Helen May

With child number thirteen Lewis and Caroline did indeed push their luck too far. Helen May Littlepage, born November, 13, 1852 would live only eight months; her birth dangerously weakened 42 year-old Caroline. Helen May would be their last.1

When Rose’s diary opens 1 January, 1853 she writes, “The dear little baby is improving slowly.” It takes her a week before she writes of Caroline, “Only Ma has been quite sick in bed.” On January 12th Rose notes, “Ma has been very sick all day, confined to her bed.”

On the 14th,

“I am still acting in the capacity of housekeeper, Ma still confined to her bed and hasn’t been out for a week. Oh! I shall be happy when she regains her health. I had always so much rather be sick myself than see Ma suffer. I am determined she shan’t take charge of the key basket again until spring, even if her health is entirely restored.”

On the 22nd of January Rose records, “Ma still confined to her bed. I don’t believe she has been out of it for three weeks.”

The following week, in addition to her son Dr. Junius, the family sends for both Dr. Tebbs and Dr. Lewis.2 The following week Caroline is, “very much improved.” From then on she begins to take up housekeeping again. It had taken her three months to recover; she was lucky. Attention was then turned fully to Helen, who she usually mentioned as “dear little baby.”

By April 8th Rose writes,

“I hope the dear little baby will be at rest soon, either in Heaven, or on earth. She has been very sick for more than a week, and suffers more than any little thing I ever saw in my life. Brother doesn’t think it is an organic disease she has.”

Rose enters for the 16th, “Ma doesn’t think the dear little one can possibly live much longer. She has been so much worse today, that Ma had her shroud fixed.”

At the end of May she writes, “The dear little baby is worst than she was yesterday. She has had a burning fever all night. We sat up with her til nearly twelve.” Two weeks later, “The dear little baby stands at one thing and has done for the last six months.”

On 30 June Rose confides, “The dear little baby is no better than she was yesterday. She is the most patient little creature on earth. I know she has been less trouble than any child ever was, altho’ she has been sick ever since she was born.” Later that evening the suffering was over. Officially the cause of death was dropsy.

Rose further writes in the entry for that day,

“Grief and joy, hope and fears, tears and smiles, pain and pleasure are all twins, paired together at a birth, children of the same mother, and linked together throughout the whole world of humanity. No lot, no country, no climate, no scene, no condition, may claim the enjoyment of the one without the rebuking companionship of the other.” 3

  1. Helen May’s death was recorded at the courthouse in the newly kept Register of Deaths. Her date of birth is only found in Rose’s diary on its anniversary a year later.  (back)
  2. Pa also wants to send for “old” Dr. DuVal or Gregg.  (back)
  3. Rose often copied into her diary. This time she did without attribution. However, these lines were taken from the opening of “Gleams After Glooms; or “Joy Cometh in the Morning.”” by “A Southron,” published in the Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. XIX, No. 5, May, 1853, page 267. Unintentionally these words seem a testament to Rose’s life as well.  (back)