Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 2, Number 3, September, 1992 Page: 137
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The Epidemic of 1873, in Columbus, Texas
Patient continued to vomit occasionally throughout the balance of the afternoon, but his
pulse increased to 60, and the uneasy sensation about the stomach was less
troublesome. Treatment continued.
31st. Patient apparently better; had ceased to vomit during the night, and
got some sleep. Pulse 45 to the minute.
The patient continued to improve as rapidly as cases of such severity
generally do, but the attack has left him with an intermittent pulse, and subject to severe
fits of palpitation, from which it is probable he will never recover.
I give the details of this case more fully than I should otherwise have done,
on account of its bearing upon the question of the origin of the disease, in connection
with which I shall refer to it hereafter.3
On the 2d day of October we were visited with another, and the last partial
overflow of the season. The weather was hot and sultry, and, although there were no
dead fish to be seen in the turbid current, the stench from it was intolerably nauseating;
the odor of decaying fish and rotting weeds combined. Occasionally the skeleton of a
fish, with fragments of flesh in an advanced state of decomposition, might be seen
floating just beneath the surface. Other carcases [carcasses] were also floating down
the muddy torrent in abundance, some in advanced states of decomposition and others
but recently dead.
About this time a death occurred in a boarding house on the south side of
the public square, which Dr. [John H.] Bowers said resembled yellow fever very much.
The subject, a Swede, who knew scarcely any English, was at first supposed to have
come from Shreveport, but upon careful investigation it was found that if he had ever
been to Shreveport at all, it was at least several weeks before his arrival here; and if he
had yellow fever, he had also several other things that are not good to have, of which
it is sufficient to mention an enlarged and indurated spleen; and, very probably, tertiary
syphilis. My late lamented partner, Dr. B. B. Palmer, saw him and prescribed for him
some two or three weeks before his death, and is my authority for this statement. After
Dr. Palmer's prescription in this case, the subject of it went about thirty miles west, to
work as a common laborer on the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio railroad, where
he continued to grow worse, until the day before his decease, when he returned to town
to die and furnish matter to feed quarantine discussion.
The condition of affairs now was well calculated to excite the most alarming
apprehensions in all reflecting minds. Surrounded by a flood of filthy stinking water, the
streets and vacant lots of the town covered with a rank growth of matured weeds, which
were falling down and rotting rapidly under the influence of repeated rains, and a high
temperature; numbers of carcases [carcasses] of dead hogs, dogs, etc., decaying in
various parts of the town; privies unpoliced; and, to aggravate this multitude of evils,
a city government that, whenever it was addressed upon the subject of a sanitary police,
insisted upon establishing quarantine against some place that it imagined had yellow
fever; and, as if intent to precipitate us into an epidemic, at this junction this said
government passed an ordinance requiring the hogs to be removed from our streets, thus
3 Original note: This case was treated at the residence of Mrs. P., who had lost a son a few weeks
before, with a disease somewhat similar. His death was preceded some twenty-four hours by a total
suppression of urine. The attending physician considered it a case of haematuria miasmatica. Editor's note:
The "Mrs. P." referred to was undoubtedly Elizabeth Pinchbeck. Dr. Harrison refers to her again later,
discussing her death, on October 29, by yellow fever. According to the inscription on his gravestone in the
Pinchbeck Cemetery, a twelve year old boy named Thomas Author Pinchbeck died on September 19, 1873.
He was probably the son of Elizabeth Pinchback to whomDr. Harrison refers. The family has not been located
on the 1870 census.
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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/m1/9/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed January 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.