“Sufferers’ Land” Post #34 – Cholera Comes to the Firelands –

Today, Cholera is largely unknown in this country and around the world. However, during the nineteenth century, it was an enormous health problem, the first modern pandemic.

Cholera is a serious diarrheal disease caused by bacteria. The method of transmission is water or food contaminated with fecal material. Without treatment, it is fatal in as much as fifty percent of cases. Victims die quickly, sometimes within two to three hours, but usually within two days. Prevention and treatment is simple, sanitation for prevention, and re-hydration for treatment. However, in the early nineteenth century, proper sanitation was not common practice, and most doctors did not understand the importance of hydration for those who were sick with the disease.

The first cholera pandemic occurred from 1816 to 1826, but it did not spread beyond South and East Asia. The second pandemic started in Asia in 1829 and this time expanded around the world, first to Europe and then North America. Residents of the Firelands no doubt had heard of this dangerous plague for years, and were on the lookout for it. In 1832, it arrived in Sandusky aboard a schooner named the Ligure. [1]

The evening after the Ligure arrived from Buffalo, an old lady became violently ill. She died the next morning. The schooner’s captain also fell ill and died, and the disease spread through the town. A Board of Health was organized and it ordered the schooner to anchor out in the bay. The board intended to burn the ship, but the owner persuaded them not to.

Although in Sandusky this outbreak was serious, with entire families wiped out, there is no record of it reaching Norwalk. At that time, Norwalk had only about one hundred and thirty inhabitants living in houses scattered along the ridge, lessening the effects of poor sanitation prevalent in larger towns like Sandusky. [2]

However, after the epidemic passed, Norwalk continued to grow. By 1836, the population of the village was about one thousand. When the disease next visited the Firelands, the village would not escape.

Please like this post and let me know what you think in the comments. Thank you.

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[1] Information about the disease of cholera and the history of the first two pandemics are from the Wikipedia article: Cholera

[2] History of the 1832 Cholera outbreak in Sandusky is from The Firelands Pioneer, July 1878, pp. 26-27, 33-34.

© 2009 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

One Response

  1. Very interesting post! Here is a link that shows
    a photo of the Cholera Cemetery in Sandusky:



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