Throat Distemper in Haverhill, 1735-7
The throat distemper which prevailed
throughout the County of Essex in 1735, '6 and '7 so
disastrously among the children was particularly fatal in
Haverhill. From Nov. 17, 1735, to Dec. 31, 1737, two hundred and
fifty-six children, most of them under ten years of age, died in
that town from this disease, and in the whole county the deaths
of about fourteen hundred children and also a considerable
number of adults are estimated to have thus resulted. This
estimate is undoubtedly low, as scarcely a cemetery of that time
can be visited without seeing the little gravestones bearing
dates of this period, and to one accustomed to examining old
burying grounds the general appearance of each stone betrays the
fact that the child buried beneath it was a victim of the
distemper. It would seem that some gravestone maker must have
supplied the people of the county with the stones during this
period, the demand for them being so great that variation in
design was not to be entertained.
In the old parish in Haverhill the
number that died during the period named was eighty-eight; in
the west parish, sixty-two and in the north parish one hundred
and six. Two hundred and ten were under the age of ten; thirty
between ten and fifteen; eleven between fifteen and twenty;
three between twenty and thirty; one between thirty and forty;
and one more than forty years. From Nov. 17 to Dec. 31, 1735,
ten died; in 1736, one hundred and sixteen; and in 1737 one
hundred and thirty.
The number of families bereaved was one
hundred and thirty-nine, twenty-three of whom were left
childless. The names of the heads of such families are given
below, the names of those having thus lost all their children
being printed in italics.
Families that lost one child each: Dea.
P. Ayer, Rev. Mr. Bacheller, Capt. Bartlet, Nat. Bartlet, Isaac
Bradley, Nehemiah Bradley, Eben. Brown, Ed. Carlton, jr., Widow
Clark, Lieutenant Clement, Jonathan Clement, Moses Clement, Nat.
Clement, S. Clement, John Corlis, _____ Cothran, Reuben Curier,
Samuel Davis, Lydia Dillaway, William Dillaway, James Eatton,
Jonathan Eatton, Samuel Eatton, Widow Emerson, jr., Ephraim
Emerson, Jo. Emerson, jr., Stephen Emerson, jr., Ed. Flynt,
Benjamin Gale, Samuel Gale, Bartholomew Heath, David Heath,
Josiah Heath, Sarah Heath, Abner Herriman, John Herriman, Joseph
Herriman, Joshua Herriman, Cornel Jonson, Jeremiah Jonson,
Stephen Jonson, Thomas Jonson, Abner Kimball, Deacon Little, N.
Marble, Joseph Merrill, Nath. Merrill, Samuel Merrill, James
Mitchel, Edw. Ordaway, _____ Otterson, Widow Page, Caleb Page,
Edmund Page, Thomas Page, Captain Pecker, Jonathan Shepard,
Benjamin Smith, Samuel Staples, Aaron Stevens, Benjamin Stone,
Elis Thomson, Samuel Webster, W. Whitaker, jr., John White,
David Whiting, John Whiting, Ezekiel Wilson, William Wilson,
_____ Wood, and N. Woodman.
Families that lost two children each:
Daniel Annis, Colonel Bailey, John Black, William Blay, James
Bradbury, Dan. Bradley, Jacob Chase, Moses Cop, John Currier,
John Dowe, jr., David Emerson, William Hancock, Jo. Hassaltine,
Sa Hassaltine, Richard Hazzen, Caleb Heath, Samuel Heath,
William Heath, James Hutchins, Jo. Hutchins, Timothy Jonson,
William Jonson, _____ Kent, John Merrill, Nat. Merrill, jr.,
Andrew Mitchel, John Mitchel, Judge Saltonstall, _____ Trumbal,
John Warner, Stephen Webster, Samuel White, Han. Whittaker,
Eben. Whittier, N. Whittier, and Sa. Worthen, jr.
Families that lost three children each:
Rev. Mr. Brown, David Cop, Isaac Dalton, John Davis, Jeremiah
Eatton, Abiel Foster, Daniel Gile, Joseph Gile, Samuel Greele,
Deacon Kimball, Jonathan Page, Widow Parker, Seth Patee,
Benjamin Philbrick, Hugh Pike, Matthew Plummer, Benjamin
Richards, Daniel Roberds, Jonathan Roberds, John Stevens, and
Families that lost four children each
_____ Gatchel, John Heathy jr., John McHard, P. Merrill, John
Webstery jr. and Daniel Whittaker.
Families that lost five children each:
John Bradley, Abner Chase, Thomas Corlis, James Holgate, and
Rev. John Brown, who was then settled in
the ministry at Haverhill, and who lost three children by the
distemper, prepared an address to the people of Haverhill,
particularly to the bereaved parents, Aug. 14, 1737, prefixing
to it "A Brief Relation" of thirty-four "Comfortable and
Remarkable Instances of Death" among the children. This was
published in Boston by Daniel Henchman, the following year, in a
pamphlet of ninety-two duodecimo pages, which is today a rare
book. Most of the material for this article has been taken from
it and thus has a peculiar interest.
The names of the thirty-four children,
whom Mr. Brown cites as showing extraordinary spiritual insight
and Christian resignation, and data concerning them which is
worthy of being preserved, are as follows:
Lydia Whitey died April 6, 1736, aged
eight. She was sick about twenty-four hours, having a violent
fever with the distemper. She had been a pleasing child, fond of
instruction. Her brother died also a few days later.
Eunice Emerson, died June 13, 1736, aged
fifteen. Though she had symptoms of the distemper, it was not
certain that she died of it. She bled to death, having been
troubled with bleeding before.
Whitely McHard, died at one o'clock in
the morning of July 12, 1736, aged four.
John McHard, aged seven, brother to the
preceding, died at noon on the same day, surviving him only
eleven hours. Two other children of the family died before the
month had passed, on the same day. This was the first family in
the town to be deprived of all their children by this disease.
They had another son born to them during the next year, however.
Daniel Chase, died July 28, 1736, aged
seven years and eight days. A brother, aged four, was sick in
the bed with him, one at the head and the other at the foot. The
younger died, and Daniel survived him an hour and a half. They
were enclosed in the same coffin. This family lost five
Sarah Chase, died Aug. 3, 1736, aged
nine. She was sister to the next preceding. She was a very
tender hearted and quiet child of few words. Her younger sister
Molly was also very sick when she died.
Thomas Shepard, died Aug. 28, 1736, aged
eleven. He was sick several weeks, as was his eldest sister,
also, who lived.
David Hassaltine, died Aug. 29, 1736,
Ruth Merrill, died Sept. 9, 1736, aged
twelve. Her younger brother died a short time before herself.
Samuel Gatchel, died Sept. 20, 1736,
aged twelve. He was the eldest of a family of six children, four
of whom died with the distemper. He and his brother next to him
had been sick of the disease in the preceding spring, and had
apparently recovered, but some hard bunches in the throat
remained, finally proving fatal. He had a three year old
brother, named Jesse, who had died with the distemper. The
family was poor, and both parents were alive.
Anne Gatchel, died Sept. 20, 1736, aged
six. She was a sister of Samuel above. She was asked if she was
willing to die, and answered, "Yes, I'm willing to die to go to
my Aunt Johnson and my brother Jesse." This Aunt Johnson was an
exemplary Christian, and very much loved, and was the only
person above the age of forty years who died of the distemper in
Daniel Gatchel, died Sept. 14, 1736,
aged ten. He was a brother to the preceding. He had the whooping
cough with the disease.
Joseph Richards, died Sept. 18, 1736,
aged eight. A younger brother named Abraham died before him.
Elizabeth Davis, died Sept. 19, 1736,
aged twenty-two. She was a quiet young lady, and lived out. She
had a sister, whom she requested, the day before her death, to
wash certain articles which would be needed for her interment,
designating the sheets and head cloths she desired to be laid
Martha Brown, died Oct. 5, 1736, aged
fourteen. She was a daughter of Rev. John Brown. She was taken
sick Sept. 30th. She had an elder sister and a younger brother,
and other brothers and sisters. Early in the morning of the day
she died she said to a girl friend of about her own age, Hannah
W_____ , "This is the last time, Hannah, that you will ever see
me in this world. I shall be with Betty Bailey before night."
Betty Bailey was a loving companion of Pattee's (as she was
familiarly called), aged fifteen, who with her sister Molly
Bailey, aged thirteen, were taken from the family of Colonel
Bailey. Betty died of the scarlet fever May 5, 1736, and Molly
of the throat distemper May 11, 1736. Pattee died at about eight
o'clock in the evening, having considered the date of her
funeral, and reminded some of her friends to take a lock of her
hair to remember her by. She sat up and was dressed, and ate a
raw apple an hour or two before she died.
Methitable Page, died Oct. 10, 1736,
Nathaniel Brown, died Oct. 21, 1736,
aged twelve. "Nattie" was a brother to Martha Brown above, and
son of Rev. John Brown.
Sarah Eatton, died Oct. 17, 1736, aged
Mary Merrill, died Oct. 27, 1736, aged
fourteen. Three other children of the family died with the
Elizabeth Bradbury, died Nov. 15, 1736,
aged six. She gave away her clothing to some poor people whom
she thought in most need.
Sarah Chase, died Nov. 17, 1736, aged
fourteen. Her younger brother also died and was buried in the
same coffin with her.
Obadiah Bradley, died Nov. 26, 1736,
aged thirteen. He was sick three days. His younger sister died
the day before his own death. He had a brother David, who died
the year before. He had also a sister Molly, who was next to him
in the family. He gave his playthings away before he died. His
father could not see him, "being confined from home." His
grandmother was apparently living with the family. All the five
children of the family died of the distemper.
Sarah Corlis, died Dec. 30, 1736, aged
Mary Hasseltine, died Jan. 2, 1736-7,
aged nineteen. She had a weak constitution, and was much given
to the reading of books. Her mind was much occupied with
religious thoughts all through her youth, and some time before
her sickness with the distemper she was wont to say that she had
not long to live. The night before her death, in answer to a
question from her father, she said that she expected to see in
Heaven her grandfather and her Aunt Betty ("good old Deacon
Hasseltine and his daughter, a Christian of singular
Susanna Wilson, died Jan. 26, 1736-7,
aged seven. She had an elder sister.
Lydia Hasseltine, died Jan. 28, 1736-7,
aged nine. She was a sister of Mary Hasseltine mentioned above.
Sarah Whittaker, died Feb. 22, 1736 -7,
age seven. She was the eldest of a family of four children, who
all died the same week, the three latter being buried together.
The names of the two middle children were Mary and Samuel. The
youngest child was two years old. Susannah Emerson, died Mar. 3,
1736-7, aged fifteen. She was always a sober, timorous little
girl. She had a sister Judith living in Newbury, and also a
brother who were older than she.
Susannah Emerson, died Sept. 2, 1737,
aged ten. Her grandmother was present at her death.
Martha Kimbal, died Sept. 13, 1737, aged
eleven. She had sisters and brothers, one of whom was named
Benjamin. Her sister Abigail died on the same day, at the age of
John Appleton White, died Sept. 28, 1
737, aged five. "An only son, and a first born." He had a little
Hannah Webster, died Sept. 30, 1737,
aged ten. Her brother Joseph and sisters Mercy and Sarah had
died. She was the last. She said to her mother the day before
her death: " All the rest are gone: I have been to visit all
their graves, and now I am going myself. I don't know what you
will do, mother, but if I should be taken away you must not be
too much cast down. 'Twas God that gave me to you, and if he
take me away you must not be too much concerned. You must not do
as some others that have lost all their children; who are afraid
to stay in the house, afraid to be in the dark alone; you must
hire some little girl to live with you if you are afraid."
Nathaniel Bradley, died Oct. 4, 1737,
aged sixteen. He was a dutiful boy. He had sisters, one of whom
had married _____ H__th and had a child that was dying when he
was sick. His aunt G___le was present in his sickness. He had
sisters named Nabbe and Betty, and one who had died eight years
before named Ruth. He also had brothers who were older than
himself, one of whom was named Isaac.
James Holgate, died Dec. 26, 1737, aged
five. He was the last of five children that died of throat
distemper in the family, all dying in a little more than a
week's time. The names of two of the other children were Judith
The Essex Antiquarian, Volume I, Number
, September 1897
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