Bullitt County History

Smallpox in Lebanon Junction, 1899

The following was first published in the Biennial Report of the State Board of Health of Kentucky. 1904-1905 which was published by Geo. G. Fetter Company in 1906. This is quoted from pages 31-33.

Early in March, 1899, a railroad employe, whose run was between Lebanon Junction and Corbin, contracted smallpox, probably in Louisville, where it had existed for months, and came down with it at his father's home in Williamsburg, his father being an undergraduate physician, practicing under the time limit and examination clause of the medical law. The disease was not recognized as smallpox, and, as soon as he was able to travel, after communicating the disease to his family, he returned to his brother's at Lebanon Junction, covered with scabs, bringing the disease to them, as well as to several of his fellow-employes.

As has been the case throughout the epidemic, most of the cases were mild, patients being quite ill usually until the eruption appeared, adn then in a few days feeling well enough to walk about, having little if any secondary fever, many of the cases not even sending for a physician. Quite a number of cases occurred and the disease had been carried from this point to Horse Cave, Corbin and into Nelson county before this board received information that anything suspicious was there.

One of our most experienced inspectors was sent at once, but he was unable to induce either the town or the county authorities to take any interest in the matter, although he found a number of cases well marked, in the contagious stage, on the street and lounging about the depot platform. As Lebanon Junction is the end of the Knoxville Division of the L. & N. Railroad, where many of the employes get their lay-off, and as the principal boarding-houses were within 30 feet of the stopping place for many of the passenger trains, it is an important town from a smallpox standpoint. The executive officer went to the place in person, upon the failure of the inspector to interest the authorities or people, and he was equally unsuccessful, although he had learned in the meantime that the disease had already been carried from this point to Horse Cave, Corbin and into Nelson. He met one man on the street starting off with a fishing party, who was covered with scabs, and found that others had been going about in the same manner, and that a majority of the people and officials could not be induced to adopt any efficient measures either to stamp out the disease in the town or for the protection of the traveling public, which was more or less constantly exposed while trains stood at the depot for the transfer of passengers.

Believing that the conditions existing there so seriously endangered a large portion of the State as to demand immediate action, this officer took the first train for Louisville, calling a meeting by wife, and the following ws at once issued:

"Proclamation by the State Board of Health.
"Bowling Green, Ky., April 17, 1899

"Whereas, It has come to the knowledge of this board that smallpox is epidemic at Lebanon Junction, Bullitt County, Kentucky, that practically all the inhabitants and railroad employees at that place have been exposed to said disease, and that very many of them are not only unprotected by vaccination, but appear not to appreciate the importance of this and the other recognized precautions to be used against this disease; and,

"Whereas, The conditions and railroad connections of this place are such as to endanger the health and business interests of a large portion of the State;

"Now, therefore, be it known, That the State Board of Health, in the exercise of the authority vested in it by law, hereby declares the town and suburbs of Lebanon Junction, and each of the inhabitants thereof, temporary and permanent, to be in quarantine, and, under the pains and penalties of law, forbids any person to enter or leave said place, or to approach near any railroad train or depot ground, or the reception or discharge at this place by any train of any passenger or employee, without a special permit from this board, and forbids any person afflicted with this disease to go upon or near any street, alley or other public road or way. This quarantine to be in force from this date until raised.
"By order of the board:
"J. M. Mathews, M.D., President.
"J. N. McCormack, M.D., Secretary."

The authorities at once inaugurated proper measures for combating the disease and it was at once brought under control and the quarantine raised on May 3d following.

The following report is located on pages 52-53 of the same volume.

Bullitt County Board of Health Report, 1905

Bullitt County Board of Health.
Shepherdsville, Ky., August 31, 1905

To the State Board of Health:

Since our last published report of two years ago there has been one outbreak of smallpox in the county in Lebanon Junction, with a total of 6 cases and no deaths.

The first case came from Louisville, and 12 (?) persons had been exposed to the disease before its character was recognized and reported so that we could take steps to bring it under control.

Of the population of this county, at the time of our last report 50 per cent has been vaccinated. Since that time it is estimated that 10 per cent have procured vaccination, leaving 40 per cent still unprotected, after nearly eight years of smallpox almost constantly in some sections of the State.

We have one eruptive hospital, located one and one-half miles from Shepherdsville, with a capacity of 30 patients. Our method of managing the disease was: Where practicable and when patient shows willingness to aid us, we isolate them and treat in their homes, but where we are antagonized we remove them to pesthouse and confine under guards.

The total cost of managing the disease for the two years, including hospital, physicians, vaccination, guards, nurses, food and medicine, has been $300. The estimated cost in loss of trade and interference with business has been nil.

The chief difficulties in stamping out the disease have been the usual apathy of the laity and failure to report the mild cases.

As nearly as can be ascertained, other cases of preventable diseases have occurred during the two years as follows: Typhoid fever, 10 cases and 3 deaths; scarlet fever, 10 cases and 1 death. The average cost to our people for managing and treating a case of any of these diseases, including medical attention, nursing, loss of time and incidental expenses, is estimated to be $30, making a total loss to the county for the two years from diseased which might be prevented, of $600, as against $23,000 for State taxes. The county health officer is paid no salary, and all of the other members serve gratuitously.

The following additional facts will be of interest in connection with this report: Since our last report there seems to be a growning respect for the work of the board of health and a dispostion among the laity to lend that aid that is so essential to the health officers' success in controlling proventable diseases.

Very respectively,
S. W. BATES, M.D., Secretary.

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The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 12 Sep 2020 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/smallpoxlj.html