Friday, June 30, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: June 30

June 30, 1905 – Early this morning when Herbert McMann, who is employed with a gang of railroad laborers near Hopkins, was performing his meager and hasty toilet, he saw in the reflection of his face in the broken mirror that hangs in his bunkhouse, the horrible spots that told him he had smallpox. In the anguish that the sudden realization of his plight caused he uttered a hoarse curse. A companion asked the cause, and at the same moment beheld the small blotches that he too recognized. He darted out of the bunkhouse like lightning and ran for some yards.

McMann followed him, but everywhere he went, his fellow laborers ran from him. Not knowing what else to do, he started off towards his regular work. However, the other laborers broke and ran, many of them coming to Minneapolis, leaving their small quantities of supplies in the bunkhouse, which none of them now dared to enter.

Left alone, McCann did not know which way to turn. He wandered about the neighborhood, but nobody would take him in. A man who approached near to him saw the blotches, turned and ran some distance and then shouted back to McMann to leave the town—to go out into the country, anywhere so as not to expose the men, women and children.

McMann then began a long tramp alone. After several bad experiences with farmers whom he encountered on the highway, he began to avoid passersby. Late this evening he found his way to quarantine hospital—the “pest house.” There, at last, he found refuge.

But the problem that McMann created is not settled. Health Commissioner P. M. Hall, who later heard the story, sent officers searching the city and vicinity in an effort to prevent the further mingling with the citizens of the laborers in gangs who may have been exposed to the dread disease.

The Minneapolis Journal; “Is Shunned As Was Jean Valjean. Horrible Experience of a Smallpox Patient. His Fellow-Laborers Run from His Presence and, Denied Asylum Everywhere, he Finally Finds shelter in the ‘Pest House’—Persons Exposed May Have Come to Minneapolis.”; July 1, 1905; p. 6.



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