Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Small-Pox

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In the spring of 1758 a few cases of smallpox occurred in the town. It was brought by an Irish woman, who came into the family of Mr. Joseph Redman, and died there on the first day of May. The disease was communicated to the family, and Mr. Redman and his wife both died; the latter, on the fourth of May, and the former, on the fourth of June.

In the meantime the infection had been communicated by Dr. Emery, the attending physician, to his own family. The selectmen now thought it best to provide a pest-house, agreeably to the provisions of the law. They accordingly impressed dwelling houses of Samuel Palmer, Esq., and Jeremiah Moulton -- standing near each other -- and appropriated them to this use. The next day the family of Dr. Emery were removed thither. His wife and daughter and one of his sons, then, or soon after, had the disease, but they all recovered, and the infection spread no farther. The houses were not cleansed, so as to be again occupied by this owners,s till the thirtieth of June -- having been used as pest-houses seven weeks.

The owners of these houses demanded of the selectmen £250 each, old tenor, as damages. As payment was refused or delayed, Mr. Moulton sued the town the next February for £270; but as the records furnish no evidence that such a suit was carried on, it is probable that a settlement was effected between the parties.

A suit had also been commenced by the town against Dr. Emery, for the cost and charges occasioned by removing his family to the pest-houses, and providing for them while they were there. This was done agreeably to a vote of the town, to which, however, there had been considerable opposition. Capt. Jonathan Moulton and Col. John Weeks were chosen agents for the town, and clothed with ample powers for carrying on the suit. The case came to trial and was decided in favor of the defendant..

Many of the inhabitants now wished for a settlement of the controversy, and the selectmen were requested to call a town meeting to consider the subject, but they refused. A meeting was then called by Jabez Smith and Meshech Weare, Esqrs. two Justices of the Peace, at the request of thirty or more of the freeholders and inhabitants. This meeting wholly failed of accomplishing the object aimed at. Every motion made for this purpose was negatived. The next day the selectmen posted a warrant for another meeting to consider the subject.

This meeting was held March 15, one week after the other. No disposition was manifested by the majority, to settle the suit as the court decided; and at another meeting five days after, the town voted to have the case reviewed, and chose Thomas Nudd to join with the former agents in its management. It is probable, however, that a different course was taken and that the case was settled without a review.

The dread of small pox was much greater at that time than it is at present. The proper treatment of the disease was not so well understood, and on this account a much larger proportion of the cases which occurred proved fatal. Vaccination has also done much towards removing this dread, by acting as a preventive in most cases, and by mitigating the severity of the disease, when contracted.

In the instance here cited, such was the feeling in relation to it, that the meetings on the Sabbath for several weeks were not held at the meeting-house, which was in the vicinity of Dr. Emery's residence, but at private houses. Public worship was not resumed at the meeting-house till the 27th of August, when the pastor preached from the 84th Psalm, beginning thus: "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts!"

In the spring of 1760, it was proposed in town meeting, to seel a part of the ten-rod road round the Ring, thus diminishing the width of the road. The proposition met with but little favor. The town not only refused to sell any part of the road, but voted also "to dismiss that affair and never to act upon it more."

At the same meeting, it was left with the selectmen to let out two-thirds of the school house acre for eight or ten years.

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