It’s interesting to read old newspapers. You never know what tidbits of information you will find that brings history to life. Even if the article has to do with death.
Take this one that appeared in the front page of the May 2, 1884 issue of The Clare County Press about the death of Rebecca Rulapaugh. I ran across the article while doing some research on another topic, and the headline and subhead made me want to read it.
Sudden Demise of Mrs. Rebecca Rulapaugh at the Dinner Table Tuesday.
In the Best of Health one Minute and the next a Corpse.
Mrs. Rebecca Rulapaugh wife of John Rulapaugh who lives north of Clare, died very suddenly on Tuesday. The family had just taken their seats at the table for their midday meal when the wife and mother fell from her chair to the floor. Her husband immediately went to her assistance and she was placed upon a bed but she expired almost as soon as she was laid down. The deceased had been feeling as well as usual Tuesday morning and she was subject to no trouble that the family knew of. Her sudden death was a great shock to her family and friends. She was 57 years of age and leaves behind a husband and seven children to bear the loss…
When I first read the piece my first reaction was one of laughing at the headline. However, one would expect Rebecca’s death would have devastated her husband and the entire family. After all, Rebecca was only 56 and had been in the best of health-or so it appeared. We have no other information on the cause of death but do know that Rebecca was buried in Woods cemetery in Clare County thanks to information posted on “Find a Grave” by someone with the username of twkistle. Her husband John would join her in death two years later at age 64. Whether his wife’s death was a factor in John’s passing, we do not know.
What did John and the family think when they read that article? Were they horrified at the wording? Or was this just considered the norm a century or more ago. Maybe the Rulapaugh’s didn’t have the time, money or desire to read the paper, and so never saw the article. This is not the first time I’ve run across articles that have seemed to sensationalize a death (if, in fact, this is what the editors intended) Yet, I wonder what was the goal of using those headlines and subheads and did they regret their decision later. We will never know. However, is does make me wonder, what were they thinking?