The Death of Julia Winans

Julia Winans (1-7-7-6-1-1-2) was the older sister of Major Ira Winans, a researcher who is responsible for much of what we know about the Winans family in America.

Julia died tragically young, when not quite 24 years of age. In a sample family record sheet he prepared for their parents, Major Ira writes: "Died of blood poisoning from a black spider's bite." Her death is discussed by Julia A. Wilbur, an abolitionist from New York, who knew Julia Winans, in the diaries she kept while living in Alexandria, VA, during the Civil War.

The following excerpts from Julia A. Wilbur's diaries were sent to us by Charles Lenhart, of Hilton, New York, who is researching Julia Wilbur's life.

Diaries of Julia Wilbur, March 1860 to July 1866

Originals at Haverford College, Quaker Collections
Transcriptions by volunteers at Alexandria Archaeology

The transcribed pages that follow are from the diaries kept by Julia Wilbur, an abolitionist from Rochester, New York, who lived in Alexandria, Virginia, from October 1862 to February 1865. She moved to Washington, DC, where she lived until her death in 1895...

Rush. Monday Feb. 10th, 1862

Fine. Washed & sewed some.

About 2 P.M. Mr. Newman came to tell us that Julia Winans died yesterday at 5 P.M. & is to be buried to-morrow at 11. It seems her disease went to her head at last. When I was there 9 days ago she was suffering from pain in the head, & she never found any relief, but was delirious much of the time. Dr. N. said she would get better until the P.M. she died. I have not a particle of confidence in Dr. N. I think he is very ignorant, & have thought so from the first moment I saw him when he came here to see Sarah. If Julia had given attention to herself at the first, no doubt she cd. have been cured. But the poison was permitted to work until it affected her whole system, & then no skill perhaps cd. have saved her. Dr. N. called it hip disease. Dr. Moore said it was very far from that. Dr. N. said the bite of the spider had nothing to do with it. Dr. M said it was enough to cause her sickness. The family think that the poisonous bite caused her death. They had a chance to watch the progress of disease & know how she was affected. I think so too.

Poor girl, cut off from her life in the flower of her youth. She was not quite 24, she was not afraid to die, but bid them all goodbye calmly[?] & died without a struggle, as if she was falling asleep. She rests well now, no doubt. She was a namesake of mine, and she was a very excellent girl.

Tuesday, Feb. 11th

I rode with Mr. N. yesterday to E. Avon, and from there to Mr. Winans with E. Morehouse, & to day mother came to the funeral & I came home with her.

This is the first break in the family of Mr. W. & there are 10 brothers and sisters to mourn her loss. But in their sorrow there is much comfort & hope, much that is pleasant to think of. As she lay on her death couch she looked as if sleeping, & there was nothing there of the gloom & repulsiveness of death. It was a lovely corpse to commit to the Earth and cover with the cold snows of winter. They have chosen a lot near ours in a very pleasant spot. Now they have an interest in that graveyard such as they never had before.

My dear friend, Mrs. W. is a noble woman, & bears this trial with much resignation. Many of their relatives are with them today, & there was a large funeral. Saw my old friend Mrs. Root, the grandmother of Julia, for the first time since Mr. Root’s death last spring.

I had intended to go soon & stay 2 or 3 days with Julia. I had no idea she wd. pass away so soon. I had not heard from her in a week, & the news of her death surprised me. I thought she would get well slowly. But I did not think she was to die so soon. Well, she is safe now from harm & temptation.

Julia A. Wilbur is mentioned, and her papers are available, in several locations:

This page was last updated 7 May 2015.