A mention on Facebook regarding former “pest houses” in Millinocket sent me into research mode on the topic. Pest houses were buildings used for the isolation or quarantine of individuals afflicted with a contagious disease. In Millinocket, cholera, smallpox and typhoid were the main causes for the need of pest houses although some cases of diphtheria were found also.
A copy of a report by the medical inspector for the State Board of Health of Maine, Henry Hawkins, M.D. gives statistics, causes, and details of Millinocket’s cholera and typhoid epidemics of 1904. Early town reports also contain case statistics compiled by the local health officers. As early as 1902, a local Board of Health was appointed consisting of Dr. Cody, Dr. Bryant and Benjamin Bragdon, deputy sheriff.
Typhoid cases in 1903 were so rampant that a portion of the Mountain View House (hotel, boarding house on Penobscot Avenue across from the park) became a temporary hospital. At a later date, thirty cases of smallpox at Levasseur’s Boarding House resulted in those patients being quarantined there. As more townspeople were stricken, the town purchased a small building on the way to Stone Dam, This was the town’s first pest house. When this structure was not enough, the town built a two-story building on Medway Road. It had beds and cooking facilities. Five small camps were placed around it and each housed five or six patients who had to live there until the disease was no longer a threat to others. (Note that this last information is from the Laverty book which also has a photo of a pest house, possibly the Medway Road location. This photo was also reproduced as a post card view and as such may be recognized by some people. The museum collection has this post card.)
By 1912, the Medway Road pest house had burned. The Laverty book states that the Alex Resignol house was used for a time. (Where?) Then GNP built pest houses for both Millinocket and East Millinocket. They were a bungalow-type. The location is not mentioned, but a later reference, after WWII, is made of a pest being located in the area that is now Water Street. It stated the “old pest house was no longer needed.” New homes filled the area and the pest house became a home.
*** A Little Taste of History, a cookbook featuring recipes from Millinocket pioneer families and their descendants (wives of mill employees, businessmen, school and town employees and more. Includes some photos and personal notes. 200 pages. Each cookbook is $15.00 (mail orders add $5.00 SH each book). At the museum, Memories of Maine Gallery, Steel Magnolias, Katahdin General, Gracie’s Aunt’s Emporium & by mail.
***2018 Calendar with vintage photos – still available. Now only $5.00 (by mail add $4.00 SH).
***Get your orders in for one of the laser engraved pavers. Cost $100.00 each. Up to 3 lines with up to 15 letters, symbols, spaces per line. Contact museum for form or more details. Another group of pavers will be in before July 4.
*** Museum HOURS…. Open Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays from noon – 3 PM. The new OPEN sign will be lit.
***Contact me, Curator Trudy Wyman, 723-5477 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For groups or appointments, contact the Millinocket Historical Society at P. O. Box 11, on the web at www.millinockethistoricalsociety.org or on Facebook.