Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000 Page: 43
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
Baker abandoned publication of the Colorado Citizen to flee from the disease. Some of the
town's physicians also fled to the country; others became ill themselves. By October 20,
only two doctors, John Henry Bowers and Robert Henry Harrison, remained on duty in
town. Unaware of the cause of the disease or of any cure for it, they fed their severely ill
patients with Borden's extract of beef and otherwise ministered as best they could. By
October 21, more than 75 people in town had been diagnosed with the fever. On that day and
the next, fully a dozen, including George W. Smith, died. Daniel Webster Harcourt died on
October 21; his wife, Lue Ella, on the 22nd. Help arrived from other cities: in New Orleans,
$500 was raised to help victims; from Galveston, railroad employee Hardy Eddins brought
nurses and medical supplies. On November 5, Peter Joseph Hilden, a Columbus tailor, died.
He had witnessed the deaths of his wife and three of his children in the preceding few days.
The successful attorney Edward Musgrove Glenn died on November 14. John C. Miller, the
mayor of Columbus, died on November 18. His wife died two days later. The city marshal,
James W. Fields, died on December 1. Albert Dickson Darden, the son of William John
Darden and Fannie Amelia Darden, who, following in his father's footsteps had been admit-
ted to practice law little more than a year earlier, died on December 4. Leopold Steiner, the
Jewish merchant who had been elected presiding justice a few days earlier, died on Decem-
ber 6. By the time the epidemic abated in late December, it had left so great a scar on the
community that it would be remembered for a century. At least sixty people had died.56
After Fields died, the city appointed Joseph P. Harris, whose own son had also
recently died in the epidemic, to assume the role of city marshal. The appointment may have
raised a few eyebrows, for Harris had a somewhat checkered past. He already had killed at
least one man, and probably had killed two. In addition, from November 25, 1872 until Janu-
ary 22, 1873, he had served as a private in the hated state police force. Moreover, he had
served as marshal before, and definitely without distinction. He had been appointed to the
post by Governor Edmund J. Davis on December 9, 1870. On November 26, 1871, he and
his future brother-in-law, James McDowell, had gone in search of Bartley Harbert, a black
56 Harrison, "The Epidemic of 1873, in Columbus, Texas," Nesbitt Memorial Library Jour-
nal, vol. 2, no. 3, September 1992, pp. 131-157; Colorado County District Court Records, Minute Book
F, p. 63; Fayette County New Era, October 24, 1873, November 7, 1873, November 14, 1873, November
21, 1873, December 5, 1873; Galveston Daily News, October 21, 1873, October 22, 1873, October 23,
1873, November 7, 1873, November 19, 1873, November 23, 1873, December 2, 1873, December 11, 1873;
Colorado Citizen, July 20, 1876, September 12, 1878, March 25, 1880, May 22, 1884; Colorado County
District Court Records, Minute Book E, p. 366. The incarceration in the countryside provided Colo-
rado County's prisoners with their second easy opportunity to escape in three months. On July 26,
when a woman named McCarter had been arrested for stealing, the jailor refused to put her in the jail's
single cell because eight men, most of them black, were already inside. Instead, he let her sit in the
office; and when he left the building, she unlocked the cell door and she and all the other prisoners
escaped (see Fayette County New Era, August 1, 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/m1/43/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed September 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.