Sympathy Saturday – Death by Senility

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Charles Wilson, my 3G-grandfather, was born August 13, 1831 in Louisville, New York, the son of John Wilder Wilson and his (as yet unknown) first wife. By 1850, 18-year-old Charles was living in the household of Charles Willard, an innkeeper.

About 1857 Charles married Lucy Bridges Taylor, also from Louisville. They were enumerated in Louisville in the 1860 census, along with their 1-year-old son, Wellington David (“David W.”) Wilson, who had been born November 27, 1859.

By January 1867 the family had begun its slow progress westward; in that month a second son, Oric Edward, was born in West Union, Iowa. Enumerated in the 1870 census in Madison Township in Buchanan County, (about 33 miles from West Union), the family added another son, Samuel Warner Wilson, on January 6, 1873.

Charles, Lucy, and their two younger sons were still in West Union in 1880, where Charles was working as a butcher; Wellington David, my 2G-grandfather, had married in 1879 and was enumerated in Eden Township (18 miles distant). He continued to migrate in tandem with his parents and brothers, though they never again lived in the same household. By 1885, Charles and family had moved to Knox County, Nebraska; in June of that year they were enumerated in Niobrara Precinct in the 1885 Nebraska State Census. In another 10 years the family had moved some 270 miles north, to Roberts County, South Dakota. There the family was enumerated in 1900 in Long Hollow Township. About a year later Lucy died.

In April 1910 Charles was enumerated in the home of his son Samuel, by now married and with a son of his own. Charles lived only another three months after the census enumeration, dying on July 18. On his death certificate his doctor indicated he had been attending Charles since June 1. Charles was just shy of his 79th birthday, but his cause of death is listed as “senility,” one of many age-related causes found on old death certificates.  At least it wasn’t “decrepitude” or “senile gangrene.”

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