The season was fall, the year about 1834. The savagery of the southern Illinois backwoods seemed reflected in the wildly beautiful autumnal foliage. Anna Pierce Hobbs, pioneer doctor in the rugged hills of southeastern Illinois, strode into the dense forest covering Hobbs' Ridge.
It was a lovely day to carry on her determined hunt for the unknown killer herb that, she was certain, had been decimating both the human and livestock populations of the pioneer settlement of Rock Creek. Anna had no inkling that, on this day, she would meet the Shawnee medicine woman, "Aunt Shawnee," who would reveal to her the guilty plant. She little thought that she was about to take the last in a series of logical steps that were to lead, inevitably, to her discovery of the cause of milk sickness. Anna's work, reaching its culmination on this day, should have wiped out the vicious scourge