Falmouth Post, 1873

Tuesday, July 1, 1873
The Prohibition of Wakes
A Commission was appointed by the Government “to investigate the charges of Dr. Bowerbank in reference to the late outbreak of Small Pox in the parish of St. Andrew.” The charges were fully sustained respecting the “Terror of the Tents,”
and that “the bodies of those dying of Small Pox were allowed to remain unburied
for an undue length of time, and Wakes or Assemblages of persons were permitted
to be held over the dead, by which the disease was fostered and promoted.” Dr.
Bowerbank gave evidence in October and November 1872; since then the disease
has raged in almost every part of the island, causing a fearful destruction of life,
but nothing has been done to enable the Local Authorities to provide for the
treatment of poor families requiring medical and other care, and nourishment,
with the exception of the passing of two Laws by the legislative Council for raising
a Fund to be appropriated for sanitary purposes, and for regulating the procedures
of the Board of Health. . . . a couple weeks ago the Attorney-General introduced a
Bill for the prohibition of Wakes “during the prevalence of any infectious or
contagious diseases.”

Tuesday, July 22, 1873
Intelligence From St. Ann’s
(From our Correspondent)
Small Pox: This dreadful disease is alarmingly on the increase, attacking the young in every direction.

Friday, 10th October 1873
Intelligence from Lucea
Small Pox: The hope is entertained here that you will . . . urge the Government to adopt active measures to check the progress of the disease. Lucea is in a most filthy state. Pig styes, latrines, stables, gutters, etc., are as foul as they can
possibly be, and there is nobody to look after the removal of the unhealthy

Intelligence from St. Ann
Sickness: There are 6 or 7 new cases of Small Pox, and 2 or 3 deaths on Sunday night; one of the individuals, being Mr. Cunningham, who was a clerk to Messrs. J. C. Lewis & Co. of St. Ann’s Bay.

Tuesday, 21 October 1873

The Public Health
The Government and the Local Authorities are doing very little to check the progress of Small Pox in the several parishes of the Island. In the years 1852 and 1853 it committed sad ravages. Now it is doing its death work in towns and rural districts . . . St. Thomas in the East, Clarendon, Vere, Portland, Port Maria, St. Ann.
      Daily Gleaner, August 21, 1874

The small pox epidemic of the mid-'70s
seemed to make little impact on the content
of the newspapers. On this page are a few advertisements, news items and articles,
referring to the disease, which come from
these years.

Daily Gleaner,  May 27,1874.
IT is requested that no Patients be sent to the
Pox Hospital, until application for admission has been made to Dr. Scott, Commissioner of Health.
Chairman Local Board of Health.
       Daily Gleaner, October 15, 1874
Daily Gleaner, August 15, 1874

The frightful prevalence of Smallpox in this city and its
steady and insidious spread through the island
generally [dem]and the most anxious consideration
[from] everyone who is interested in the preservation
of the public health. There is a growing belief that the
[disease] is passing beyond the control of medical
skill and knowledge, and combined with this, a
disposition to rely solely upon the direct and
immediate interposition of Providence, which when disjoined from any confidence in the utility of the
means with which that Power, acting upon a broad
and general scale, has supplied us, must be characterized  as grossly superstitious. The horrible
fatalism which characterizes the ''peculiar people”

in England  or the more ignorant of our own peasantry
has its strong influence also over many of their
superiors in education and social position. It is usual
to hear the opinion expressed that because the disease has not been exterminated nor its ravages
been greatly checked by the ordinary appliances, there
is therefore no use in adopting any precautions or
seeking any cures: everyone should be left to take his
chance. In the case of persons of this kind, indeed, the beneficent power of habit induces them to continue the
precautions which they affect to despise, and a happy
deficiency in logic – happy in this instance at least –
prevents them from carrying out the views to which
they adhere. But if the mischief begins with them, with
them it does not end. They who should be the chief
agents of social improvement in this respect, both in the
dissemination of just ideas on the subject and in their enforcement when necessary, are paralyzed in their
effort, by sharing, however unconsciously, the
superstitions of the ignorant. It is not long since we read
a letter to a contemporary print, sufficiently well written,
stating that vaccination had wrought no good in the prevention of Smallpox, and recommending by implication the abandonment ot all means of cure and
the substitution therefore of an invocation of the

Supernatural Powers. This is the exact standpoint of
the “peculiar people,” except that, instead of confining
their view to epidemics only, they consistently extend
it to all diseases of any kind whatever; and it is closely
akin to the belief of our own people that “God Almighty
sick” will yield only to “God Almighty cure.”

To combat opinions like these, which are far more
fatally injurious than is commonly supposed, is every
one's duty, and it is especially the duty of members of the Medical Profession. We urgently need as much
statistical, medical and sanitary information as
possible from all quarters and especially from medical
men. It is possible and easy to show, by well tabulated
statistics, how much vaccination has done to mitigate
the intensity of that scourge, which before its
discovery, more than decimated the human race; how
its apparent inefficacy in many cases is to be accounted
for, and for what proportion of success we may in
general fairly look. In view of the prohibition by the Colonial Office of any attempt to revive the practice of
inocculation – notwithstanding the advocacy of one of
the most distinguished of our local physicians, this
would be a fitting time to learn something of its history, the reasons which led to the abandonment of the
practice, and the arguments to be urged for its revival.
People need to have their reason satisfied, especially at
a time like this, and in so personal and vitally important a
matter as health; and by enlightening public opinion,
a powerful sentiment might be created for or against the practice, and the arguments urged on the one or the
other side of the discussion might appear convincing. The endemic diseases of the colony, their probable
cause, and the means of their prevention and cure,
would also form very interesting and
important subjects
for public discussion. Much might be done to promote
the public well-being, as well as to enhance the value
and regard in which the profession is held, by taking
the public along with them, and inter
esting them in
these concerns.

Daily Gleaner, September 1, 1874 

As it it obviously impossible to touch upon every point
of interest in the Report [of the Commissioner of Public
Health], without greatly exceeding our limits of space,
we must content ourselves with noting briefly, his
remark upon the epidemic now prevalent among us - Small-pox. He says:-

" In the month of January last, Smallpox made its
appearance in Kingston,'' and proceeds to narrate all the
circumstances connected with its origin and progress. " It appears that on the 17th of January, from information
received from the Chairman of the Board of Health, the
Commissioner called at a house situated at the corner
of Port Royal and East Streets where he found 15
Cubans, among whom two deaths, supposed to be from Small-pox, had a short time before occurred. From them
he learned that the deaths were attributable to fever and
not to Small-pox or any other eruptive disease. There
was however one person in the house who had suffered from Small-pox, presumably before coming to Jamaica,
and who retained fresh marks of it, but both he, and all
the rest of the household were, the Commissioner was convinced at the time of his visit, in good health.
Four days afterwards, however, smallpox appeared
among them, and spread with alarming rapidity in the
bourhood. The Report then narrates, with details
which we are unable to reproduce, the spread of the
disease through the city, and the measures taken for its prevention.
Referring to the shrinking from publicity on the part of
the lower classes, when any member of their
households might happen to be attacked by the disease, the Report says -

Since the disease commenced to spread, it has been
found difficult to ascertain the number of persons
attacked, so that on no given day has it been possible to report, with accuracy, how many were suffering from
it, or the number that died.

The disposition to conceal the facts from the authorities, whenever epidemic diseases prevail, was never more
completely shown than during the prevalence of this disease. The utmost secrecy has been observed by many persons, not excepting some of the better informed and more respectable in the community, among whose families the disease appeared, but it was more especially noticeable among the humbler classes, so that in several instances it was out of the power of the Officers of the Board to find out cases; could they have done so, they would have given advice and assistance, recommended removal to the Small Pox Hospital, where this might have seemed desirable, supplied disinfectants, and advised other Sanitary measures with a view to preventing the spread of the disease.
In the wretched tenements of some of these places, it would have been of advantage to the unfortunate sufferers if they had been taken to the Hospital, or if some who went had been taken earlier, where they would have found themselves in a well ventilated Institution, with medical care, appropriate nourishment and food, and good nursing. The fact of Small Pox having prevailed in a particular dwelling was, in some instances only made known after the death of the patient, and when aid was sought 
by the family or
friends to have the body interred."
  Daily Gleaner, November 13, 1874 


Small-pox which, according to the report of the Commissioner of Health, came to us at the
beginning of 1874, seems about to leave us at its close. The number and violence of the cases
have very much diminished, and there seems a fair prospect that we will be rid of the pestilence
in a very short time. We hope we are not premature in offering our congratulations to the
community, but in any case there is much to be thankful for, in the progress that has already
been made in a return of the usual state of health in the city. Only measles at present gives
much trouble and concern. This is still on the increase, and though not ordinarily fatal, is yet,
sufficiently dangerous to excite alarm. We have not learned the exact number of cases in
Kingston, but at Stony Hill there are more than sixty. 

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