A Late Nineteenth Century Health Statistic
An unfortunate statistic in connection with the late nineteenth century ravages of scarlet fever, diptheria, rheumatic fever and other diseases is drawn from the St. Andrew's gravestones of the McCowan family.
Between 1840 and 1875 James McCowan and Martha Weir lost two of 11 children to childhood disease. Robert McCowan and Jane Underwood lost none of seven and Jean McCowan and Thomas Whiteside lost none of six during the same general period. This mid-century childhood death rate was only about 8%. This figure represents a healthy improvement since the cholera epidemics of the early 1830s.
In an alarming and regrettable contrast, the next generation of Scarborough McCowans lost 14 out of 39 to childhood disease during the period 1870-1905, for a 36% total loss of children.
The Lighter Side of a Graveyard Presence
In 2003, a healthy Bill McCowan, a great grandson of Robert McCowan and Jane Underwood, was working at something in St. Andrew's cemetery (putting in the foundation for his own gravestone, but that's another story!) A class of school children came in with their teacher, perhaps to learn about the difficult times for pioneers and the very short lives of many children a century ago. They evidently spent quite a few minutes in the middle of the cemetery reading the McCowan gravestones. The teacher had a question for Bill, and when he introduced himself, she shouted to the kids, "children, come here and meet a real live McCowan!"