Family Connection to TB

Day 3 of our exploration of sanatoriums and consumption. For some reason this topic has really grabbed my attention. Today we’ll move to the United States but it’s where I have a family connection. My first cousin 3X removed Kathleen Jane Millar Crane died of Intestinal & Pulmonary Tuberculosis in Rutland, Massachusetts on 29 Mar 1908. Her death certificate notes that “Disease contracted at Boston”. For none-genealogists or if that relationship seems distant, think of it this way: she was my great-grandfather’s first cousin.

Kathleen was born on 15 Sep 1878 in Collingwood, Ontario, the daughter of my great-grandfather’s uncle, James Kane Millar and his wife Jean Todd. She was raised in the Windsor area with 3 sisters, one of whom died young. She worked as teacher in the Essex area and there are records of her associated with S.S. Number 11. At some point, I don’t know when exactly, she contracted TB and became a patient at the Massachusetts State Sanatorium in Rutland, Massachusetts. Her doctor of record on the death certificate, David P. Butler, says he treated her from April 20, 1907 to March 29, 1908.

Why a sanatorium in the US and not Canada? I don’t know. Her elder sister Lillian lived in Michigan and perhaps she went to her for help when she first got ill. Their mother and father still lived in Windsor but records show that Jean was ill with a long-term stomach issue and died the same year as Kathleen. The Muskoka Cottage Hospital, opened in 1897, would have been an option but it was pricey. The Muskoka Free Hospital for Consumptives opened in 1902, followed by the Toronto Free Hospital for Consumptives in 1904 and Kathleen could have accessed these facilities. So how she ended up in Massachusetts is a bit of a mystery.

What I do know was that Kathleen was in Canada in 1901 for the census and was working as a teacher when the enumerator collected her information on April 26th or 27th. The Essex Free Press noted in July 1906 that Miss Millar had put up five pupils for entrance exams and four had passed, including two who were only 11 years old. But by March 29, 1908 she was dead at the Massachusetts State Sanatorium aged 29 years, 6 months and 14 days. I haven’t figured out the whole “Disease contracted at Boston” part yet, though a clue on her 1907 marriage certificate might illuminate the situation – her occupation is “nurse”. So, if the record is correct, sometime between 1906 and 1907 she switched careers and became a nurse. However, I suspect this is unlikely since as late as the summer of 1906 she was still working as a teacher.

As hinted above with the reference to marriage, Kathleen’s life was not without romance, even as she suffered from consumption. She met a physician, Dr. Bayard T. Crane, a leading expert in the fight against TB while at the sanatorium. A newspaper report says it was “love at first sight”. The couple were married on Christmas Day 1907. Given his expertise in the field and the fact the Massachusetts State Sanatorium was generally for cases of tuberculosis which were considered to be early or less severe and more treatable than more advanced cases, I’m sure both had high hopes that Kathleen would recover. Sadly, like so many thousands of others, she succumbed to the white plague and tragically only lived for three more months. She is buried at the Wyoming Cemetery in Rutland, Massachusetts, USA.

Dr. Bayard Taylor Crane graduated from the Harvard Medical School in 1901. He interned for one year at the Rhode Island General Hospital and then served as an intern at the Boston City Hospital for two years from July 1902 to July 1904. Perhaps this is the Boston connection to Kathleen but I have no documentation to prove this. From 1904 until 1908, and Kathleen’s death, he worked at the Massachusetts State Sanatorium and then became the Superintendent of the Maryland State Sanatorium for Tuberculosis. He has been described as “A hard, indefatigable worker with a broad vision, he became a pioneer in the steadily increasing knowledge of tuberculosis and how to combat its ravages.”

Dr. Crane founded a sanatorium of his own which became the Central New England Sanatorium. Bayard did marry again in 1914, another Canadian, a nurse from Fort William, Ontario named Mary Louise Campbell Morse and the couple had a son, Bayard T. Crane Jr.. Connected or not, I note that Bayard Jr. named his first daughter Kathleen.

The Rutland State Sanatorium opened its doors on October 3, 1898 as the Massachusetts Hospital for Consumptives and Tubercular Patients, changing its name to Massachusetts State Sanatorium in 1900, then to Rutland State Sanatorium in 1919, Rutland Hospital in 1963 and finally Rutland Heights State Hospital in 1965 as it shifted away from a focus on TB and started to include other chronic care programs. It wasn’t the first sanatorium in the US but it was the first state-operated facility. It was in operation until November 1991 and was demolished in 2004.

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