The migraine

The Chester Historical Society has been gifted Bud Nadeau’s collection of Bartonsville diaries and photos. The diaries date from 1884 to 1915. While not a complete run, it is substantial.

I’ve had migraine headaches for years. The pounding headache and vomiting makes you deathly sick. This can last for days. Noise becomes amplified, and light is a killer. Sometimes I lay in bed for 48 hours or more unable to perform basic tasks.

I mention migraines because of what I found in Flora Parker’s 1904 Bartonsville diary. Evidently, the term migraine wasn’t in use in her day. She refers to them as “The headache.” Flora had a migraine almost every week, month after month, year after year. I sympathized with her as I read her diary entries.

To familiarize you with some of the players in this article: Dr. Ray lived in Chester in the brick house near the entrance of Chester Elementary School. “Chas” is an abbreviation of Charles. Charles Parker was Flora’s husband. Mary is Flora’s sister. Below is taken from a 1904 diary kept by Flora Liddle Parker of Upper Bartonsville.

migraine
Little Flora. Photo provided by Bud Nadeau.

The headache

“Jan 30, 1904 My head aches. Flora here this P.M. Have been down to Mary’s house. Am tired and sick to-night. Dr. Ray called on Mary.”

“January 31, 1904: Have been sick with my headache and vomiting. Chas at Aunt Mary’s and got the things.”

“Feb 1, 1904 Headache. Have been sick all day. Frank Parker and Mary Clayton here.”

“Feb 2, 1904 Chas has gone to Chester. Pa here. This has been a mean day. Chas worked at the shop this evening. Baby Gallup born.”

Two days later. “Feb 4, 1904 Have washed. Sent plugs to Flint. My head aches. Mary here this P.M.”

You can see how often she had the headache. She had five headache days in six days. I can only imagine the suffering she endured. Dr. Ray was there almost weekly, sometimes twice a week. One entry in her diary: “Dr. Ray left some tablets.” These had to be a narcotic like laudanum. My experience in taking pills is that it’s impossible to keep them down long enough for them to work.

I went and saw Leon Parker the other day. Charles Parker mentioned above was Leon’s grandfather. However, Flora is not Leon’s grandmother. When Flora died, Charles married Ada Pollard. Ada is Leon’s grandmother. Leon grew up hearing stories about Flora. Leon told me she was frail, sickly, and weak all her life. She died at age 47 in 1915.

Leon’s grandfather Charles ran a sawmill in Upper Bartonsville. At one time, Charles had a violin factory in Brockway Mills. Today his violins are highly collectible. In Lyman Hayes 1907 “History of Rockingham” I found this listing: “Charles Parker Saw-Mill and Wood-Working.”

Helen Liddle

Flora had another sister, Helen. Helen married Adin Pollard and lived in Bartonsville. They had a daughter Flora who the family called Little Flora. A son, Carroll, died at about 3 years old.

Little Flora

In Flora Parker’s 1904 diary are numerous entries mentioning Little Flora. All of the diary entries in this article span a period of about three weeks.

“Feb 17, 1904 Flora sick. Had the doctor. Cut my green waist. Chas at Chester got some wrappers. Mr. and Mrs. Kendall here this evening.”

“Feb 18, 1904 Helen and I down home. I went on and saw Flora. She is sick in bed.”

“Feb 20, 1904 Flora is a bit better to-day.”

“Feb 21, 1904 Flora is awful sick and afraid she will not get well.”

“Feb 22, 1904 Flora is no better. O how sorry I am! Walter here. Dr. Ray here. Frank here. Mary Clayton here.”

“Feb 23, 1904 Dear little Flora died this morning at 1:23.”

“Feb 24, 1904 Sent to Keene for flowers. Mary Clayton here. Chas at Chester. Got the flowers. Walter here.”

These diaries offer us a rare glimpse of life 100-plus years ago.

Here is a little more. Helen died March 30, 1897. Little Flora now finds herself living alone with her father. Her father worked six days a week while struggling to raise a young child. As a result, Little Flora spent much of her time with Charles and Flora. Little Flora was almost 9 years old when she died. These family members are buried in the Meetinghouse Cemetery in Rockingham.

Danny Clemons and Leon Parker provided me with information for this article.

This week’s old saying was said to me years ago by a lady friend. I approached her and said, “Did you miss me?” Her reply, “Like a migraine.”

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