When last we were together, dear readers, I left you with the question “What happened to Henrietta?”
In 1880 we find Henrietta Hall in Holland, Orleans County, Vermont, a town bordering Quebec. The population of Holland Township was just over 900 then. There were 8 schools in the district with 365 pupils. There were 10 teachers, 9 women and 1 man. Their salaries totaled $716 and the entire school budget was just over $900. One church, The Methodist Episcopal Church was in the Village of Holland. There was a Congregational Church in West Holland Village and a post office. 
Henrietta lived with her husband Albert, her three children, Leslie Joseph, 7, Lillian 9 and Harriet just 4 and 1/2 months. Albert was a dairy farmer and the local Justice of the Peace. He owned 13 cows. He’s listed in the business directory for Holland in 1883-1884. Also living with them was Henrietta’s 70 year old widowed mother-in-law, Mercy Hall. The Hall family was an old family in Holland. In fact, Mercy’s father in law was one of the founders of the town in the early part of the 19th century, coming from Bartlett, NH with two brothers. And Mercy’s husband, Joseph, my GGGgrandfather, was likely one of the first babies born there.
Not far from Albert and Henrietta, lived Albert’s brothers and Henrietta’s parents, Solomon and Susan Ames Davis and Henrietta’s 4 younger siblings. Solomon Davis was from Quebec, but his wife was born in Sudbury, MA as was Henrietta. Solomon and Susan Ames Davis are both buried in Wadsworth Cemetery near my grandfather and grandmother back in Sudbury, MA. I never knew they were there, or who they really were until I started this journey. And they’ve been there 100 years now.
As I said earlier, the 1890 census were all destroyed so I was unable to locate Albert in 1890. However, as you may have suspected, when Rick and I were at the library, we found a death record for Henrietta. It said she died on February 25, 1887, at the age of 38, in the Vermont Asylum. The cause of her death: Exhaustion.
I was devastated when I saw that. So young, and with small children at home. And I wonder what must her parents, Solomon and Susan have been feeling, watching their oldest daughter being taken from home, in who knows what kind of a state. Maybe the kids were crying. Or, maybe they were relieved. We don't know what her state of mind was or how she was behaving. I have heard that in those days they would label women insane just because they were artistic. Perhaps Susan and Solomon brought her there, or maybe Albert did. I really don’t know any of that yet. But I'd like to find it all out.
And so, I have been trying to flesh out this story and learn about the Asylum, which is still there, although it is referred to as the Brattleboro Retreat. I have been in touch with a woman, Marge How, who researched the burial grounds on the Asylum property, but Henrietta is not buried there. Nor is she resting with her parents in Sudbury. Online there is a photo of a burial basket they used for the patients. I wonder if Henrietta was laid to rest in one of those. Click on the link see a photo of the Burial Baskets at Vermont Asylum Marge Howe's web site
I found a publication online entitled Vermont State Officer’s Report 1887-1888. God bless the bureaucrats, because it’s loaded with information. In this publication it details the numbers in the Asylum and who they were, if they were on the State rolls. It tells how long they have been there and what their status was with regard to the financial accounting. Henrietta was there for about a year and a half and her status was that of “pauper”. The Asylum was paid $1.25 per week by the state toward her treatment which had a total cost of $3.75 per week.
It’s hard to imagine what one would receive as room and board and treatment at those prices back then. In need of a new sewage plant that year, one imagines the stench was probably overpowering, especially in the summer. The heating systems were to be replaced in the year following the report, so I am sure it was bitterly cold there in the winters in Vermont.
Henrietta, a young woman in her thirties with a large support system of family back in Holland and a husband and 3 children must have been in pretty bad shape to be sent there. Her status as “pauper” seems to be strictly a matter of whether or not her town and family were capable of paying her $3.75 per week. Evidently, 13 cows just weren’t enough.
And how curious to die of ‘exhaustion’. I know I have been exhausted from time to time-especially when I was rearing my kids and holding down a job. Perhaps Albert was a particularly difficult husband? Maybe life on the farm was too much for her. Henrietta wasn’t alone in her suffering. Twelve women and 9 men died that year in the Vermont Asylum of Chronic Exhaustion.
“Mental derangement unquestionably results in very many cases from the practice of no vices, but from the gradual exhaustion of the nervous energies in the line of injudicious and excessive mental or bodily work, and inattention to the requirement of periodical rest—particularly of regular sleep.”
461 patients lived in the asylum while Henrietta was there and the facility was designed to hold only 300 patients. In an attempt to alleviate some of the overcrowding, they released back to their communities 109 of the more “harmless but incurable” patients. However, taking the places of these more manageable patients were patients who were “more noisy, destructive and unmanageable. It just doesn’t seem to me a good place for someone who is exhausted!
|Leslie J, Henrietta's middle child and my Great Grandfather. Age 12 when she went to Brattleboro|
|Lillian Hall Goodnow, Age 15 when Henrietta went to Brattleboro. Married Howard Goodnow from Sudbury|
|Hattie (Harriet) Hall Alnor The only photo I have of Hattie is from a 1923 Passport application I found online. She was just 6 when Henrietta was committed.|
This genealogy hobby is sometimes surprisingly serendipitous, and maybe it’s more than that. However, there are times when I think other ‘things’ might be at play. This morning while I was writing this, I sent a telepathic message of sorts to Henrietta. I asked her to send me some kind of sign directing me toward her story. And I swear to you that within an hour I received an email from a woman at the State Archives in VT. I had requested a copy of Henrietta’s death record some weeks ago. When Rick and I found the record in Boston some 15 years ago I never made a copy of it and I have been kicking myself all these years. Now, I suppose it’s just coincidence, but this woman who works for the State wrote to me on a Saturday morning, kind of crazy by itself, but she enclosed a copy of that same card. And also a copy of another record as Henrietta’s death was recorded in Brattleboro as well as Barton, VT. The woman at the Secretary of State’s office said that means she probably last lived in Barton. So, now I have to go find out why she was in Barton, if Albert was still in Holland!
As I continue my hunt for Henrietta and everyone else in my tree, I hope to share with you more about the hunt and the treasures I find along the way. I know there is a trip to Vermont in my future. I will be sure to take you all there with me!
Thanks for reading!