Smallpox Cemetery

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I completed my tour of local graveyards with a visit to the Smallpox Cemetery at the end of Fitch Road in Jaffrey, NH. I can’t imagine the danger that was involved in burying these people. 300 – 500 million people died of smallpox  in the 20th century.

I vaguely remember getting a smallpox vaccine from Dr. Murphy (Stamford, CT)  in the 1950s. At that time Dr.Murphy  made a cut in my arm with a broken glass tube and applied the vaccine to the cut. It would scab over and left a distinct circular scar. In earlier times women were giving the vaccine on their thigh because the belief was that the thigh would never be shown in public.

Smallpox Cemetery
Smallpox cemetery located at the end of Fitch Road in Jaffrey, NH
Smallpox Cemetery
The common plot is enclosed in a stone wall, there are no headstones. Burying these victims must have been a very dangerous undertaking.
Smallpox Cemetery
The cemetery is marked with a single memorial that was added in 1985

The vaccine was developed by Edward Jenner in  1798 as a result of his observation that milkmaids who how contracted cowpox  did not contract small pox. As today there was an anti-vaccine movement  as depicted in this cartoon showing people morph into cows.

There is no debate about vaccines. When I was a child in the 1950s my fears were not those of nuclear annihilation,  in spite of duck and cover drills in school. My fear was polio, it struck people I knew. It struck kids. In 1954, I was one of the many Polio Pioneers who received the vaccine in grade school.

The cow pock

How bad is Smallpox?  This is a 1973 photo taken of a child infected with the disease in Bangladesh. In 1979 the  World Health Organization certified the global eradication of the disease.

Child with Smallpox Bangladesh


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