My Shocking Discovery! On a search for my family history this past summer, I found the headstones of my great grandmother's family located on Change Islands, NL. In 1860, my great grandmother, Susan Porter, was 10 months old when she lost her two older brothers (3 and 5), mother (26) and father (31) in a period of 2 weeks. Susan survived and later married my great grand father, Solomon Roberts, and had 11 children. It was shocking to find almost an entire young family deceased without knowing the cause (and of course who raised my great grandmother). Amazingly, my sister, Jocelyn, searched the NL archives and found the last will of Susan Porter's father (dated Dec 15, 1860 - the day he passed away). His will wrote: "I, Andrew Porter, of Change Islands Planter at present of perfect mind and memory but afflicted with a sore disease, do make this my last will and testament." He refers to leaving his "belongings to his remaining children, if they live."
There were several pandemics at that time like Cholera, Smallpox and Diphtheria and we believe Smallpox was the most likely disease that wiped out Susan's family. In 1800, Dr. John Clinch, a medical missionary stationed in Trinity, NL, had administered the first smallpox vaccine in Canada and North America. It was not until 1980 before Smallpox was fully eradicated worldwide. The first Smallpox vaccine was developed in 1796, Cholera in 1880, TB in 1921, and Diphtheria in 1923. The world now has 225 years of vaccine clinical research and history behind us. There are not many institutes with 225 years of research and development. Even the combustion engine in the car you drive was developed 135 years ago, yet we drive them everyday without fear of explosion.
Since the development of vaccines in the 1800s, and modern-day medicine, the world's population has grown 7 billion, the average world life expectancy increased 41 years of age, and the leading cause of death went from Pneumonia, Influenza, and TB in the early 1900s, to Heart Disease in the past 80 years.
Just maybe, advancement in science and technology had something to do with this incredible human growth. With Heart Disease as the #1 killer, our food and eating habits may have to change to eat like our ancestors did back in the 1800s.
I found this article in a Montreal newspaper dated, Nov 4, 1876, with an illustration of St. George slaying the dragon of smallpox, basically an indication to get the JAB! In 145 years, ideology has not changed regarding anti-vaccinations and public health critics, opposing mandatory vaccinations and breach of individual rights and freedom.
Please take the time to walk through an 1800s and early 1900s grave site and see the youth that have passed away. Ask yourself, why did they die so young? Maybe somewhere along the line this has happened to your ancestors.
As I reflect, if Susan Porter was a statistic of a world pandemic in 1860, I would not have the opportunity to share this post today. It makes us realize how lucky we all are to have the research and knowledge that is available in 2021. History repeats itself; our ancestors paid the ultimate price that we are still learning from. Tony R.
Submitted By: Tony Roberts