Perhaps not coronavirus, but it was a dangerous epidemic that returning War of 1812 veterans brought to our homefolks. Doty indicates some type of influenza brought death, then a mass grave near the entrance to Temple Hill Cemetery, circa. 1814.

Mass graves were acceptable as a method for controlling infected remains.

In “I Am Geneseo” Dr. John Chase (circa 1840s) is described as a competent dentist-physician. He advertized that he extracted teeth “almost without pain.” He worked with gutta percha, rubber, silver and gold replacements, charging $1 per tooth.

Chase assured patients that they still would look like themselves.

His brother, Joseph Chase, brought not healing but a mystery having died of dreaded smallpox in Geneseo on June 18, 1843, a young man of 25. He was a tanner.

Years later his broken tombstone was discovered on the southeast side of Avon Road near the pioneer Beckwith home. There his lime coated remains were unearthed. Perhaps investigators needed to prove that Joseph actually was buried there.

Workmen were shocked to find remains of several other smallpox victims buried with Joseph in a mass grave.

Small pox was not uncommon to the Geneseo area. While his broken stone was reassembled a verse was found.

“Stranger, there is a beam

that works upon

the long forsaken buried one

and shows the path our Savior trod

When rising he returned to God.”

Perhaps this verse was meant for all the victims.

But adding to the Joseph mystery - the letters “Morgan So” also were carved on the stone. Perhaps they referred to Joseph’s anti-Masonic belief.

He had been a member of the Morgan Society, an anti-Masonic movement.

This society flourished following William Morgan supposedly being kidnapped from a Canandaigua prison by Freemasons in 1826 for revealing secrets.

The Chase family associated with healing, a serious epidemic and an unsolved Geneseo mystery.

David W. Parish is historian for the town and village of Geneseo. He writes the columns “Around Geneseo” and “Glancing Backwards” for The Livingston County News. He is a Chancellor Award retiree from Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo and author of 12 reference and history books. Local news submissions are always appreciated.

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