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The Entertainment Committee proved an efficient one. On the evening of the first day's session a smoker, with excellent moving pictures, was given at the Lawn Club. The scientific program of the second day was followed by a dinner at which addresses were made by Doctor Charles B. Graves, Doctor George Blumer, Dean Charles R. Brown and Mr. Don C. Seitz of the New York World. Doctor David R. Lyman presided.
Epidemic Disease in Early Connecticut Times.
CHARLES B. GRAVES, M.D.
It may seem to many a "dear time's waste" to turn from the all-absorbing and exacting present and the beckoning future, to the delving into past records and bringing to light these “old, unhappy, far off things." But I make no apology. The study of the history of any phase of human activity needs none. "Without history," says old Thomas Fuller, "a man's soul is purblind, seeing only the things which almost touch his eyes." Not only for our own sakes, for our own breadth of view, is the study of history indispensable. The preservation of the record of the lives and activities of our predecessors in our chosen field is incumbent upon us as a very real duty, which we are too apt to forget. Sad it is that in many instances we know so little of the men who before us carried on the fight against disease and death and at last succumbed, handing on the torch to their successors. Even their names were all too often "writ in water." The rescue of even a name if nothing more from lasting oblivion is well worth while. It is whispered that even now it is sometimes difficult to get obituary notices of our members who have gone before. I can hardly find words strong enough to protest against such dereliction in duty. One who is appointed to write an obituary notice of a deceased brother, in accepting the appointment, lays himself under a solemn obligation. He should enter upon it with a due sense of his responsibility, not only and least of all to the Society, but more especially to his voiceless friend. He is the trustee-it may happen the sole trustee-for the benefit of future generations of the record of his brother's life work, of his reputation, perhaps of his very existence. Not until he has discharged this duty carefully and to the best of his ability is he discharged from his trusteeship.
From time out of mind one of the chief terrors of mankind
has had its source in epidemic disease, "the pestilence that walketh in darkness .. the destruction that wasteth at noonday"; those mysterious visitations which have at irregular intervals, oftentimes without warning, stricken down and ravaged communities, countries, or continents, like the very embodiment of the powers of evil. It is no wonder that man in all ages, especially in early times, has quailed before such evidences of malevolent power, and in the absence of naturalistic explanation appealed to his God for mercy and protection. One by one the mysteries clouding these epidemics have dropped away, but even in our day all is not yet as clear as crystal. As Simon Flexner has recently emphasized, referring to epidemic meningitis, even with our present knowledge of etiological factors and of the existence of sporadic cases and healthy carriers, we cannot fully account for epidemic waves. He says, "Other conditions or factors are necessary to convert such sporadic occurrences into an epidemic outbreak." As long as we do not know what such factors are, it is hardly fitting for us to "sit in the seat of the scornful" and scoff at the efforts of our predecessors to connect epidemics with all sorts of phenomena celestial and terrestrial.
The object of my paper is to present a connected chronological account of epidemic diseases in Connecticut from early times until about the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century. This has involved the piecing together of many scattered records. If in the finished product quotations may seem to bulk rather large, I can only plead as an excuse my feeling that the original or early statements are as a rule more interesting than later ones, and in many instances can hardly be improved upon.
The early references, as may be imagined, are very meagre and often so lacking in detail as to leave the nature of the illness quite in doubt.
It is stated by Love in his "Fast and Thanksgiving Days of New England," that "Upon January 23rd, 1638-9 there was kept at Windsor 'a general day of humiliation' for England and the sickness in the Bay." Whether Connecticut shared in this visitation does not appear.
Governor John Winthrop in his History of New England men