Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Our Implicit Confidence,
Our Affectionate Regard


On the morning of December 24—Christmas Eve—Joseph Ijams must have taken abrupt leave of his family. That, at least, is how the Knoxville Daily Chronicle portrayed that most permanent of departures in a full column's length report of his 1882 funeral service a few days later.

The Knox County death register noted, in its hurried scrawl, that Joseph Ijams had succumbed to "cong. brain"—possibly referring to the malady of "congestion," the accumulation of fluid surrounding a specific body part. During that time period, "cerebral congestion" was considered a cause of apoplexy, indicating that, while the onset of a stroke may have felled the man quickly, the likely hypertension bringing on the finality of that diagnosis may have been a longstanding symptom.

How difficult it must have been for his wife Mary to receive such news. The sudden widow of the family's five remaining children was mother to a six month old infant, with the oldest barely a teenager. The kind words spoken in the funeral may have been encouraging—the eulogy was delivered by Knoxville judge John L. Moses to a large assembly of community members and students of the school which Joseph Ijams had come to Knoxville to oversee—but no matter how beautifully the choir sang, or the school's chapel was decorated, grief seldom lifts so simply.

The eulogy offered by the judge provides us ample opportunity to piece together Joseph's life—it is from this column that I borrowed the details for yesterday's post—and to learn how capably he discharged his current duties at the institution where he served. A remark Joseph was quoted as saying does have staying power: "Remember...every single thought you impress upon the mind of one of these children will form part of a bridge over a great gulf." Joseph saw his duty not merely as an occupation, but as a mission.

Indeed, news of his death reached as far as Boston, where it was mentioned on December 26 (page 3, column 3) in the Boston Evening Transcript

Likely, his passing was noted back at Iowa City as well as Washington, D. C., where he had had professional affiliations. Despite the respect Joseph Ijams commanded, or the accolades heaped upon his memory, though, there was one thing that puzzled me as I searched for more information on his life: a document drawn up almost a year after his death, filed with the Clerk of the Court in Knox County.

I, as Administrator of the Estate of J. H. Ijams, deceased, do hereby suggest the Insolvency of the Estate of said J. H. Ijams, deceased.

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