History: Small pox scare in 1900s Bossier parish

1944

Fears of a small pox epidemic ran high in the early months of 1900 in Bossier Parish.

In the January 25, 1900 issue of The Bossier Banner the paper reported that “At the last meeting of the Police Jury Dr. Neeson was elected Health Officer of the parish, and authorized to vaccinate the people free of charge.  His headquarters are at Bossier City, where he will be found or heard from through Mr. W. B. McCormick.  Up to Monday last the Doctor says he had vaccinated nearly 2000 persons.”

Prior to January 25th the Police Jury had passed an act to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.  The act stipulated that as many people as possible, even prisoners, were to be vaccinated. The President of the Police Jury was authorized to draw upon the Bossier Parish treasurer for all necessary expenses incurred into carrying into effect the provision of the act.

A week after the election of Dr. Neeson as Health Officer a Bossier Parish resident claimed to know of a small pox preventative.  The Bossier Banner’s February 8, 1900 issue reported “The following is furnished us by a citizen of Benton, who vouches for its virtues, and it is not amiss for it to be seen in print at this time.”

“Possibly it would be well if it were generally known, during the prevalence of small pox in our parish, that feathers burned in the house where this disease (small pox) has developed will prevent its being [communicated] to others brought in contact with it.  I have been exposed to it five different times—once with eight others in a close room, while a prisoner of war.  I also tried it once where there were several children exposed to the disease.  It was a success in this instance.”

“A town in Massachusetts where shoes are made and the trimmings burned in the streets is, in a great measure, exempt from small pox.”

Whether burning feathers and leather trimmings was ever tried to prevent small pox is not reported, but a small pox epidemic was prevented by the vaccinations.

The Bossier Banner continued to report on the threat of small pox in 1900.  To read these reports, visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center where The Bossier Banner is available on microfilm.

Ann Middleton is Director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center. She can be reached at (318) 746-7717 or by e-mail at amiddlet@state.lib.la.us