“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

Saturday, January 31, 2015

San Francisco to Stedman in five short years.

In early 1917, Harry and Jennie Beazley set up housekeeping and began to settle into domestic life across the bay from the city of lights, San Francisco, in the vicinity of present day Hercules, California. Harry worked at the powder works and Jennie ran a small tobacco & sweets store.

As war in Europe dragged on, the United States was slowly being compelled to enter the conflict; Harry re-enlisted in August of 1917.  By then he was deaf in his left ear and again suffering from sprue. Within days he was honorably discharged due to his poor health. Harry was two months from his fortieth birthday.

HL and Lillian Beazley, ca. 1926
Sometime in the early autumn of 1918, Jennie must have discovered she was pregnant, much to the delight of the young couple. The year 1918 also brought the pandemic known as the Spanish Flu, an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus. It infected 500 million people across the world, including remote Pacific islands and the Arctic, and killed 50 to 100 million of them—three to five percent of the world's population, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.

The pandemic was spread, in part, by soldiers returning home from Europe. According to Jennie Beazley, she was the only pregnant woman to contract the virus and survive in their county. She attributed her survival solely to Harry's care, but as she slowly recovered, Harry began to worry about his own health.

In March 1919, Jennie, roughly seven months pregnant, and her beloved Harry left California for her mother's home in Stedman, NC. Upon their arrival Harry found a job market that was difficult for a middle-aged man competing with thousands of much younger men returning from the war.

On April 20, 1919 things began to look up for the Beazley's when Harry found a job as a supply manager at Erwin Cotton Mills, Plant No. 2, located in the Harnett County town of Duke, NC (now called Erwin).  Less than a month later, Harry Leslie Beazley, Jr. (called simply HL his entire life) was born on May 14, 1919.

A second child, Lillian Maria Beazley, was born on July 8, 1921. According to Jennie, Harry asked that she be named for a favorite schoolteacher, Lillian. His choice of middle name, Maria, seems an obvious nod to his deceased first wife, "the Spaniard" Irene Santa Maria. Whatever joy the family felt at Lillian's birth must have been tempered by the uncertainty of their future. Harry was not in a good way and his health continued to deteriorate. He died at the Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, NC on November 21, 1921.

Wait, what? Yes, Harry Beazley died at the Dorothea Dix state hospital for the mentally insane just five years after returning from the Philippines, and less than four months after the birth of his daughter.

According to the 1920 census, taken on January 28, 1920, the household at that time consisted of Ellen Bryant (Jennie's mother), Jennie, HL (Harry Junior), Jennie's younger brother John Robert, and his wife, Margie. So by this time Harry must already have been institutionalized. Jennie would have been approximately two months pregnant with Lillian, placing her conception sometime in November, 1919.

The closest we have to a death certificate for Harry L. Beazley is a permit to move his corpse, but it lists, in the handwriting of the attending physician, the cause of death as paresis, which, given that the facility was a mental hospital, I take to mean general paresis of the insane, a condition that was incurable at the time

From Wikipedia:
Originally, the cause was believed to be an inherent weakness of character or constitution. While Esmarch and Jessen had asserted as early as 1857 that syphilis caused general paresis, progress toward the general acceptance by the medical community of this idea was only accomplished later by the eminent nineteenth-century syphilographer Alfred Fournier (1832–1914). In 1913 all doubt about the syphilitic nature of paresis was finally eliminated when Hideyo Noguchi and J. W. Moore demonstrated the syphilitic spirochaetes in the brains of paretics.
In 1917 Julius Wagner-Jauregg discovered that infecting paretic atients with malaria could halt the progression of general paresis. He won a Nobel Prize for this discovery in 1927. After World War II the use of penicillin to treat syphilis made general paresis a rarity: even patients manifesting early symptoms of actual general paresis were capable of full recovery with a course of penicillin. The disorder is now virtually unknown outside developing countries, and even there the epidemiology is substantially reduced.
Had this tale played out just a few years later, Harry Beazley might have been cured and lived a much longer life. Instead he died, leaving a widow and two small children nearly destitute.

After burying her husband in the family cemetery, Jennie was left with less than one dollar in her purse. She spent the next few months working to secure Captain Beazley's Spanish-American War veteran's pension. She would eventually prevail and collected this pension until her own death in 1984. Shortly after the death of Captain Beazley, the men of the community built a small home behind and across a field from where Magnolia Baptist Church stands today, on Bryant family land, using lumber supplied by Jennie's brother-in-law, John Edward Hubbard.

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