1967.25A-C | Partridge Island
1856, 19th century
9.6 x 6.1 cm
Gift of Janet Audrey Sparks, 1967
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Keys to History
The 1840s constituted the most economically depressed decade in New Brunswick's history. The New Brunswick born, no doubt even those of Irish parentage, resented the burden created by the newer migrant Irishmen who filled poorhouses and other publicly funded institutions. The burden of caring for the poor and diseased became completely overwhelming when Irish landlords began to export the poorest of their tenants to places like New Brunswick. During the summer and autumn of 1847, the arrival in Saint John of many of Ireland's poor precipitated a crisis. Considering that the population of the city was only 30 000, the arrival of almost 16 000 migrants was extraordinary.
Partridge Island, just outside the main harbour of Saint John, was chosen as the site for a pest house and quarantine station as early as 1785. In 1847, with the dramatic influx of migrants, typhus swept across the island and the pest house quickly filled with the sick and dying.
Source : Out of Ireland [Web tour], by New Brunswick Museum (see Links)
By the end of the 1847 season, 2 115 people had died of typhus in New Brunswick. Of these, 1 196 died on Partridge Island and in the City of Saint John.
The dead were so hastily buried that, when it rained, the soil washed away and exposed the decaying corpses.
Partridge Island's first test as a quarantine station occurred in 1830 during an outbreak of smallpox.
Agnes Murphy and William Marks were the first two immigrants to die and be buried on the island in June 1830.