SMALL-POX has broken out in the large village of #Sticklepath

That certain would be a headline grabber today! But no, this is a single sentence hidden in the middle of page 2 amongst other unrelated titbits. The Western Times 28 Oct 1871 tells us an heir is born to a Lady in London, then states:

“It is said that small-pox has broken out in the large village of Sticklepath near Okehampton, and that the wife of a miner has died from the disease.”

The paper then moved straight on to a one sentence advert for hair restorer and an unrelated item re the takings of the local railway. I wonder how many people spotted this sentence? (Spotted -rash! No pun intended).

I found this ‘newspaper clipping’ after looking at the death certificate for Jane Osborn, wife of miner William Osborn. This is the third burial in my #SticklepathQuakerBuryingGround series.

Image from BritishNewspaperArchive, originals at British Library. (Accessed July 2021)

According to the burial register Jane was buried on 24 October 1871 aged 27, and was burial No. 180. The funeral ceremony was performed by Thomas Seacombe, a Methodist local preacher who performed a great number of the burial services.

The General Registry Office Register gives a slightly different date, saying she died on 25 October 1871 (the day after she was reputedly buried!). The cause was certified. It was not a legal requirement at the time for all deaths, however the local doctors kept a close eye on infections and fevers. It does not tell us who certified the death. I suspect that any smallpox victim was buried very soon after death, to prevent spread of infection. The death was registered on 26 October by informant John Austin of Sticklepath, ‘in attendance’.

Informants are often relatives, sometimes a ‘nurse’ helping care for the person. I have not found a connection (yet) between Jane Osborn, born Coombe, and the Austin family. The only John Austin on the 1871 census, taken just a few months earlier, was the 15 year old apprentice to Mr Cook the wheelwright and undertaker. I wonder if he was the one sent to register the death? Perhaps part of the undertaker’s service, though legally he should have been ‘in attendance’ during the last days of life. On the other hand, people who had already had smallpox and survived were the ones asked to care for a new sufferer. Is it possible this could have been why he was in attendance?

I have more questions than answers!

As usual I would love to hear from anyone with more information.

One thought on “SMALL-POX has broken out in the large village of #Sticklepath

  1. My great grandfather died during a smallpox epidemic in 1901. It was interesting to read the newspaper reports about the reluctance by many to be vaccinated. The reports gave the daily reports of hospital admissions and deaths. Not too different to today.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s