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CCNS-PL Smallpox Cemetery.jpg

(2009)

Smallpox Cemetery.

The most touching place in the Province Lands is the Smallpox Cemetery, not far east of Bound F, through lowlands around Duck Pond. (Best advice: Bring garden shears for the catbrier and wear jeans you can afford to sacrifice.) This is the vicinity of the Pest House, built around 1848 to contain and isolate smallpox victims, mitigating in part the citizens’ “gloomy forbodings and painful apprehensions,” as Dr. Horatio G. Newton described the state of affairs in 1872, when the worst outbreak occurred. At the burial ground were 14 headstones, numbered but nameless. It wasn’t until 1980, and the publication of Provincetown Massachusetts Cemetery Inscriptions, by Lurana Higgins Cooks, Hugh Francis Cook, Anne Gleason MacIntyre and John Stuart MacIntyre, that a tentative identification was made of the victims. In grave No. 5 would seem to be Kennis Ferguson, a 22-year-old mariner; in No. 9, Tamsin Manuel, who died a month after her 73rd birthday; and in No. 10 — pictured here — Frank Sofrine, alias Small, who died on Christmas Eve of 1872. The story of the man in No. 6 speaks eloquently and sadly to the hardships of the time. Antone Domingo, a mariner born in the Azores, died of smallpox on 1 November 1872. He was already a widower. And he was only 22.

¶ Adapted from Building Provincetown (2015).

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