ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Small Pox



Rock River Pilot, 1847-1848, pg 7



01 06       This loathsome disease is said to be raging to a fearful extent in the neighboring village of Horicon.  The report is that several have died of it and that in consequence the schools have been closed.   Beaver Dam Argus


05 05       VACCINATION

Small Pox is now prevalent in different portions of the country, and in some places nearby, and one case has recently occurred in this city.  It is the duty of all who have never been vaccinated to lose no time in using this simple preventive to shield themselves from the exposure to which all are necessarily liable, even when not aware of the danger.  Dr. E. Johnson of this city has now a quantity of fresh and pure vaccine matter, which he will employ for this purpose in the case of all who make application.  This is an opportunity which those who have heretofore neglected this safe and easy preventive should now use without delay.   WD


07 21       The Small Pox.  There is no necessity for any one being badly alarmed, but it might as well be known, to enable those disposed to take precautionary measures, that there are several cases of small pox in this city.  When practicable, it is prudent to avoid the localities where it exists and, in addition, to go through the process of inoculation.  This ought never to be neglected and it is the duty of parents to see that their children are shielded by all the protection which medical science has furnished against the ravages of this dreaded and once fatal disease.   WD




The Small Pox – As this disease is now prevailing in certain localities in this city and quite a number of cases have already occurred, some of which have terminated fatally, we think the fact might as well be known, so that those who are inclined to take precautionary measures against it can do so.  At all events, the evil will not be any worse for mentioning the fact.  If we may judge from the statements we see in many of the papers, we are as well off as our neighbors.  This contagious disease seems to be unusually prevalent this winter in many parts of the country.  It is raging extensively in the city of New York.  Every effort should be made to prevent its spreading, but with all the care that may be taken, there is always danger.




The infectious diseases required by ordinance to be reported to the Commissioner of Public Health are small pox, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and typhoid fever.  We had not a single death from any of these, except small pox.  This small pox case occurred . . . .


Common Council Proceedings, Watertown, Wis.   /   06 04 1895


Report of the Commissioner of Public Health


To the Honorable, the Mayor and the Common Council of the City of Watertown




I have the honor to hereby submit my annual report as Commissioner of Public Health of this city for the year ending of the last day of March 1895.  My last report included the time from the 1st of March to the last day of February, 1894, and for the purpose of making a comparison between the year previous and the last year I shall refer to the corresponding periods of the year just past.  During this time there died, according to the death certificates in the city clerk's office, within the city limits 100 persons, of which 51 were males and 49 females, a decrease of 20 against the same period of the previous year.  22 of the deaths occurred in children under the age of three years.  32 persons died over the age of 65 years, out of this number 22 were more than 70 years old, 10 were over 80 and one reached the patriarchal age of 96 years.


The mortality in early childhood and in old age being everywhere and always great, and more than one half of our deaths falling within those periods we certainly have a most gratifying record.


The infectious diseases required by ordinance to be reported to the Commissioner of Public Health are small pox, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and typhoid fever.  We had not a single death from any of these, except small pox.  This small pox case occurred in the 5th ward and was traceable to direct infection from Chicago.  At the very beginning of the case the home of the patient was strictly quarantined; two guards watched the premises by day and night and no one was allowed to communicate with the inmates of the house, except the attending physicians and nurse.  After the death of the patient of the house the contents of the house were thoroughly disinfected, under personal supervision of the Health Commissioner.  The disease which gained more or less of a foothold in most cities where it appears did not spread in our midst, having been stamped out after a single case by the most thorough and radical methods for the prevention of contagion.  This was made possible by the generous support received by the Health department from the Common Council.


A fact worthy of consideration is that during the illness of said small pox patient her children, three or four in number, were all within the same house with her, but as they had all been successfully vaccinated during the preceding winder not one of them took the disease.  The husband of the patient was vaccinated in childhood and re-vaccinated after his wife was taken sick, and he also escaped contagion.  In the town of Clyman where this case originated all inmates of the same house with the patient who were not vaccinated were taken sick with small pox, and several died.  Vaccination is the only safeguard against this pest lential (sic) disease which, in the days before vaccination, decimated the population of all countries.  The vaccination orders of the State Board of Health were generally obeyed here during the past two years.


We had 5 deaths from pneumonia and 3 from bronchitis.


In 17 cases of death the reports of the attending physicians give tuberculosis (consumption) as the cause.  Nearly one sixth of all our deaths are due to consumption; and consumption is a contagious and in certain degree, a preventable disease.   This is a sad state of affairs.  If small pox had caused one half as many deaths in our midst every one would be bent upon stamping out the dread disease, the public would be thoroughly alarmed and the Health Department be sought for aid.  The many deaths from consumption are looked upon with indifference and accepted with a spirit of resignation, and yet, consumption is a contagious disease and may to a great extent be prevented.  Relatives and friends who see their dear ones one after another succumb to this terrible malady say, "Well they must die of it."  Consumption runs in the family, but they don't know that "consumption runs in houses" more than in families.  A person with a predisposition for consumption living and sleeping in a house, perhaps in the very bed, in which a consumptive has lived and died will, in all probability, take the disease, unless the previous occupant, the tuberculosis patient, has been properly managed and the house and its contents have been thoroughly disinfected.


The danger of infection from consumption consists principally in the inhalation of dried particles of sputum from patients containing the germ of the disease.


Consumptives should never spit upon the floor or into handkerchiefs, but if possible, the sputum should be disinfected with a 5 percent solution of carbolic acid or with some other equally effective germicide.  Another good method is to have the patient spit into rags and burn them immediately.  As long as the sputum remains moist it does not convey the contagion.  Well people should not sleep with consumptives in the same bed.  With these single precautions the danger of direct infection become very slight.  In all places where the people were taught the importance of caring for the sputa of patients suffering from consumption and live up to the instructions of medical authorities a gradual and steady decrease of the disease was noticed.  Though I earnestly called attention to this two years ago and again last year, no one appears to have given this matter any serious consideration.  In the year 1892 to 1893 we had out of a total of 128 deaths 10 from consumption, in the year 1893 to 1894 17 out of 120 deaths were from consumption, and in the year 1894 to 1895 we reach the number of 17 deaths out of a total of 100 from consumption, 1/6 of all our deaths.


After a death of consumption has occurred in a house, though it may have been several years ago, the whole interior of the dwelling should be properly disinfected and renovated.  In a future communication I shall explain how this may be effectively done, and anyone desiring information on this subject may receive the same by calling at the Health Department.


In my former reports I called attention to the necessity of having a public hospital.  This need not be large, nor cost much to keep up.  A small house in a suitable location with a few acres of land surrounding it might be bought or erected by the city, so that patients might be received and cared for therein.  At present we have no place for the proper care of the ill and wounded.  As far as cleanliness is concerned our city may be compared favorably with other cities of its size.  The orders of the Health Commissioners to clean up when complaint has been made are generally cheerfully complied with by those who have offended.  All in all there are not many conditions in our midst endangering the public health, though some private places and alleys should be kept cleaner and neater.  It is well to bear in mind, however, that not everything that is annoying or unpleasant in a neighborhood much also be detrimental to the public health, and that it is often times, therefore, difficult for the Commissioner of Health to interfere.


We are at present, with our very low death rate of only one percent, without doubt, one of the most healthful if the THE most beautiful city in the United States.  Let everyone take pride in keeping his place neat, clean and free from smell, and we will soon add to our reputation of the most healthful city that of the most attractive.  In conclusion I desire to express to his Honor, the Mayor, the members of the Board of Health and the Common Council my thanks for their faithful support and for many courtesies shown me during the past year.


Respectfully submitted,



Commissioner of Public Health




It has been found that smallpox patients are least marked when kept in rooms darkened with red curtains.  Sunlight passing through a red medium looses its chemical power. It thus prevents smallpox from taking a confluent form.




Dr. J. M. Sleicher, commissioner of public health, has issued the following proclamation to the people of Watertown:


As there is one case of smallpox and one case of diphtheria in the city, I would respectfully ask the public to exercise due caution to prevent the spreading of these diseases.  The weather has been mild and most favorable for the dissemination of disease.  There has been a hearty willingness on the part of the public to resort to vaccination, but in some other respects negligence has been shown.  I would enjoin upon all business men the necessity of thoroughly ventilating their respective places of business and offices right after the close of business hours, by opening both front and rear doors to admit of a plentiful supply of fresh air; also to abstain from throwing any waste material about the premises.  I would especially call attention to the post office, as it is a place where all kinds of people enter, strangers as well as townspeople; it should be thoroughly aired twice daily.    WR



Nearly 90 per cent, of the children attending the public schools have been vaccinated, in compliance with the orders of the board of education.  The parents of a few children objected to vaccinations, and these were kept from attending school a number of days.


05 23       SMALL-POX CASE

Elmer Buffmire, son of S. H. Buffmire, 1012 Ninth Street, whose case of illness was diagnosed by Dr. J. M. Sleicher last Wednesday as being smallpox, is getting along nicely and is now considered to be out of danger.  The patient is supposed to have become infected with the contagion at some point in the state whither his duties as an employee of the Milwaukee Road takes him.  His case is of the varioloid form.  The customary precautions were taken by the city health authorities to prevent the spread of the disease, the home being in strict quarantine.   WR



Emil Berg and S. Monrean, attendants at the small-pox pest house in the north eastern part of the city, were taken down with mild cases of small-pox last week.  The tramp ill with the disease there will be fully recovered in a few days.   WG



01 25       Every possible effort is being made by the health authorities of the city to curb the small pox at the Northwestern University and confine it to the individual case, also to prevent its spread in the city.  As The Leader announced yesterday, the university was quarantined yesterday morning and the students are not permitted to leave the buildings.  Health Commissioner C. R. Feld is taking every precaution to prevent an epidemic and yesterday was in consultation with Dr. Harper of Madison, secretary of the state board of health.  The health department of the city has ordered a vaccination of all the students at the school and yesterday afternoon about thirty of them were vaccinated, while in the evening doctors were at the university completing the task.  Some of the students were opposed to the order and voiced their objections at a mass meeting of students yesterday afternoon, which lasted about an hour.  It seems, however, that most of the students have yielded and are “taking their medicine.”  There were but two periods (two hours) of recitations yesterday morning, the same having been abandoned the balance of the day.


10 25       A well developed case of small pox was detected by Dr. Shinnick yesterday morning the patient being Wm. A. Bleecker, son of Edward Bleecker of Lake Mills, who is residing at the home of George Bleecker, near Hubbleton.  The patient was recently employed in Minnesota, where he contracted the disease. Drs. Wyhte, Feld and Hoermann pronounced it a typical case of small pox.  The young man suffering the disease is sixteen years of age. The case was at first thought to be a case of ivy poisoning, but the physicians soon made the discovery when the same came to their attention.


Every effort is being made to stamp out the disease.  Drs. Shinnick and Feld went to Hubbleton yesterday afternoon and quarantined the home of George Bleecker.  Mr. Emil Menzel of Milford, health officer, consulted with the Watertown physicians and in accordance with the state law, quarantined the schools at Hubbleton.  It is hoped by the authorities that there will be no further spread and anyone exposed should be vaccinated at once in order to quell the disease in its infancy.





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