Book release: A History of Pandemics in Kawartha Lakes

By Roderick Benns

The cover was created by local artist RoseMarie Condon.

A book published by the Ottawa Huron Tract History Association — A History of Pandemics in Kawartha Lakes — tells the stories of pandemics in our community from the very old to present day.

Funded by the City of Kawartha Lakes Community Pandemic Recovery Task Force it includes the stories of 25 residents and stakeholders about their experiences with COVID-19.

The book was composed by a variety of authors including Glenn Walker, curator of Maryboro Lodge, Guy Scott, Kinmount historian, and Mae Whetung-Derrick, Curve Lake historian. 

Joan Abernethy was the project lead on the book, which among many tasks also included writing some of the stories.

“The hypothesis we hoped to prove when we started out was that there are many similarities in how pandemics have affected our communities throughout history,” Abernethy told the Advocate.

For the most part, she says, they found this to be true.

“Pandemics are always associated with social upheaval, loss of confidence in authorities, scapegoating, unstable and often unfair economic consequences…and escalated change,” she says.

Abernethy said they also found it interesting that there was always “dramatic and escalated changes to healthcare that accompany pandemics,” including to public health surveillance and planning and to how that affects communities.

During the Russian flu, the project lead points out, half the population of Europe was wiped out in six months. “And the smallpox and TB pandemics visited upon Indigenous peoples of the Americas wiped out up to 90 per cent of their communities,” she said.

Healthcare has improved so much that now we consider a global case mortality rate of 3.4 per cent to be an existential crisis,” she said, referring to COVID-19.

Hard copies of the book will be available on their website for $45.00 (shipping included inside Ontario), and at the Kent Bookstore in Lindsay and the Kinmount Artisan Market for $45. It will also be available as a watermarked pdf ebook on their website at for $5. 

Books will be donated to libraries and to history, heritage, arts and education agencies throughout the city.

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