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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 6:33 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 01, 2006 11:48 pm
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Location: Upper Canada
**from the proceedings of the Sixth Annual Niagara Peninsula History Conference, held at Brock University in April, 1984. The topic was: UNITED EMPIRE LOYALISTS in the NIAGARA PENINSULA.


“In 1793 when Elizabeth Russell noted that Niagara was particularly fatal to children she certainly reflected local opinion. But one of the difficulties in discussing illnesses at this time is deciding what diseases were present. Sometimes this uncertainty simply reflects inadequacies of the record.
David Smith wrote about a son's illness in 1792 and, while we find it easy to sympathize with this youngster's plight, we know little about his disorder: my little boy has been very ill, taken suddenly, I called in four of the faculty, and by the violent application of a blister he is somewhat better, and we have hopes of him. This is the second time he has been tortured with the Cantharides.
Too often, the descriptions themselves are equivocal. For example, a boy died in Kingston in 1811, purportedly from tuberculosis, but the evidence is shaky indeed: I am sorry to say poor Mr. Cartwright has lost another son…. he died two days after I left Kingston. When on my way down I called to see him at which time he seemed to have great hopes of recovering and so did the family, in consequence of his leg swelling which they thought would break, and carry off all the bad humours; but unfortunately this was not the case and he suffered great pain before he died which is seldom the case with those who die of a consumption.
Charles Askin, who wrote this note, was correct. This is not the picture one expects with tuberculosis, the disease most often referred to as "consumption" in those times. Whether or not the Cartwright boy had tuberculosis is not important to this discussion but it is necessary to understand the tentativeness of medical diagnosis of the period."

"When illness struck there often seemed to be an added virulence to the common infectious diseases such as scarlet fever, whooping cough, measles, chickenpox and mumps, compared with the present. Their arrival was viewed with dismay, and rightly so, since the mortality rate was high.
Both whooping cough and measles ravaged the new settlements periodically during this first generation. Madelaine Askin wrote to her husband from Mackinac, in 1813, to say that "Whooping cough was very prevalent here last winter, something that never happened before in this place, so the old residents say, and carried off several children". And young Augusta Jarvis told her grandfather, in 1802, "We have all had the Hooping-Cough and expect nothing else but to have the Measles before the winter's out". Two years later she was able to inform him that "… We got rid of that disorder called the Measles and left us all well…." from this we can safely infer that the Jarvis children (and presumably the rest of the youthful population of York) had at least two visitations of measles between the autumn of 1802 and the autumn of 1804. Augusta's sister Maria was seriously ill with the outbreak of measles that Augusta fortold in 1802; her mother left a graphic account:… Maria was at the Point of Death last Winter with the Meazles. I believe no one ever recorded at so dangerous a situation before-- for five days she was unable to lay down for a moment [she] sat at the side of the Bed… three Weeks was high without once taking off my clothes… This poor child the moment she missed me would call out Mama-- no one could do anything right but Mama--- I had to nine at once down with that fatal disorder…"

"Scarlet fever was a prodigious killer also, both immediately from the acute illness, and though the relationship was not understood months and even years later, from rheumatic heart disease. Along the Detroit frontier there occurred an epidemic of major proportions: About the year 1785, the Scarlet Fever, with sore throat, appeared among the children at Detroit, and swept off, in this little place, upwards of 60 children, and even a few grown persons, in the term of a few weeks. Our Indian congregation, then living in the neighbourhood, never took the disorder. A person at Detroit then remarked to me, that this disease did not affect the children of the French Canadians as much as it did those of the Europeans. However, a disorder called the Hooping-Cough, at tended, at length, with a sore throat, I have known to prove destructive to the Indian children, in their settlements."

"Tuberculosis has already been mentioned and it was beginning to grow in importance. By the end of the century it would be the leading cause of death in Ontario. A child in the Russell Family died of what most likely was tuberculosis, in 1797. Young Mary, in February 1796, had been ill sometime with a bad cough which had not been removed by the medicine she had taken. 11 months later Mary was dead. She had had her "cold" for 17 months and,… "it brought obstruction on a cough which wore her to skin and bone… She used generally once a day to cough up a Bloody scab hollow like a cup with slimy matter and was always easier when she got it up… My Brother thinks that the passage of the windpipe was stopped up with these scabs what choked her and nothing could be done to give her relief." Despite this last conjecture her actual death was peaceful. The long illness, bodily wasting, cough and bloody sputum most resemble tuberculosis."

"In addition to infectious diseases, every conceivable kind of injury seems to have occurred to the early Upper Canadians. But even if children have always had a propensity for injury the opportunities were greater then. Cooking and heating required open fires; clearing forested land brought risks from defective tools, tools incompetently used, falling timber, and brush fires. Transportation in canoes or makeshift boats on swift-flowing rivers and potentially stormy lakes led to situations where a broken paddle could be disastrous. Hunting seems to have carried a major risk from defective manufacture since guns could explode in the faces of hunters and anyone else in the immediate vicinity.
Fire in one form or another was especially feared, both for risks to property and to person. James Askin, writing to his brother in 1807, mentioned to recent events in Sandwich: "Poor Nancy McKee and Charles Brush were much burnt, the former by her clothes taking fire and latter falling in a kettle of Scalding Water. However there is no danger for their lives". Unhappily, in this last prediction, he seems to have been half wrong; Charles Brush died on 7 February 1807 just one week after this letter was written."

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