‘Milk sickness’ was quite common back in America’s early years. This ailment was caused by consumption of milk from a cow that had eaten a plant called white snakeroot. Symptoms from the disease include stomach cramps and vomiting and could even lead to a coma or death! The risk of the sickness was increased in dry years because cattle would often leave poor pasture and search for food in woodland areas where the snakeroot commonly grows. As more land was cleared and cultivated, milk sickness became far less prevalent.
Unfortunately, Nancy Hanks Lincoln was not so lucky. Just two years after the Lincolns moved to southern Indiana, she came down with the illness. After suffering for nearly two weeks, Mrs. Lincoln passed away on October 5, 1818. Her son was just 9 years old.
You can read more about this tragedy and the disease itself here.
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