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.

 

 

Footnotes:

[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.

 

 

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This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 34 – Cholera Comes to the Firelands

Sufferers’ Land

Cholera Comes to the Firelands

by Dave Barton

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.

Deaths Dispensary

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

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.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Information about the disease of cholera and the history of the first two pandemics are from the Wikipedia article: Cholera, accessed November 22, 2017.

[2] History of the 1832 Cholera outbreak in Sandusky is from “Early Settlers on the Pennisula,” the transcript of a December 21, 1877 address to the Firelands Historical Society by Charles Waterbury published in The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XIII; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1878, pp. 33-34.

 

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This post was first published on this blog in 2009.

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