Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

SMALLPOX EPIDEMIC CLAIMED LIFE OF ALBION COLLEGE STUDENT

Morning Star, March 29, 2020, pg. 3

Wash your hands. With the advent of the COVID-19 outbreak across our country, we are reminded that there have been several contagious disease outbreaks in our Albion history. The Spanish influenza outbreaks in 1918 and 1919 were especially cruel, taking the lives of many Albion citizens. The smallpox epidemic of March, 1921 here (at least 14 cases) and other smallpox outbreaks earlier also produced fears amongst our population.

In Riverside Cemetery there is an unusual tombstone in Block 24, Lot 10 containing over three dozen names of Albion people. No, this isn't a mass grave, but rather the tombstone of one departed Albion girl, Mary Louise Weaver (1852-1871). Mary was the only daughter of Norman and Mercy Weaver, who lived at 15 W. Ash St., later renumbered as 205 W. Ash St. For reference, this became the Robert Pollman home in the mid-20th century that was demolished a couple of years ago. Norman's occupation is listed as a driver, which would be driving a team of horses pulling a wagon.

Mary was quite an accomplished musician. A student at Albion College, she sang in the choir and at social gatherings. She played the organ at her church, and was well liked by all who knew her. She was afflicted with the dreaded smallpox virus disease and died on June 7, 1871 at the young age of 18. Because of the nature of the disease and the fear of contracting it, she was buried at night with no funeral procession or rites.

A recollection written five years later revealed the sad fate of the Weaver family: "Financial reverses and misfortune came upon the young lady's father, stripping him of home and all earthly promises, leaving her parents bereaved, desolate, advanced in years, almost distracted. The lifeless form of their only daughter, but 18 years of age, beautiful, accomplished, was borne to the silent tomb in the darkness, with no solemn process, no funeral rites."

In memory of Mary, a large group gathered at her gravesite a few days later after her burial, after they were sure the virus was gone, and held a memorial service. Her classmates and local citizens pitched in and raised $200 to erect a heavy marble tombstone in her memory. The top inscription reads, "We Miss You, Mary Louise, Dau. of Norman & Mercy Weaver. Died June 7, 1871, Aged 18 Years & 7 months." In the center portion is inscribed in styled lettering the following poem: "To her whom we esteemed; Whose memory we revere; But in whose illness none could go; And speak one word of cheer; He by this monument would show; Her memory lives with us below."

Underneath, in two columns, are inscribed the names of her classmates: C. F. King, Rena Stone, C. H. Silliman, Eva Woodruff, Carrie B. Irwin, M. C. Cosae, Frank Silliman, Marion Moore, Rose S. Adams, Minnie Silliman, Hattie Olcott, H.C. Phipany, Esther Moore, Dora M. Grigor, G. W. Bortles, Addie Woodruff, Belle Stone, C. H. Gale, Nellie Garrison, Ida C. Furbish, E. Guilbault, G. L. McGregor, L. A. Tichenor, Belle Gardner, and H. P. Rockwell.

The reverse side of the stone carries this message: "Notwithstanding we were deprived the privilege of visiting you during your affliction, yet we esteemed you as a dear friend, and appreciated your many virtues, and in token thereof, have erected this monument." The names of these Albion citizens are inscribed below with the prefix "Mrs. & Mrs:" B. B. Bissell, D. H. Patterson, A. W. Silsbee, J.M. Jameson, J. H. Monroe, E. D. Comstock, Dr. C. W. Stone, I. W. Reed, E. J. Arthur, L. F. Ashley."

From our Historical notebook this week we present a photograph of Mary Louise Weaver, and her tombstone. How many of our readers have ever viewed this tombstone in Riverside Cemetery? Wash your hands again.


Mary Louise Weaver (1852-1871)


Front of Tombstone


Back of Tombstone, showing the names of people in her community.

Next: Albion 100 Years Ago - APRIL 1920

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