Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Dead and Beautiful Rest (Cont.): Platypus Travels Part LXXII

Poor Josiah Shelton has proved a bit of a puzzle for me in recent days. The only note I can find on him exists in The Families of James Shelton of McMinn County, Tennessee and his Father Roderick Shelton Buncombe County, North Carolina and their Antecedents by Arthur Paul Shelton. Arthur Paul Shelton lists Josiah Shelton as the son of Samuel Shelton and Abigail Nichols Shelton and says that he was rumored to be a Revolutionary War veteran (interesting because the Sheltons of Ripton were Loyalists who refused to take up arms for either side). It gives his deathdate as 19 March 1777, cause of death as Smallpox, and says that he was buried in Southford (which now seems to be a part of Southbury and very close to Josiah's place of residence in Ripton which is now called Shelton). The stone in the picture, however, resides at Long Hill Burial Ground in Shelton CT. The stone itself makes no bones about the fact that it is a grave marker and not a memorial tablet: here lies the body.

Not only the location of his body, but the date of his death is also interesting. The colonial army saw action in nearby Danbury Connecticut in April of 1777. According to Elizabeth A. Fenn's Pox Americana, the American troops in action near Danbury were exposed to Variola and infect the towns of Southington and Middletown in central Connecticut. All of this happened a month after Josiah's death. If his deathdate on the stone was in April or May, I would have assumed that he contracted the disease in the action around Danbury and died in Southington which ended up being confused with Southford (about 20 miles away by road). There is more tantalizing information on the other side of March. Fenn also notes that in February of 1777 Governor Trumbull set up a system of inspection and quarantine for troops returning from the failed attack on Quebec where Smallpox had ravaged the army (Benedict Arnold of New Haven Connecticut was one of the commanders of the ill fated attack and he was accompanied by members of the Welles and Nichols family that had branches in Josiah Shelton's hometown of Ripton). It takes about a month to die from Variola, so the question is: was Josiah Shelton one of Benedict Arnold's troops who died under quarantine at an unspecified location or did he contract the disease in camp from returning soldiers who escaped inspection and quarantine? The saddest part of the story is that Connecticut troops began to be inoculated en mass in the summer months of 1777. Fenn quotes Revolutionary War veteran Joseph Plumb Martin that he was inoculated along with four hundred Connecticut troops, all of who survived the process. Had Josiah remained uninfected for another month or two he could have been immunized courtesy of Uncle Sam.

Alas, How easily things go wrong!
A sigh too much, or a kiss too long.
And there follows a mist and a weeping rain,
And life is never the same again.
-George MacDonald, Phantastes

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