Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 2, Number 3, September, 1992 Page: 141
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The Epidemic of 1873, in Columbus, Texas
many fled precipitately, and, in some instances, to the shame of humanity be it said, the
ties of the nearest relationship were insufficient to stay their maddened flight. Some of
our prominent physicians even deserted their patrons, and took refuge with the
frightened mass wherever they could find it; and on Monday morning Dr. Bowers and
myself were the only representatives of our profession on duty in the place.e The sick,
of whom there were more than had ever before been known at one time, shrank,
cowering and dismayed, as if from the doom of death, many to despair and die.
Doubtless the shock of fear and terror contributed largely to the mortality.
On Sunday, the 19th, there were but two deaths, though the disease was
prevailing all over that portion of the town of which I have heretofore given the
boundaries. I did not see either of them, and, consequently, can give no information with
respect to them, except that one was a man of about thirty-five years of age, and of very
intemperate habits. This death occurred at the boarding house on the south side of the
The other, a young man of excellent habits, died at his father's residence,
on Front street, between Walnut and Crockett, near the railroad bridge across the
On Monday, the 20th, there were probably three or four deaths, but in the
confusion and demoralization that prevailed throughout the community, it was impos-
sible to obtain reliable information on the subject. One of them, a young man, the first
death that occurred in my practice, deserves special notice.
The father of this young man had been attacked on the 10th of the month
with apparently, a simple bilious remittent fever; was treated with the ordinary remedies
for that disease, and, although the quinine nauseated him considerably, he bore it, and
was convalescent on the 16th, though severely jaundiced and voiding dark, bloody
looking urine, but not in large quantities. On the 14th, this son, who had nursed his father
with zealous care, was attacked with a chill, and the usual sequential fever; was
prescribed for accordingly, believing the attack to be due as much to fatigue and loss
of sleep, as any other cause. On the 15th, patient was much better; had slept well and
sweated his fever off during the preceding night. Gave quinine in full doses, but in the
evening the chill recurred, and was succeeded by a more protracted-and higher grade
of fever, and considerable irritability of the stomach. Prescribed spirits nitre and tr.
aconite, under the influence of which the fever abated about 10 o'clock on the morning
of the 16th, leaving him with a pulse moderately full, soft, and eighty to the minute. Skin
moist, but not perspiring freely. Tongue had cleaned off, and looked entirely red and raw
on the edges. Thirst considerable, and some nausea, with a decided nervous, restless
8 Original note: Dr. [Cyrus Ottway] Weller was still in town, but too ill to be of any service to the
sick; as was also Dr. Palmer. Dr. [Joseph W.] Brown was detained at home with a sick family, and did not
subsequently take any part in the practice. Editor's note: Dr. Weller was to lose a son and Dr. Brown his wife
to the epidemic.
9 Editor's note: This man is likely to have been Wilson Woods. He is described as a bartender in
The Fayette County New Era of November 7, 1873. The 1870 census taker put him down as a 40 year old
man. But his actual date of death, according to the New Era, was October 20.
10 Editor's note: This is certainly Thomas H. Miller, the 17 year old son of John C. and Johnette
Miller, both of whom would also die in the epidemic. Positive identification can be made not only because Dr.
Harrison later reports the death of both parents at this same address, but because, at the time of the epidemic,
John C. Miller owned a lot at the location given. Miller bought the lot on October 28, 1867 (See Deed Book
M, Office of the County Clerk, Colorado County, Texas, pp. 581-582). Again, however, Dr. Harrison reports
a different date of death than the newspaper. The Fayette County New Era of November 7, 1873 reports that
Miller died on October 20.
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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/m1/13/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.