I’m not “lost” as in unable to find my way home, but my imagination and research skills have been on overdrive. A few times I’ve caught myself wanting to jump in the car and head for the American Great Plains.
I’ve been going through several boxes of old photographs and like most of us, I’m sure, wishing I’d asked a few more questions while loved ones were here to answer them. Jay’s mother, born in 1907 and living a full 90 years, regaled us with stories I always found fascinating, but there are still remaining gaps.
About a year ago I was watching a segment of “American Experience,” with interest in the deadliest killer in human history, tuberculosis, and at the same time following a trail of early 20th century backstory connecting the battle against the deadly bacteria to a steady increase in easterners moving to Southern California. “The Land of Sunshine,” was heavily promoted for its healthy year-round climate and promise of curative powers.
I was captivated by old photos and references to hospitals and sanitariums of the past, some quite near where I now live, and I grabbed my computer. Jay’s maternal grandfather, Dr. Guy Stone, owned at least two sanitariums in the early part of the 20th century, but knowing little detail, I wondered what kind of sanitarium he operated.
Professor Google came through again!
Right off the bat I began to pull up newspaper articles and archival material related to Dr. Guy’s sanitariums. Guy was born in 1877 and was just a decade or two younger than the famed Kellogg brothers and their famous, perhaps infamous, Battle Creek Sanitarium with emphasis on healthy eating and lifestyle as a path to wellness.
This photo of Dr. Guy isn’t dated, but I love his snappy suit!
According to North Dakota State University archives, Guy purchased two properties in Fargo at some point in the 20’s and 30’s and opened the Stone Sanitarium spanning the “spectrum from health spa to hospital.” I’m sorry to not know if Jay’s grandmother, Agnes, a nurse, ever worked alongside her husband.
This is one of my favorite photos of Guy and his three daughters, although I feel a sadness knowing this snapshot was probably taken in 1915, just months before a family tragedy. Within a year three year-old Dorathy Aileen died from complications related to rheumatic fever, likely contracted from her older sister, Jay’s mother, Marian. Marian spoke often of her rheumatic fever, but very little of her sister.
Eighty-one years later while closing down her apartment, however, we came across a little box with several beautiful children’s dresses that appear by the embroidered initials to have belonged to Dorathy.
Dorathy died 100 years ago last month. We know she died in Sioux City, Iowa, but I haven’t been able to find any information to verify the rheumatic fever story or where she is buried. Somehow having those little dresses has made me want to know more about her.
What I do think about is the impact on the family. The limits of medicine and medical treatment must have been particularly painful to a man completely immersed in a philosophy suggesting that good health could be maintained with proper preventative measures.
Finding this little book for sale on Ebay was pure serendipity. I snatched it quickly and I’m glad I did. Subsequent searches reveal it’s only available in libraries and North Dakota historical institutions.
Published in the 1920’s, this 64-page brochure/book offers photos of the facility, from surgical unit to therapeutic baths. In it the good doctor recommends:
Why not take an inventory of yourself? Get an expert to inspect your stomach, size up your liver, test the efficiency of your kidneys, listen to your heart and lungs, count your blood cells, feel your arteries, find your blood pressure, take your weight and measure your strength.
Marian never did have much need for medical intervention in her older years. She had a few ailments, but for the most part treated them with a heavy dose of positive thinking…and vitamins.
Ultimately these family stories may mean more to my children and grandchildren through direct ancestral connection to the Stone family line. But I really did love Jay’s mother and I feel a strong sense of kinship, too.
I never thought that Fargo, North Dakota and Sioux City, Iowa would be so uppermost in my mind. The Fargo sanitarium sites have been razed, but I’m wondering what else we might find? And if we can focus more narrowly on where the family lived in Sioux City, well…I’ve never seen the prairie!