Sisters Susan & Ada Fussell
Born in Kennett, Chester county, PA, four miles from the historic Chad's Ford of Brandywine, April 7, 1832, the daughter of Bartholomew Fussell and Lydia Morris, a descendant of an old Quaker family, who came over to America with William Penn. It was through the influence of Dr. Fussell and his wife that the first young woman took out a degree from an American medical college. Dr. Bartholomew Fussell was one of the early and earnest advocates of freedom for the slave.
Three days before Susan Fussell was fifteen years old she began to teach in a public school and from that time on she supported and educated herself. With the exception of two years, her life as a teacher continued until she was twenty-nine. In April of 1861, her eldest brother entered the army as a volunteer, and immediately Susan Fussell offered her companionship in the desolate home, so long as her brother should be absent. Thus was she introduced into Western life. This was in October of 1861. Coming west she resumed her avocation as a teacher, which she continued until 1863. But by this time the war had grown to vast proportions and the sick and wounded were being numbered by tens of thousands. A call came for more nurses for the army hospitals in the south. To respond to this call meant overwork, hard fare, scant pay, anxiety, danger and possibly even death in the disease-laden wards. Susan, now profitably engaged in teaching, at once volunteered. She was accepted and started south April 23, 1863. She was now thirty years of age. She went south under the auspices of the Indiana Sanitary Committee to their station at Memphis. The nature of her work the following statistics will indicate: 120 sick under her personal care, sixty for whom she was to see that a special diet was prepared. Supervising the giving out of food to be prepared for all and her personal supervision and administration of all medicines and stimulants given out. Nights would find her so weary that she could only throw herself down to sleep, as it was on arms, ready at a moments call.
At Memphis eight hospitals had been fitted up preparatory to the siege of Vicksburg, and here Susan remained until close of operation at that place, a period of eight months. A five-week vacation followed, then carrying with her a certificate of good service bearing the date February 16, 1864, she was sent to Louisville as a matron, but preferred the duties of an active nurse she made some changes in location, but remained in the service until May 25, 1865.
Through this hospital at Louisville large numbers of men from the south were being transferred to the north, they were arriving by every train, and the condition of many was wretched in the extreme and required the most prompt attention. The hospital was very large covering an entire block. It had been a plow factory. The building was two stories high and at times contained over four hundred sick. Over this entire building Miss Fussell has gone as many as twenty-two times in one day. It was on leaving Louisville that Miss Fussell received a little unexpected recognition of services that she always referred to with pleasure. This was a letter from the surgeon in charge of the hospital there, Dr. A. B. Prescott, since the medical department of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The letter follows: - Miss Susan Fussell- Permit me on the cessation of your duties in the U. S. A. General Hospital, to congratulate you upon your success in doing good to the sick and wounded soldier, and to thank you for the valuable and varied womanly duties you have volunteered in the U. S. service. Another could scarcely have performed your services. Very Respectfully, your servant: A. B. Prescott.
The war was closed, but not the services of Miss Fussell for the soldiers. She had resolved to work in soldiers' orphans' homes should such be established. Meanwhile Mr. George Merritt, of Indianapolis, hoping that the State would adopt the family plan if it saw the experiment, resolved to establish such a home at his own expense and he requested Miss Susan Fussell to take charge of it. She entered on this work in December of 1865, and continued in it until the children were grown and settled, a period of eleven years. The home was at first opened in Indianapolis with seven children, but the number afterwards was increased to eleven, six boys and five girls. In the spring of 1866, the Soldiers' Home Association purchased the Knightstown Home and Mr. Merritt's family was invited to use a cottage on the grounds. The Government, while not adopting Mr. Merritt's plan, now assumed the support of the children, but Mr. Merritt continued to employ Miss Fussell.
In 1877, to secure additional school advantages, Miss Fussell removed her family to Spiceland. With this change the government support ceased, but the children's pensions, hereto saved were now drawn upon for their education.
On leaving Knightstown Miss Fussell took into home and heart the dear little sufferer, Maggie Newell, who survived her benefactress. While at Spiceland four of her children married were married and by their well doing have been a comfort to their foster mother. During the first year at Spiceland Susan Fussell, impressed with the importance of good, pure home influences in rearing children to be honest, useful men and women, applied to the county commissioners for the pauper children of Henry county. Her request was not granted for more than two years. Pending this, she was determined to secure, if possible, the establishment of a school in which the feeble minded children might be taught self-fullness. To gain this end she promised to secure all of the statistics necessary if the representative to our State legislature who would present the bill. Susan Fussell did this and under the care of Charles Hubbard, then our State Representative, the passage of a bill was secured and the Knightstown home for feebleminded children is the monument to her work.
After a lapse of over two years, the county commissioners agreed to let Miss Fussell take all of the pauper children out of the Henry county poor house, if she would furnish her own house, and board, clothe, educate, and nurse the children for the sum of twenty-three cents per day. So earnest was she to secure for the experiment a fair trial, she consented on those unjust terms. Thus began the home whose success now stands before us, and the homes throughout the State are largely due to her influence.
With no thought but for others had her life so far been occupied, but never was a deeper truth spoken than that by the centurion, who spoke upon the dying Christ said, "Others He saved, Himself, He cannot save." He who would save others cannot save himself, and she who, bowed and white haired as at seventy, has now lain down to her first and last rest at fifty-seven is proof of it.
The traits of a character prominent in Susan Fussell were: A faith that hoped all things; a kindness of heart that saw the best in all things, a sympathy that responded to the thoughts and feelings of the humblest, most neglected child; a keen sense of right an absolute integrity of purpose that rendered her incapable of disregarding the rights of others, unselfishness almost to a fault; an unconquerable perseverance that for years enabled her to triumph over mortal illness, good business ability and a calm self reliance and firmness of convictions that sustained her in the most difficult enterprises and commanded the respect of all. In her last illness her sufferings were lost sight of in her kind thoughts for others, manifested in little remembrances of fruit and flowers.
Her brothers' and sisters' loving tribute to her memory in the first moments of their desolation voices the feeling of all who knew her. Said the one, "My first recollection of my sister is her unselfishness." Said the other, "The world is a better for my sister having lived in it." Susan Fussell passed away about 2:30 am on Friday, 18 Jul 1889 at her home in Spiceland. A large crowd attended her viewing, she was buried in the Spring Valley Friends cemetery at Pendleton, Madison county on the following Monday.
Ada Fussell born 24 Jun 1837 at Kennett Square, Pa., the daughter of Dr. Bartholomew and Lydia Morris Fussell. Ada was a schoolteacher in her early years. When her sister Susan Fussell founded the Knightstown Soldiers' Children's Home after the Civil war, Ada went there to help her sister in the operation of the home and later went with her to the Spicelnd, IN Orphan's home. After Susan's death she remained in the management of the Spiceland Orphan's Home. She died on 13 May 1900 at Knightstown, IN. She is also buried in the Spring Valley Friends cemetery at Pendleton, IN.