On Wednesday, April 21, 1915, Charles W Brewer kissed his wife goodbye and set off to work. Just another day at the gold mill, except this day changes the course of his and his little family’s life forever.
Charles was born August 28, 1866 in Linn or Chariton County, Missouri to Henry J and Narcissa S Cornett (Barbee) Brewer. It was the second marriage for both of them. Charles’ father was 50 when he was born, his mother was 43. Both Henry and Narcissa each had 6 children in their previous marriages. The oldest children were grown and on their own by the time Charles was born; only one of Henry’s daughters, Milbery Susan Ann was still at home, she was 13.
The 1870 Census shows Henry, Narcissa and Charles living in close proximity to Charles’ half brothers and their families, William J, Jessie H, and Francis M Brewer, and William F. Barbee. All are farmers in Chariton County, MO.
Henry passed away in March of 1885 when Charles was 18. The following year, in February, Charles married the widowed Lucinda Jane “Lucy” Gee (Baise). She had one son, William.
Blessings abounded with the birth of their children. Henry Otis,one year later in 1887; in 1892, Lillian May; and in 1899, a son Charles Frederick (Fred). Charles worked as a coal miner, according to the 1900 Census.
In 1901 the family emigrated to Colorado and settled in Colorado Springs. Charles found work in the gold mills. He worked at the Portland Mill in 1905 and the Golden Cycle Mill in 1908.
Two informative and interesting articles regarding Golden Cycle Mill and it’s significance to the history of the area are:
Rocky Shockley’s Exploring the lesser known Pikes Peak Region
and the Gazette newspaper:
In 1909, Charles and Lucy purchased a house at 316 S. Institute Street. Amazingly, this house, built in 1901, is still standing. According to county records it has undergone at least 1 renovation in 1925 and 1 addition in 2005. It is just blocks from Prospect Lake, a favorite fishing hole for their son, Otis. I imagine he and Charles spent quality time there.
On Wednesday, April 21, 1915, maybe at work or maybe working around the house Charles got a sliver in his hand. Was it wood or metal? Were there other injuries to go along with it? We will never know. With the sliver, deadly bacteria entered Charles bloodstream, setting off a septic infection. Perhaps years of working at the mill had compromised his health, as indicated on his death certificate, he had suffered from Blight’s Disease (kidney aliments)for about 1 year. Did this contribute to his inability to fight off the infection?
By May 7th, Charles realized he needed to see a doctor. But penicillin was not discovered until 1928 and the prevailing medical treatments of the day were not able to save him. At 8:05 P.M. on Tuesday, May 16, 1915, he passed away at his home. He was 48 years old.
At his deathbed was his family: Lucy – 51, Otis -28, Lillian, now married – 23 and Fred -15. Fred’s 16th birthday was just 5 days away on the 21st.
After his death, Lucy and Fred returned to Missouri and she married Richard M. Buchanan in 1918. The US entered World War I in April of 1917 and both Otis and Fred joined the army in 1918. Otis served in France and Germany and returned to Colorado in 1919. Fred contracted the Spanish Flu and died while at boot camp in West Virginia in October of 1918, he was 19 years old. The family buried him next to Charles in Evergreen Cemetery. Lillian remained in Colorado Springs with her husband Miles Bright.
My granddad, Otis, told the story of his father’s death in a matter of fact manner, “he got a sliver and died of blood poisoning” without too much more elaboration. The date and emotional details remained in his heart. Obtaining Charles’ death certificate from the State of Colorado and searching city directories and county records provided clues to the whereabouts and goings on of the family as well as pinpointing the exact date of his death. I noticed on the tombstone his birth year is 1865 and the death certificate states 1866. Another mystery to unravel!
What is the saying about “an ounce of prevention”? One wonders if a simple pair of work gloves would have fostered happier memories.