Friday, October 15, 2010

Oliver's Diary: The Death of Sister Sarah

January 17, 1879 - January 14, 1905


Sarah Elizabeth Wallen was one of nine children born to William M. and Serena Susan (Sutton) Wallen. I have often told people that Serena and all her nine children died of Tuberculosis but I can't really prove that beyond all doubt. Surely, Sarah did not show symptoms of the disease in the same way as her brother, my great grandfather Oliver. However, because I have a maternal Aunt who was afflicted with Tuberculosis of the brain at a young age, and considering the rapid onset of symptoms in both women were similar, it is my opinion that Sarah's brain was affected by the disease instead of other organs. It appears that her mother Serena had Tuberculosis before she and William married and likely all Serena's children were born with the disease or acquired it during or shortly after birth. Serena died in 1886, almost exactly one year after giving birth to her ninth child. Serena was 35. All nine children died fairly young from Emiline at age four to Jesse Uriah who died at age 44.

These are the excerpts from Oliver's diary about the illness and subsequent death of his sister Sarah:

Dec. 30 [1904] – Closed my school. I was glad to get through. Sister Sarah took very sick. 

Dec. 31 – Had my sale closed evry thing out but my mare. I will leave her with papa. Sarah is not any better. So ends the year 1904 – 1905 will soon be ushered in.

Jan. 3 [1905] – A very cold day a regular blizzard and we are out of coal. Sarah is not any better but worse.

Jan. 6 – About 6 in. of snow fell last night. It is warm to be so much snow. I got Jim Payne to take Cora Burnette to Langford station. John Thompson promised to come and take her the 3rd but never come so I had to send her. I went to Ben Livesays in the evening and got some milk. Sister is no better. It will only by through the mercies of a good God if she gets able to go with us to Texas. May God bless her.

Jan. 8 – Still very cold but not so bad as yesterday. I went to Ben Livesay’s and got some milk. Sarah is not doing any good but gradually losing ground. 

Jan. 9 – At home. Sarah no better. 

Jan. 10 – Went to the P.O. and to R. L. Brays and got some milk came home and found that Sarah had lost her mind. Poor girl no one but God knows what she has suffered with her head. We have done all we can for her but can’t do much as the Dr. don’t know what is the matter with her. Sister Ella came over and staid all night. 

Jan. 11 – Went to Ben Livesays and got some milk. Sarah is not any better but suffering a gread deal. She knows most evry one but can’t talk intelligently. No one but a good and loving Savior knows what she has suffered. We leave her in the hands of the Lord. He never makes any mistakes. His will be done not mine. Dear Lord have mercy on sister.

Jan. 12, 1905 – Sarah is still very bad don’t know any thing only at times. Ella went home in the evening. I went to R.L. Brays and got some milk. The snow went off last night with a big rain. 

Jan. 13 – Sarah is very bad this morning. It is very rough weather. Began snowing again about 11 A.M. 

Jan. 14 – Sister Sarah died this morning at 3 oclock. Good bye dear sister for a short time. God knows best, but ‘tis hard to give thee up. Oh how you have suffered, no one knows but God. Blessed thought it is all over now. I went to Mt. Vernon and bought a coffin cost $25.00 and a robe $4.00. A very cold day. I liked to froze to death. 

Jan. 15 – We buried Sarah between Mamma and Lucy. Uncle Billy Martin came and conducted the funeral exercise at my home. Death is a very solemn thing, but if we love Jesus when we die we just begin to live.

Sarah Elizabeth Wallen is buried in the Wallen Francisco Cemetery in Wabd, Rockcastle Co., Kentucky.
Rest in peace, great grandaunt Sarah!



  1. How sad to read his journal entries. But what hope and faith he had!