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Revolutionary War-era document of a smallpox meeting at Johnston, Rhode Island, 1776, deciding to quarantine infected townspeople in their homes

Revolutionary War-era document of a smallpox meeting at Johnston, Rhode Island, 1776, deciding to quarantine infected townspeople in their homes

Written in brown ink on a 7 1/2 x 12 inch piece of hand laid paper, in a fine state of preservation, with remnants of two seals. This unique American Revolutionary War era document from 1776 is a record of a town council meeting in Johnston, Rhode Island to discuss the smallpox outbreak that was occurring. Several people in the town of Johnstonwere suspected of being infected with smallpox, a highly contagious disease. The council decided that the people infected would be restricted (quarantined) to their respected houses and those family members not infected would be removed. Present at the council meeting were Edward Fenner, Job Waterman, Abram Belknap and Nehemiah Sheldon. One of the infected citizens was Mrs. Hope Hawkins. The council resolved that,

"Whereas it is represented to this Council that Mrs Hope Hawkins is now sick with the small pox in her house in this Town - It therefore voted and resolved that the said Hope Hawkins remain in the house where she now is and that the part of the family as had not had the small pox be removed immediately into the house of Job Smith, in said town which is taken by this Council for that purpose. That Abram Belknap Esq be directed to make application to and agree with the said Job Smith for the said house and that Richard Eddy Esq be likewise directed to remove the aforesaid family accordingly.

This Council is adjourned until tomorrow at 4 o'clock in the afternoon at the house of John Waterman Esq.

At a town council held at Johnston _ on the 1st day of October 1776"

It also states,

"Captain John Hopkins be permitted to go and stay at the house of Mrs. Hawkins during her illness with small pox." This is likely the same Captain John Hopkins that was in charge of the longboats that attacked the British ship Gaspee in Providence Harbor in 1772. John Burroughs Hopkins was a ships’ captain. John Brown placed him in charge of one of the longboats in the attack on the Gaspee.

Captain John B. Hopkins, was a son of Esek Hopkins, and a nephew of Stephen Hopkins, the then Chief Justice of Rhode Island. The middle initial of Capt Hopkins was used during his lifetime --- to distinguish himself from both his uncle named John Hopkins and also a cousin named John Hopkins, both of whom were substantial members within a prominent Rhode Island family.

The area of Johnston, Rhode Island was first settled by English settlers in the seventeenth century as a farming community. In 1759 the town officially separated from Providence and was incorporated on March 6, 1759. Johnston was named for the current colonial attorney general, Augustus Johnson, who was later burned in effigy during the Stamp Act protests in 1765 and then fled Rhode Island as a Tory during the American Revolution in 1779. . As Attorney General, Johnston helped to revise the colony's laws and worked to start a smallpox inoculation hospital.

Contributed by anonymous.