Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Thursday, April 9, 2020

More on Epidemics in Sherburne County

With all of the commentary about pandemics and COVID-19, research revealed the serious amnesia Americans develop regarding the multitude of diseases and infections ravaging the world.  It seemed a good idea to explore these epidemics and the impact upon Sherburne County.  Unfortunately, very little evidence exists about the pandemics and epidemics in Sherburne County. 

In the twentieth century, at least six epidemics can be documented in Sherburne County.  Influenza raced through the county in 1918, 1957, and 1968. Lest we all forget, the most recent Influenza Epidemic lasted from April of 2009 until April of 2010.  In the twelve months, there were 60 million cases reported in the United States.  Over 12,000 people died, 67 of them in Minnesota.  

Polio, another epidemic, seemed to attack the young children of the United States each year.  Until the late 1950s polio epidemics seriously threatened the population of Minnesota at least three times after World War Two: in 1946, 1952, and 1953.  A memory of the 1950s and testing for the polio epidemic came to SHC recently: “I was tested with a spinal tap at Sister Kenny. I was 6 and got lucky. Mine turned out to be rheumatic fever. I can still remember going down a hallway to testing and seeing rooms filled with iron lungs. All you could see of the patients was their head. It was terrifying for a child of 6 who didn’t understand.” The Salk Polio vaccine all but eliminated the disease after inoculation began in 1955. 

Memories of any of the epidemics are scarce and unique.  This is why, in the coming weeks the Sherburne History Center is working to collect memories of the COVID-19 epidemic and any other epidemic or health scares you might remember.  As the COVID-19 quarantine extends, and you are looking for something to do, consider writing your memories of this event and sending them to the Sherburne History Center.  We will collect these memories in our archives to make them available to future historians. 

Please consider helping us collect information about this tragic, yet historic event.  Send your memories and thoughts to me, Mike Brubaker, at

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