Sunday, September 25, 2016

Death Comes Far Too Soon – Robert King Salyers, 1880-1897

Sarah Eva Howe's scrapbooks are brimming with stories about her teen years, which for the most part seemed carefree and full of fun. The mood took a dramatic change when she wrote about August 1897. On the 28th day of that month, about two weeks after Sarah celebrated her 14th birthday, she and the entire community of Carrollton, Kentucky, were shocked at the death of a vibrant and popular 16-year-old. His name was Robert King Salyers.

Unidentified picture thought to be of Robert King Salyers
Sarah remarks in her writing that while she didn't know "Bob" well, she was deeply affected by the death of someone so close to her age. She was better acquainted with Bob's father, Charles David Salyers, because she was often sent to his tin and stove shop on errands for her family. She also knew Bob's older brother William Levi "Will" Salyers and his mother Katherine "Kate" King Salyers. Perhaps she saw them more often at the shop.

Sometime after 1915, Sarah wrote the following journal entry in a scrapbook, telling her four children about their late Uncle Bob and the impact of Bob's death on their father, Bob's brother Will.

Will Salyers, your dad, began going frequently to Madison this year ('98) – having just about parted from his flame of the year before (as well as with Nell Hafford, Ella Hampton, both former flames). Soon he and Neal Deucese, who became a bosom friend, were spending so much time in Madison, it was a wonder he ever attended to his father's business (as indeed he often didn't).
Bob, too, had several dear girl friends, especially Migie, Effie, and Grace, all neighbors. . . . but he also had a "sweetheart" Millie Chambers, in Warsaw, that he used to go to see. He was a wonderful boy, and wonderful looking, weighed 180 that summer, and was about six feet tall. Everybody loved him, boys as well as girls, but no one more than his brother Will, just two years older. 

During the spring, during a meeting at the Christian church, Bob joined the church and was baptized, but Will didn't want to go in with him, as he [Bob] wished. (I suppose Will thought it might curtail some of those Madison trips.) Bob had several attacks of what was called "indigestion" or "stomach ache." John Claborne said afterwards he had seen Bob bend double with pain at times, but go right on.

In early August the real attack of appendicitis, an almost unknown disease in Carrollton at the time, came suddenly. Will was out of town – I never had the straight of it, but I believe his father got after him for staying all night (with Neal, I suppose) in Madison after a dance, and not showing up until late the next day. Will was so hurt he went down to his Uncle Will Salyers in Middlesboro without telling his father, but wrote back to him he had decided to stay down there and work for his Uncle Will awhile. Of course it caused family commotion, but Bob upheld Will and packed a trunk of his clothes to send Will. It was ready to send when the attack came. Dr. Frank came from Louisville and operated right at the house, on the kitchen table, but they had waited too long to call him, so there was no chance for him at all to recover. They sent for Will, and he came right away. Bob had kept calling for him in his delirium, but Will never knew whether he recognized him or not – he got there just before he died. It was a terrible blow to Mr. Salyers, and to Will – one from which they never really recovered.
Will Salyers is on the right. The other two men are not identified. However, facial features and height cause me to think that the man on the left may be Will's brother Robert King Salyers. I know such guesses are not accepted genealogical practice, but I hope you will  join me in hoping I am right.

(Below) The obituary published in the Carrollton Democrat confirms the popularity 
of 16-year old Robert King Salyers
 Sarah's commentary continued:
We went to the funeral – everybody went. It was held at the home; the house next door had not been built then and the great crowd of boy and girl friends sat out in the beautiful spacious yard.

People said it would "sober Will down," but it had the opposite effect. He hid his bitter grief down in his heart and was gayer than ever, going to parties again as fall came on – but not so much to Madison; he began going with Stella Stucy, at Ghent, and he stayed with his father faithfully at the store, and really began to be interested in the business. Bob had been learning to "service" the bicycles that everyone was buying and riding; so Will took up that task as his own and that, my children, marked the second link in the chain that began to faintly be shaped between us.
The first link in that chain was forged when Will treated Sarah to a soda. Coming soon: How Sarah's bicycle became a catalyst to romance.

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