Saturday, December 3, 2011

Smallpox Epidemic Wipes out Pratum Family in 1910

Today's news about vaccination compliance is worrisome. We think of the diseases as "gone," but it's not difficult to imagine some of them returning. Just a century ago smallpox occasionally burned through families and places. While smallpox is officially "eradicated," other diseases yet linger.

In her research, SOME SMALL CEMETERIES and MISCELLANEOUS BURIALS, Bernita Jones Sharp writes about the Herr family:
The Daily Oregon Statesman, 10 December 1910, on page 2, has a bold headline: BIG EPIDEMIC OF SMALLPOX. The article goes on to say a report had been received from Pratum that a smallpox epidemic was raging there and the Herr family had fallen victims of the disease, with more than a dozen families having been exposed and many houses quarantined, including Howell School. The county health officer reported the first death occurred on Saturday, Mr. Herr, the father of the family being the unfortunate one. The mother, daughter, son and his wife were also ill.

On 11 December 1910, page 3 of the Daily Oregon Statesman, another bold headline proclaims: WILL SUBDUE BIG EPIDEMIC. This article, under a Silverton dateline, tells "of perhaps the most virulent type of hemorrhagic smallpox that has ever been known on the Pacific coast". It goes on to say that Mr. Herr, a wealthy citizen of Ohio, in company with his wife, had been visiting his son, Simm Herr, and while here but a few days, Mrs. Herr of Ohio, broke out with the disease in a mild form. This rapidly spread to the remaining members of the family resulting in the death of Simm Herr, Mr. Herr of Ohio and Mr. Herr's sister. Mrs. Sim (sic) Herr and little son Clarence were "suffering greatly" but there was hopes of their recovery.

WHOLE FAMILY IS WIPED OUT, emblazons page 2 of the Daily Oregon Statesman on 13 December 1910 and tells that another victim has been added to the death list in the Pratum smallpox epidemic. Mrs. Sen (sic) Herr died "yesterday"; and tells us that her husband died on Saturday. Mr. Herr & his wife, from Ohio, visiting their son, Sen (sic) Herr, were the first afflicted and it was doubtful the son of the Sinn Herrs would recover. Mrs. Herr, of Ohio, was slightly improved and her recovery was looked for.

The Silverton Appeal, on 11 Jan 1911 pg 5 provides a little more information on the Herr family when it is reported that "Mr. Herr" from Bluffton, Iowa had arrived to assist in arranging his father's business affairs [after) "his father and sister died of smallpox a few weeks ago".

On 20 January 1911, pg 6 of the Silverton Appeal is a Card of Thanks from Mr. & Mrs. Peter Herr & the Lichty family and refers to the, "terrible illness and death of Mr. Christ and Sim Herr".

The Oregon Death Index provides the following information:

HERR, Christian, died 03 December 1910

HERR, Fanny M., died 08 December 1910

HERR, Sem (sic) S., died 08 Dec 1910

HERR, Matilda Sarah, died 11 December 1910

Christian Herr was the father from Ohio.

Fanny M. & Sem S. Herr were the daughter & son of Christian and his (unnamed) wife.

Matilda Sarah "Tillie" was the wife of Sem S. Her maiden name was, reportedly, Lichty. The 1895 Census does include a Lichty family with a daughter Matilda, aged between 10 & 18.

The 1910 Census tells us that Sim S. Herr was 36 years of age, born in Ohio, and had been married 4 years. His wife, Tillie S., was 27, born in Oregon, she had had one child and one child was living. Their son, Clarence, age 3, was also born in Oregon. [Clarence Herr did survive the epidemic.]

Peter Herr was apparently another son of Christian Herr. For more on Peter & his family see the reference to them in the section on Mt. Hope Cemetery, in this volume.

In none of the above referred to articles is there any mention of the disposal of the bodies of these victims of smallpox. Reportedly, those who died from communicable diseases were not allowed to be buried in public cemeteries, so burial usually took place on the victims own land and that may have been the case with this family. No obituaries were located for any of the victims.
(Headline from the Oregonian, December 11th, 1910)

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