Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000 Page: 42
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
through the black community. Certainly it was further mitigated by the growing general
awareness that one of the greatest calamities in the county's history had already begun.54
Even as Humphreys lay dying of his wounds, a number of persons in Columbus
had been diagnosed with yellow fever. At least three of them would beat Humphreys to the
graveyard; within a week, he had been joined by perhaps twenty more. Eventually, about 75
persons in Columbus would die in the epidemic. The epidemic was preceded by a slight flood
of the river on October 2, which left behind it enough stagnant pools to breed the hordes of
mosquitoes which would soon enough spread the disease. The city was, by then, in deplor-
able condition. Weeds clogged the streets and covered the many vacant lots; numerous
privies had gone far too long without the application of lime; horse, cow, and other manures
dotted the streets; and carcasses of dogs, hogs, and others of the many types of animals kept
by residents had been allowed to remain where they fell, and they, along with the viscera and
other offal of butchered animals, were decaying in the unseasonable heat. Worse, the city
council had banned hogs from the streets, a measure which advocates of public health
decried, for the free-running hogs at least had consumed some of the garbage that residents
discarded in their yards and on the streets.55
Again, as it had been at Alleyton six years earlier, the outbreak of yellow fever
was almost certainly the result of the arrival of the railroad, and most particularly of railroad
workers, who provided the local mosquitoes with the necessary serum to spread among the
previously uninfected population. The first few victims could be tied closely to the railroad.
The first to die, Gustav Sachs, worked at a lumber yard near the freight depot. He died on
October 18, less than 24 hours after he became ill. His illness was immediately diagnosed as
yellow fever. Three to five more persons died within a day or two. The old Brunson Saloon,
a wooden structure that had been converted into a boarding house for railroad laborers, and
which was characterized by the stench of various alcoholic drinks and the human products
which their consumption caused, all of which had spilled onto the floor for years, was an
early hotbed of the disease. As news of the fever spread through town, normal activity
ceased, and residents began packing up to seek refuge in the country. On October 20, the
district judge adjourned court and authorized the county sheriff and his deputies to remove
the prisoners from the jail. They took the prisoners to a place outside town, where, being
poorly guarded, most of them took the opportunity to escape. For two weeks, Benjamin M.
54 Galveston Daily News, October 16, 1873, October 17, 1873, October 18, 1873, October 19,
1873; Galveston Tri- Weekly News, October 17, 1873, October 19, 1873, October 22, 1873, November 7,
1873; Fayette County New Era, October 24, 1873; Colorado Citizen, April 6, 1882; Colorado County
District Court Records, Criminal Cause File No. 1149: State of Texas v. John Wesley Brown.
55 Colorado County Bond and Mortgage Records, Book I, p. 220; Robert Henry Harrison,
'"The Epidemic of 1873, in Columbus, Texas," NesbittMemorial Library Journal, vol. 2, no. 3, Septem-
ber 1992, pp. 137-138; Fayette CountyNew Era, October 24, 1873, November 7, 1873.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000, periodical, January 2000; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151408/m1/42/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed November 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.