Contagious diseases caused a third of all deaths in the 19th century. Isabella Jackson was one of many whose lives were affected.
Isabella was brought up by her mother in Giggleswick. When she was 33, Isabella married James Butterfield. James’s father was a respected gardener and worked as the church sexton, in charge of the graveyard, so James probably had a strong sense of right and wrong.
Isabella and James married in 1847 in Liverpool, where James worked as a spirit merchant. According to a local diarist, in 1843 James had accidentally killed William Hargreaves, whilst they were out shooting sparrows. Although no case was ever brought against him, this incident may have prompted James’s decision to move away from Settle.
Just 89 days after their wedding, James died. It is probable that he was a victim of cholera; Liverpool was severely overcrowded and there were frequent epidemics. Isabella returned to live in Settle and worked with her mother in domestic service at Stackhouse.
Nine years later, Isabella married John Laytham, the only son of a ‘cow leech doctor’, which was the Victorian name for a vet. John worked as his father’s assistant. After just four years of marriage, John and both his parents died within a couple of months of each other, which suggests that another infectious disease may have been the cause.
Isabella lived for another ten years and supported herself by running a tobacconist’s shop. As she and her mother Elizabeth died within a week of one another in 1870, it seems likely that they were also victims of disease.