The 1900 federal census told me that Carrie was still living at home with her parents, five of her siblings, and her niece (my great grandmother); it also told me that she was 25, single and did not have an occupation. When I moved on to the 1910 census for the family unit, I was not surprised to see her absent; I just chalked it up to yet another female relative lost to marriage. Oh, but wait…the 1910 census for a neighboring county lists a Carrie A Wetzel who is 35, single and without an occupation. Could this be my ancestor…an inmate at the State Hospital for the Insane? Whoa, what did I miss?
A federal census record for a woman with a similar name does not prove that she is one of mine so I had to just sit on this for a spell. When Pennsylvania made death records for certain years available as public records at the beginning of 2012 the first this I did was to go through the death index year by year looking for any listing for a Carrie Wetzel. There she was, or so I hoped, in that same neighboring county of Montour just six short years later. The two and a half hour drive to the State Archives seemed to take forever…I just wanted to get there and see this death certificate (along with a few others).
Carrie A Wetzel…yeah, yeah, yeah…parents…Henry and Catherine Wetzel of Trevorton. It was her! Cause of death, phthisis pulmonalis; contributory cause, epilepsy…she was Epileptic. But why was she in the State Hospital? Examining the death certificate further for any additional clues, I saw that she resided at the institution for 12 yrs, 3 mos, 6 ds; this meant that she has been there since August 17, 1904. Ah, now it is becoming clearer. Her mother passed away in February of 1904. Her mother must have been the caretaker and after her passing, the family may not have been able to provide adequate care. I like to think that they made a go at it since Carrie remained at home for another six months. I don’t know if a decline in her health or the fact that all of the adults in the house were working the mines which kept them out of the house for much of the day but it must have been a very difficult and painful decision for all. Thankfully, Carrie’s death certificate also provided her place of burial, which was unknown to this point; now the family can visit this woman whose final years were so tragic.