What Killed the Sellers Boys?

Life has always been a lottery. That isn’t going to change but the odds of surviving to a good age have improved somewhat since unwise apes began to shuffle around on two feet.

At the beginning of the 19th century in Britain, one child in three died before their fifth birthday. It took around 70 years for this figure to improve to one in four, and, about another 80 years before 19 out of 20 children could party, aged five.

The mortality story is well-told online, offering tables and graphs that can be downloaded.

One of the Office of National Statistics interactive graphs shows the “survivability” of individuals at all ages from 0 to 110, from 1850 to 2010. This enables the deaths of the Sellers Boys to be put into a context of sorts.

Robert SELLERS and Sarah WILSON had eight children between 1851 and 1870, five girls and three boys. I haven’t yet discovered when Robert, the youngest boy, died. A headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard remembers the other two brothers.

George, 15, and William, 17, both died in 1872, fifteen days apart. When the census was taken the previous year, William was at home with the family, working as a Shop Boy. George was “living-in” not far away in Scarborough Road, a servant to farmer John RICHARDSON.

The survivability graph mentioned above has precise figures at 25-year intervals but, roughly, William and George had 67 chances in a hundred of reaching their next birthday in 1873. Reasonable odds, but they were two of the 33 in a hundred who didn’t make it.

If we had the certificates, we would know what the attending Filey doctor thought was the death of them. (Charles Waters SCRIVENER was the town’s medical officer, but two other doctors were resident in Filey in 1871, and presumably in practice – Brooke CROMPTON and Richard ALDERSON.) Without the certificates, we can only surmise.

That the boys died within a couple of weeks of each other suggests an infectious disease could be the culprit, most likely consumption, aka tuberculosis or TB. This bacterial infection was so common it would not have raised the eyebrows of a newspaper editor. An outbreak of cholera, typhus, scarlet fever or smallpox in the town would surely have been reported.

It is possible, of course, that the timing of the brother’s deaths was coincidental, and each was taken by a different cause. A wonderful online resource gives the causes of death of most people buried in Leeds General Cemetery. I browsed the first couple of hundred records, noting the causes of death of males aged 15 to 17. (I didn’t note the calendar years in which the deaths occurred.)

The modal cause of death was, not surprisingly, consumption with 14 instances. Bronchitis was a distant second with four; accident and fever with 3. (Had the Sellers boys died on the same day I would immediately have thought “accident” – drowning whilst fishing – if I hadn’t already known their occupations.)

There were two instances each of these causes – typhus, general decline, abscess, and inflammation of lungs.

Single instances – asthma, inflammation, temporary insanity, affection of brain, erysipelas, pleurisy, congestion of lungs, congestion of brain, scarlet fever, hernia, hip disease, inflammation of bladder, liver complaint, heart disease, general debility, tumour, diarrhoea and rupture of blood vessel.

It is interesting to note that heart disease is now the leading cause of death for English males; dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for females. These causes swap to take second place for each sex. (Figures don’t seem to be available for the myriad other sexes of choice available now.)

D45_SELLERSsarah_20180509_fst

In loving memory of SARAH, the beloved wife of ROBERT SELLERS, who died July 23rd, 1908, aged 84 years.

Thy will be done

Also, the above ROBERT SELLERS, who died Jan 3rd, 1909, aged 83 years.

Peace perfect peace

Also, two sons of the above; GEORGE who died June 6th, 1872, aged 15 years, and WILLIAM who died June 21st, 1872, aged 17 years.

Gone but not forgotten

This is currently a two-generation family on FamilySearch and extending it seems to be a daunting task

Doubting Thomas

In Dodgy Deals a few days ago I said that Thomas WILSON, son of farmer Joseph, had been elected to the Filey Local Board in the 1880s. Moving on to a different Wilson branch I happened upon another Thomas of that ilk, born 12 years earlier and also enumerated in Filey in 1881. He was living with wife Annie, two daughters and a son – in Reynolds street. Presumably, he would have taken an interest in the contentious footpath.

Might he have been the Thomas Wilson elected to the Local Board? While gathering information on his life, I found this in a local newspaper:-

1887_dobson&wilson

There isn’t another R. DOBSON in town that is a better fit for this association than the one who went public with his criticisms of farmer Joseph. The thought flickered that Joseph’s son Thomas might have formed a business relationship with “the enemy”, but he was a farmer too, not a saddler. A small doubt dismissed.

There is a stone in the churchyard remembering saddler Thomas, his wife and mother. Next to it, a large stone that his firstborn daughter, Eliza Annie, has to herself.

a21_wilsonelizabeth_20170424_fst

a22_wilsonelizaa_20170424_fst

Thomas on FST.

I made only a token effort to take this Wilson family further back in time – because they were incomers to the town from over the moors. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Hawnby baptism records proved to be the most detailed I have ever found, giving the grandparents’ names too and, in some cases their parents also. The unexpected gift of two generations of SUNLEYs isn’t apparent on FST  yet, mainly because I need to determine who is confused – me or a Find My Past transcriber.

1792_wilsonoliver_bap

Shaken Bridge in the 21st century.

(There is a small, neat stone in the churchyard remembering Ann SUNLEY of Lebberstone – ‘In life respected, in death lamented’. I haven’t been able to find her family yet but maybe this baptism entry will lead me to her. She isn’t recorded in Filey Genealogy & Connections.)

Dr. Cortis Speaks

On this day in 1857, at possibly his first meeting in the Town Hall after being elected Mayor of Scarborough, Henry SPURR introduced William Smithson CORTIS to the gathering. The good doctor of Filey read a paper about the recent finds of Roman artifacts on Carr Naze, following a landslip caused by heavy rain. I haven’t yet found a transcript online – and accounts of the more recent excavations of the Signal Station are not freely available either. Some of the brief online references to the discovery say Dr. Cortis led the excavation and gave his talk to Filey antiquaries. Neither “fact” seems to be true.

Dr. Cortis credits “a painter belonging to Filey, named Wilson” as the finder of the revealed objects. Filey Genealogy & Connections identifies Jeffrey WILSON as the man of that moment. He was about 65 years old at the time but still working in 1861 so could have been sprightly enough to descend “at some risk…down the falling cliff” to retrieve what he initially thought were pieces of jet. He died aged 76 in October 1872.

Carr Naze was then the property of the Reverend Richard BROOKE  of Gateforth and it was he who organized the excavation. It is not clear from the talk if Filey’s doctor got his hands dirty or was merely an interested observer at the dig.

You will see from Today’s Image how narrow the spine of Carr Naze is now. The Information Board at the site gives an indication of how much of the promontory has been eroded since the Romans left Britain.

RomanSignalStation

The five stone blocks found at the base of the tower can be seen now in Crescent Gardens, and the “hunting scene” of the Information Board is described by Dr. Cortis as “a dog chasing a stag”. Over the years I have looked for the animals a number of times. I think they may still be visible if the light is favourable, but perhaps not as clearly as in this old photograph of poor quality and unknown provenance. (There is a more recently taken image here.)

Dog&Stag

William Smithson CORTIS is on the FamilySearch tree.

Henry SPURR, born Doncaster in 1795, died 30th May 1865 at Westfield House, Scarborough after a short illness. He has at least two nascent pedigrees on FST, both generated by “the system”. One gives his parents and the other his son, James Frederick, by first wife Eleanor WHITE. Eleanor died age 48 in 1844 and Henry married Louisa Amelia BLIGHT almost four years later, in East Stonehouse, Devonshire.

“Jeffry” WILSON is also unmarried on FST. His granddaughter, Mary WILSON, married the grandson of the William PASHBY who died suddenly in Friday’s post – but you will have to go to Kath’s Filey Genealogy to see that Connection.