by Carolyn Newman
WALSENBURG — A judge lost a daughter – and a classroom lost a teacher. But there could be no funeral for the 20-year-old.
Our story begins in 1883, when little Katie Blickhahn was born to Henry and Anna Blickhahn.
As little girls of 12 did in those times, Katie received an autograph book so her friends could write little jingles – mostly along the lines of ” forget-me-not”. For three or four years, her classmates added messages until May 18, 1898, when Katie recorded the names of her high school class of 1899: Stephen Julian Lamme, Bertha Eliza Klein, and Archer Worth Danford among them.
The new graduate began working as a saleslady at Alexander Levy’s store. But then, because she was a high school graduate, she was eligible to teach and took a position in the Pictou School. (Pictou was a coal mining camp just a mile or two northwest of Walsenburg).
Illness struck in March of 1903; that dreaded diphtheria overcame her. She returned home for care, but a week later, March 9, 1903, Katie was dead. The bacterial infection affected her breathing, ultimately stopping it.
Because of the contagious nature of the disease, no funeral service was held at church or home – the disease can spread through a cough or sneeze. But Eastern Star, of which she was a member, conducted last rites at her grave.
Death was a frequent visitor to the Blickhahn home. Judge Blickhahn’s father, who lived with the family, died suddenly the year before. In the same year, sadly, the judge’s wife, Anna, the mother of Katie, died after a long illness. It was only four months later that Katie died.
Information is from the Walsenburg World newspaper of Jan. 2, 1902; Nov. 13, 1902; Dec. 25, 1902; and March 12, 1903, also March 16, 1926, of the Walsenburg Independent.
Obituaries offer so much family history. The History Detective is a service of the Huerfano County Historical Society firstname.lastname@example.org. The Heritage Center, 114 W. Sixth St., Walsenburg, CO 81089, has an index to obituaries and the newspapers which hold the obit. It is open Wednesdays 2 – 5 pm, Thursdays 11 am to 3 pm, and Friday 2 pm to 5 pm.