Copyright © Lonesome Historic Site. All rights reserved.
Elizabeth Green Austin
(died September 3, 1855 )
Dicy Jane Austin
(died August 29, 1855 )
Emeline Minerva Austin
(died August 27, 1855 )
My name is Elizabeth Green Austin. I lie here alongside my two younger sisters Dicy and Minerva. Our parents were William and Dicy Austin, and we grew up in the cabin called Lonesome, just behind you in the park, on the banks of Beaverdam Creek in Burns, Tennessee. Our parents were among the pioneer families that settled this region around 1808. There were ten of us children. Like so many families, our parents had lost two young children early in their marriage.
Life on our farm wasn’t easy, but we had faith in God and worked hard. Papa and Mama had helped to found the first Methodist church in our area, so the church was a big part of our lives. I was the oldest daughter, so I helped Mama with the younger children and in the house and garden. There was always a lot to do: cleaning, cooking, washing, sewing, candle-making and putting up food for the winter. At the end of a long day, Papa led us in devotions and Bible readings after supper. Then we climbed the twisting stairs to our attic bedroom.
As we reached our late teens, Dicy, Minerva and I were permitted talk with the local boys after church, chaperoned by one of our older brothers. Naturally, we were thinking of marrying and having homes and families of our own. Then, in the hot summer of 1855, came an outbreak of dreaded typhoid fever, “delirium fever” some called it. Many of our neighbors were struck down by the contagion. In early August Minerva fell ill of the fever, then Dicy a few days later. Mama and I nursed them and kept the younger ones, especially 11-year-old Zenie, away. Their fever was terrible, and we tried to keep it down by bathing them with cool water. The high fever made them delirious, and their cries and moans were pitiful to hear. Then I fell ill too, and Mama was distraught and exhausted with care and worry. Papa sometimes stood in the door and read to us from the Bible to calm us.
On Monday, August 27th, Minerva slipped into the hands of the Lord at the age of 19. Two days later, on Wednesday, Dicy passed at 21 years of age. Papa, always strong in his faith, said only “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” and added the dates to his Bible, but Mama wept and could not be consoled. A few days later, my delirium passed, and I was able to make my peace with God before I died on Monday, September 3rd, exactly one week after Minerva. I was 26.
Because of the contagion, we were all buried in our family cemetery in haste, with only large stones to mark our resting places.