Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Burford Tragedy

Seven children of Daniel and Julia Ann Utter
Losing a child to illness was a common occurrence in nineteenth century Ontario. Losing seven in 16 days, however, was a tragedy beyond imagination. I discovered this tragedy while photographing gravestones in Northfield Cemetery for CanadaGenWeb's Cemetery Project.

Daniel Utter was a blacksmith who lived in Burford Township southwest of Brantford, Ontario. Daniel was born in 1832 in Trafalgar Township, Halton County, the son of Daniel Utter and Elizabeth Kinder. Daniel and his brother David (1818-1903) moved west to Burford in the early 1850s. In 1855, Daniel married Julia Ann Hainer (1838-1899), daughter of John Hainer (1795-1860) and Nancy Bowman (1808-1892).

Large families were common in nineteenth century Ontario, and Daniel and Julia Ann followed this trend. Their first child, John, was born in 1859. By the time of the 1871 the family had grown to six children with the addition of Anna (1862), Melissa (1864), Mary (1866), Charles (1869) and Rosy Bell (1871). William (1873) and Nancy followed (1875). But in 1877 tragedy struck. One of the children, most likely 11-year-old Mary, contracted diphtheria just before Christmas.

Diphtheria is a high contagious and potentially fatal respiratory infection. Although it has been largely eradicated through routine immunization, it is still endemic in some parts of the world. Until the introduction of a vaccine in the 1920s, diphtheria was a common cause of child mortality in Canada and the United States.

Mary died first on December 24th. Melissa died on Christmas Day, followed by Annie, Charles and Nancy two days later. William died on the January 7th and Rose Bell succumbed the following day. The only child to survive was 18-year-old John, most likely because he working away from home at the time.

All seven children were buried in Northfield Cemetery in Burford Township. Daniel and Julia Ann eventually had three more children: Nancy (1880-1948), William (1882- ?) and Elroy (1886- ?). Daniel and Julia Ann remained in Burford Township for the rest of their lives and were buried with their children: Julia Ann in 1899 and Daniel in 1920. Their son John was buried at Northfield in 1928

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