True stories of old Houston and Houstonians: historical and personal sketches / by S. O. Young. Page: 150
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150 TRUE STORIES OF OLD
the inevitable, knowing full well that only a complete exhaustion
of material or a frost could stop the ravages of the fever.
Of course no one knew anything about the mosquito causing
the disease, and some of the methods used to kill the "miasma"
that was regarded as its cause, were novel. For instance, every
exposed place was inundated with lime and, at night, huge bonfires,
composed largely of tar barrels and tar, were burned at
the street crossings. I remember, when I was a child, seeing
those bonfires, which were ordered by the city authorities. Now,
no doubt, both the lime and the fires did good, the first preventing
the breeding of mosquitoes and the second by driving
them away with the smoke.
The present generation can not appreciate the horrors of a
yellow fever epidemic. One case would appear, then two or
three, and then people would be taken down by the hundreds.
In a week the death roll would begin to swell and everything
like business, except at the drug stores, would be suspended.
Those who had had the fever became nurses and looked after
the sick. One good thing was that yellow fever requires nursing
rather than medicine, and as there were numerous nurses and
few doctors, the patients generally got along pretty well. The
doctors were so overrun that when they found a patient in the
hands of a competent nurse, that they knew to be such, they
turned the case over to the nurse and went elsewhere, where
conditions were not so favorable.
I will never forget the time I had the fever, and as my case
will give a fair idea of how the disease was treated, I give a
short description of my experience. It was in 1858, on a Sunday
morning, that I was stricken. .I got up that morning feeling
as well as ever, dressed, ate a good breakfast and started to
Sunday school. On the way to Sunday school I was stricken
suddenly with a terrible pain in the back of my head and then
my head began to ache so terribly that I could scarcely see.
It was with great difficulty that I managed to walk the two or
three blocks home, and when I got there I was in such pain
that I could scarcely talk. My mother knew at once what
was the matter, for she had had much experience with the fever.
I was hurried to bed and given a hot mustard foot-bath, and
then blankets were piled over me. They gave me a dose of
castor oil.. That is one feature of the treatment I shall never
forget, for after I had taken it they found I had eaten a large
breakfast and they gave me a mustard emetic, made me throw
it all up and then repeated the dose of oil.
The weather was warm, but they kept the bedclothes piled
on me and the only thing they allowed me to drink was orange
leaf tea. There I lay and sweated and famished for water for
three days; or until the fever left me. It was tough treatment,
but it did the work, and wherever people got the same treatment
and nursing that I got they got well
There was no ice in those days, and if there had been any,
Here’s what’s next.
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Young, Samuel Oliver. True stories of old Houston and Houstonians: historical and personal sketches / by S. O. Young., book, 1913; Galveston, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth24646/m1/150/: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .