Typhoid Fever Epidemic @ Regina College

One hundred years ago this month Regina College was shutting down its teaching activities to combat an outbreak of Typhoid Fever.

Image credit: Photograph of Regina College 1920 (U of R Archives, 80-2, Photograph 12)

“The epidemic was all the more alarming and disconcerting because the college had escaped unscathed the widespread influenza epidemic of 1918-1919. At that time many Reginans died, but the college, having instituted a strict quarantine, suffered no casualties. The problem in 1920 arose from an infected milk supply… One of the farm workers, who unknowingly was a typhoid carrier, contaminated the milk, causing sixty-eight students, four teachers, and six members of the household staff to contract the fever. Early in December 1920 President Stapleford cancelled all the classes and ordered the girls’ residence converted into an infirmary… The only students who were completely safe were the war veterans who had been inoculated while in the army.” (James M. Pitsula, An Act of Faith: The Early Years of Regina College, 1988, Page 57-58)

There are some eerie parallels between now and one hundred years ago as the fight of COVID-19 continues. One important parallel being that in times like these healthcare workers are always our heroes at the forefront of the fight.

“The College Physician, with three other Doctors, assisted by thirty-six nurses, were untiring in their efforts to care for the sick, and no expense was spared in fighting the dread disease. We deeply regret to record that we lost by death, four of our brightest girls: Miss Illa Hodder of Rouleau, Miss Eleanora Swinehart of Huntoon, Miss Carrie Pritchard of Dumas and Miss Muriel Haggerty of Belle Plaine, and four of our finest young men: Rudyard Barnum of Star City, Frank Ritson of Dilke, Clifford Stephenson of Meyronne and George McFarlane of Nokomis. One of the members of our teaching staff, Mr. Roy P. Renwick, also fell a victim to the disease. Mr. Renwick was a most successful teacher, conscientious and painstaking. He will long be remembered by his colleagues on the staff and by his students because of the unselfishness of his character and life.” (U of R Archives, 2019-1, Box 1, File 4, Tenth Annual Report, Regina College, May 18, 1921)

Image credit: Photograph of Mr. Roy P. Renwick (U of R Archives, 84-13, Photograph 24)

After the tragedy of the epidemic, Regina College instituted some decisive changes, including the use of pasteurized milk and requesting that students and staff “be inoculated against Typhoid upon entering the College.” (U of R Archives, 2019-1, Box 1, File 4, Tenth Annual Report, Regina College, May 18, 1921)

Image credit: Cover page of the Tenth Annual Report, Regina College, May 18, 1921 (U of R Archives, 2019-1, Box 1, File 4

For reports on this event and the discussion around the use of unpasteurized versus pasteurized milk, also check out the Leader-Post database, which is a great resource available to you from home. If you would like to learn more about this topic please email archives@uregina.ca.