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SMALLPOX and MILTONSBURG, OHIO

 

 

Working with the records of the Board of Health of Miltonsburg, Ohio, photographs, and some of his own sketches, Paul E. Young created the following historical snapshot of how the Village of Miltonsburg coped with the crisis of Smallpox in the winter of 1896.  In preparing this document, Paul Young has captured some of the scenes, the people, and the feelings of the period.  He has added visual perspective to his work with a number of sketches that he made based on historical records and some buildings and features of the village that have survived.

 

As a setting for the document, Paul Young provides a pictorial plot plan of the Village of Miltonsburg.  To this he has added original pictures of sites and events that made up the everyday life in the village.

 

The document that follows is an approximation of Paul Young's original document.  The text has been preserved without edit.  Pictures have been enlarged where possible and placed in the approximate location where they appear in the original document.

 

A work by Paul E. Young, Jr.

Professor of Architecture Emeritus

The Ohio State University

young.13@osu.edu

 

***************************

 

 

Difficult Days in the Winter of 1896

 

How a small Ohio village dealt with a threat from smallpox

 

Paul E. Young, Jr.

 

 

 

Plot Plan of Miltonsburg in about 1900

 

Miltonsburg Plot Plan

 

 

Miltonsburg, Looking North from about Lot 29

 

 

 

Miltonsburg looking north from about Lot 14.  Building with cupola is Town Hall

Click on the picture for an enlarged view

 

 

PREFACE

 

Names and dates on the tombstones in the cemetery south of town correctly suggest that the early settlers of Miltonsburg, Ohio were primarily Germans but with a fair sprinkling of other Central Europeans. You can follow the lives of families through two or three generations by noting the birthplace of immigrating parents, and the birth, marriage, and death of their children and grandchildren. While these markers often note the early death of a child, for the most part they record the normal life expectancies of the time.  But one tombstone stands out because it records the death on the same day of a thirty-four year old daughter and a nineteen year old son. One would assume an accident occurred; however, as noted in the following account, they died of smallpox during an outbreak of this disease that dominated the lives of all people in this community during the Winter of 1896. 

 

Old Section of the Miltonsburg Cemetery - photo 2002

 

 

 

 

Laudenberg Monument

 

Laudenberg family monument found in the Miltonsburg Cemetery located about one-quarter mile south of town on State Route 145.  For a larger view of this monument, click on Laudenberg here or click on the picture.

 

This document grew out of my interest in exploring the daily lives of people whose names often surfaced in the stories my parents and grandparents told of the early years of this small town of my childhood. The detail may be of interest only to persons who share memories of Miltonsburg; however, I suspect others may be intrigued, as was I, by the remarkable economic, social, and political independence of small 19th century Ohio villages that is suggested by the way the Board of Health handled this difficult time in the winter of 1896. 

 

The minutes of the Miltonsburg Board of Health were among the ledgers that were retrieved from a trash pile in the 1950’s.The seven members of the board were initially appointed by Mayor Simon B. Luley, and, at their first meeting on May 4, 1893, they, in turn appointed Dr. J. H. Pugh as Health Officer and Alex Hardesty as clerk. On May 9th they met to establish rules and regulations that consisted of fifteen sections covering items ranging from the drainage of privies and cellars to the sale of meat and dairy products from diseased animals to the control of conditions surrounding contagious diseases. 

 

The Board met only a few times between 1893 and 1895; however on January 2, 1896 they began a series of meetings that dominated the lives of the 132 persons who lived in Miltonsburg, as well as most of the population of Monroe County, Ohio. 

 

 

 

Miltonsburg Town Hall about 1896

 

Board member, Philip Wengert,

lived in the house on the left (Lot 17)

 

 

On Thursday, New Year's Day, 1896 the citizens of Miltonsburg learned that a local farmer, whose illness had been diagnosed first as chicken pox, was now known to have smallpox. While news of smallpox cases in Wheeling and other towns along the Ohio River had been sporadically reported in the Monroe County newspapers since early autumn of 1895, people felt little threat because these towns were about fifty miles away.  Alex Hardesty's minutes of this and subsequent meetings describe how the people of this village dealt with the threat of smallpox:

 

Board of Health

Meeting held January 2, 1896

 

The Board of Health met. A quorum present.

Whereas by appearance of smallpox in Malaga Tp. and which may become epidemic.

 

Be it resolved that any person residing or being outside of the corporation except physicians on duty (and the U.S. Mail) shall be prohibited from coming into the corporation of the village of Miltonsburg without permission of the board of heath.

 

Wengert aye Muller, aye Menkel, W.O. aye Menkel, Philip, aye Friday, aye

          Adopted

 

Resolved that the Board of Health proceed to consult Dr. Kernion? of Malaga to proceed to vaccinate all persons as necessary inside of the Corp. of Miltonsburg at once and those perons too poor to pay for the services that the Bd. of Health will pay the same.

 

Wengert aye Muller, aye Menkel, W. O. aye Menkel, Philip, aye Friday, aye

          Adopted

 

Adjourned to meet [Friday] Jan 3rd 1896.

Sam Groux, President of Bd.

 

Alex Hardesty, Clerk

 

 

 

 

 

Board member Samuel Groux, who lived in the house on Lot 5 and operated a small store on Lot 4, was a village elder statesman when he served as president of the Miltonsburg Board of Health. Born in Switzerland, he came to this country in 1853 and worked as a mate on steamboats on the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, and Cumberland Rivers between 1853 and 1860. During the Civil War he served in the 7th Missouri Regiment fighting skirmishes in Missouri and Kansas. He established his mercantile business in 1870 and was elected Justice of the Peace for Malaga Township in 1875. In 1896 he was serving his third term.

 

J. E. Caldwell, Atlas of Monroe County (Mt Vernon, Ohio, 1898).

 

The reference in the minutes to smallpox having appeared in Malaga Township refers to the illness of George Laudenberg who lived on a farm about one mile south of Miltonsburg along what is now State Route 145. His farm was outside the corporate limits of the town but within the township that included the villages of Miltonsburg and Malaga. Mr. Laudenberg had apparently contacted the disease during a trip to Wheeling.

 

 

George Friday's Shop and House c 1896 (Lot 28)

Board member George Friday was an innovative entrepreneur with a wide range of interests and businesses. He owned and trained race horses, made brooms, and invented a horseless carriage headlamp that turned with the wheels so "you could always see what was in front of you."  He operated his own shop and made his own tools and machines as he needed them. He had a physical disability which he partially corrected by making his own shoe with a built-up platform.

 

 

Early on January 3rd, before the scheduled meeting, Alex Hardesty recorded the following notation in his ledger:

 

Jan 3rd 1896 8 o.clock AM

Postmaster notified to not receive any mail from infected houses

Alex Hardesty, Clerk

 

 

 

 

Miltonsburg Board of Health Ledger

 

Portion of Alex Hardesty entry for January 2, 1896

 

 

 

 

Board member Alex Hardesty lived in the house on Lot 21. In the 1950’s this was one of the three log houses that still existed in Miltonsburg. He was a dealer in tobacco which was a major crop in Monroe County in the late nineteenth century. Alex Hardesty was described by those who knew him as “a very witty man.”

 

 

 

Tobacco Hogshead Ready to be exported.

Stalder's House on Lot 6 in background

 

 

Until this emergency meeting on the second day of 1896, the only indication that members of the Miltonsburg Board of Health ever had concern about smallpox was a special session held in January of 1894 when the Board considered an order from the State of Ohio to vaccinate all school pupils. In this meeting they resolved that “ in the opinion of the board of health it would be best to postpone vaccination of said pupils until winter term of school classes unless it becomes necessary by approach of smallpox.” Although vaccination was voluntary for adults at this time in Ohio, it was apparently compulsory for children.

 

The first indication of the problem that was to reach Miltonsburg in January was reported in the Spirit of Democracy in September of 1895.

 

The Spirit of Democracy

Thursday, September 12, 1895

Smallpox is spreading in Wheeling, several new cases being reported last week from the south side. It is wise for people to keep away from Wheeling at present. The Wheeling daily papers are deserving of censure in the matter as they try to belittle the danger and lead outsiders to believe the condition of affairs is not as bad as

 

 

The Spirit of Democracy

Thursday, December 26, 1895

The smallpox scare still keeps up. There are about 75 cases in Bridgeport and martins Ferry, about two thirds of the number being in the latter place. The quarantine precautions in all the neighboring towns have been kept up, and it looks now as if the disease would not spread, but the greatest care should still be taken. Some of the towns are going to a great extent in their zeal in quarantining. Beallsville will not allow anyone from Bellaire to come there, and yet there is not smallpox at Bellaire. At St. Clairsville, the health board has refused to allow any public meetings of any kind, which appears to be an unnecessary precaution form the fact hat there is not smallpox within several miles and has not been. It was reported that there was a case at Miltonsburg, George Laudenberg being

 

 

The Spirit of Democracy

Thursday, December 19, 1895

Woodsfield has ordered a strict quarantine against Bridgeport, Martins Ferry, and the other smallpox towns, and no one from those places is allowed to enter our gates.  Woodsfield has no smallpox now and we do not intend to have if caution and care can prevent it.  Our town board of health has shown itself efficient on this important occasion. Last Thursday, two girls, who claimed to be from Wheeling, but who were thought to be from Bridgeport, came into town but were immediately sent out by Mayor Walton and Health Officer Littel.

Martins Ferry does not seem to act with intelligence at a critical time. They have allowed smallpox to get a strong hold in that town, there being over forty cases there. … Wheeling loves the almighty dollar so well that she would not quarantine against the smallpox district until

 

 

Menkel’s Furniture Shop and Undertaking Business (Lots 35 & 36 in the center of this sketch)

Board members Philip and William Menkel were part of a family that made furniture and operated a funeral, embalming, and monument business. Many of the tombstones in Monroe County have their mark and occasionally a piece of their furniture turns up on the antique market.  The store on the right, which was owned by Edward Young in the 1930’s, had a meeting room above.

 

 

Other accounts in the December 19, 1895 edition of the Spirit of Democracy reveal an accelerating concern regarding the smallpox threat.

 

 

The Board of Health of Green Township desires the assistance of all citizens of said township to aid them in preventing the introduction of smallpox into the township by reporting any suspected persons.

 

By order of the Board

 

S. J. Devaul, Clerk

 

 

Fresh vaccine quills received every day.

 

Drs. Armstrong & Perry

 

 

Incidents of smallpox were recorded in the United States as early as 1625. Subsequently, fresh outbreaks appeared about every seventeen or eighteen years.  During most of the 1800’s, smallpox was more or less continually present in New York, Philadelphia, and other large cities. Before Dr. Edward Jenner’s development of the smallpox vaccine in 1796, the only known way to be free of the threat of smallpox was to survive a light case of it. In the 1700’s almost 200,000 people died of the disease in London alone. By 1896, although the vaccine had been available for 100 years, outbreaks were still serious threats to communities where many persons had not been vaccinated. Since the disease is very difficult to diagnose accurately in its early stages, it was often already present before it was identified. (Author's note:  While I have no reason to doubt this information, I cannot document the source.)

 

The approach to the control of the disease is suggested in the following excerpts from Hygiene and Public Health, a book edited by Dr. Albert H. Buck in 1879. “The belief in [the epidemic nature of smallpox] has arisen from the fact that it spreads through a large community in a remarkably short space of time, and when the protection offered by perfect vaccination has not been afforded, and in districts where sanitary control has been lax, or when careless management of cases has existed, the disease has raged so furiously as to leave the impression that is was decidedly epidemic. … [Even though a recognizable spread of the disease] is so rapid as to appear almost inexplicable by the ordinary theory of contagion and exposure … in every case it has been found that the …disease cannot possibly appear unless the individual has been exposed to the contagion in some way.” References such as Hygiene and Public Health would almost certainly have been in the medical library of individuals such as Dr. Pugh, who was practicing in Miltonsburg at this time. (Albert H. Buck MD, ed Hygiene and Public Health (New York: William Wood & Company, 1879 pp 517-18)

 

The day that the Miltonsburg Board of Health met to deal with the threat, the

Spirit of Democracy was reporting the situation as follows:

 

The Spirit of Democracy

Thursday, January 2, 1895

 

Woodsfield has the smallpox scare now, and not without reason. It has developed in the last few days that George Landenberger of Miltonsburg, who was exposed to the disease at Wheeling and who was suspected of having the smallpox, really did have a light attack. He claimed he was not exposed to the disease and no attempt was made to keep him away from other people. When word came that some of his children were sick, the health board of Woodsfield immediately quarantined against people from that section of the county and placed guards at each of the roads leading to town.  Today, Dr.

 

Way was sent to Miltonsburg to make an investigation and found that Laudenberger, three of his children, his housekeeper, and one other case in all had smallpox.  The board of health must now maintain a quarantine of the strictest kind against the infected district.  It is better to be over-cautious now, than to wish we had taken more care if the smallpox gets started here.  In the meantime the chances of the disease spreading are greatly lessened by vaccination.  Out of the 47 cases noted at the river, 40 of the victims had never been vaccinated and the others had not been recently.

(Author's note:  The "Landenberger" spelling is used consistently in newspaper accounts, however, the family tombstone in Miltonsburg Cemetery carries the name, :Laudenberg.)

 

In their meeting on Friday, January 3rd, members of the Miltonsburg Board of Health took actions that, based on contemporary newspaper accounts, must have been typical of most of the boards of health in each village and township in the county.

 

Board of Health

Meeting held January 3, 1896

The Board of Health met. A quorum present.

 

Resolved: that all dogs within the corp. be ordered quarantined by owner or killed against 10 o.clock A.M. [Sunday] Jan 5th and to remain in quarantine until released by the Board of Health.

 

Wengert aye Muller, aye Menkel, W. O. aye Menkel, Philip, aye Friday, aye

Adopted

 

Resolved: that all persons under 50 years of age shall be vaccinated if thought necessary by physician. All such who refuse to comply will be quarantined until released by the Bd. of Health.

 

Wengert aye Muller, aye Menkel, W. O. aye Menkel, Philip, aye Friday, aye

Adopted

 

Resolved: that three guards be appointed by the President to enforce quarantine measures as follows:  To be on duty from 7 o.clock A. M to 6 o.clock P.M and to receive 75 cts pr day. Also 1 boy at 25 cts pr day for errands.

 

Wengert aye Muller, aye Menkel, W. O. aye Menkel, Philip, aye Friday, aye

Adopted

 

The president proceeded to appoint as follows: George Friday at north end. Frank Hardesty at south end, and George Reller at middle of town.

 

Adjourned till Monday evening Jan 6th

 

Sam Groux, President

 

Alex Hardesty, Clerk

 

 

 

It is not clear why only persons under 50 years of age were ordered to be vaccinated under threat of quarantine. It is possible that the largely German population of Miltonsburg carried some of the concerns Dr. Buck referred to when he describe incidents of smallpox in New York City in 1872-73.

 

Many of the patients were Italians, Irish, and Germans, the latter being especially subject to small-pox. Ignorance and superstition seem to partially account for this increased susceptibility of certain nationalities, and the disbelief in and fear of vaccination invite the spread of the pestilence. As an example of the former, it may be mentioned that, among a large proportion of the German population, the month of May is believed to be the only time when the operation of vaccination may be successfully performed; and no matter how close may be the proximity of the person to a case of the disease, he will often refuse the advantage of protection held out, preferring to run the risk. (Buck 1879, p. 518.)

 

Buck also observed that small-pox is markedly controlled by extremes of temperature . . . it seems to flourish during cool weather, and is usually abated during the summer months, reappearing in the fall, . This observation is consistent with the first newspaper accounts of smallpox in Wheeling and other Ohio river towns in the autumn of 1895.

 

On Monday, January 6th, the Board of Health agreed to seek advice in establishing a quarantine. Despite the fact that every town and township in the county was dealing with the same problem, there seemed to be no thought of contacting other county boards of health and sharing information.

 

Board of Health

Meeting held January 6, 1896

The Board of Health met. A quorum present.

 

The minutes of the previous meetings were read and approved.

 

Resolved: as 3 guards are considered not necessary that two guards only be used viz. One guard at the north and one guard at the south end of town.

Adopted

 

Resolved that a delegate be sent to Bellaire O. on the 8th inst. To meet a commissioner of the State Board of Health to arrange methods of quarantine.

Adopted

 

Resolved: that W. O. Menkel act as said delegate.

Adopted

 

Whereas Philip Menkel has tendered his resignation as a member of the Board of Health,

 

Resolved that the resignation be accepted to take effect when successor is appointed

Adopted

Adjourned to meet Thursday evening 9th inst.

 

Sam Groux, President

 

Alex Hardesty, Clerk

 

 

Apparently William Menkels’ assignment was to attend a meeting in Bellaire that was called by the State Board of Health to help members of boards of health in southeastern Ohio deal with smallpox cases that had now spread well beyond the Ohio river communities where they were first reported in September of 1895.

 

It is clear from the newspaper accounts that each community, including the

county seat, was acting fairly independently during this crisis. The editorial tone of the smallpox reports in the January 9th edition of the Spirit of Democracy, which was a “county newspaper,” clearly reflected the concerns of Woodsfield as a community, rather than concern for the county as a whole.

 

The Spirit of Democracy

Thursday, January 9th

The smallpox situation is attracting general attention hereabouts now, and is the universal theme of conversation. The situation in Miltonsburg is about the same as it was last week. The latest report is that outside of the Laudenberger family, where five persons have the smallpox, there are no cases except Fred Stalder and a little daughter of George Schroeder, and Fred Huff at Monroefield. Mails to and from Miltonsburg are stopped so that definite information cannot be obtained. One death has resulted in this county from smallpox. Will Laudenberger, a son of George Laudenberger, who carried the disease from Wheeling, was the victim. His death occurred on Wednesday, January 8. He was a young man of 22 years of age. Adam Meyers of Jackson Ridge, who caught the disease from Mr. Laudenberger, has been getting along pretty well, but was worse on Wednesday. The above are the only known cases in Monroe County, and the nearest of them to Woodsfield is six miles away. On account of the great amount of travel to the county seat from all over the county the Woodsfield Board of Health decided last week to place a guard on each road leading to

 

town and at the railroad depot and admit no one that had been in any infected district. While the principal danger was from the north, guards were

placed all around and they have the authority to give passes to persons who had business in town and had not been near the smallpox. These passes are dated and signed by Mayor Walton and the police guard. The plan has worked satisfactorily so far. Some of course complain, but there is not

reason for this. The public health must be protected even if some inconvenience is caused to individuals. It is not a light matter for a community to have a scourge of smallpox and the cost in dollars and cents is a small part of the total loss from such a condition.

George Walker, a whisky drummer form Wheeling, is the only person so far who has been detected in violating the quarantine laws. He was brought before Mayor Walton and fined $5 and costs. He told officers he had not been at Bridgeport recently, but his postal cards to his patrons were dated and post marked at Bridgeport.

One case of unnecessary severity in quarantining was in the case of a man sent here by the Malaga Township authorities. He carried a note from the

clerk of the township asking for medicine and stating that he had not been near the smallpox.

 

 

The guard refuse to admit him and would not leave his post to get the medicine even when the man agreed to stand guard and keep people out

until the policeman returned. In a strict sense the guard was performing his duty, but it was certainly harsh and cruel to send a man way from town without medicine which he could probably not obtain elsewhere. Since writing the above we learned that the messenger returned again Wednesday and the guard made arrangements to procure the medicine for him, so that he returned home happy and no harm was done.

The churches were all closed last Sunday [January 4th] on account of the smallpox scare, and school has not taken up since the holidays. These are precautionary measures.

No one is allowed to go in or out of Lewisville. Beallsville is quarantined against Miltonsburg and also against Woodsfield.

A guard is kept on the Malaga and Barnesville Road and allows no one from Monroe County to cross the Belmont County line.

Drs. Way and Huth are vaccinating all the school children of Center Township.

 

 

 As is still the practice in rural county newspapers, many of the small communities had weekly reports, or “letters,” written by local residents. The following “letters” from other villages in the January 9th edition of the Spirit, suggest the extent to which the entire county was affected by these cases of smallpox.

 

Beallsville

The smallpox scare is not abating. It is the all-absorbing topic among our people. … A few of our boys went to Miltonsburg some days ago seemingly without business and now have to stay indoors.

 

Jerusalem

We have our town quarantined against Center Township on the south, the Grizzel Ridge Road on the west, and Bellarie, Bridgeport, and Martins

Ferry on the east.

 

 

 

 On Thursday, January 9th , the Miltonsburg Board of Health met to hear William Menkel’s report on his trip to Bellaire to learn of the procedures for establishing a quarantine. An understanding of the way the outbreak was being handled comes from the minutes of this meeting and subsequent meetings on January 10th and 11th.

 

Board of Health

Meeting held January 9, 1896

The Board of Health met. A quorum present.

 

The report of W. O. Menkel, delegate to the Bellaire meeting, set forth that the decision (and instructions) as to quarantine measures, authorizes local boards of health to establish measures of quarantine.

 

Resolved that an assistant be appointed as guard at the south end of town.

Adopted

 

Resolved that the guard at south end of town be allowed 25 cents extra on the 10th to employ a boy as assistant.

Adopted

 

Adjourned until Friday eve. 10th inst.

 

Sam Groux, President

 

Alex Hardesty, Clerk

 

 

Board of Health

Meeting held January 10, 1896

The Board of Health met. A quorum present.

 

Resolved that the Guards be discharged and that quarantine be discontinued.

Adopted

 

Resolved; that the guard at the south end of town be continued until Bd. of Health appoints guards for infected houses.

Adopted

 

Adjourned to meet on call

 

Sam Groux, President

 

Alex Hardesty, Clerk

 

 

 

The following records suggest the range of activities and authority of the Miltonsburg Board of Health.

 

[Friday] January 10

The Board of Health authorized that 10 bu. of coal be borrowed from Bd. of Education for use of Fred Stalder.

 

[Saturday] January 11

The above received. 16-1/8 bu. weighed by Philip Wengert.

Alex Hardesty, Clerk

 

Despite the fact that the minutes of the Board of Health suggested that the situation was coming under control in Miltonsburg by January 11th, it appears from the lead article in the January 16th edition of the Spirit of Democracy that people in Woodsfield, which was only six miles away, had no idea what was going on.

 

The Spirit of Democracy

Thursday, January 16

 

SMALLPOX NEWS

Reliable news from Miltonsburg is extremely difficult to obtain, and reports from there cannot be verified. What news we give here may not be correct, but is believed to be reliable, and as nearly correct as can be obtained. All direct communication with Miltonsburg is shut off. During the past week one death has resulted from smallpox, and that was Louise Laudenberger, second daughter of George Laudenberger and a sister of the young man who

 

died last week.  It is not believed that any others at Miltonsburg have died. The Schroeder children are said to be getting along all right, and it is not believed that there are any other new cases. Rumors that Mr.Cramer, and Dr. Pugh’s wife, of Miltonsburg, and Mrs. L. Sebach of near Middle Church are down with the disease cannot be verified and are probably untrue.

Dr. Probst, the secretary of the state board of health, visited Miltonsburg last week and upon return to Columbus reported twelve cases and two deaths. Dr. Probst was thrown from his buggy and painfully injured.

 

 

 The Laudenberg tombstone records the deaths of William and Lousia on the same day, January 8, 1896. Dr. C. O. Probst was secretary of the Ohio State Department of Health from 1886, the year it was established, until 1911. It seems strange that a visit to Miltonsburg from such a high-ranking state official would not be mentioned in the minutes of the Board of Health. Subsequent newspaper reports, however, confirm that he did visit the village.

 

Other excerpts from the January 16th edition of the Spirit of Democracy provide insights into conditions in other parts of Monroe County and southeastern Ohio.

 

The reason assigned for the quarantine of Toronto, Jefferson County, against Miltonsburg is that Elmer Truax and family are visiting at Miltonsburg and the Toronto people want to prevent them from returning home for a while.

 

The St. Clairsville Chronicle says: Our quarantine was on just 29 days and the total cost was $549, as is shown by the report to council. This averages to nearly $19 a day to the town not counting the individual losses sustained by business men through the tying up of trade.

 

Stafford

We have no smallpox here yet and do not think we will have unless someone is sharp enough to evade the health officer and his assistants. … It was reported on the street that John Okey was in company with George Laudenberger at Woodsfield; however, it is twenty-five days since and Mr. Okey had developed no symptoms yet. …

 

 

There is no case of sickness here except Bill Barnett who is suffering from a nervous cold.

 

Cameron

Smallpox is the topic of conversation now-a-days in our Village. Why be scared when you live eight miles from the infected place?

 

Jeries

The school at this place will be vaccinated some time this week.

 

Benwood

Several persons in this neighborhood who have had a chance to get the smallpox have been quarantined so that it is hoped the disease will not spread further here.

 

Griffith

Times are somewhat dull in our little village on account of the smallpox scare. But we do not get scared as bad as the editors of our county papers.

 

When they hear of the smallpox they get to shaking in their boots so bad they don’t know the difference between Wayne township and Jackson ridge. Both papers say Adam Myers of Jackson ridge has the varioloid. We wish to inform the public that we have no smallpox or varioloid on this ridge. Adam Myers lives in Wayne township and is a least one mile and a half from Jackson ridge. …

Quite a number of the school children assembled at the Agin school house Friday to meet Dr. Huth, but the doctor did not show up and caused quite a disappointment; but it saved the children sore arms and several half dollars. … The schools are all closed for a short time. We do not know how soon they will be reopened.

 

Members of the Miltonsburg Board of Health continued to deal with the crisis by making arrangements to hire a professional nurse.

 

Board of Health

Meeting held January 21, 1896

 

The Board of Health met. A quorum present

The minutes of the previous meeting were read and approved.

Whereas it appears that nurses will be required for small pox cases,

 

Resolved that a delegate be appointed (Sam'l Groux) to go to Wheeling and arrange for procuring nurses as necessary.

Adopted

 

Resolved that a guard be appointed at Stalder's house

Adopted

 

Resolved that W. O. Menkel & Chas. Reller be appointed to notify Dr. Pugh that his clothing worn in infected homes must be thoroughly fumigated before using again.

Adopted

 

Frederick Kirsh was appointed as a guard at Stalder's house at 75 cts pr. day.

 

Adjourned to meet on call

 

Sam Groux, President

 

Alex Hardesty, Clerk

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Reller was a buggy and wagon maker. His shop had a hand operated elevator used to hoist finished buggies to the second floor for painting and drying. Local historians note that his wife, Cum (short for Columbia) had the town's first washing machine, which was turned by hand. They also report that Cum smoked a pipe which, on one occasion, caused a fire in the drawer where she stuffed it when a proper neighbor lady dropped in unexpectedly.

Charlie and Cum lived in the house on Lot 22.

Reller's Shop and Carriage Works (Lot 29)

 

 

 

 

By January 23, the situation was sufficiently under control to permit political and personal disagreement to surface publicly in the newspaper.

 

The Spirit of Democracy

Thursday, January 23, 1896

 

IMPROVING

is the smallpox situation in Monroe County. The boards of health throughout the county are feeling much encouraged in regard to the smallpox situation from the fact that the disease has been confined to the houses where cases already existed. At Miltonsburg there is one new case-a daughter or Fred Stalder. All other cases there are getting along as well as could be expected. There is one new case in Wayne township. Ed Meyers, a son

 

 

of Adam Myers, is down with the smallpox and has a severe attack. He caught the disease from his father. It is also reported that the father and mother of Fred Huff of Monroefield have the disease but this information is not reliable.

There is no foundation for the report that there were several cases in Lewisville.

We publish among our correspondence today two letters from Miltonsburg giving a detailed account … We should say in justice to the parties concerned that some of the reflections [in these letters] are very unfair. No attempt

 

 

has been made to injure the businesses of Miltonsburg as far as we know, and the charge against the county papers is exceedingly unjust. We were shut off from all direct communications with Miltonsburg and our information necessarily had to pass through many hands. From the amount of rumors flying around we believe we should be commended, rather than criticized, for the reports given by us. Considering the difficulties under which the papers labored in obtaining the news any disinterested person will concede

that the accounts in The Spirit and Gazette were remarkably accurate.

 

One of the letters the Spirit editor was referring to was written by T. J. Kremer.

 

Smallpox at Miltonsburg

Allow me to dedicate this letter to the public, to correct the rumors that are circulating.  The first case was that of George Laudenberger, residing south of town. He having a very light case of varioloid, making it difficult for our physicians to recognize as all physicians are aware. Consequently his family, Lousia, Jacob, Lucetta, William, Mollie, and Daisy were also stricken. Louisa and William died January 8, the only deaths that have occurred. Daisy, daughter of Louisa, has almost recovered. The others, after having a very severe time are expected to recover. Peter Barnes and his brother from Malaga are attending to their wants. Fred Laudenberger, residing about 50 yards from his father, has also been deprived of liberty by being infected with the dreadful disease. He has a light case and no danger is anticipated. Two young men residing with him took their abode in the smokehouse to escape the disease.

George Schroeder's child has a very light case and is expected to be about in a few days. The

 

only case in town is that of Fred Stalder. He is now convalescing. Yesterday the sad but not unexpected news of his daughter Freda being confined with smallpox came to our hearing. We are not able to prognosticate her case.

Fred Huff Jr. has a light attack and is getting along nicely at his home in Monroefield. Fred Huff Sr. is indisposed but is not thought to have smallpox.

Our officials are alert and a rigid quarantine is enforced.

Those families that contacted the disease had a very severe exposure and as no others have been exposed for about four weeks, we are feeling

much easier. Smiling faces are to be seen again on our streets. We are not expecting any other families to be unfortunate.

Our neighboring towns are aware that there is no danger and are opening their doors to us again. Barnesville and Malaga no longer refuse our mail and the lovers of the town can again communicate with their esteemed friends. For a couple of weeks we

 

were shut off from the world. We could not communicate with anyone beyond the corporation limits by any means whatsoever. As Dr. Probst truly remarked, that the quarantine was more severe than the smallpox.

The critics were too severe on our officials and physician. Would any other body of men in this town, or any other town, not being infected since 1840, have acted without caution and reason? "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" would have been a good maxim for our neighbors, in our unfortunate condition. But instead they quarantined their physicians, who were willing to come, making it almost impossible to be vaccinated at the proper time, a virus was as scarce as the physicians.

The report that Philip Kramer and Dr. Pugh's wife had the smallpox is untrue. This is the full details of the smallpox situation up to January

20. Hoping the public will be benefited with the same.

 

T. J. Kremer

 

 

The problems faced by Dr. Pugh in diagnosing the disease were documented in nineteenth-century medical literature: “In some mixed forms [of smallpox] it is almost impossible to say with certainty that the eruption in a given case is that of smallpox … varicella [chicken pox] is perhaps most commonly mistaken for the more severe diseases of the same general character.” (Buck 1879, p. 515.)

 

The second letter, which was probably written by the regular Miltonsburg correspondent, confirms the conditions reported by T. J. Kremer and then presents his own editorial comment as follows:

 

… Our community feels not any too grateful to the authorities of Woodsfield who flatly refused, in time of great need, not only to aid us in procuring medicine, but actually prevented us from getting it until a part went back the second time, pled, and begged for some. Also our county papers by printing all kinds of unverified reports about smallpox injured our place, making relatives and friends living away from her

 

feel uneasy; and further, injured business for this place and surrounding places. Last summer when Wheeling was plague stricken their papers didn’t try to make it look darker than it really was. Last Thursday evening Uncle Sam notified our post master to again forward our mail which went out Friday morning, January 17, for the first time in 1896, which caused a sigh of relief to spread over the faces

 

of our energetic citizens.

The quarantine was more objectionable (or at least as much so) as the smallpox. A month ago a number of people about here did not believe in vaccination. Quite a number of them, or nearly all, have changed their views and have been vaccinated.

 

 

Other notices in the January 23rd edition of the Spirit suggest also suggest that conditions are beginning to improve in other parts of the county.

 

Cameron

… the smallpox scare has almost blowed away. Hope it will stay away for good.

 

 

Jerusalem

Jerusalem has lifted her quarantine against all places except Miltonsburg and vicinity and if no new cases are reported prior to the meeting of the health board this evening it is expected that it will be lifted on that vicinity. It is well enough to take proper precautions …

 

 

 

The edition of the Spirit for January 30, 1896 once again placed smallpox in the number one column where it had been all month; however, the tone was beginning to change form crisis reporting to human interest and performance assessment.

 

 

THE DOCTOR

Wasn’t Afraid of Smallpox and Now He Has an Attack Himself

 

Dr. J. W. Weber of Lewisville has been attending some of the smallpox patients at Miltonsburg, and has frequently boasted that he is not afraid of the disease. The fact that smallpox doesn’t care whether a man is afraid or it or not, if it wants to attack him, does not seem to have entered the doctor's

 

head. And then, too, it is certain that he did not take the precautions that very physician attending a smallpox patient is expected to take. Last Sunday Dr. Way received a telegram from the Lewisville board of health requesting him to come to that place and inquire into a suspected case of smallpox. Dr. Way upon his arrival found that Dr. Weber as they [thought] did not take ordinary precaution and freely associated with the people of the town before being stricken. They regarded him

 

as criminally careless. And it looks to an outsider as if they were not far wrong.

The quarantine at Woodsfield against Bridgeport and Martins Ferry was raised last week and also against the Miltonsburg people excepting those who have been infected. The Miltonsburg people have things under good control now and the disease is not spreading outside of the families already infected. A quarantine has been laid against the Lewisville people.

 

The January 30th edition of the Spirit once again a contained letters from T.J. Kremer and the regular Miltonsburg news reporter.

 

Miltonsburg, Jan. 27

 

There is a beauty in the sunlight,

And the soft blue heaven above;

Oh, the world is full of beauty,

When the heart is full of love.”

 

The sun, that great consoler, is now permitting his rays to beam through our windows and make our firesides happy, but the sultry weather is surrounding our village and would, no doubt, make the temporary hospitals a dreary place if it were not for the magnanimity of our officials and citizens. The board of health passed a resolution to acquire the service of a couple of competent nurses. Samuel Groux, representing the board of health, went directly to Wheeling and secured the assistance. One is displaying her ability at the home of Fred Stalder and the other at the home of Fred Huff, near Monroefield. They are, no doubt, making it more pleasant and jovial for the patients and at the same time relieving the public from anxiety. Not that we are in dire need of them but we now have the consolation of knowing that the patients are under the care of experts. …

Our friends need not hesitate to receive mail from our village as no mail is accepted here from suspicious persons. We can travel with freedom to all northern towns but when we try a southern course [toward Woodsfield] we meet a man to greet us with a -halt! ..

T. J. Kremer

Miltonsburg

 

 

After the setting down in your last issue upon the Miltonsburg correspondence of the smallpox report etc., I feel somewhat timid in again

sending the following report. I am endorsed by the people in my former report as regards to the county papers. Queen Victoria once accosted her

prime minister for a certain transaction, saying she did not approve of it, etc. In reply he said, “Your majesty, the people approve of it.”

The smallpox scare has subsided and we feel confident that we have it in bounds. All the parties that were first taken with it have recovered, except three cases at George Laudenberger’s, which are still, according to the doctor’s report, “in bad shape.” Since our last report three new cases have appeared-two at Hoff’s at Monroefield and Ed. Laudenberger, all being infected houses, two being only light cases. Mrs. Fred Stalder has varioloid, also in an infected house. So far we have, and have had, in all 16 cases, in five different families-two deaths. They now have two trained nurses from Wheeling who will see after the suffering victims.

The people are still in the dark as to where George Landenberger contacted the disease, Wheeling, Bridgeport, or Bellaire. Different reports have been recorded, but none appears to be satisfactory.

It would be source of satisfaction to the community to know the straight of it. Any information would be

 

thankfully received by our people.

Smallpox has been the all-absorbing topic of conversation in our community since it was known that it was in our midst. Oil and politics were not thought of. Even town gossip entirely vanished. What at a former time would have caused sufficient gossip for a fortnight or more passed unnoticed by all except parties directly interested.

As the loathsome disease is abating, people are giving other subjects some of their attention. Our community being of an appreciative nature, their first thoughts naturally turned toward our health officer who so heroically (when it was announced that smallpox was in the Laudenberger family, stationed four guards around the town of Malaga at the township’s expense, and

left the infected part of the township at the mercy of the disease as though the taxpayers and others of this community paid their tax to guard other communities and not their own.

Every family in our neighborhood had just as much right to protection as the taxpayers of Malaga, as we were in greater danger being near infected places. Having Malaga guarded and the Miltonsburg mail stopped from going out are the two things we must acknowledge ourselves to be under obligations for.

 

Apparently this sarcastic criticism is directed toward an unnamed health officer who probably lived in the village of Malaga, which is about two miles north of Miltonsburg. Township trustees also received criticism.

 

SMALLPOX AT MILTONSBURG

Two of our township trustees have endeared themselves to our community by making themselves conspicuous by their absence during our calamity, when they well knew that some of our victims were in the township. We think not to save expenses to the township, as that is not following the precedent set by them in other cases (not infectious) heretofore, but simply because

 

they were afraid. Why not resign? By their action they threw all the burden upon the shoulders of the other trustee, who now must bear all the blame for blunders, etc., which in such cases are numerous. We think every person in our vicinity, and our doctor, especially, deserves credit for the interest he is taking in fighting the disease, say nothing of the risks he is running of becoming infected himself.

 

 

Other items in the January 30th Spirit include an editorial jab at the Miltonsburg correspondent and reports from other Monroe County towns.

 

Our Miltonsburg correspondent has not had the smallpox, but he is evidently troubled with dyspepsia. He would take a prize at a country fair as the champion growler.

 

Beallsville

… The smallpox has vanished; taken the wings of the morning and flown to the uttermost parts of the earth, it is hoped never to return. We are sorry that some very hard feelings are engendered with a few of our citizens not likely to soon be forgotten.

 

Missouri Letter

MARYVILLE, MO., JAN 21

We are sorry to hear about the smallpox being so bad but hope that it will soon abate. Just about this time last year Marysville had the dreaded disease but by strict precaution it soon died out with but few deaths.

 

 

Board of Health

Meeting held [Monday] Feb. 3rd, 1896

The Board of Health met. A quorum present

 

The minutes of the previous meeting were read and approved.

Resolved that the schools be opened on Monday the 17th inst.

Friday, aye Muller aye Menkel no Schafer aye Reller no Wengert no President aye

Adopted

 

Resolved that the privilege of holding church be granted for next Sunday.

Friday, aye Muller aye Menkel aye Schafer aye Reller aye Wengert aye

Adopted

 

Resolved that the nurse at Stalder.s be discharged after 2 more days

Menkel aye Reller no Muller aye Wengert aye? Schafer aye Friday aye

Adopted

 

On motion to adjourn

Adopted

 

Adam Groux, President

 

Alex Hardesty, Clerk

 

 

 

Board of Health

Meeting held Wednesday, Feb. 5th, 1896

The Board of Health met. All present

 

The minutes of the previous meeting were read and approved.

Whereas by contract with Miss Gertie Brown of Wheeling W. Va. for services as a professional nurse in small pox cases in Stalder family, at three dollars pr. Day and that services rendered are thirteen days, to the amount of

thirty nine dollars.

 

Resolved that the above amt. be allowed and paid.

Menkel aye Muller aye Reller aye Schafer aye Friday aye Wengert aye

Adopted

 

Resolved that amt. of $2 20/100 be allowed as railroad transportation for Gertie Brawn.

Menkel aye Muller aye Reller aye Schafer aye Friday aye Wengert aye

Adopted

 

Resolved that resolution passed Feb 3rd, 1896 be rescinded and that schools be allowed to open next Monday, [February 10th].

Adopted

 

On motion to adjourn

Adopted

 

Sm'l Groux, President

 

Alex Hardesty, Clerk

 

 

 

The crisis apparently had passed. Life in Miltonsburg was returning to the usual activities of a small, nineteenth century farming village in southeastern Ohio. The Board of Health did not meet again until May 4, 1896 when they authorized payment of $6.50 to C. G. Oblinger for a "rubber suit for Dr. Pugh for smallpox practice.

 

The Thursday, February 6th, 1896 edition of the Spirit of Democracy still placed smallpox news in the number one column; however, the subject did not demand as much space as in the previous four weeks. The editor even took time out to chide a rival newspaper in Noble County.

 

From the Noble County Republican

 

“…Woodsfield has a very strict smallpox quarantine in order. So strict is it that no mail is allowed to enter or even leave that place. Smallpox has broken out at several points in Monroe County, but every precaution is being

 

 

taken to prevent a further spread of the malady. …” While there have been some cases of smallpox several miles from Woodsfield there never has been a time when the mails were hindered from coming in or going out of this place. The above is as nearly correct as the Republican gets its news though.

 

 

On Thursday, February 13th, 1896, the Spirit of Democracy returned to its feature of oil news and the article “with Derrick and Drill” appears in the number one column. Some smallpox news is still included but the threat has clearly abated. For the first time in several weeks, the correspondent from the Miltonsburg correspondent is upbeat, but he is still “growling”: this time about the treatment the Spirit and the citizens of Lewisville are giving Dr. Weber, who attended smallpox victims at Miltonsburg.

 

Mr. C. E. Kremer was at Batesville last week. He reports that people gave him plenty of elbowroom, he being the first person in the place from a smallpox infected place. 

A number of our people are anxious for the Calais oil well to come in a gusher.

We have not had many visitors to report as they are not numerous at present.

B. A. Yunkes is booked for Woodsfield one day this week.

 

 

During the following four years, the Miltonsburg Board of Health met ten times, primarily to consider issues related to safe well water and the condition of cellars. On September 3, 1900, they convened for the last time, a little more than seven years after the board was created by he mayor on May 4, 1893.

 

Alex Hardesty recorded the last official entry on July 18, 1902.

 

 

As by act of Gen. Assembly of Ohio, passed may 12, 1902, that in villages of less than 2,000 inhabitants, the Council may appoint a health officer in lieu of a Bd. of Health, on the 7th day of July 1902 Council of Miltonsburg vil. Appointed Dr. C. R. Keysor as health officer and on July 1, 1902, it was accepted by the State Board of Health, and on the 17th day of July 1902 was sworn into office by S. B. Luley, Mayor, therefore the Board of Health is abolished.

 

July 18th, 1902

Alex Hardesty, Ex Clerk of the Bd.

Mayor Simon B. Luley was a tinsmith whose shop was located on Lot 20

 

 

 

EPILOGUE

 

Although the final digit of the date on Daniel Gray’s initial survey of Miltonsburg was lost in a court house fire, the date is almost certainly May 6, 1833. In any case, on May 13, 1833, David Pearson and his wife, Mary Ann, appeared before Monroe County Justice of the Peace Henry Mason as part of the legal act of filing a survey of the land that was to become the first part of the village, which was laid out by Pearson and named after his son, Milton. Subsequent additions in 1844 and 1846 set essentially the same boundaries that existed in 2002.

 

In the 1890’s Miltonsburg was at its peak both commercially and politically. Located in the center of an agricultural population where each farm was a relatively short wagon-ride away, it was one of about twenty similar villages in Monore County, Ohio. Although these agricultural areas were similar to the county’s political subdivisions of eighteen townships, natural features such as hills and valleys, and personal relationships such as family, religion, and nationality—not politics—determined the village to which each farm family was attached.

 

The 132 Miltonsburg residents listed in the 1880 census, of course, included all men, women, and children. It is remakable that during the nine-year existence of the Board of Health 16 men (12% of the entire population) served as members. When you consider that the village had a mayor, a town clerk, a justice of the peace, a town council, and a board of education, one realizes just how involved these people were in governing their community.

 

Recorded history tells us about the heroic people, seminal ideas, and momentous events that shaped the world that we have inherited from other times and other places. Personal history, however, is made up of thousands of daily activities that collectively make up the culture of a people. A history of the United States might justifiably note that “occasional outbreaks of smallpox continued throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries but relatively few deaths were recorded.” A history of Miltonsburg, Ohio, however, tells us that on January 8, 1896, William and Lousia, children of George and Caroline Laudenberg, died of smallpox. They were two of the “relatively few deaths recorded” in the late nineteenth century. During the next thirty-four days, the members of the Miltonsburg Board of Health helped write the phrase “occasional outbreaks of smallpox” into world history.

 

Paul E. Young, Jr.

Miltonsburg., Ohio

June 2002 (rev)

 young.13@osu.edu

 

 

 

 

Stadler House, Lot 6

 

George Friday with Race Horse in Front of His Shop, Lot 28

 

Evangelical & Reformed Parsonage and Church, Lots 39 & 40

 

 

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