August 7 - Passing of a Friend

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On August 7, 1900, Alice Strange Davis died at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan.  She had been a music teacher in Washington, D. C., and a close friend of Paul, Alice and Matilda Dunbar.

The Unexpected Death of Mrs. Alice Strange Davis Leaves the Musical World Bereft of a Tuneful Chord.  The whole community was startled at the sad intelligence of the death of Mrs. Alice Strange Davis, on August 7th at Battle Creek, Michigan.  She had been in failing health for several years past, and had gone to the famous sanitarium at Battle Creek for a course of treatment.

"The Rest is Silence."  The Colored American (Washington, D. C.).  August 11, 1900.  Page 9.

Alice Davis often kept Alice and Matilda company while Paul was traveling, and the Dunbars considered her one of their few genuine friends in Washington.

We are to have an "at home" at Mrs. Strange Davis' house Friday next.  She is going to make it a permanent thing, and all who are of the "elect" are to go there once a week and talk about the things we know and enlighten others, incidentally gaining social polish and learning how to hold a cup of tea.  It is a good idea.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, January 19, 1898.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

I am looking forward to a pleasant little coterie of us next winter.  Ella and Miss Lamprey, Alice Davis and maybe one or two other congenial souls -- if there are any -- who can meet and talk books without making anyone feel uncomfortable, as is generally the case when more than two people meet in Washington.  We want just us, and we'll play whist and eat oysters and drink beer and turn up our noses at "sassiety" -- and enjoy ourselves in our own way regardless of anybody else.

Alice Moore Dunbar to Paul Laurence Dunbar, September 3, 1898.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

When the Dunbars spent a winter in the Rocky Mountains for the sake of Paul's health, Alice Davis visited them in Colorado.  While Paul was away on a brief trip to Dayton, Matilda wrote a letter (full of misspellings) and mentioned their friend.

My Dear son I thought that I must drop you a few lines to tell you that I am well and getting along all wright everything is going on all wright and I hope that it is the same with you.  Miss Alice is with us and we are having a good time but we miss you very much and will be glad when you are home agan.  It is very plesente here now and it is to be hoped that it is plesente there.  Now I close as I cannot write much.

Matilda Dunbar to Paul Laurence Dunbar, no date [March 1, 1900].  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

Paul often performed with Davis at literary and musical recitals in Washington, including an event about two months before her death.

At an early hour last night the M Street High School was filled to overflowing, hundreds of persons being turned away who had come out to witness the rote-song recital by pupils of the ninth, tenth and eleventh divisions.  The director of music, Mrs. Alice Strange Davis, was supported by her assistants, all of whom conducted the grades under their immediate supervision.  Mr. Paul Laurence Dunbar favored the audience with the recitation of his poems, and Mr. Joseph H. Douglass contributed a violin solo, which was encored.  The director of music received many congratulations upon the manifest progress of the musical department of the public schools in the divisions named.

"Song Recital.  Exercises by Pupils of the Public Schools."  The Evening Star (Washington, D. C.).  June 6, 1900.  Page 7.

Alice Davis wrote a humorous letter to Alice Dunbar on Battle Creek Sanitarium stationery.  She described how she was subjected to racial discrimination from other patients, but she seemed more annoyed by the food.  Davis mentioned some operations scheduled for the coming week, which was about the time that she died.

I have been lost to the world since last Monday and starving in sight of an apparent plenty.  I say apparent, because while the bills of fare are as long as your arm and one is allowed an unlimited amount of certain things, yet there is such dearth of the eatables that an ordinarily sane mortal considers palatable.  The morning's menu ran something like this -- Prunes, bananas, blackberries, pears.  Crystal wheat (wet sawdust), granola (coarse, dry sawdust), grainuts (brown candy chips), granose (shavings), browned rice.  Whole wheat wafers (tasteless crackers), zwieback (toast, dry and browned all the way through -- an especial snare to toothless old ladies), fruit crackers, granose biscuit (compressed shavings), prune toast (bread spread with prune jam), date sandwich (shavings with some mixture of dates on the inside), and fruit juice -- the only drink allowed me!  Now, I may eat that entire menu -- card and all -- and yet come away unsatisfied and, of course, dissatisfied.

The food is quite the worst feature of the place.  A slight drawback, if one is thin-skinned, is found the presence of hundreds of Southerners among the patients.  Two Georgia ladies of uncertain age asked to be moved from my table after I came.  The matron told them she had no other seats for them.  They said they wouldn't stay!

Now comes a secret -- don't tell any one.  I am to have two operations, possibly three, next Wednesday:  one for tumors.  Miss Combs is coming to nurse me.  She is an extra fine surgical nurse and Dr. Kellogg an extra fine surgeon.  Besides, out here God is the Director -- all operations being preceded by prayer etc.  Under such auspices, I am almost certain to come thro O. K.

Alice Strange Davis to Alice Moore Dunbar, July 28, 1900.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

The Battle Creek Sanitarium was a luxurious health resort that offered outdoor exercise, hydrotherapy, phototherapy and electrotherapy, as well as a diet based on vegetables, grains and nuts.  It was directed by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, for whom Kellogg's breakfast cereals are named.

Battle Creek Sanitarium Foods are served on the tables of the Sanitarium and its companion institutions in different parts of the world.  These foods are subject to daily tests in the Sanitarium where lives would pay the forfeit were ordinary prepared foods used.  These foods are endorsed by the entire medical faculty as indispensable in the successful treatment of common gastric disorders.  They are not only of vital value of those with delicate stomach, but enrich the blood and strengthen the muscles and nerves of well people quicker than any other cereal foods known to man!  These being the facts, can there be any question in your mind as to what foods you will use in your home?  Ask your grocer for "Battle Creek SANITARIUM" foods.

Advertisement.  The Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio).  August 18, 1900.  Page 7.