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Introduction – Collecting Contemporary Accounts of COVID-19

Section 1   –      Pandemics of the past in Columbia County

Section 2   –      What’s in a name, or important differences between an Epidemic,                                                         a Pandemic, Endemic and an Outbreak

Section 3    –     Before COVID 19: An Overview of 3 centuries of Epidemic Disease in America

Section 4    –     Epidemics We Live With

Section 5    –     Other Platforms Collecting Local Histories

                                Collecting Contemporary Accounts of COVID-19

Signs of Hope  -   Pictures from around the area

Epidemics have always been a mirror for social thought and plausible action—a way of thinking about the way we live

— and they remain so.

 (Dr. Charles E. Rosenberg, Dept. of the History of Science, Harvard University)

Pandemics Past and Present:

Remembering the Resilience of the Roe Jan Region

Introduction –

Collecting contemporary history

Although we’ve postponed our spring programs and summer exhibit until 2021, we at the Roe Jan Historical Society have designed an online interactive “Memory Book” our brand new website, as a way of collecting stories from the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. While a historical society’s mission is to collect and preserve objects, archives and images from the past, it must also gather content from the present, which will ultimately become the historical record of the future. The term blog is short for web log, and is a personal online journal that is frequently updated and intended for public consumption. The website also provides relevant terms, articles and historical context.


In this spirit, we are proud to launch two blog categories available on both the RJHS website and RJHS Facebook page – providing a platform where thoughts, stories and observations can easily be posted. There will be one blog for entering experiences and reflections on the current COVID-19 pandemic in the Roe Jan region, as well as a second blog category where we also welcome memories of other epidemics such as Polio of the 1950s, AIDS of the 1980s, the ongoing struggle with Lyme Disease, as well as first-hand family reminiscences of the Spanish Influenza of 1918 handed down from generation to generation.


In providing this platform, we’re hoping that residents of the Roe Jan area’s five towns – Ancram, Copake, Gallatin, Hillsdale and Taghkanic – will share their stories, providing a personal perspective about the impact Coronavirus has had on their own lives, their families and the communities in which they live. These stories will be preserved and made available on the RJHS website for the present and for generations to come.

Section 1

Pandemics of the Past in Columbia County – Historical Context

As we reflect upon the history we’re now living through, realizing that New York State and New York City have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19, it may be surprising to learn that this is history repeating itself. In the past, as in the present day, commerce, trade and travel were the very real vehicles by which contagious diseases spread from place to place. 

"New York, more than any other state, suffered the scourge of epidemics, diseases, and pestilence throughout its early history. Cholera, small pox, yellow fever, typhoid, tuberculosis, and influenza tormented the citizens at various times, and often spread beyond the confines of the city due to the movements of people throughout the port of New York. Cholera and other infectious diseases were also a major concern to the residents of Columbia County, most especially the citizens of the city of Hudson. Each day, literally hundreds of people from all over the world came in and out of Hudson, so the fear and concern over the spread of contagion was part of the city of Hudson just as it was a part of the life of our neighbor to the south [New York City]."

Mary Flarety Sansaricq, Columbia County in the Time of Cholera, Columbia County History & Heritage, published by Columbia County Historical Society, Winter 2015, Volume 14 – Number 1


Section 2

What’s in a name, or important differences between an Epidemic, a Pandemic, Endemic and an Outbreak:


Not all infectious disease terms are created equal, though often they’re mistakenly used interchangeably. The distinction between the words “pandemic,” “epidemic,” and “endemic” is regularly blurred, even by medical experts. This is because the definition of each term is fluid and changes as diseases become more or less prevalent over time. While conversational use of these words might not require precise definitions, knowing the difference is important to help you better understand public health news and appropriate public health responses.

Let’s start with basic definitions:

  • AN EPIDEMIC is a disease that affects a large number of people within a community, population, or region. Even if localized, in an epidemic the number of those infected in that region is significantly higher than normal. For example, when COVID-19 was limited to Wuhan, China, it was an epidemic. The geographical spread turned it into a pandemic.


  • A PANDEMIC is an epidemic that’s spread over multiple countries or continents. A simple way to know the difference is to remember the “P” in pandemic, which means a pandemic has a passport. A pandemic is an epidemic that travels.


  • ENDEMIC is something that belongs to a particular people or country. Malaria is endemic to parts of Africa. An endemic can lead to an outbreak if it spreads, as in the case of Malaria being carried from person to person by mosquitos.


  • AN OUTBREAK is a greater-than-anticipated increase in the number of endemic cases. It can also be a single case in a new area. If it’s not quickly controlled, an outbreak can become an epidemic.


You can see why it’s so easy to confuse these terms. They’re all related to one another and there’s a natural ebb and flow between them as treatments become available and measures for control are put in place — or as flare-ups occur and disease begins to spread.


Adapted from the following Health Website:



Section 3

Before COVID-19: An Overview of 3 centuries of Epidemic Disease in America


From Siting Epidemic Disease: 3 Centuries of American Histor

by Charles E. Rosenberg


In his article, Dr. Rosenberg explores the spread and response to epidemics during three centuries of American History. He examines the role of religion and science, the societal impacts and what he calls the “ironic fruits” of globalization, wherein intercontinental travel makes possible the transformation of local epidemics to into international pandemics – anticipating what has come to pass in the case of


Abstract and excerpt from Dr. Rosenberg’s article – link to full article and free pdf can be found below.

Epidemics of infectious disease have always played a role in American history, and such epidemics are sited in time and place and configured in terms of ecology and demography, available medical knowledge, and cultural values and collective experience. The mix of these variables has changed dramatically since the theocratic world of 17th-century New England, but the relevance of each remains. Avian influenza already exists virtually in Western society in terms of planning, global networks, laboratory research, social expectations, media representations, and a specific shared history based on the memory of the 1918 influenza pandemic.


From the historian's particular point of view, epidemics and the prospect of epidemics represent a natural experiment, a kind of strength-of-materials test for the precise relationships among society's social values, technical understanding, and capacity for public and private response. In this sense, I have referred to epidemics as sampling devices that enable us to see, at one moment in time, the configuration of values and attitudes that, in less-stressful times, are so fragmented or so taken for granted that they are not easily visible.



A free pdf is also available at this site:

Charles E. Rosenberg


First published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, Volume 197, Issue Supplement_1, February 2008, Pages S4–S6,

Published: 15 February 2008



Section 4 -

Epidemics we live with


These days we refer to many of society’s blights as epidemics. Dr. Charles Rosenberg observes that, “The proportion of infectious diseases experienced as epidemics has always had a special visibility and cultural salience. Today, when we refer to an epidemic of traffic fatalities, drug abuse (like opiods), or even obesity and adult-onset diabetes, we use the term metaphorically and rhetorically to invoke a sense of urgency and to mobilize collective social action.”


 Lyme Disease is an epidemic that is steadily on the rise in our area.


“The disease was first identified in Old Lyme, Connecticut, in the 1970s, and has been moving northward ever since. The Hudson Valley and Catskills still have the highest rates of cases. In 2016, Columbia County had a rate of 635 cases per 100,000 people.

By contrast, the disease is much rarer in Western New York. Columbia County's rate is nearly 80 times greater than Allegany County's a rate of just 8.4 cases per 100,000 people.

Summer is the season when Lyme disease cases soar. Not only are people outdoors more and thus have more contact with the deer ticks that carry the Lyme bacteria, but nymphs emerging this time of year account for about 80 percent of Lyme cases. The nymphs, about the size of a poppy seed, are smaller than adult ticks, so they're harder to see and remove before they pass on the bacteria through their bite.”

Full article by science reporter Glenn Coin,



Section 5

Other platforms Recording Local History


Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Copake Strong.JPG
Painted Stone 2 Blk Grocery RT.JPG
Rail Traill Chalk.jpg

(Clockwise from top)

"COPAKE STRONG" sign in window of Dad's Diner, Copake.


Two pieces from anonymous display of painted stones at several locations along the Black Grocery section of the HV Rail Trail 

"Optimism in Chalk" on the Boston Corner end of the HV Rail Trail 

Painted Stone Blk Grocery.JPG
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