Laura Davis Cunningham

The Cartersville Express
Cartersville, Georgia
October 17, 1879, Page 4
Transcribed by:  


Laura N. Davis was born Feb. 24th, 1848, was married to S. A. Cunningham* Nov. 27th, 1866, and died Oct. 8th, 1879.

She was a daughter of Wm. B. and Martha T. Davis, and the mother of two children, Paul Davis and Mary—little Mary died in October, 1875.

Our friends must accept the explanation, here given, for failure to respond to the anxious inquiries concerning Laura’s condition.  The telegraph was freely used until the awful shock came.  Then I wrote my mother and sent a message to our church pastor, but had not the heart to do more.  In this but little more is intended than simply a statement of her illness, and more as a letter to intimate friends than an article for the press.  Ere long I hope to prepare for friends who desire it, and in a more desirable form than a newspaper, a tribute to her worth which will contain expressions from friends who knew her intimately.

Our first apprehensions of serious illness occurred in May, while the Georgia press association was in convention here.  After a few days, however, she appeared to be relieved and continued in fair general health until early in September, when very suddenly and severely attacked.  I was absent on business so important that she would not allow me notified of her condition.  Dr. Hardy, her physician, explained to me his opinion of the disease on my return, but I failed, at the time, to comprehend it fully.  Several blisters were applied to destroy inflammation, and it gradually yielded, but she could not lie on either side at all, and could not rise by herself.  She could by assistance, however, and occupied an easy chair much of the time.  Relatives did not come as it was decided from the first, that she should go to her father’s, near Forsyth, as soon as able, but kind ladies of Cartersville did almost everything possible for her.

On the last Saturday in September she made the journey, and although it was done, apparently, at great risk, she seemed refreshed on arriving and not to have been at all injured by it.  Still the awful malady was undisturbed in its cruel work.  A week later she obtained temporary relief by tapping a cyst.  Then it was decided that a surgical operation must certainly be performed.  The most eminent surgeons in Georgia were consulted, but it was finally decided to employ Dr. S. M. Thompson, of Shelbyville, Tenn., an intimate friend and former physician to our family, and whose success in such and other kinds of surgical operations had been remarkable.  He was there already, having made the visit out of deep personal concern.  Doctors Alexander, Cooke, Gray and Moore, well known in that section of Georgia, were in attendance.  They all examined the patient and were in perfect accord as to what should be done.  They remained however in private counsel before announcing their readiness.  Laura had conferred with them all, as with others, and announced her wish that it be done.  They conferred with me also, and I have never seen a body of physicians so deeply interested for any one.  Aside of that sympathy which is natural, there was the thrilling reflection that a life “so valuable” was at stake.

Dr. Thompson went to her bedside and stated that it was made his duty to explain that her’s was a most aggravated case, that such operations were often attended by death.  He had seen patients die on the table.  He did not know whether he could go through with it, as there might be attachments to the lungs and otherwise that he could not sever.  He always, in such cases, asked God to direct his acts, and trusted she would soon find relief through an operation as it was the only hope by which her life could be spared any considerable time.  Calmly as ever mortal could, did she consider the situation.  She addressed her child, first saying, “Paul, be a good boy always.”

Then she appealed to me, her two brothers and parents to “be good to Paul.”  Before that she had sought to give me courage and “be strong.”  She had talked of death to her parents, expressing boldness of faith, should He who gave life require it in the crisis.  She introduced the subject to me at different times but had not pressed it, explaining to them that she did it to spare me—we both continued to hope in the result.

Just at noon (October 7th,) two physicians entered the room with chloroform.  It was applied and soon she was unconscious.  Then she was removed to the table and the operation performed.  At its conclusion she ceased to breathe for a few moments, but gradually life’s pulsations began again, and hopes were revived.  In itself the operation was successful.  An estimate of full forty pounds of fluid and other substance had been removed.  A stimulant was given her when her first expression, “plain water,” clearly spoken, assured us that she was safely back to consciousness again.  I thought of John Bunyan’s story, and realized that she had lain her burden down.  Her pulse grew stronger and she breathed kindly as could have been desired.  She was as if asleep much of the time subsequent, but when she wanted anything would call for it with an amazing clearness.  She did not exert herself at all, comprehending as she evidently did, the importance of perfect quiet.  Hope strengthened in me gradually, and I shall not forget how precious I felt the pleasure of being with her alone that night (others in the room out of deep concern during the day, slept,) with her clear, bright eyes looking into mine, but without even giving her opportunity to talk of the joyous days I fancied we had in the future when she would become my girl wife again.  Hope increased next day until about four o’clock.  I had slept an hour or so, and on awaking I saw that her mother was somewhat alarmed, but learned from the doctor that she was doing very well.  Not long afterward there was consternation in the room when a bloody pillow was drawn from the bed.  The cover was removed and her life’s blood bubbled out of the orifice as water from a spring.  Quick as possible for human hands, Dr. Thompson secured the pedicel but it was too late.  In a letter to the Monroe Advertiser, Dr. L. B. Alexander says: “Not more than thirty hours had elapsed after the operation, before a concealed, unexpected and fatal secondary hemorrhage set in, and before it was known the loss of blood was so great that the already weakened and emaciated constitution gave way and sank beyond the reach of further hope.”

It was now that she manifested her first excitement after the operation.  She said, “I think I am going!  Summer, I don’t know what to tell you about Paul.” Then a brother interrupted her with a cheerful word when she added “If He takes me,” and hesitating for a moment as if undetermined what further to say, and yielding to weakness, she waited and soon afterward she could not speak.  She breathed on for an hour or so without apparent pain and without a struggle.  Thank God, there is but one death for the righteous.

There is a clumsiness in the foregoing words and sentences which causes me to hesitate to give it to the printer and yet a duty to the friends who loved her so well impels me to say something.

[*S. A. Cunningham is the editor of the Cartersville Express.  Additional information on Laura Cunningham can be found on page 4 of the October 24, 1879 issue in a section “Words of Praise, Expressions from Mrs. Cunningham’s friends.”]


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