Catching Mumps Could be Deadly

Mumps is a contagious disease caused by a virus that spreads from person to person. Typical symptoms include swollen salivary glands, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and a fever. Mumps can also affect organs, including the brain, pancreas, testicles or ovaries. This usually only occurs in adolescents and adults, but once a person has had the disease, he is immune for life.

1914 – Newlyweds Clabe and Leora Wilson

The morning of the wedding of Leora Goff and Clabe Wilson, Leora felt a little swelling on her neck and jaw. Mumps was making the rounds of their Wichita, Iowa, neighborhood. Leora’s parents thought she’d had mumps as a baby. Clabe’s mother thought he had, too, but he came down with them a couple of weeks later. Three of Leora’s brothers also caught them.  Mumps was the reason their neighbors cancelled a planned “chivaree” for the newlyweds–a noisy teasing on the wedding night or shortly afterwards.

1919 – Wayne Goff

Wayne Goff, still in France with the 88th Division, spent his 25th birthday (February 24, 1919) in a mumps ward at Houdelainecourt, where he reported the hospital had a full house.

1924 – Tessie Goff

Tessie Goff with baby Maxine

The summer of 1920, Jennings Goff (who had also served with the 88th Division) married Tessie Sauvago. Baby Maxine was born the next year, and Merrill three years later. Baby Merrill was four days old when his young mother died of mumps. He also came down with them, and Maxine–not quite three–caught chicken pox. Merrill was nursed back to health by Tessie’s folks near Wichita, in Guthrie County, while Jennings and little Maxine stayed in his family’s Victorian home in Guthrie Center.

1943 – Delbert Wilson

In April, the USS Achelous sailed with a convoy bound for North Africa–without Delbert Wilson, son of Clabe and Leora. Mumps. His next half dozen letters home were sent from the Naval Hospital at Norfolk, Virginia.

“I’ve been in this damn place for six days. Seems more like six weeks. Yea, I’ve got the mumps–don’t feel so bad, though. My temperature is about normal so I get a regular meal–which means a lot in a place like this. I have about week to go here at least before they will even consider turning me loose. They keep you in bed all the time it is not absolutely necessary to get up. They bring everything to you–meals, bath, etc.”

The swelling under his under his jaw was going down, but it still looked like he had a double chin. Delbert was in the ward for acute cases, with several new ones arriving.

After Del got out of the hospital, his ship had sailed without him.


These days, children and adults don’t get mumps anymore. A mumps vaccine was developed in 1967. It was licensed in the United States in 1971 as a combined measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

When was the last time you heard of anyone suffering with mumps?

Merrill Goff’s story.


  1. When I got the mumps, my mom was thrilled. She was afraid I might get them as an adult and then it’s worse. This old fear must have caused her concern.

  2. I remember hearing parents say they wanted to have their kids around other children who had such “childhood” illnesses, so they could catch them and “get it over with early.”

  3. My sweet sister Lisa had the mumps when she was three or four and I remember our mom talking about it years later and how frightened she was for her – given all of Lisa’s other issues.
    Thank you for sharing your family stories and photos once again. Tessie’s story was heartbreaking. 😔

    • I wonder why you didn’t catch it. Maxine and Merrill grew up with their grandparents (also their dad) during the school year, where they lived near their Wilson cousins. But summers were spent with Tess’s family

      • I think Sue wondered, too. Years later she’d talk about my immune system…that I was dealt a better hand than Lisa and she’d reference the mumps.
        Glad to know Maxine and Merrill had family all around them. I love that about so many of your family stories, Joy. xo and Happy Monday to you! 💕

  4. Clabe and Leora probably weren’t disappointed that the chivaree for their wedding night was cancelled! That’s a tragic story about Tessie and her fatal bout with the mumps, but fortunately her parents stepped up to help with their grandchildren.

  5. Last mumps case I heard was my dad’s in 1966. He was the only person who got the mumps in our family that year. Thankful for vaccines.

  6. Clabe and Leora probably weren’t disappointed that the chivaree for their wedding night was cancelled! That’s a tragic story about Tessie and her fatal bout with the mumps. Fortunately, her parents stepped up to help with their grandchildren.

  7. My brother and I had mumps as children, and I remember getting the MMR vaccine. They lined us up in the school cafeteria and shot us in the arm with a gun-looking contraption. I was in 7th grade at the time, and I remember worrying that I would cry in front of my classmates when I got the shot. I didn’t. Thankfully, people don’t have to worry about mumps or other terrible diseases anymore.

  8. I got the shot in school as well and remember it quite well. I seem to believe men could be come sterile from mumps or from one of the diseases – hmmm

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