In 1884 letters to his buddy, Edwin B Hall in Wellsville (NY), Ira set out his specs for what sounded like a utopian “home”, where fellow believers of THE WAY OF IRA would live in harmony. Clearly, the estrangement with Serena and his sons ruled out Virginia as a potential location.
Ira went on to state that he intended to head out west and carve from the Public Domain land that he can call home. Buoyed by the steady income from his employment with the United States Geological Survey, Ira seemed keen on making the move in the next couple of years.
Records show Ira hopscotching from town to town, collecting fossil specimens in Appalachian strata, and residing in either Washington, D.C. or Ithaca, NY (Cornell connection) while labeling and organizing the collections for the National Museum for the best part of a decade.
Ira did go west, eventually.
The 75 year old suffered a stroke in November 1891 while in Ithaca, that reduced the capacity of his right arm. Another life-threatening “attack” forced his hospitalization while in Washington, D.C. the following February. Just weeks after the second illness, a Greensburg (KS) newspaper reported that Captain Ira Sayles had arrived to make his home with his brother Loren, the city’s water engineer. But that experiment out west ended in July 1892.
Ira returned to Washington, D.C., where he applied for a pension on August 2 based on his military service in 1862-1863 . Later that week Ira collapsed at the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot and was whisked away while unconscious to the Emergency Hospital.
A former colleague, Dr. R. R. Gurley saw a notice of the hospitalization in the paper and went to visit the elderly friend. Seeing that Ira was intent on leaving the hospital though weak and confused, Dr. Gurley persuaded Ira to spend a few days at his home in Carlins (now in Alexandria) before continuing his travels.
Ira remained in DC until at least October when he was examined by pension board of examiners’ doctors, Little and Davis. Their report indicated that an inguinal hernia (completely returnable and held in by truss!) and some heart disease limited his ability to do manual labor, and therefore qualified him for a disability pension.
Later that fall, the patriarch traveled to his son’s home, where he remained confined and totally dependent on family formerly estranged.
The pension was approved in June 1893, and payments sent to Chase City, where he died a year later.
Without his home.
"…the small still voice spoke to the soul, and the soul listened, bowed and received the instruction given it. So shall my labor be. I will speak to those only that wish to hear, and hear but to obey. Every principle I teach, shall become an active element in the lives of them that hear. Whoever hears but refuses to practice, will hear no more. He cannot live with me; and so shall it be with them that follow me. My home shall be the home of such and of such only as wish to live the life that I teach and… (missing)”
~~Ira Sayles in a letter to EB Hall, 1884
I find this man and his life struggles fascinating.
2 thoughts on “Tick Tock: A timeline for Ira Sayles, 1884-1894”
How like many people we know, searching for a home, but awash in life’s day-to-day distractions and attractions. Want to hear more specifics about that fossil work and whether you have any of the collection.
I don’t have any of his specimens, but I think the Smithsonian does. I hope to connect with the appropriate authorities on my next DC trip so I can view them!