Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: THROAT DISTEMPER

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A new epidemic disease, not limited to any one town nor any small section of country, made its first appearance in May, 1735, in Kingston. This epidemic soon became known as the throat distemper, or, throat-ail. It was often spoken of as the putrid sore throat. Dr. Belknap says of the disease: "The general description of it was a swelled throat, with white or ash-colored specks, an efflorescence on the skin, great debility of the whole system and a strong tendency to putridity." He relates that the first person seized was a child, who died in three days. About a week after, in another family at the distance of four miles, three children were successively attacked who also died on the third day. It continued spreading gradually, in that township, through the summer, and of the first forty who had it none recovered. In August it began to make its appearance at Exeter, six miles northeastward; and in September, at Boston, fifty miles away southward; though it was October, before it reached Chester, the nearest settlement on the west of Kingston.

"On its first appearance in Boston, it was supposed to be nothing more than a common cold; but when the report of the mortality in New Hampshire was received, and a young man from Exeter, whose brother had died of it, was seized (October 1735), the house was shut and guarded, and a general alarm spread through the neighboring towns and colonies. Upon his death, no infection was observed in the house or neighborhood; but the distemper appeared in other places, which had no communication with the sick. The physicians did not take the infection, nor convey it to their families, nor their other patients. It was therefore concluded that it was not like the small pox, or the plague, communicable by infection, from the sick or from clothes; and the physicians, having by desire of the selectmen, held a consultation, published their opinion, that it proceeded entirely from 'some occult quality in the air.'" [Weekly News Letter, April 29, 1736.]

In Hampton Falls, according to Belknap, twenty families buried all their children; and more than one-sixth part of the inhabitants died within thirteen months; while in the whole province, not less than one thousand fell, of whom above nine hundred were under twenty years of age.

The disease broke out in Hampton in the autumn of 1735, the first victim, a son of Thomas Brown, dying on the 1st of October; after which, seven more deaths from the same cause occurred to the close of the year, and sixty-four during the next year, fourteen of which were in March. The town then included North Hampton.

The mortality was greatest among children, forty-seven of the deaths, about two-third of the whole number, being of children under ten years of age. Of the rest, fourteen were between the ages of ten and twenty; nine, between twenty and thirty; one, just past thirty; and one, more than ninety.

By the close of 1736, the scourge had about spent itself, but one or two case proving fatal the next year.


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