The Avoidable Death of William A. Clark (1840-1912) – Part 2 3

William Albert Clark died at Westborough State Hospital at age 71. His father, William Lewis Clark, lived to the ripe old age of 85. A parent’s lifespan is not necessarily an indicator of how long their children might live. I still have to ask, would William Albert have lived longer if has was cared for at home?

The storyteller continues. Of William’s four sons, the youngest son Roy was left to care for the family as both his grandfather, William Lewis Clark, and his mother, Margaret (Read) Clark, died in 1898. William Albert quit the harness making business soon after and Roy took a job as a bookkeeper to support them. Roy put his life on hold and didn’t marry until he was 35, two years after the death of his father. Based on oral history I believe that Roy carried the weight of his father’s death his whole life.

Ad from the 1890 Arlington Directoy


I switch back to being a detective. Cystitis is an infection of the bladder and is very similar to a urinary tract infection. Today we know that an elderly person may not complain about the symptoms of this type of infection and that mental changes or confusion may be the first signs that they exhibit. Did William have undetected cystitis for months prior to his death?

Let’s bring on the inner scientist to wrap a theory around the whole story.

William Albert Clark retired from the harness making business after the death of his wife and father. He and his son, Roy, have to sell the family home in Arlington and rent an apartment in a two family home in Somerville. It would be easy for William to be melancholy. William contracts cystitis and it flares to a point where he starts to act increasingly confused. Roy is working 40 hours a week to support them and even with the help of a housekeeper cannot manage his father’s apparent mental spiral. William is admitted to Westborough State Hospital with the diagnosis of senile dementia. The original cystitis was left unchecked. Within a few weeks, William catches pneumonia, which is running rampant in the hospital. With a weakened immune system and no antibiotics, the bacteria in his bladder spreads, leading to kidney failure and death.

A glass of cranberry juice may have made all the difference.

There are still a number of facts that I have to find, before I can prove this theory. What was William’s mental state the last few years of his life? Do William’s records from Westborough State Hospital still exist? Was William’s death avoidable? I may never be able to answer all these questions. As a genealogist, I am used to not being able to find everything. I will still have my facts, my story, my theory and my mystery.





Mike Maglio is the author of Deep into DNA, a monthly column in The In-Depth Genealogist which focuses on the use of DNA in genealogical research. Mike can be found blogging at OriginHunters.


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