Sufferers’ Land – Post 46 – Cholera Strikes Again

Sufferers’ Land

Cholera Strikes Again

by Dave Barton

The summer of 1849, Cholera struck a second devastating blow across the Firelands. Sandusky, being the largest town in the region, was again the hardest hit. Over a period of sixty-eight days, three-hundred-and-fifty-eight people died out of a population of two-thousand-three-hundred. Thirty-three people died on Monday, July 30, the worst day of the epidemic. [1]

Deaths Dispensary

“Death’s Dispensary,” a cartoon by George Pinwell in FUN Magazine, August 18, 1866

In a letter dated July 19, a woman by the name of Priscilla Smith informed her sister that their father had died from the disease. Duty calls me to perform the painful task of informing you that our dear father is no more. He breathed his last at 12:00 o’clock tonight. We did not consider him dangerous until about three o’clock this afternoon when he grew very sick from being thrown into the last stages of the cholera. [2]

By this time, Norwalk had sufficient population density for the disease to take hold and spread. Soon the streets of the village were silent except for the rumble of wagons carrying the dead to their graves.

All summer and into the fall, the disease continued to terrorize the village. It finally ended with the first frost, and the survivors returned to their homes, wondering if it would reappear the following year.




[1]  History of the 1849 Cholera outbreak in Sandusky is from The Firelands Pioneer, July 1878, pp. 26-27.

[2] Letter from Priscilla Smith to her sister is from The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XXIII; April 1925; p. 327.




This post was first published on this blog in 2009.


Previous Post: Life in Norwalk, Ohio in the 1840’s

Next Post: The Benedict Family in the 1850’s


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12 Responses

  1. How incredibly devastating that must’ve been for them.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It is hard to imagine how terrifying it was.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t imagine going through something like that. There’s this book called “The Ghost Map” that I read about cholera, and the history/science of figuring out what actually caused it during a London outbreak. You might find it interesting if you haven’t already read it. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for your comment and your suggestion. I’ll check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. what a very scary time that must have been!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a horror; can you imagine waiting to hear who was the next victim to fall prey to that terrible disease?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s right. They had no idea what caused the disease, so they stayed home and prayed for the best, all the while drinking water that was contaminated.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. And fearing it might be you.


  9. A devastating plague, more so in those days when medical knowledge was limited, and health and hygiene was not so limited by conditions in those days, Priscilla’s letter to her Sister, would have been echoed throughout the land in many similar situations. informative historical post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for your comment and your kind words

    Liked by 1 person

  11. How very tragic…it must have been so horrifying…makes me feel so blessed to be living in this time and place…thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for your comment.

    Liked by 1 person

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