Livingston Lindsay to Pease, October 9, 1867

Page 1

One of the most feared and least understood diseases of the 19th century was yellow fever. A person hit by yellow fever could be healthy one day and dead three days later, with horrifying symptoms of high fever, pain, vomiting blood, and jaundice. Galveston was hit repeatedly by the disease, and in the summer and fall of 1867 it spread inland, killing hundreds of people. The mortality rate of the disease could reach as high as 85 percent.

Pease's correspondent, Livingston Lindsay, was an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court. La Grange was at that time occupied by federal troops, with friction between the federal authorities and ex-Confederate soldiers often boiling over into violent confrontations. From August to December 1867 La Grange was ravaged by yellow fever. Eventually some 240 people -- about 20 percent of the town's population -- died in the epidemic.

It would not be until the end of the century that Walter Reed and his team of doctors, working in Cuba after the Spanish-American War, discovered the role of the mosquito in spreading yellow fever. This discovery led to new and effective disease control measures and the eradication of yellow fever in the United States

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Lindsay to Pease, page 1

La Grange, Oct. 9th 1867.

Gov. E.M. Pease.

My Dear Sir:

Our mutual friend, Dr. M.

Evans, and his daughter, very unexpectedly to me,

and to my great surprise, from the report I had

heard of their cases, both departed this life last

night, and will be buried to day. The Epidemic

has not abated here, so far as there are subjects

left for its actions. I have three new cases, in the

last thirty-six hours, in my own family. Whe-

ther they will be fatal, or not, I cannot

judge, till further developments. This leaves only

two in my family yet to have it -- a grand

child and a servant.

I don't know certainly -- but it does appear to me

that this favor [sic] has proved more fatal here -- than

it has ever been anywhere in the South, or even

in the West Indies. Just to think of it -- one

hundred and seventy deaths, in a period of

a little over four weeks, in a population, all

told, of not more than 1600, when all the re-

sidents were at home; and during the Epidemic,

more than half; yea, I believe, two-thirds of the

population, had fled their homes! I trust the

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Livingston Lindsay to Pease, October 9, 1867, Records of Elisha Marshall Pease, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: March 30, 2011