Heman Hersey and the Pest House
line) has long been known as the Pest House. I'd heard that it was a place where people had been
sent for the reason of being quarantined, the name being short for pestilence, but I didn't know
anything beyond that.
After receiving a question about it from the present owner a few weeks ago, (Hmmm, when did I write
that? Probably around 2004. It couldn't have been after 2005.) I decided to ask Hester Chilson if she
knew anything about it. As it turned out, she remembered the situation quite well. Her foster-father,
Edwin Darling, was a selectman at the time it was first needed and was involved in the purchase of
the house. Also, the brother of the victim lived next door to Hester and her foster parents, the Darlings,
on Freedom Street. (She lived at 54 Freedom Street. Hersey was in the duplex just below that.) As far
as she knows, the house was only used once when an employee of Henry Patrick's Store, Heman K.
Hersey, become ill with smallpox. She recalls that no one knew how he caught it.
From what I can tell by looking through town reports, Hersey came down with the pox in 1901. I haven't
found out where he was living at the time, but he survived and the 1905 town directory gives his
occupation and place of residence as "clerk, Patrick's, rooms in block over store." That would be the
store that was where the parking lot between the library and the Harrison Block are now. I haven't
seen any town directories for about fifteen years after the 1905 one, but by 1920 Hersey lived with his
parents at 7 Hopedale Street and was there through 1923. His age that year was given as 45. By
1924, evidently his father had died, and he had moved back to an apartment over Patrick's, this time
with his mother. Mr. Hersey evidently made a complete recovery. By the time he retired from Patrick's,
he had worked there for more than sixty years.
Hester told me that Hersey eventually married, moved to Mendon and lived at the corner of Main Street
and what she referred to as Birch Alley. She cleared that one up for me by telling me that it's now
called Washington Street. Main Street is Uxbridge Road/Route 16. Dan and Joyce Gilmore live there
now and about a year ago they donated a wooden Henry Patrick delivery box and two very old (c. 1900)
order books to the Little Red Shop Museum. I assume they were items left there long ago by Hersey.
The town report of 1903 mentions that the town paid rent for the Pest House. In the years after that,
it's listed as a town owned property. (The value of each building owned by the town is given in town
reports.) The Pest House was valued at $600 for a few years and later raised to $1,000, where it
remained into 1928. It's not listed in town reports after that. See the paragraph from the town report for
1929 below for more on that. The town report of 1901 lists the following expenses related to the case:
Smallpox case, account Heman Hersey:-
Sylvester L. Madden, milk, etc. $9.88
J. Allen Rice, rubber gloves 2.50
H. Louise Ketchum, nurse 95.00
H. Shattuck, nurse 95.00
Edith L. Warner, nurse 75.00
Abram Waldron, labor 2.00
Draper Company, sundries 7.30
H.L. Patrick, groceries, etc . 72.78
Remick Furniture Co., furniture 59.12
Dr K.A. Campbell, medical attendance 340.00
Avery & Woodbury, screen 1.50
S.A. Staples, sundries 18.75
L.A. Lamson & Son, medicine 34.85
F.T. Harvey, hospital bed 9.00
Hopedale Stable, wood, etc. 12.75
Now and Then at Patrick's Buildings Menu HOME
Street (Route 16) and Washington Street.
After the purchase of the pest house, it was among the town-
owned buildings listed in the town reports each year up to 1928.
The paragraph above is from the town report of 1929. Evidently the
article passed. There's no mention of the pest house in town
reports after that.
The 1930 book of Hopedale poll tax payers lists Cordelia Williams,
60, on West Street, no number given. There was also Albert A.
Williams, 54, West Street, machinist.