True stories of old Houston and Houstonians: historical and personal sketches / by S. O. Young. Page: 210
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210 TRUE STORIES OF OLD
For about eighteen months a sort of armed peace existed between
the soldiers and citizens and then, in 1867, the great yellow fever
epidemic broke out. With hundreds of soldiers, camp followers
and "carpetbaggers" from the North, who had never been exposed
to yellow fever, the camps and town were soon hotbeds of
pestilence and the death rate was appalling.
At that time there was only one undertaker or "funeral director"
in Houston, though he called himself and was called by
others the "city sexton."' He was known to every man, woman
and child in Houston as "Old Man" Pannel, the "old man"
being a term of affection, for in spite of his gloomy calling everybody
loved "Old Man" Pannel. He was a great character and
one of the most uncompromising "rebels" that the South ever
produced. He never was reconstructed and died as he had
lived, hating the "Yankees" to the end. At first he was constantly
in hot water and was once or twice taken to headquarters
by the guard of soldiers because of his intemperate language,
but finally the commander concluded that he would have
to do one or two things-shoot Pannel or ignore him altogether,
and wisely concluded to follow the latter course.
When the yellow fever broke out Pannell found himself the
busiest man in Houston, for in addition to his regular customers
in the city, he had to provide for the dead soldiers. He hired
negroes with drays, negro grave diggers and extra carpenters
to make coffins, but with all that he was swamped. The soldiers
died faster than he could bury them. There was an accumulation
of dead soldiers at the camp and the officers became suspicious
of Pannel and had him arrested for not performing his
duty. He was taken before the commander, who said to him:
"Mr. Pannel, they tell me you dislike to bury my soldiers."
"General," said Pannel, "whoever told you that told a damned
lie. It's the pleasantest thing I've had to do in years and I
can't get enough of it. I would like to bury every damned one
The interview ended abruptly, for the general ordered Pannel
to Jail. He did not stay long, for his services were in too great
demand and he was released and went back to work. According
to his story, he had his revenge. "You see," he would say,
"these Yankees think a nigger is as good as they are and better
than we are, so I'm giving them their own medicine. In mixing
up the cards, so to speak, I plant a nigger and then I plant a
white soldier. Sometimes I put a white one with three or four
niggers and then I reverse it and put a nigger with three or four
white ones. Those relatives up North are going to have a hell
of a time getting things straight and the chances are that
some nigger is going to rest under a big tombstone meant for
a white man." Pannel died years ago and with him passed away
one of the most remarkable characters that ever lived in Houston.
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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/m1/210/: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .