Of Smothering in the Most Beauteous of Counties

Upon doing some light Sunday evening reading in the 1850 U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedule, I was delighted to discover this little gem about my home county, Cherokee County, GA.

These notes are written by the census taker beneath the schedule of people who died between June 1,1849 and June 1, 1850:

1850 U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedule Cherokee County GA p3

Transcription: There has been no prevalent malady this season. In a word, this county has ever been remarkably healthy. The water generally is free – some of the purest character. In the western and northern part, there are limestone springs, the water however is pure. Also a good many mineral springs. As to the natural growth of timber, black – post – white – turkey – red and Spanish oak.

1850 U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedule Cherokee County GA p2

Transcription: Hickory – black and white walnut – chestnut – sassafras – a species of magnolia – poplar – yellow pine – black gum – sweet-gum – mulberry – elm and the commons. As for fertilizers, lime and marl in abundance. There are a number of gold-mines both vein and deposit in different parts of the county. There is almost an infinite quantity of iron ore of different kinds of the best character. There is in the

Cherokee County GA Census Mortality Schedule 1850

Transcription: northern part of the county mountains of marble of various kind and character, enough to supply the world. There are a great many other minerals of rich and varied sort which could not be detailed here – as a mere list of them would be too voluminous for a schedule of this kind.

I love this. Who wouldn’t want to live in that place? Nobody’s sick, the minerals are too abundant to list and there are gold-mines! I love how he underlined “gold-mines” as if to emphasize “Come live here now, people. Do business here. Too bad this guy is long dead – we need him for Cherokee County’s PR! (Can you imagine? “There are workers who don’t expect anything resembling basic human decency fro their corporate overlords. And we have a lake now!”)

I was less delighted to find listed in this same document and county, 2 little enslaved girls, dead at ages 1 month and 8 months. Cause of death: “Smothered.”

Another infant and toddler died of worms, the charms of which went noticeably unmentioned in the list of our county’s assets.

Those causes of death are terrible, but I’m not trying to turn this into a negative post. I think one thing that has always drawn me to the study of history is it’s tendency to pet your hair and then kick you in the teeth. It’s a beautiful, maddening way of life. Which is just the way I like my ways of life.

On that note…

Happy Detecting!


2 thoughts on “Of Smothering in the Most Beauteous of Counties”

  1. What a find! I’ve never ‘seen the like,’ as old people once said. Or perhaps I’ve overlooked any such comments on my hastily read censuses. I like to think that the Georgia enumerator was also a family historian, recognizing the potential of the census. Thanks for sharing!


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