Deadly measles outbreak in Alaska

American Missionary, January 1901, Volume 0055 Issue 1. P. 70


A Siberian vessel brought the measles to Cape Prince of Wales early in the season and this disease has been epidemic for months. Mr. Lopp writes:

 “All our children and the reindeer herders were taken down with it. We found it utterly impossible to make the natives take proper care of themselves. Most of the old people, many babes and little children, died. There are only two grandfathers left in the settlement. For a while it kept us quite busy helping to bury the dead. We persuaded many to bury their dead underground in the sand dunes north of the Cape. But some insisted on carrying their dead out to the hillside or top and covering the rude box or coffin made of four hewn slabs, with stones, as they have been accustomed to for ages. A few days ago a woman who had buried her only child under ground had a dream that the spirit of her father, whose grave was on the mountain top, was lonesome without his grandchild, so she dug the child up, carried it to the top of the mountain and placed it beside its grandfather’s grave. No doubt half of the people would have died of fright and neglect had we not been here to reassure them and help them. Down the coast about Port Clarence, it is reported that when one would die those who were able to move would leave the corpse unburied and change their camping place. I will mail you some photographs taken on Kings Island. Our poor herders suffered for weeks. On account of the sick and weak condition of all the natives, we could get no permanent assistance for them. When a man herder had stood one days watch he would become so weak he would quit herding and come in to the settlement.

“All our own children except Dwight suffered from a severe attack of the measles. Our two youngest had bronchitis with the measles which kept them very sick several weeks. Both of Sokweena’s children died, and his wife, before she had regained her former health, was taken down a few weeks ago with pneumonia and at this writing is still very sick. Although convalescent, she is very weak and seems to have some heart trouble. They are in a cabin near our house.”