Scarlet Fever in Scipio

A Note to my Readers:  Family historians…genealogists if you will…are noted in the big world as those that plot lineage.  Who begat whom and all of that.  Except that is just the tip of the iceberg.  We are on the hunt for THE STORY.   What was their life like?  And so we go beyond all of the names, dates and places and visit HISTORY…or HERSTORY.  So much of what surrounds an individual is the greater drama with an interesting cast of characters.  Context.  Life.

Hoodoo.  Hemstitching.  Healing.

In the spring of 1915 my grandmother’s brother and his family thought they had struck gold.  Due to the Dreythaler family’s series of misfortune, their farm became available for a pittance and Floyd William Penird snapped up the opportunity to cultivate the rich Scipio soil.   His wife, Emma Hurd, and their infant son, Floyd were moved into the farmhouse and they began to make it their own.  The wood floors were scrubbed on hands and knees and the old paper was ripped from the walls to brighten up the house.

Newspaper Auburn NY Citizen 1915 Scarlet Fever in ScipioIt wasn’t long before the tiny baby was in the terrifying grip of scarlet fever.  Floyd and Emma sent for the village doctor – F. C. Smith – and prayed that their child would survive.  The little one, who was their only child, healed, but their tale put fear in the hearts of parents in the Auburn area with news of the doctor’s theory of just how Floyd, Jr. contracted the dreaded disease.

The month of May had been a hectic time for the village doctor -reducing fractures and stitching wounds.  Farmer Selah Allen was dragged some distance on the back lot of his farm before his runaway team came to halt.  Allen had suffered scrapes and bruises and a fractured arm which Dr. Smith treated.  He had just completed the needed care for farmer Allen, when he was called to the home of David Meyers of Fleming Hill “to do a job of hemstitching on Meyers’s head.”  Meyers had been placing his horse in its stall after a long day of work, when the creature spooked, reared up and struck him in the head with his hooves.

In a few hours Smith was called to treat young carpenter Will Bowen when his chisel slipped off a piece of hard wood and struck him in the thigh inflicting a six inch long gash more than an inch deep.  He had lost a great deal of blood by the time the now weary Doc Smith reached Bowen’s Fleming Hill home.

His next stop was at the Penird place to care for the ailing infant.

During that time black measles was making its way through the community, tuberculosis was a serious problem…infantile

Dr. Frank C. Smith

Dr. Frank C. Smith

paralysis would crop up within a year or two…followed up by the impact of the world wide plague…Spanish flu.

Astonishing to think about what Auburnians and their neighbors had to deal with just about one hundred years ago.  And what the life of a country doctor was during that time of house calls in a horse and buggy world.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved


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