessed the life-altering injuries of her oldest son and now had to bear witness to this tragic end of the life of her only other son, on whom so many were depending.
Next week: looking back, looking ahead.
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