New Hampshire Glossary: Quarantine

Probably only the older Americans alive today have personally experienced being quarantined.  A “quarantine” is a situation where people, animals or produce are isolated to keep them separate from others, with the hope of preventing the spread of an infectious or contagious disease.

In New Hampshire's colonial days, a forty- or fifty- day quarantine was sometimes placed on a ship whose crew or passengers arrived infected with contagious disorders.  These individuals either had to remain on the ship they traveled in, or sometimes a quarantine station (or lazaret) was maintained.  These lazarets could be ships permanently at anchor, isolated islands or mainland buildings built and maintained specifically for this purpose.

Often times a “Quarantine flag,” (a yellow flag) was/is hoisted at the fore of a vessel or hung from a building, to give warning of an infectious disease. This flag was also called also the “yellow jack.” [Note: “yellow jack” is also a nickname for yellow fever].

During the mid 1700s, ships carrying those infected with the “plague,” small-pox, influenza, yellow fever and other serious disorders was still a real issue. In 1763, according to the New-Hampshire Gazette, one “Jennins” of Newbury MA left the sloop “Bagley” while it was still under quarantine for small-pox, at Portsmouth. A notice was published in the newspaper cautioning “persons of entertaining said Jennins.”

Perhaps one of the oddest cases of quarantine occurred in 1924, when a Connecticut girl who was spending the summer in Maine, contracted polio.  In order to take her back home to Connecticut (which they did using a secluded railroad car), her cabin was taped off at the Hew Hampshire border, and again checked that it was secure in Massachusetts. Since much of polio's spread was through people whose symptoms were not so apparent, the great effort expended was ill advised.


*Additional Reading*

List of Epidemics (Encyclopedia of Genealogy)

Quarantine and Isolation, Law-Related Materials (Current)

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