Monday, August 3, 2009

Lethia's Journey - A True Story

Once again, I am posting an actual event that has been hidden in obscurity for 100 years.

From the Frederick News Post, Frederick, Maryland:
August 3, 1909

While in a delirium resulting from continued ill-health, Miss Lethia Harbaugh, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E. F. Harbaugh, an aged couple, residing at 115 Clayton avenue, Waynesboro, Pa., left her home about 10 o'clock last Thursday night and walked a distance of nine miles across the Blue Ridge mountains to her former home in Sabillasvill
e, this county.

That is not a real picture of Lethia, but one I found online that is dated 1909 to give us an image of a woman of the day.

Writer, as you read the post, think about this brief story and expand it. Use it as a writing prompt. I have taken it and put it in my file for a scene in a novel I am writing.

Think. . .

What health problem do you suppose Lethia had that would result in delirium? Whatever it was she had it a long time. The website gives the following definition.

A sudden state of severe confusion and rapid changes in brain function, sometimes associated with hallucinations and hyperactivity, in which the patient is inaccessible to normal contact. Symptoms may include inability to concentrate and disorganized thinking evidenced by rambling, irrelevant, or incoherent speech. There may be a reduced level of consciousness, sensory misperceptions and illusions, disturbances of sleep, drowsiness, disorientation to time, place, or person, and problems with memory.

Delirium can be due to a number of conditions that derange brain metabolism, including infection, brain tumor, poisoning, drug toxicity or withdrawal, seizures, head trauma, and metabolic disturbances such as fluid, electrolyte, or acid-base imbalance, hypoxia, hypoglycemia, or hepatic or renal failure.

After reading these details, I have difficulty believing Lethia was delirious. How could a woman leave her parents house at 10 at night, in the dark, on a hot and humid summer night, and walk the distance of 9 miles across the Blue Ridge Mountains to her home in Sabillasville with only the moon to guide her? This would have been a treacherous journey even in the daytime, and she would have needed to have a keen sense of direction. I live near the foot of the Catoctin Mountains, which are part of the Blue Ridge, and where Lethia's home would have been. Sabillasville is located in the mountains outside of Camp David. There is no way I would trek through those mountains alone in the daytime, let alone at night.

These mountains are riddled with rocky terrain, fallen trees, mountain streams and creeks. Lethia made a dangerous journey home, and wouldn't you think it would have been frightening? Think of being out in the mountains at night! And one other thing. Back in those days, mountain lions were in the area. Lethia's journey grows more and more scary the more I dwell on it! She had to have been a brave soul, determined, strong.

Next interesting fact: Lethia was the daughter to aged parents. Either her mother had her late in life, or Lethia herself is up in age. Let's assume her parents are in their seventies. Lethia may have been in her fifties in 1909, or she could have been a younger woman. The article doesn't say. So you have to use your imagination. To me, she had to have been younger and in good physical health to make it ten miles over the mountains.

Something dramatic had to have happened to cause her to leave in the night...or maybe a better word is 'flee'. Was she abused in some way? Were some kind of arrangements made for her that she was running from? Did her parents want nothing more to do with her for some godless reason and told Authorities she had been ill and delirious to cover themselves?

Apparently Lethia made it home. Home! That was her make it home. That was what drove her to travel on foot 9 miles through dangerous mountains in the night. Perhaps the man she loved was there. They referred to her as 'Miss', so she was not married, nor likely to have had children waiting for her. But something or someone motivated her to get back home. I certainly would love to know more about this brave woman and her story.

What if Lethia was ill? Then it would have been nothing short of a miracle that she walked 9 miles through the mountains on a hot August night. Otherwise, I doubt she would have survived such a journey. No doubt Lethia told this story to her children and her grandchildren and was looked on with shining eyes for her bravery and in awe at God's hand in protecting her.

What do you think was Lethia's story?


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Rita -

Hmm, perhaps this woman snapped from the pressures of caregiving. Maybe she received word of a loved one on the verge of dying.

They would have thought she was delirious to make the trip at night.

Susan :)

Jessica said...

Wow, I have no clue. From reading it I assumed she wasn't necessarily delirious, but perhaps had alzheimers or some sort of schizophrenia?
But your ideas sound more exciting!