Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sympathy Saturday: Leander Elkanah Wood, Cholera Infantum Victim

Leander Elkanah Wood was the last of 17 children born to Thomas Haskell Wood and Mary Amanda Demarest. Alas, little Leander fell victim to "cholera infantum" at the age of only 4 months.

He was born at home in Toledo on March 10, 1875, and he died on August 11, 1875. Thanks to a kind genealogy person on the Ohio Genealogy FB page, I learned that "cholera infantum" was often the term listed on death certs of young children who actually died of diarrhea or dysentery.

Why did hubby's great-granddaddy and great-grandma name their child after a young man in an ancient tragedy?

Leander was a mythological figure who fell in love with Hero and swam across the straights every night to be with her, his way lit by a lantern she set up to guide him. One stormy night, the lantern light was blown out and heavy waves took Leander further and further, sweeping him away, to Hero's great sorrow. In despair, she threw herself after him and perished as well.

Even allowing for the fact that Thomas and Mary had named 16 other children by that time (their first was born in 1846!), Leander doesn't seem an obvious choice as a given name. Especially since one of their other children, Thomas Jefferson Isaiah Haskell Wood, drowned in May, 1861, before his 13th birthday.

Nor does Elkanah, Leander's middle name, have any family significance that anyone knows of (he was a figure in the Bible). UPDATE: Elkanah turns out to be a significant given name in the Wood family, as I learned by examining the family tree of a distant, very distant relative who's related by virtue of the Mayflower/Fortune connection. Thomas Cushman, who arrived on the Fortune, married Mary Allerton (a Mayflower ancestor of the Wood family), and they had 8 children, including Elkanah Cushman. The Elkanah name continued in that branch of the tree for some time. So perhaps Thomas Haskell Wood was aware of his Mayflower ancestors after all?!

RIP, little Leander Elkanah Wood.

2 comments:

Ellie said...

Poor little guy, happened all too often back then. Don't you find those archaic medical terms fascinating?

Marian Burk Wood said...

Ellie, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Yes, I do find those old-fashioned medical terms surprising and interesting. I've learned so much from the ancestors on my family tree and my husband's family tree! Wish they could know how much they're teaching us and how they're never going to be forgotten.