Scarlet fever is something we don’t have to think about any more. However, more than 100 years ago, this childhood killer struck fear into the hearts of parents everywhere, including the little town of Keene.
On March 4, 1912, in the face of a frightening scarlet fever outbreak, the Keene Town Board of Health took emergency action. The Board ordered “that the church, school houses, library, neighborhood house and Keene Valley Club House shall be closed until further notice.”
Today, in the midst of our Covid-19 turmoil, the disputes over vaccines, masks, and other government-scientific recommendations, it is hard to imagine a citizen board of health exercising that kind of power—to declare the church and the schools and the library closed. Boom. “Mo(tion) carried,” says the official one-page document, hand-written in pencil.