Friday, January 24, 2020

Roland Lankford, a victim of diphtheria

This blog post is another in a series connecting the dots in my tree to the souls buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Roland Lankford, son of Edward James Lankford and Nancy (Nannie) T. Reynolds, was born circa April 1879 in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. He was the 2nd of 12 children born to Edward and Nannie—Ethel S. Lankford, Roland Lankford, Robert Lankford, James Brook Lankford, Sallie Mae Lankford, Idarene Lankford, Pearl M. Lankford, Ruby Lankford, Cecil Lankford, Thomas Watson Lankford, Sythia E. Lankford, and Edwin John Lankford.

Roland is my 2nd cousin 3x removed with our nearest common relatives being Charles L. Lankford and Miss Moore.

Roland’s story isn’t one of a long prosperous life though as he did not survive infancy. At the age of about eight months, he contracted diphtheria, a “serious bacterial infection that usually affects the mucous membranes of your nose and throat” according to the Mayo Clinic. Diphtheria was once a leading cause of death among children. That would prove to be true for Roland when he died, most likely at home in Bairdstown, in November 1879. Roland was listed as R. Lankford on the mortality schedule taken in 1880. If you don’t read the notes on the schedule, you might think this child was his brother Robert, who died in 1880. But Note A reads: The Census Year begins June 1, 1879 and ends May 31, 1880. Mortality schedule 5 for “Persons who DIED during the Year ending May 31, 1880 …”  noted that Roland was 8/12 months and that he died in November. Because the schedule ended in May 1880, that would mean this child would have died in November 1879, not 1880 so it would have to be Roland, not Robert. Roland was under the care of Dr. Devant at the time of his death.

Mortality Schedule for the period June 1, 1879 to May 31, 1880, Oglethorpe County, Georgia

Roland was buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown. Sadly, he wasn’t the only infant in the family that didn’t survive. When you visit Bairdstown Cemetery, you’ll find a row of five stones—all with just a name and a single year—for Roland and his siblings born after his death, Robert, Idarene, Ruby, and Cecil.

Thanks to vaccinations, diphtheria is now rare in the United States.



  1. It must have taken its toll on the parents to lose children so many times.