In 1823 Thomas Grafton married Hulda Hopkins and settled down to farming and raising a family … and then cholera struck. The disease was first noticed among British troops in India in 1817 and it spread around the world, through Russia, Germany, England and to Canada by the early 1830s. It struck more than one of my relatives and raised another to be the closest we have to sainthood.
“The epidemic left many blanks in the society of York (now Toronto) and its neighbourhood, and still more painful, about 100 widows and 400 children—all strangers in a strange land, and dependent upon the charity of those amongst whom the Providence of God had thrown them …The plight of one immigrant family which arrived in Toronto Township, terribly afflicted with typhus fever, brings into relief the heroism and self-sacrifice of Hulda Hopkins Grafton.
“Mrs. Grafton had sprung from a breed of pioneers, nurtured in isolation and hardship, their courage steeled by the struggle against suffering and privation. She is described as generous, warm-hearted and impetuous, an angel of mercy, who went into the by-paths of the wilderness to seek and comfort the sick and needy. Her kindness to this particular family is recorded in an essay by her grandson, printed in the Montreal Witness more than fifty years later.
“No one visited them but Grandmother Grafton. She braved the danger, carried them food and medicine daily, and attended them until they recovered. Then she took the fever. Doctor McCuaig was sent for. He came on a foaming steed through the deep partially frozen mud, the blood streaming from the horse’s legs. When leaving, he was asked his opinion, and answered by balancing his riding whip across his fingers. While the fever raged her little daughter sickened and died. The doctor made several visits, the expenses of which were met by the sale of one hundred acres of land. Hulda grew worse. The kind neighbour, Mrs. Aiken, who nursed her, went home to get a night’s rest, leaving instructions to blow the horn as the end approached. Before morning the signal of approaching death aroused her from sleep. She hastened to her dying patient. After watching for hours by her bedside, a change for the better set in. Hulda rallied and lived to a ripe old age.
Thomas and Hulda Grafton are my 3x Great Grand Uncle and Aunt and they and many of their children are buried in Britannia Cemetery on Centre Road just south of Brampton, Ontario.
Information for Angel of Mercy was obtained from the document by Hartley Grafton, as well as “From medicine man to medical man” by Wm Perkins Bull.