Hungerford Smallpox Epidemic of 1884

The viral disease of smallpox – widespread in 19th century Ontario – flared up in a severe epidemic in Hungerford Township in 1884. The outbreak claimed at least 45 lives in 202 reported cases and disrupted economic activity and family life for many more. Local efforts by municipal authorities and private physicians were initially unable to halt the disease, and its wider spread throughout the province seemed likely. The newly established Provincial Board of Health and its hired officers swiftly undertook fumigation, enforced isolation and mass vaccination. The disease was contained, proving the value of public health measures applied consistently under coordinated direction. The Hungerford experience demonstrated the importance of quality vaccine, reliable supplies and skilled vaccinators. The Board's actions in 1884 transformed Ontario's approach to disease control when over 400 local boards of health were formed to assist in the delivery of essential medical services. As a result, Ontario earned an international reputation as an aggressive and innovative public health advocate during the mid-1880s.


At the Memorial Hall of the Tweed & Area Heritage Centre and Museum, 40 Victoria Street North, Tweed.

Region: Eastern Ontario

County/District: County of Hastings

Municipality: Municipality of Tweed