Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 75

of my arrival I baptized five children and had the prospect of a good attendance at mass the next morning. Hiring a horse I rode the distance through a storm of wind, rain and hail arrived at nine o’clock to find a sick lady already unconscious, in which condition she remained until she died, at four in the morning. I gave her the usual rites of the church in her edition, and after her death I saddled my horse and returned to my mission, arriving there at the appointed time. To my surprise I found only a handful of my expected congregation. The report had been spread that I had gone to a case of smallpox, which was not true, but it had the effect of keeping most of the people away from mass. Immediately after mass I got another telegram, this time it was to a case of smallpox, my first experience with that plague. I was tired with my last experience but answered that I would be there by the next stage coach, which passed my station after dinner. There was a lady passenger in the coach, and when she heard that I was on a sick call the past night, she asked me how the sick woman was. I told her of the death of the patient, and she broke into tears saying: “She was my sister, and I hoped to see her before she died.”

          Arriving home, I made use of some disinfectants and went to see the sick man. As the case was likely to prove fatal (which it did the next day) I administered all the Sacraments, but I felt some nausea from the fetid  odors of the sick room and the sick man’s breath. I thought I was in pretty fair condition for infection, as I was somewhat exhausted from travel and lack of sleep, but I attended another case before leaving the village. I was told that I should have taken a big drink of whiskey before going into that sick room, but I did not think of that then or afterwards. Other cases followed until the village was placed under quarantine and no one allowed to enter or leave it except the attending physician and myself.

          Some of the fearful people asked me to cease my visits lest I carry the disease into my home place. I told them that I would go as often as called and if necessary stay in the stricken village if not allowed to come out. They even asked the Board of Health to prevent me from going among the sick, stating that one of their ministers had a permission to do so. This angered the Chairman of the  Board who was also a physician and who knew of the precautions I was taking and approved them, and he replied; “There is a d----d good reason why; none of them has asked it.” That settled it for good and there were no more public complaints. None of my people died without the sacraments, but when the epidemic had almost passed I was stricken with the disease in a modified form, but within a month was again on duty. The Sunday after I was attacked the Episcopalian minister (Rev Johnson) told his congregation of my devotion in exposing my life for the good of my people, and the Methodist Minister (Rev Snow) asked his people to pray for my conversion.

          In July I went to Denver to see the Bishop, and he sent Father Matz (the future bishop) to Georgetown and told me that I needed a rest, and a visit to my relatives which I had not yet had,

View Original Here

This page has paths:

Contents of this path: