Author: Sheal Berube
The Butterbox Babies
I first came across the story of (true might I add) The Butterbox Babies because of a movie called “The Child Remains” that happened to be either on Netflix or Prime, and of course, I can’t remember which of the two services, if not both.
Now, everyone seems to think good old Canada, our gentle and sublime global cool cousin doesn’t have a darker side. Well let me tell you – we do. Canada actually has a pretty dark, hidden history. From the Indigenous residential school tragedies, for lack of a better term I use tragedies but it’s not a tragedy when it’s on purpose, atrocious malignancy is a better descriptor. To our very own serial killers like Bernardo and Homolka, and we have way more serial killers than most people think in Canada. I mean Robert William Pickton, need I say more? There is, however, one very deeply disturbing piece of history for Canada that most people don’t know about that is far worse than the Pickton case. There are survivors of this disturbing atrocity to this very day even.
To understand this piece of history we need to first look at who the people behind the terrible acts that were committed against both the babies and their mothers and families. William and Lila Young. William Peach Young was a chiropractor and devout unordained preacher of Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Lila Gladys Young (nee Coolan) was the daughter of Seventh-Day Adventist parents. She was born in Nova Scotia, Canada in 1899. She was a midwife but claimed to be an obstetrician. The Youngs opened what was the Life and Health Sanitarium and then went on to rename it the Ideal Maternity Home and Sanitarium. They touted services such as birthing for couples, for unwed mothers they had a package deal that gave these young mothers room and board, meals, and adoption services. They were expensive however and most of these women were only making about 8$/hr while Lila’s fees were 500$ or more. That forced most of these women into what could be called indentured servitude to pay for Lila’s services, and what did they get for their troubles?
Squalid conditions and lies and deception, forceful and aggressive treatment from Lila, theft of their babies, murder if those babies weren’t “marketable”. Entanglement into a baby selling racket without their knowledge. This woman would thieve these babies from their mothers, including married ones, who were told that their babies had died and sold them for her personal gain to other families in Canada and the United States. Some, who were not “marketable”, were starved to death by way of molasses and water. It can take up to 2 weeks to starve to death. Fourteen days, two weeks – that’s 336 hours (three hundred thirty-six). That’s 336 hours of suffering before being either left for 3 to 5 days in a shed under a box before driving that baby’s body out to Fox Point to be unceremoniously and unscrupulously buried in a butter box from the local dairy.
It is said that the real number of murdered infants can never be known, the official number lays between 500 and 700 babies Lila and William murdered. Some suggest it’s way higher than that, over 1000 even. To this day they are the forgotten, we don’t talk about them at all. We don’t talk about what that monster of a woman, in the guise of a helpful hand, did during the most primal and vulnerable time of any child bearing woman’s life. She stole babies and murdered many more.