Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Regular Chicago Luck

In a letter with the original intent of offering condolences to a widow friend of his mother, Benedict Desmond wanders from eulogizing the man now gone to discussing various other family members. Catherine Tully, the recipient of this 1907 letter, had a son—William—who also had been struggling with health issues.

Thinking that perhaps the “white plague” may have been the cause of William’s demise—for Catherine’s son died only a few years after his father did—I took the time to look up his death certificate. It seems half of Chicago had fallen to such dreadful communicable diseases during this era. At least, that is what Ben’s letter seems to imply.  But no, Catherine’s son suffered from heart issues, not tuberculosis. Perhaps this sweep of ill health that affected the family was just one of those cases that hit families in the deep of winter.

As we’ll see when we continue the letter tomorrow, this young writer was not merely being socially conscious in inquiring about the health of all the family. Ben Desmond must have taken on the designation of godfather for William and Mary Balfe Tully’s daughter Agnes. The birth of “Babe” in 1904 also gives us an idea of how long this correspondent has known the family, and how close he had become to them.

            I’m sure that Mr. Tully’s death was a case of “the good and faithful servant” called by his Divine Master to “the joys of eternal life.” The little I saw of him was enough to assure me of this fact. He was such an upright, honest, self-sacrificing man of duty, so very different from the average “blue-coat” of Chicago; and what struck me very much, was his devotedness to you and the other members of the family. Well, you can be sure that God has already rewarded him for the many good works that filled his life.
            I hear that Willie is sick. That is regular Chicago luck. I hope Mary and the baby are correspondingly better.


  1. A beautiful sympathy statement..he must have known the family quite well:)

  2. I still sense a "hidden network" of support for "father-less" children underlying so many of these letters. It wouldn't surprise me if Agnes' church had an "orphan's support" group of some sort back around 1880-1910...


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