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[p. 17]

High School Department.

An early Scourge in Medford.

Stafford Hammond, 1902.
[Prepared in connection with work in American History.]

few of the many ills which the early settlers of Medford fell heir to caused such devastation among them as the smallpox. The ravages which this disease committed among the settlers can hardly be conceived by the present generation. It was more dreaded than the raids of the savage Pequot or Tarrantine, and no disease excited so quick and sharp alarm among them.

The smallpox at intervals had raged among the Indians in this section of the country since the early part of the seventeenth century, and in 1633 it carried off as one of its victims the Indian chief, Sagamore John, who lived with his tribe near Mystic lake. His death was a great blow to the early settlers, for he had granted much land to them, and had protected them from hostile Indian attacks.

The first entry1 in the Town Records as to the prevvalence of smallpox in Medford is dated 1721. The warrant for a town meeting called all freeholders to assemble for a consideration of the preventing of the spread of smallpox. The occasion for issuing this warrant seems to have been that some member of the family of Samuel Polley had the smallpox. In the meeting it was voted that the road be turned and absolutely closed from the house of Jacob Pierce to that of Samuel Polley, so long as it was needed, and a sufficient guard be kept at the Polley house. At this same meeting it was also voted that the town should furnish a house to receive any persons who were taken with the smallpox and to keep them there until they recovered. Thus the early Medford settlers had solved the best way of attacking the disease, that of absolute isolation.

1 Town Records, Volume II., pages 58, 66.

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