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EPIDEMICS IN CALDWELL COUNTY

Narrator: Emma Brown of Hamilton and Others

Miss Brown is the daughter of George Brown and Jane Wilkinson who lived in Vinton County Ohio till in 1873 they joined the Ohio immigration to Caldwell County. They bought a farm in the Lovely Ridge District west of Hamilton. There were several Vinton County folks there: Dan Booth, Ike Dunkle, Sam Bay, Hi Smith, Block Doddridge, and Henry Clark (father of Mrs. Elwood Rogers). When George Brown died 1880, the family moved to Hamilton into the home on South Broadway where Miss Brown still lives. She is a sister of the late Dr. Tinsley Brown who began his practice here 1876, hence she has been interested in watching and hearing about various epidemics which have gone through this community.

One of the earliest epidemics of which the oldest old timers mentioned by hearing is the typhoid epidemic of 1835. It broke out in the southern part of Daviess County just over the line, among the McCrary family who had come there about 1830 from North Carolina. In 1835 about seven or eight of the McCrary family died of what was later found to be typhoid fever; but before the Doctor gave it a name, the neighbors called it "McCrary fever" because of the large number of sick in that family. Grandfather McCrary (then the head of the clan) died of it and his burial started the McCrary Cemetery.

There were several severe epidemics in the earlier years of Caldwell County which took a heavy toll of children's lives; the older cemeteries show a large proportion of children's deaths often belonging to certain years. There was a Small Pox epidemic in the 1840's reported by the Jones family in which their grandmother died. In 1856-57 there occurred a hard Scarlet Fever epidemic. In the summer of 1856 the family of Allen Tobban in Davis Township was visited by it and five children died from July 28 to August 6th. The little graves in White Cemetery tells the story. Mr. Andrew McCray (92) says that Dr. J.B. Gant of Knoxville was the doctor. Mr. and Mrs. McCray (Andrew's parents) as neighbors helped care for the children; being careful not to take it home to their own. By January 1857 it had spread up to Hamilton and two of A.G. Davis' children at Hamilton died of it. All had it.

In 1872 came a diphtheria epidemic; there are many 1872 tombstones of children. In 1873 came another Small Pox Epidemic. This run of Small Pox is reported to have started by some negroes who dug up Small Pox clothes which had been buried. People yet living here lost children the R.D. Dwight and son, Kenny had it and received resulting pocked faces. Little Ora Hare, son of T.H. Hare died of it and was buried in the old cemetery. The old story is that he was privately buried at night to prevent spread of the disease. A dog from a Small Pox home carried the germ to him. In the Fall of 1873, black or virulent measles struck Hamilton and Dan Booth who had come from Ohio on a prospecting trip almost died of them.

In 1874 there was a bad run of typhoid fever in the late summer. The people those days explained typhoid as due either to the poison that came from newly turned virgin soil or to the dry prairie grass. Irwin Brown aged twenty two brother of Dr. T. Brown died of typhoid 1874 and three members of the Watson family at Nettleton. In 1875 Sarah Low and Leon Low were among the victims. In 1875 again Scarlet Fever came and Dr. Stoller's own child was among the many victims.

In 1879 Diphtheria came and whole families were taken off. The Pittman children buried in Highland cemetery are well known examples. Parents hung bags of asafetida around children's necks to ward off the disease.

In 1883 came Measles again, starting mildly but it acquired such virulence that even grown up people died of it. There must have been a Small Pox scare 1881 for middle aged people now can recall being vaccinated then as children and also the agony when it "took."

There was an epidemic of Chicken pox about the same time that caused serious illness but no deaths as far as the narrator recalls. In April 1884 there was a epidemic of Seven Years Itch here in town which caused the schools to close without final examinations. This was not as serious as it was embarrassing to the very respectable people who had it. July 1934.

 

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All photos are copyright KingsCross Farm, 1997 & 1998
All written material other than reference material copyright KingsCross Farm 1998