Leprosy epidemic hits Spring Grove in 1886

Sometimes small-town news spreads far and wide. This pair of stories shows that extreme medical conditions gave Spring Grove a small amount of fame in its first few decades.

Here’s a gory piece on a leprosy epidemic in Spring Grove in 1886, which was reported from Boston to Reno:

It is authoritatively stated that there exists near the village of Spring Grove, Houston county, Minn., near this place, a large number of cases of leprosy. The afflicted persons are all Scandinavians. The first case which appeared was upon the person of an old man, and was at first thought to be measles, as red spots appeared all over his body. Later he was seized with excruciating pains in his limbs, and the extremeties began to wither. This continued, and the epidermis began to scale off, and now there is but a semblage of skin over the flesh. The body retains its flesh, but the limbs have withered and dried until the fingers and toes seem like sticks and seem ready to drop off. This disease also exists in three other families, all related. Physicians from Decorah say that it is imported and perhaps contagious.
— Minneapolis Tribune, January 3, 1886 

In an earlier report that reached as far as New Zealand, we learn that a man turned to stone in Spring Grove. 

The Houston county (Minn.) Democrat confirms the statement that a man at Spring Grove, in that county is turning into stone. His name is Harmon Silverson. He is completely petrified in all his limbs and body — the only exception being a portion about the mouth, throat and eyes. He has a good appetite, eats, and prays day and night for tho Lord to deliver him from this terrible affliction. He is perfectly helpless. The process of petrifaction commenced some time last spring in his feet and knees, since which time it has gradually increased.
— Cedar Falls Gazette, Friday, December 22, 1871 

I was unable to find any additional information about Mr. Silverson. Perhaps he had fibridysplasia ossificans progressiva?

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