Photographs courtesy of Wanda Fowler, August 2011
1020 North Congress Street (Highway 49 North)—Smallpox Cemetery Monument
Location: Near the corner of North Congress Street and Ross Cannon Street
Date Erected: 2009 by the Yorkville Historical Society to memorialize the York Cotton Mills village 1909 smallpox victims
Description: The monument marks the site of a small cemetery from 1909 that contains the remains of at least seven people, based on newspaper accounts, who were York Cotton Mills residents and/or employees that died during a smallpox outbreak that year.
History: On March 16, 1909, the Yorkville Enquirer reported the first death from smallpox as Kirby Pugh, who had been sick about two weeks. After learning that they were dealing with smallpox, York Cotton Mills officials thoroughly fumigated the premises and notified the board of health. A strict quarantine was implemented for the York Cotton Mills village. It was reported that when someone died, the body was wrapped in a blanket, put on the back of a wagon, and then taken to this gravesite and buried immediately. The last death reportedly was W. W. Williams on April 14, 1909. It is said Mr. Williams chose not to be vaccinated at the beginning of the outbreak because he feared the vaccination more than smallpox. Based on newspaper accounts, we know of the following seven deaths and probable burials in this cemetery: Kirby Pugh, Mrs. Robert Price, Mack Thompson, Hiram Alexander, a daughter of Kirby Pugh, Jane Williams (daughter of Jeff Williams), and W. W. Williams.
The 1909 gravesite located at Highway 49 (North Congress Street) and Ross Cannon Street was discovered by Yorktowne Village owners while clearing a section of their property along Highway 49. Most of the headstones found were broken with only two still standing. New owners repaired the headstones in 2016.
The Yorkville Historical Society is seeking more information about the smallpox outbreak at York Cotton Mills village.