Death brought with it, fear and suffering and the year was 1782.
For 3000 years the epidemic swept across continents wiping out millions, it killed a third of all the people it infected and is one of the most devastating diseases known to man, one of the seven worst plagues in history.
By 1782, the disease had surfaced in Wiltshire and Hampshire possibly carried by journeyman travelling from the Severn Valley, an area of England that had been suffering an epidemic since 1781, Smallpox was on the rampage.
For 170 years smallpox had been rearing its ugly head in England first recorded on our shores in 1610.
Between 1775 – 1782 a smallpox epidemic was also raging across North America and estimated to have killed 11,000 people in only seven years.
It’s not a pleasant way to go either and far from sightly and in the year 1782 smallpox took the life of my 6x great-grandfather Henry Plaskett (1731 – 1782), his death is noted in the book – The Biographical Record or Sketches of the Lives, Experience, and Happy Deaths of Members of The Wesleyan Society – In The Salisbury Circuit by James Dredge and published in 1833.
Causes of death are not usually recorded in the English Parish Records and very little information pertaining to causes of mortality has been left to us for this period in our history, so Henry’s noteworthy death is a rare glimpse into the life of one of my 18th century ancestors.
Henry Plaskett was the son-in-law of a well-respected Wiltshire clockmaker, Peter Bower of Redlynch his Wikipedia page can be found below, (the article / page was written and published by myself earlier this year).
Henry was a farmer by trade, he was born in Downton, Wiltshire in November 1731 and was the son of William and Hannah Plaskett. He married Mary Bower on the 22 July 1770 also in Downton and then settled for some years in Hampshire.
Little is known about his life during this period and I have only been able to identify three children attributed to him, Rueben, Peter and Elizabeth, it’s likely he had more.
Henry was 51 years old when he died, his widow Mary devoted her life to Methodism shortly after his death and through Mary and her work within the Methodist circuit we are left with a collection of interesting facts, and a biography of her life that is both a joy to read and sad to behold.