If Spanish Flu was Not Enough—Measles 1917

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If Spanish Flu was Not Enough—Measles 1917

October 16, 1917,

All my sister’s children are sick with the measles, and she has a stepson 14 years old

who is now delirious. I think he had a setback, no doubt caught cold with it. I have

an idea he took a cold bath I am not sure tho’ because I heard him say that if any

one should get sick, they bathe in cold water and will always get well.

He heard some Indians talking in that fashion and no doubt believed it, because one day, I was cooking dinner and he came in the kitchen and was trying to get warm and his hair was wet. and I asked him where he had been and he said, he was down to the creek, so I scolded him because he was not well enough to go to the creek. But that is always the

way that the Indians talk, and now it will be no doubt a death to the little orphaned boy.

Her next letter of October 29 reveals that the young boy is dead. The letter is

rich with the significance of that death to her personally and talks about how

Margaret’s family purifies themselves and their property in response to that death.

What is shocking is that a white doctor is charging $50 to treat Indian patients

during the midst of an epidemic :

Measles has been raging at our house now for six long weeks. My own little niece

that lives with me has taken down for the last four days, and she is the last child of

the bunch to have it. And I hope to goodness, I never hear of measles again. My

sister had a relapse and we had to have an American doctor come up and he

charged us $50.00 for one visit, but she pulled through all right. He said she had

black measles. So we had to wean the baby, while the other two kids were sick a bed

too. “Believe me”, we had our hands full. I mean my brother in-law and I. I am in

hopes he does not get the disease. The little boy I was telling you about, my sister’s

stepson died a few days after writing to you. I am almost positive he took a cold plunge

in the creek.

You know how superstitious the Indians are. I had to clean house and rake the

yard and burn everything which the boy came in contact with. My sister wanted me

to burn the single buggy and I wouldn’t do it. So now I will only wash the thing with

rose bushes, which they claim drives the evil spirits away, of course I do not believe

all that, but I will have to do it to satisfy them. I even had to wash the milk cow with

rose bushes, so she will not fear me to milk her. Ain’t that funny, but my sister is

thoroughly Indian, more so than Julia and I. She is the one whom my aunt raised.

I told you about her before. And the funniest part of all this deal is that I feel creepy

to go outdoors alone at night.

The day that the boy died, I went to the post office, with the thought I would call

a priest to come and see him since he is of the Catholic faith, and it was night when

I was on the way home. I wasn’t thinking much of anything when I saw a bright

light flash up a tree, which attracted my attention and I saw a flimsy white form go

up towards the heavens, and then I was so frighten, even my horse was afraid, and

when I reached home, he had been dead fully half an hour and that was about the

same time. I had the presentment. Ain’t that stränge? but it is true Big Foot. The

the little boy always thought so much of me. And he knew I think that I went to town

for his interest, poor fellow. He was a very good boy. He was as innocent as a small

child. And I think God wanted him away from this evil world and took him away.

By November 19, 1917, she could write that all was finally well, although clearly

she had not yet recovered from her own near death experience.

During the severe winter of 1917–1918, many troops were housed in crowded and poorly heated wooden barracks or tents. Many recruits had experienced measles as children and were thus immune; however, many others, particularly families from the rural areas had not been infected and were immunologically susceptible. During the winter of 1917–1918, there were large outbreaks of measles and nearly 2,000 measles-related deaths, mostly in mobilization camps and aboard troopships bound for Europe. Most measles-related deaths among soldiers were caused by secondary bacterial pneumonias.

MOURNING DOVE’S
CANADIAN RECOVERY YEARS,
1917-1919

The Ottawa Journal
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
13 Feb 1917, Tue  •  Page 1
The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
15 Feb 1917, Thu  •  Page 13

Dark Moments in Ottawa History- Porter Island

Think the Smallpox issue on Outlander was far fetched?

Smallpox in Carleton Place — Did You Know?

The Great White Plague

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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