Thursday, May 6, 2010

Knightstown Small Pox Epidemic Of 1902

Mary Fern & Phoebe Gertrude Newby

"In the summer of 1902, Knightstown, Indiana had an outbreak of smallpox. It was considered severe enough by the board of health, and the county commissioners, that the entire town and vicinity was quarantined. No one was allowed to enter or the leave the town for any reason. Despite the drastic measures, the disease continued to spread. Where twenty-six cases had been reported in June, fourteen more were added to the toll the first week in July. People panicked as they saw the silent killer stalk their friends and neighbors. Everyone wondered, "Who will be next?" By mid-July the Knightstown toll had shot to 81 cases. During the epidemic Knightstown was like a city of the dead. All business in Knightstown was paralyzed, weeds, corn and other vegetation grew up all over town, hitching racks in the town square were overgrown with weeds as tall as six feet. Hardly any business was transacted for nearly two and one-half months. By early August the epidemic seemed to fade. One by one the quarantines were lifted and normal life resumed."
[Excerpted from the New Castle Democrat, 18 July 1902]

My grandmother, Mary Fern Newby [above left] contracted small pox and was one of the survivors of this epidemic as was her great uncle, Senator Leonidas Perry Newby. My mother always told me my grandmother was scarred from the smallpox but I guess I never noticed. Her sister, Phoebe Gertrude didn't get the disease. Little Phoebe died in 1901 of "acute largyngitis" before the epidemic reached Indiana. She was six years old. 


No comments:

Post a Comment