Look Back: 19th Century vaccine drama

Our new Mayor does not seem to lack in energy. We are pleased to learn that he is taking precautions against the spreading of that dreadful disease, the small pox. Now only enforce Mayor, your orders, and be immovable toward the sinners.

The Parkersburg Daily Times

Jan. 24, 1866


Six cases of small pox having been discovered in the West Virginia House, our council at once ordered the house to be closed up, and the six diseased persons will probably be sent to the pest house. It’s hard for the afflicted ones, but what else could the council do? We cannot allow the disease to spread further.

The Parkersburg Daily Times

Jan. 27, 1866


Is it true or not, that one of the physicians, appointed by the Mayor to vaccinate persons went into one of the hotels on Ann St. and made several persons, though they were unwilling to submit to his demands, take virus into their bodies, in case of refusal to comply with his demands, threatening to do it forcibly, saying, “that his orders were to that effect.” We ask again, is that true or not? If true: we think it is an outrage on the individual liberty of those persons, and such forcible acts are in conflict with all the principles our institutions are based upon; it is, in plain English, an abuse of power which can not be tolerated and whoever issued such orders has to be censored severely.

The Parkersburg Daily Times

Jan. 29, 1866


Sir: In your issue of this morning you publish a statement that one of the physicians appointed by the Mayor to vaccinate the citizens of Parkersburg requiring it, entered one of the hotels on Ann Street and threatened to use force in case certain persons failed to allow themselves to be vaccinated. Being myself the physician alluded to, (as I went to all the hotels on Ann Street,) and having no desire to engage in a personal difficulty with any one so low and base as to fabricate this infamous falsehood, I simple desire you to furnish me with the name of the hotel alluded to in the above mentioned paragraph.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, Walter Coles.

In reply …

Dr. Coles: Sir: The name of the hotel, in which it was stated to me that which was mentioned in our paper of the 29th instant as having occurred was the Columbia Hotel.

Your respectfully,

E.T. Drahosh, Editor The Parkersburg Times


We the undersigned, were present and heard all the conversation that passed between Dr. Walter Coles and all persons in the hotel in reference to vaccination, and we distinctly disavow having heard the Doctor use any such language as was imputed to him in this morning Times. On the contrary, Dr. C. declined to vaccinate the majority persons present, on the ground that, in his judgment, they were well protected by previous vaccination.

Signed by John Boppart,

Proprietor and six other individuals.


[Reply from the Editor] From the above it is apparent that our information was entirely wrong, and made a false statement, and we are cautioned by this from placing any reliance in his informations, and will act accordingly.

The above

exchanges were from The Parkersburg Daily Times

Jan. 30,1866


Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society. If you have comments or questions about Look Back items, please contact him at: roberteenoch@gmail.com, or by mail at WCHPS, PO Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.


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