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Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:43 PM

We sometimes like to think that matters in life are not what they used to be. We tend to forget that "there is nothing new under the sun." People did the same thoughtless, cruel and stupid things a century or two ago as what they do now. A good example of this is a story which took place in Norwalk in 1852.

Late in November of 1852, a couple drove up to the Mansion House Hotel in Norwalk and ordered supper. The Mansion House stood at 10-14 West Main St. It was noticed that when the lady alighted from the carriage she held a bundle, which the loungers presumed was an infant. She laid the bundle on the parlor sofa and when asked about it, denied that they had a child and seemed taken aback that people thought so.

Just then the bundle gave out signs that there was humanity in it, and the landlady undid the covers and took care of the child until the couple had dined and were ready to leave.

Within two hours they returned to the hotel minus the child, and told the landlady that they were going on a trip and had taken the child to stay with friends. The next morning they left, and later in the day it was announced that a foundling had been left at the home of Miner Cole, about two miles out in the country. A Norwalk lady heard of the incident, viewed the baby and took it as her own.

The Mansion House landlady heard of the incident and went to see the foundling. Lo and behold, it was the same baby which had been brought to her hotel less than two days before! The next day the mystery couple relented and sent someone to locate and reclaim the baby, which was only four weeks old. The newspaper account of this incident revealed that the man was surnamed Gaston from Milan, and his wife was a daughter of Dr. Brainard of Fremont.

Some genealogical research revealed that Edgar Gaston and Electa Brainard were married in 1852. I find them in 1860 living at Pecatonica, Winnebago County, Ill. There are three children in their household, the oldest being Ellen, age 7 at that moment, born in Ohio. She would be the baby under discussion. This tells me that they apparently kept the child and nurtured her. The laws were different in 1852, and I'm not surprised that no charges ever were filed by local authorities.

Electa Brainard Gaston was a daughter of Dr. Daniel and Marsha Brainard, of Fremont. Dr. B. was one of the first physicians in the Fremont area, settling there in 1819. For 40 years, until his death in 1859, he served the people of that community. In his younger years he served a huge territory and was one of those brave doctors who rode many miles to visit patients at their homes before there were improved roads and suitable transportation.

One story told is how Brainard set out to see a patient perhaps 30 miles southwest of Fremont. It was a March morning and the snow covered the path. When they reached a large wood, he lost the path and zigged and zagged until they came to a road that didn't look familiar, but which they followed, looking for shelter and safety.

It was after dark and wolves were following and harassing them by the time they finally caught sight of light from a fireplace fire in a cabin. Both horse and man received renewed strength and hope, and the cabin was reached with safety. Much to the patient's regret the doctor was 10 miles away from his intended destination.

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