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Ironic Tragedy! Mourners and Mortician infected by small pox diseased corpse

Asa Clark Brown’s Gravesite and Tombstone Honored A new tombstone and flower wreath were provided and set in place by the Daughters of the War of 1812 on the 142nd Memorial Day Celebration at Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery to honor Asa Clark Brown and mark his grave site, May 330th 2011. The helmet, rifle, and empty boots were ceremoniously put in place by American Legion Post #1, Minneapolis.

Almost all cemetery stories are sad, but some are far sadder than others.

On May 30th, 2011 at the 142st Memorial Day Celebration Memorial Day at Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery, Lu Jacobson came to pay her respects to several members of her family.  She came with flowers, most likely the first flowers that her relatives had received in nearly a hundred years.  Six members of her family died in 1904, all of them within six weeks of each other.

The story began on April 1, 1904 when the Minneapolis Tribune ran the following short story:

“Hearing strange and unusual noises in the rooms below at 1:30 this morning, Mrs. Joseph H. Lockwood, of 2854 Twenty-seventh avenue south, ran from her chamber to the first floor, only to find her husband in the last throes of death.

Her endeavors and those of other members of the household were unavailing, and the husband and father died without regaining consciousness.

Coroner Williams decided that the death was due to apoplexy.”

But Coroner Williams was mistaken–Joseph H. Lockwood didn’t die from a stroke; he died from a particularly virulent strain of smallpox.  That mistake unwittingly led to a smallpox epidemic that caused unimaginable heartache for the Lockwood family and caused panic throughout the city.

As was the custom, Joseph H. Lockwood’s body was prepared for burial and laid out in the family home for viewing before the funeral.  For two days, family members and friends stopped by to pay their respects.  Each of them was exposed to the deadly smallpox virus.

Two weeks after the funeral, the length of time between exposure to the virus and the onset of symptoms, William Byorum, an undertaker who had assisted at Joseph Lockwood’s funeral, died from smallpox.  His death on April 20th was the first indication  there was a problem.  Almost immediately, all three of Mr. Lockwood’s children began to show symptoms of smallpox and were sent to the Quarantine Hospital.  Joseph A. Lockwood, a 21-year-old son, who was severely disabled and especially vulnerable, died on April 21st.  On April 25th, 18-year-old Harriet (Hettie) Lockwood died.   Hettie was a milliner and popular Sunday School teacher whose students could not attend her funeral for fear of getting sick.   The only member of the family who did not get sick was Melinda Lockwood, Joseph H. Lockwood’s widow; she spent her days at the Quarantine Hospital caring for their last surviving child; twenty-one-year-old Etta was gravely ill but eventually recovered. On April 25th, Grace Stewart, a niece who had attended Joseph Lockwood’s funeral, died at her home.

As the disease spread and the number of deaths grew, local papers ran stories about what became known as the “Lockwood Contagion.” People who had not been vaccinated previously flooded the Health Department. The clinic had to open on Sunday to meet the demand for vaccinations. Forty people were taken to the Quarantine Hospital, including four other members of the Lockwood family—some would recover, but others, including yet one more member of the Lockwood family, would not.

On April 28th, Elinor Lockwood, a daughter-in-law, died at her home.  Two weeks later, on May 10th, William Lockwood, a 35-year-old nephew, and the father of six young children, died in the Quarantine Hospital.  One of those children, a daughter named Eleanor, was Lu Jacobson’s grandmother.

In a little less than six weeks, six members of the Lockwood family were gone.  According to the Tribune, health department records “show no case parallel to this in malignancy and death-dealing influence in one family.”

The Lockwoods are buried in six unmarked graves in Section 4 of the cemetery.  (Section 4 is the circular block of graves in the turnaround formed by the cemetery’s single road.) This past Memorial Day, Lu Jacobson brought them flowers.  She will honor them with a new marker later this summer.

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