Digital Commonwealth

Lawrence, Mass. Board of Health, Records

Lawrence Public Library

In 1850, three years after Lawrence’s incorporation as a town, the three selectmen (chosen every March) functioned as both a Board of Health and overseers of the poor. Later works performed by the Board of Health were undertaken by the fire and streets departments, expenses being drawn from an incidental fund. In 1878, an independent Board of Health was formed. The board started out with one horse named “Dixie” and 2 men to collect garbage and ash. By the end of the year, the department had a stable on Lowell Street separate from the city stables. The department offices were located in the City Engineer’s office in City Hall. The duties of the board included the removal of trash, ash, and dead animals from the streets and alleys of the city; to clean privy vaults; to remove stagnant water and fill up lowlands; to see that sink and drains entered sewers (where they exist) and where there were no sewers to see they drain away from buildings; and to inspect tenements for healthful drainage, ventilation, and cleanliness. The workforce consisted of an investigative agent and a clerk--who had a desk in the board offices to sign permits for burial, keep board accounts, and submit annual reports to the state board of health--eight laborers, four horses and carts, and one horse for the agent.

By the time the monthly mortality reports were being printed (1915), the department was called the Department of Public Health and Charities and had a director or commissioner. There was also a clerk, a plumbing inspector, a sanitary inspector, two school physicians, a health physician, a bacteriologist, a milk inspector, an inspector of meats and provisions, and a school nurse.

This collection consists of printed reports “Monthly statement of mortality” and sometimes “Mortuary report.” Some of them are just the front and back of one page; others are one page folded into four. Information included: population, death rate, stillborn, nativity (country of origin), death by ages, causes of death, residents who died out of town, non-residents brought to Lawrence to be buried, and contagious diseases (and deaths there from). The first is dated July 1915 and the last is December 1924.

Agents: Samuel M. Davis 1878-1879; David Dana 1880; Daniel W. Pingree 1881; Daniel F.; McCarthy 1882-1884; Portal M. Black 1884; David N. Martin 1887; David Bailey 1888-1894

City Physician: Eugene S. Yates 1878-1881; James A. McGee 1882-1884; S. W. Abbot 1883-1887; George W. Dow 1888-1893; O.T. Howe 1894; C.G. Carleton 1894; William J. Sullivan 1915-1920; Peter K. McKallagat 1920-23; Charles A. McCarthy 1923-24

Chairman, Commissioner, or Director: James A. Barrie 1878; Albin Yeaw 1879-1880; William R. Pedrick 1881; John W. Crawford 1882-84; George B. Smart 1885-86, 1890; Thomas D. Dolan 1887; August Stiegler 1888; Henry A. Musk 1893-94; Robert S. Maloney 1915-1920; Edward C. Callahan 1920-23; William H. D. Vose 1923-24

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