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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Sunday May 19th 2024

There are no ”˜Good Old Days”' Childhood Health Stories


The woman standing by the cross is the Grandmother Aubele of Annie and Adele Aubele, sisters who died from diphtheria within 24 hours of each other in early December 1915.

By Sue Hunter Weir

Two Year Old Frida Aubele died Dec. 2, 1915 from diphtheria. Six Year Old Annie Aubele died Dec. 3, 1915 from diphtheria. Graves were remarked and girls remembered and honored Oct. 16th 2009.

It pretty much goes without saying that kids hate to have shots. And, many parents are reluctant to have their children vaccinated because of possible unintended consequences. This year, because of all the media attention about the H1N1 virus, there are a lot of people weighing the potential benefits against the possibility of adverse side effects. Cemetery records paint a picture of what life was like for children and their families before vaccinations were a routine part of medical care.

Of the 21,000 burials in the cemetery over half are children under the age of ten. Many of those children died in infancy, the result of premature or stillbirths. Others died of bacterial infections related to contaminated drinking water. But others died of diseases, like measles, that are no longer considered an inevitable part of childhood.

Diphtheria was one of the leading killers of children. It was listed as the cause of death of 815 children buried in the cemetery. Measles accounted for 122 deaths and pertussis for another 37. The numbers are undoubtedly much higher than those numbers indicate because doctors frequently attributed the cause of death to symptoms (e.g., “fever”) rather than to a specific disease. Mumps, though not often considered a fatal disease, was the leading cause of deafness in children. It is worth bearing in mind that these numbers are for one medium-sized cemetery in Minneapolis.

This year, on October 16th, relatives of Annie and Frida Aubele placed a new marker on their shared grave. Frida died on December 2, 1915; she was not quite two and a-half years old. The next day, Frida”'s older sister, Annie, died at the age of six. Within a period of 24 hours, Joseph and Madeline Aubele lost two daughters to diphtheria. Annie, the older of the two, was born in Germany, and Frida was born in Minneapolis. For many years, their grave was marked by a large wooden cross. Over the years that cross disappeared, a casualty of water and weather. Now the girls”' grave is marked by a more permanent granite marker. The girls are buried in Lot 25, Block T, in the fourth grave from the north.
When the H1N1 vaccine becomes more widely available, have a conversation with your physician about the advisability of having yourself and your children vaccinated. As far as the health of children goes, there are no “good old days.”

Sue Hunter Weir is Phillips historian extraordinaire, member of Friends of the Cemetery who, with husband Paul Weir, have lived in Phillips over 30 years and together also garden with the 12th & 13th Avenue Block Club, was a co-founder of Phillips website

Wrought by a blacksmith, Rusted by Time, Restored One at a Time by hundreds of people contributing to Adopt-a-Picket and Fence Restoration Will You Help?

On November 17, 2009, the City of Minneapolis was notified that they had been awarded a $35,500 grant by the Minnesota Historical Society. This means that Phase I of the fence restoration is fully funded and that work will begin in Spring 2010.

We are still raising funds for Phase II. To date, 305 pickets have been adopted (many of them by Phillips residents and business owners). There are still plenty of pickets available. You can adopt a picket for $30.00. Donations may be sent to Friends of the Cemetery, P. O. Box 7345, Minneapolis, MN 55407 or via Paypal at

We are grateful for donations of any size. Friends of the Cemetery has 501C-3 status, and all contributions are tax deductible.
Thanks to all of you who have helped make this project a success.

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