the museum of americana

a literary review

Q U A R A N T I N E S — Poetry by Kevin McKelvey

                  ——–
      Self, Fearful Of  Giv-
       ing  Disease  To  His
       F a m i l y,  Teachers
         Shuts Self in School
                  ——–

      Three little girls       one family
         dead   cerebro-spinal      menin-
gitis         a fourth      affliced
                                  on a cot in a
one room log cabin,  wherein
tubercular father, her mother
three other sisters             brothers

            almost  untraversable
                                                back-
woods country in Polk township

near the Brown County line  
      the
                 setting            
                              human
                 suffering          Her frail
body shaken by                  convul-
sions, Dorval Axsom, 9, yesterday
joined   her   sisters,    Dora,   5, 
Dorothy, 7, in death.

      Thirteen year old Delphne
contracted the disease from her
sisters
                                      If she lives
      she faces                         being
an invalid or deformed
                                               after
effects  of   cerebro-pinal   menin-
gitis.

            other                    Axsom
family          neighbors
             in danger of contracting
the disease
        About 15 families,

                              have been ex-
posed
      Deputy health officer
Luzadder yesterday quarantined
Axsom cabin.

Without
            county authorities
Deckard, teacher at  the Axsom
school
                                     placed  the
school house under quarantine
                                     with a cot
and groceries
                 to safeguard.
      his wife and children.
     
Lying in the wildest section of hill country
“almost   inaccessible,”Dr. Luzadder
said                 His son’s car could not
traverse the narrow clay road
                                          an    obso-
lete model Ford, its chasis high off
the ground
                               met him
took him to the cabin

                                stricken family
huddled into     one room log    struc-
ture. Sanitary conditions             of
      worst kind                          On
return              Luzadder’s car
stalled, crank case broken by
high clay                               in the
midle of the road
    How did such a family, with the
father ill in bed, manage to keep
alive, even before the ravages of
spinal meningitis entered the cabin?
    Once a year in an old wagon
drawn by  horse,      they load buckets
of sorghum, molasses, themselves
climb on,         start for Blooming-
ton.           sorghum,         from sugar
cane, grown on their farm land,
sold     and food      clothing    bought
      in return.
          What they gain from
              their long labors does not
last until               next  annual pil-
grimage to Bloomington.
         help                                comes
from beneficent persons.
      Home        isolated               diffi-
cult to reach,                 their plight
did not reach Monroe county     Red
Cross headquarters until after
deaths of the children. Officers of
      Red Cross
willing to give food
if someone will take it to them.
            Kinser, trustee of Polk
township,              issued order for
serum injections for Dephne Axsom
      hopes         saving her life.     Dr.
Luzadder               will go
                               give medical aid

                         even thought he may
have to walk
                              doubt, however
the serum will halt the scourge,
basing                     on statistics
           from last year’s spinal menin-
gitis epidemic in Indianapolis,
            80 out of a 100 victims
                                    died.
    Dr. Ackerman, of Brownstown,
      atetnded                        a  few
times,           unable to reach
cabin as frequently as is necessary,
                        the            nearly
impassable roads.

Note: Q U A R A N T I N E S is a found poem about the four Axsom children who died in 1931 and are buried together in Terrill Cemetery in the Deam Wilderness Area in the Hoosier National Forest of Indiana. The text comes from an article in the April 10, 1931 edition of the Evening World newspaper from Spencer, Indiana. Misspellings and line breaks match the original article; deleted words are now white space. The article is part of the Hoosier National Forest Office files in Bedford, Indiana, contributed by Monroe County Historical Society via Stan Newhall and Gary Lane.

~  ~  ~

McKelvey-Author-PhotoKevin McKelvey is a poet and writer and teaches writing, editing, and publishing at the University of Indianapolis. This poem is part of a book-length sequence inspired by the Deam Wilderness. Some of the sequence has been published in Dream Wilderness, a chapbook. The Indiana Arts Commission recently awarded him a grant to write poems about Indiana’s Wabash River. He is currently editing and designing textual maps of the Upper White River watershed and the Wabash River watershed and is also working on a novel. He lives with his wife and three children in Indianapolis in a house built in 1890.