You can find many references in online family trees to Daniel Dill’s supposed death in 1843. I don’t know where that date came from, because it’s wrong. Daniel Dill died on May 29, 1855.
As we saw last time, Daniel had a fairly large circle of friends and neighbors who helped him during the last five years of his life as he struggled with a painful condition variously described in his probate file as either gout or rheumatism. According to wikipedia, gout is not by itself a fatal disease, but it’s often associated with metabolic disorders such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. It used to be called the “rich man’s disease” because it was so often associated with people who ate rich foods and drank alcohol. In their testimony, Daniel’s friends describe him as “hobbling about”, which suggests inflammation of the big toe joint, a typical complication with gout. “Rheumatism” is a somewhat antiquated catch-all term that, again according to wikipedia, can be associated with any one of 200 arthritis-like disorders. Some of those diseases can be associated with an early death.
Well whatever it was, gout or rheumatism or even both, he became increasingly desperate to find relief from his pain. At some point before 1855, he traveled to a popular resort north of Mobile called “Bladon Springs”. From a historical website1:
This property, originally owned by John Bladon, was referred to as Bladon Springs because of mineral springs located on it. James Conner opened the property to the public as a spa in 1838 after the mineral springs became known for their “healing” properties. By 1845, the grounds contained many small cottages, with a capacity for 100 guests. In 1846 a grand Greek Revival style hotel was constructed as the center piece of the spa. The hotel had a capacity for 200 guests. It was one of the largest wooden hotels ever built in Alabama. The hotel featured such amenities as a large ballroom, a bowling alley, a billiard room, a hotel bar in the basement level, and even a skating rink. Surrounding the hotel was a latticed pavilion over the main spring, bath houses, and croquet grounds. The springs, along with the hotel and spa, earned Bladon Springs the nickname “Saratoga of the South”.
From the Alabama Archives about health care during this era2,
…“health spas” grew up around the state at various springs that were supposed to have curative powers. Bladon Springs, Blount Springs, and Bailey Springs are examples of these spas, which featured a physician in attendance.
I could only find one historical photo of the hotel, and it’s kind of grainy and not well-sourced.
He must have had some modest success with the treatment he received there the first time he went, because he decided to go there again in May of 1855.
Bladon Springs sits on the bank of the Tombigbee River. Steamboats traveled up and down the Tombigbee River transporting cotton to the markets in Mobile. I’m sure Daniel traveled to Bladon Springs by steamboat; in fact, it was probably the only way to get there (maybe that’s how he met Edward Dorgan, the Mobile Bar Pilot?).
The probate file contains a receipt from the hotel for his stay: it shows that he died on the tenth day of his visit. I wonder, did he die alone in his room? Or while soaking in one of the mineral springs?
We see from the receipt that he was charged for a hack (carriage transport) from the river to #4 Brandy Lodge. He was charged for 10 days board, then burial expense, a barber’s bill, and some line items for other services including those of Dr. Hutchinson.
At the bottom, it is noted that the bill was paid by “Boling Smith”, who was named as the administrator of Daniel’s estate. It appears that he traveled to Bladon Springs two weeks later to settle up Daniel’s account.
Notice the proprietor of the hotel, “J. Connor and Co.”.
Here’s a funny thing.
The Library of Congress has a piece of sheet music available as a digital download. It’s called “Bladon Springs Grand March” and it’s dedicated to Sam T. Connor – no doubt a relative of the J. Connor on Daniel’s receipt. What’s amazing though is the music publisher.
None other than “Bromberg Bros.” of 108 Dauphin Street in Mobile, Alabama – the sons of Daniel’s neighbor Frederick Bromberg (see bottom left corner of image below).
Based on the relatively quick payment of Daniel’s hotel bill, it appears that his friends at home mobilized pretty quickly to get a handle on Daniel’s affairs once they got word of his death. Next time, we’ll look at the early stages of his probate case.
1“Bladon Springs State Park in South Choctaw County at Bladon Springs, AL.” RuralSWAlabama, n.d. http://www.ruralswalabama.org/attraction/bladon-springs-state-park-at-bladon-springs-al/.
2″Local Care Authorities and Public Hospitals” Records Disposition Authorityhttp://www.archives.alabama.gov/officials/rdas/local/HCARDA_2015_02_22_Final_whole.pdf, April 22, 2015.