Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 2, Number 3, September, 1992 Page: 140
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
drinker," was the first of the three. He probably had chronic disease of the liver, as he
had for some years been subject to attacks of jaundice, though they rarely interfered
much with his daily avocation; was considered jaundiced when attacked with his last
illness. This was very brief, his death occurring some eighteen or twenty hours after the
initiatory chill. Vomiting large quantities of dark-colored offensive matter before, and an
intense jaundice immediately after death, were the prominent features in the case, as
detailed by his widow.4
The next in succession was a young man whose place of business and
lodging was at the passenger depot. He had been under treatment for gonorrhoea for
five or six weeks before his decease, in the course of which he had changed his physician
several times, finally placing himself in the hands of some medical wiseacre who gave
him enormously large doses of copaiba and bromide of potassium. The result was an
irritation of the stomach, from which he never recovered. There was no jaundice in this
Of the other two, I have not been able to learn anything, except that they
were railroad laborers, and had come in from their work quite sick, a few days before
their decease. I saw one of them half an hour before his death, at which time he had
more symptoms of cholera than of yellow fever. Severe cramps alternated with vomiting
and involuntary purging; extremities cold, and surface wet with perspiration, and pulse
barely perceptible at the wrist, were the most obvious features of this case at that time,
whatever they may have been before.8
These cases occurred at a boarding house for railroad laborers of the lower
class that deserves special notice. It was an old wooden building, on the south side of
the public square, that had long been used as a drinking saloon. The timbers and floor
were badly decayed, which, combined with the slops and other filth incident to the
dispensation of large quantities of various "drinks," for which it was a mart, made it
peculiarly and extremely offensive to the nasal organs of most men. A close, high
enclosure, which cut off ventilation to a great extent, also contributed to its disease-
The promulgation of the statement that three deaths had occurred in town
from yellow fever, and that that dread disease was prevailing in an intensely epidemic
form, overwhelmed the entire community with terror and confusion. All ordinary
business was abruptly suspended; the shock of an earthquake could not have made a
more profound impression. Then, after a momentary pause, a scene of wild disorder and
terrific apprehension ensued, that defies description. No class of our people, save the
negroes, seemed to be exempt from the insane fear. Of those who were able to get away,
4 Editor's note: The man's full name was Gustav Sachs, as is made evident by the occupation he
gave the 1870 census taker: "work in lumber." He was in his mid forties when he died.
5 Editor's note: This was almost certainly J. B. Russell. He is described in The Galveston Daily News
of October 21, 1873 as "manager of [the] Western Union Telegraph office," an occupation which would have
found him working in the depot. He was 23 years old when he died.
Dr. Harrison seems to have been somewhat confused about the dates of some of the deaths in the
early stages of the epidemic. According to both The Galveston Daily News and The Fayette County New Era,
only one man died on the first day of the epidemic, October 18, and three died on October 19. Dr. Harrison
first says that three people died on the 18th, then chronicles the deaths of four people. It seems likely that
Dr. Harrison was writing his article from notes made during the epidemic, and that the notes he made toward
the end of the epidemic were more detailed and more precise than those he made in its early stages.
6 Editor's note: The Fayette County New Era of October 24, 1873 identifies two railroad workers
who died on October 19 as Brown and McCroy.
7 Editor's note: This old saloon was probably the first one operated by longtime Columbus saloon-
keeper Charlie Brunson.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 2, Number 3, September, 1992, periodical, September 1992; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151386/m1/12/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed July 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.