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Dr. Henry Windell and His True Love


Today’s story is one of true love – a love story that unfolded near Bowbells, Kenmare, and in Minot. It begins in Bowbells in 1903. That June, an epidemic struck the town. A man got severely ill from typhoid fever, caused by Salmonella typhosa, a fearfully infectious bacteria in contaminated food or water.

This was the worst kind of typhoid, for every person who provided medical care for the diseased man caught the bacteria and became sick, including the local Bowbells physician, Dr. Moses Bushenville, two local nurses, and Bowbells’ Methodist pastor.

Typhoid infected seven more people, becoming epidemic. The original patient died, followed by three more deaths.

Dr. Bushenville and others were transported to Minot, where Dr. J.D. Windell attended to them in his hospital. Needing more help, Windell called for his brother, Dr. Henry C. Windell, of Kenmare, who came right away. Heartbreakingly, both Windell brothers got infected, just before Dr. Bushenville died.

Dr. Henry Windell became deathly ill. In desperation, a doctor from Fargo was called in, but the doctor believed there was “no hope” that 33-year-old Henry could possibly recover.

Henry was at the point of death, but word of his plight reached his hometown in Canada. Elizabeth [McMullan] Hays, age 33, who had been a dear friend of Windell’s, decided to help. Elizabeth was a trained nurse, and she traveled to Minot to provide care.

On this date, in 1903, a newspaper reported that the Bowbells epidemic had ended, and that 16 people, including Henry Windell, were convalescing.

Elizabeth cared for Henry with patience and loving kindness, and remained with him constantly. With Elizabeth’s attention, Windell began to gain strength, and, over two-months’ time, Henry got well again.

Poignantly, in the depths of typhoid fever, Henry fell in love with his kind-hearted nurse, Elizabeth. Windell “concluded he couldn’t get along without her,” and asked her to marry him. Elizabeth accepted. They were wed in Kenmare’s All-Saints Episcopal church in August, 1903. Soon thereafter, in 1907, Henry and Elizabeth Windell moved to Williston. They had a son, born in 1908.

Elizabeth passed away in 1921, and Henry died in 1926. They were married for only a short while, 18 years, but their story reverberates as a beautiful tale of love in the time of typhoid-fever.

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSU Moorhead History Department.

Sources: “The Epidemic of Typhoid Fever,” Bismarck Tribune, July 3, 1903, p. 4.

“An Epidemic Of Fever,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, June 25, 1903, p. 8; “An Epidemic Of Typhoid Fever,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, June 24, 1903, p. 8.

“Typhoid Fever At Bowbells,” Ward County Independent, June 17, 1903, p. 1.

“Three Doctors Have Typhoid,” Ward County Independent, June 24, 1903, p. 1.

“Very Sick Doctors,” Ward County Independent, July 1, 1903, p. 1.

“A Pretty Romance,” Ward County Independent, August 12, 1903, p. 1.

“The Bride Of Dr. Windell,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, August 15, 1903, p. 4.

“Dr. H.C. Windell,” Grand Forks Daily Herald, August 7, 1903, p. 4.

“Another Dies At Bowbells,” Ward County Independent, July 1, 1903, p. 1.

“Mrs. H.C. Windell of Williston Died in Minot,” Ward County Independent, June 9, 1921, p. 1.

“Henry Cook Windel[l],” Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929 [database online], ancestry.com, accessed on September 21, 2016.