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Knightstown Smallpox Epidemic of 1902

New Castle Democrat
18 July 1902

     In the summer of 1902, Knightstown, IN 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.
     An amusing incident occurred at Charlottsville, a little village just west of Knightstown in Hancock County. By early August, Greenfield, the county seat of Hancock county, had lifted its quarantine against Knightstown allowing normal rail service through the county by the Indianapolis and Eastern Traction Company. The people of Charlottsville decided that since the county commissioners had not yet acted, the quarantine was still in affect. As an interurban car came into town its wheels suddenly began to spin on the greased tracks, stopping in front of an angry mob of 200 Hancock county citizens, some armed with revolvers and shot guns. A deputy of the Hancock County Board of Health boarded the train to arrest the crew for violating the quarantine, but the angry passengers who were getting their first contact with the outside world in quite awhile, mobbed the officer, forcing him to jump from the car. After the tracks were sanded, the rails were sanded they proceeded on. The rail company contacted the constable to have the health official arrested for interfering in their business. The Charlottsville residents summoned the sheriff to arrest the constable and a deputy prosecutor. The enraged traction officials appealed again to the courts and within a short time the sheriff was taken into custody by the county coroner, the only man empowered to arrest a sheriff. At this point the round robin of arrest was stopped, there was no one left who could arrest the coroner. There were several deaths caused by the disease. The list of names that follow were taken from the New Castle Democrat, a newspaper that was in publication at that time. The names that have an *asterisk in front of them are some of those who died from the disease. Others died later from complications from the disease. The following story was taken from the July 18, 1902 issue of the Democrat.

Commissioners Surround the Town With Guards That Will Let No One Pass
     At a special meeting of the county commissioners with Secretary Mendenhall of the board of health, last Saturday, decisive action was taken in reference to the Knightstown smallpox. The several members of the county council were called by telephone and all said that appropriations would be made to cover any expense necessary to protect the health of the county. With this assurance the board placed quarantine on Knightstown and vicinity.
     Commissioner Ed Hall was delegated to look after it and within twenty-four hours had ten guards on the roads leading from Knightstown. These are in charge of Kirsey Kirk who will patrol the guard line. No person in the prescribed limit, which extends outside the corporate lines of Knightstown, will be allowed to pass the guards under any protect until the smallpox epidemic at Knightstown is over. Rush couny has the same number of men south of the town so that more than twenty men are on duty day and night. The action of the board was right and proper. If anything, it is a benefit to Knightstown as it keeps those persons who might leave if there were no restrictions. Nobody goes into town from the country so that it works no hardship in that respect. The entire county will approve the measure, the only criticism being that it was not done sooner. The quarantine is costing the county fifty dollars a day but this is no time to quibble over a few dollars. The epidemic must be checked and stamped out at any cost.

Those who died from the epidemic
*Brosius, Rosie age 36 years, died on 2 Jul 1902
*Davis, John, age 24 years, died on 3 Jul 1902
*Dovey, Hallie, Mrs. Burt, age 23 years, died on 6 Jul 1902
*Florea, Martha, Mrs. Josiah, age 75 years, died on 14 Jul 1902.
*Lamb, Rebecca age 26 years, died on 3 Aug 1902
*Risley, Nathan F., age 68 years, died on 16 Jul 1902
*Risley, White, age 28 years, died on 7 Jul 1902
*Roberts, Homer S., age 20 years, died on 3 Jul 1902
*Roberts, Edna age 30, died on 30 Jul 1902
*Steele, Mack, age 45 years, died on 17 Jul 1902
*Swain, Jesse A., age 23, died on 9 Jun 1902. Suspected to be the 1st victim.
*White, Henry, age 28 years, died on 6 Jul 1902
*Wilson, Thomas, age 43 years, died on 1 Jul 1902
Those who recovered from the epidemic
Armstrong, Roy
Brosius, Charles, son of W. G. Brosius
Brosius, Rosa, wife of George
Canaday, Jennie, Mother of Mrs. Keyes
Crimer, James, wife and five children
Criner, David
Dill, Elmer, wife and two children
Dovey, Mrs. Francis
Edmundson, Son of Emory Edmundson
Elliot, Frank
Elliot, Paul, son of Frank Elliot
Fort, Bessie
Fort, Grace
Fort, Mrs.
Fort, Paul
Fort, Richard
Frederick, Ern
Girty, Charles
Haskett, Mrs. Nathan
Haskett, Nathan
Homer, Chauncey
Hudelson, Walt
Johnson, Mrs. Dr. E. M. Johnson
Johnson, Mrs. Harvey
Lamb, Doc
Maple, Mrs. Albert
Maple, Three children of Albert Maple
Martin, Alex
McGraw, Ed
McGraw, John, son of Ed Mcgraw
McKee, Flossie
McManus, Mrs.
McMullen, Leo
Newby, Fern, daughter of Chas Newby
Newby, Senator L. P.
Palmer, Mrs. Will
Palmer, Will
Pickett, Claud
Rhodes, Ira
Rhodes, Mrs. L. D.
Rickard, Gladys
Shaffer, Charles
Shaffer, Florence
Shaffer, Frank
St. Clair, Arthur
St. Clair, Mrs. Reuben
Thayer, Grant
Tweedy, Daley
Tweedy, Minnie
Wagner, Noah
Wagoner, Mrs. Noah
Wagoner, Ralph
White, Noah
Wilkinson, Mrs. Hut
Wilson, Mrs. Thomas
Winston, Dr. L. V.
Woodard, Horace
Woodard, Mable, daughter of Dr. T. R.
Woodard, Earl

U.E.Bush 2002

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