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.
CANADIAN RECOVERY YEARS,
Dark Moments in Ottawa History- Porter Island