When Abial Granger died est 1879 it was not required to record his death. No records have ever been found to document his burial in Horton, Cemetery, Polk, Twsp. Bremer Co, Iowa. Tombstone does not give dates.


Grave Matters

Beginning with Bremer Counties first newspapers, word of the illnesses of local citizens was spread through items in the "locals." Mrs. Jones’ case of biliousness might rate a small paragraph. Mr. Jones, in turn, could read of his bout with "lung Fever" or "putrefication of the bowels." Although many survived both their illness and the publication of embarrassing details, some souls did not.

If death followed an illness, the death might or might not be mentioned in a later issue. In 1880 the State of Iowa decreed that all deaths should be recorded at the courthouse in the county in which the death took place. Doctors did not always find it easy to go to the courthouse regularly, and so sometimes turned in their files in batches relying on notes and memories to complete the form. If the doctor did not keep a written record, a death might not be recorded at all.

These records were to include a cause of death. Looking through the earliest records of Bremer County many of the entries are sad but not unexpected for the era: rattlesnake bite, typhus, cholera, diphtheria, whooping cough, childbirth and cancer. Other diagnoses might even be given in 2003: cancer, pneumonia, heart attack, etc. It is the entries that seem unique that disprove the familiar adage "the good old days."

Decedent Age

Male 80 years

Cause: senile gangrene

Female 61 years

Cause: simple continued fever [if it was simple, why death]

Female 17 years

Cause: pelvic abscess caused by bathing in cold running water at menstrual

Male 48 years

Cause: heart disease caused by bullet striking rib over


Female 90 years

Cause: LaGrippe [so much more refined than the flu]

Female 1 year 7 months

Cause: Poisoned from nursing too long

Female 2+ years

Cause: Paralysis of brain by cold water being kept a long time upon the head and a blister upon back of neck

Female 5 days

Cause: "not known" [brief but accurate]

Female 71 years

Cause: coup de so leil [sunstroke, but the Buck Creek doctor knew French!]

The brain seemed to cause many fatalities in the 1880s. Fortunately in 2003, many people live long lives despite problems with their brains. [Some even appear to survive without any.]

Male 1 day congestion of the brain

Male 63 years brain difficulty

Female 65 years softening of the brain

Male 66 brain trouble

And on occasion even the physician was overwhelmed by the loss of his patient. Such was the case of Dr. J. M. Guthrie of Tripoli in 1888 when he recorded this death .

Female 45 years

Cause: "Enteritis, No diarrhea. Over work and self quackering, epsom salts, onions and tobaco phsic. Weight 120 lbs. Raised 11 children. Delivered cordwood 8 miles, carried 70 pails of swill to hogs each day. Ain’t it enough"