Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Smallpox Was A Terrible Scourge

Was reading The Story of Smithfield (Middleway), Jefferson County, West Virginia, 1729-1905, by Robert Lee Bates, 1958, and was horrified to read his accounts of smallpox in Colonial America.

"In those days smallpox was a plague, indeed, a scourge, that people were powerless to combat. Gen. Arnold made his ambitious and unsuccessful campaign against Quebec and he was defeated not so much by the enemy as by smallpox and Canada was lost to the Colonies. Washington dreaded it and he was fearful of those who had been inoculated as he was of those with the disease."

"This dreaded disease invaded the (Shenandoah) Valley. The counties of Frederick and Berkeley became infected areas. People craved social intercourse and it was that (person-to-person) contact that spread the contagion. A yellow flag placed in front of a dwelling was an uphappy signal:  "Beware!" People then gave the infected homes and occupants a wide berth. The word smallpox evoked expressions of horror. The best records of what happened are to be found in the neighboring county of Frederick.

( To be continued.)

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